It’s nearly 25 years ago now. I was driving through western North Carolina, on my way south to Cowpens National Battlefield located in Gaffney, SC, scene of the January 17, 1781, battle.
These were the days before the internet or GPS. Travelers of the day, such as I, depended solely on our wits and a good old-fashioned state map. I had recently finished reading a wonderful biography on the life of American frontiersman, Daniel Boone by John Mack Faragher. So, when I crossed a bridge over the Yadkin River, I knew I was in Boone country.
The Boone family had migrated south from Exeter Township, in Berks County, PA in 1750. The father of Daniel, Squire Boone, Sr, had purchased land in the Yadkin Valley. It’s where young Daniel Boone took his bride, Rebecca Bryan, and where the couple would be domiciled longer than anywhere else they would live during their long marriage. This is where they would start a family of their own.
After consulting my map and the copy of Faragher’s book, I knew I was near the small community of Mocksville, south of Winston-Salem, not far off I-40. There in the old Joppa Burial Ground, can still be found the graves of Squire and Sarah Morgan Boone; the parents of the famous frontiersman.
It’s almost 25 years now since I first pulled up to this ancient cemetery; I parked in a small strip mall adjacent to it. Souvenir hunters had chipped off pieces of the grave stones over the years, so they were later encased in a small masonry wall for protection. I had almost forgotten this impromptu stop; that is until quite recently when I found myself heading south again, this time on my way to visit the Guildford Courthouse battlefield in Greensboro. Remembering the area, I decided to stop off again to pay my respects to the Boones.
In 1713, young Squire Boone arrived in Philadelphia with his brother and sister. The siblings had been sent by their father, George Boone, from Exeter, England to reconnoiter the New World in preparation for a family immigration. According to a contemporary, Squire Boone was “…a man of small stature, with a fair complexion, red hair and blue-gray eyes”. In 1720, Squire Boone took as his bride, Sarah Morgan.
Sarah Morgan was described as a large woman, strong and active with dark eyes and black hair. By the age of 46 she had delivered 11 children. The young couple would settle in Exeter Township in the Oley Valley along the upper Schuylkill River, near present-day Reading, PA.
Squire Boone, Sr. was a weaver by trade and a blacksmith but also worked a tenant farm to support his large family. The Boones were members of the Society of Friends; Quakers. After a break with the church, however, Squire Boone made the decision to sell his Pennsylvania holdings and seek out new lands, ultimately in the western part of North Carolina. In May of 1750, the Boones pulled up stakes and headed south, traveling down the Great Wagon Road through the Valley of Virginia with 15-years-old son Daniel, already a fair woodsman, guiding the way. After arriving in North Carolina, Squire Boone, Sr. purchased 640 acres in an area known as the Forks of the Yadkin River, in present-day Davie County.
The Boones prospered along the Yadkin. Squire Boone, Sr. became a prominent land holder and a local magistrate. He would help establish the Joppa Church, outside of the Society of Friends. He was held in high esteem by his son, but Daniel Boone would always have an especially close bond with his mother, Sarah. He remembered summers with his mother while still in Pennsylvania, driving the family’s small herd of milk cows to grassland they owned a few miles to the north. Just the two of them, mother and son would stay in a small dairy house as they tended the stock during the summer months. In later years, Daniel Boone would remember this time with his mother with great fondness.
In 1765, Squire Boone, Sr died at the age of 69. He was laid to rest in the Joppa churchyard. The church building itself is gone as the congregation relocated in the 1830s. The graveyard, however, remains. Over his ancient grave marker is a modern plaque which displays the original wording:
Squire Boone Departed this life they sixty-ninth year of his age in thay year of our lord 1765
Sarah Morgan Boone lies beside her husband, joining him in death in 1777. The sentiment on her stone reads:
SAH+ Boone Departed this life 1777 aged 77 years
Daniel Boone would remain close to this mother, especially after his father’s death. By the time Sarah Boone died, Daniel had taken his own wife and family west. Mother and son would say their final goodbyes in 1773 as Daniel would lead not only his household, but members of his wife’s family, the Bryans, and other neighbors of the Yadkin Valley ultimately to Kentucky, where they would help to establish new settlements. Parting from her son was so heartbreaking that Sarah, along with other family, would accompany the party for the first half-day of the journey. It was a tearful scene as mother and son would part for what they both felt would be the final time: “When a halt was called for a separation,” a young neighbor would write, “they threw their arms around each other’s necks and tears flowed freely from all eyes whilst his dear old mother held him around his neck weeping bitterly.” Daniel Boone would never see his mother again.
The old Joppa Burial Ground in Mocksville, NC is just a small, out-of-the way place but, so very often, taking the time to stop and visit such obscure places as this along the way can bring a great deal of satisfaction. Daniel Boone stood here in this old graveyard as he laid his father to rest in 1765, long before his exploits in Kentucky and Missouri would make him a household name.