By blazing a trail through the Appalachian Mountains, Daniel Boone opened the West to white settlement and came to personify the national myth of the indomitable frontiersman. While supporting his family as a fur trapper, Boone survived deadly attacks by the Shawanoe (Shawnee) and other Indigenous groups determined to prevent further encroachment into their homelands. Undeterred, in 1775, he established Boone Trace, a pathway through the Cumberland Gap into central Kentucky. Three years later, the Shawanoe captured Boone and adopted him into the family of Shawanoe chief Blackfish (also known as Cot-ta-wa-ma-go or Mkah-day-way-may-qua). Renamed Sheltowee (Big Turtle), Boone learned the language, traditions, and spiritual customs of his adoptive people. He fled after five months to warn the settlers of Boonesboro of an impending Shawnee attack.
This portrait was made near the end of Boone’s eventful life after several embellished accounts of his exploits had transformed him into national legend.