Boone Scraps

On October 9, 2016 · 2 Comments

Daniel Boone became a legend even during his own lifetime. He blazed a trail through the Cumberland Gap, opening lands beyond the Appalachian Mountains to settlement. Then he served as a military officer on the frontier during the Revolutionary War. He even became a state legislator. Boone kept pushing farther west throughout his life, always exploring. Eventually he passed away in Missouri in 1820 at the almost unheard of age of 84. No wonder his name adorned places all over the United States, far-and-wide. With all due respect to Boone and his accomplishments however, I wanted to find Boones not named for him. Otherwise it would be too easy.

Boone Counties, Iowa and Arkansas

Boone, Iowa, Story Street, 1940s
Boone, Iowa, Story Street, 1940s. Photo by photolibrarian on Flickr (cc)

Seven different states included a Boone County: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska and West Virginia. Certainly he deserved all of them although two followed a different path. Maybe.

Nobody really knew how Boone County, Arkansas got its name. The Encyclopedia of Arkansas noted that "Although no documentation supports it, the most widely quoted belief is that the county was named for frontiersman Daniel Boone." Another common theory offered that the name started as Boon. Its founders thought the new county would be a boon to its residents. Why didn’t anyone have the foresight to write down a better explanation? It wasn’t like people didn’t have access to pen and paper when the county appeared in 1869.

Boone County, Iowa (map) got its name from Nathan Boone. He helped settle Missouri and "served as a captain with the Missouri Rangers" during the War of 1812. He also happened to be Daniel Boone’s youngest son. I guessed, in a sense, the county’s name did come from Daniel Boone although indirectly. Nathan Boone should still get the preponderance of the credit. He accomplished things beyond his father’s name.

Boonville, Indiana

Beautiful Downtown Boonville, Indiana
Beautiful Downtown Boonville, Indiana. Photo by J. Stephen Conn on Flickr (cc)

Boonville (no "e") in Indiana recognized Ratliff Boon, a prominent politician and Indiana’s second Governor. While his term as governor lasted only a few months — he completed an unexpired term when the previous Governor got elected to the U.S. Congress — he also held a bunch of other office both at the state and federal level during a long career. Certainly he deserved a town named in his honor (map).

Daniel Boone reared his ugly head again. As the City of Boonville explained,

Ratliff Boon was a cousin of Kentucky’s famed Daniel Boone. Daniel’s father, Squire Boone, was brother to Ratliff’s grandfather, Joseph Boon. They were sons of George Boone III, a Quaker, born in England in 1666, immigrating to Pennsylvania in 1717.

Who would name their child Ratliff? Think of the awful childhood nicknames and taunts.


boone’s lick state historic site. Photo by David Cohen on Flickr (cc)

Booneslick Country described an area of central Missouri along the banks of the Missouri River. More properly, early 19th Century adventurers and pioneers called the primary path through that area Boone’s Lick Trail / Road. Daniel Boone did not blaze the trail. Rather his sons Nathan (referenced previously) and Daniel got credit this time. They’d found saltwater springs near the western terminus of their trail that animals used as a salt lick. The brothers set-up a salt works to evaporate the water and sold the remaining salt throughout the frontier. The name of the trail reflected the brother’s enterprise, and a blending that converted it to Booneslick. The city of Columbia, Missouri now sits at the center of this cultural area.

Daniel Boone had an entire national forest named for him, over two million acres in eastern Kentucky. His sons Nathan and Daniel got Boone’s Lick State Historic Site in Missouri. Just fifty-one acres (map).

Boondocks and Boondoggle

Boondocks. Photo by Richard on Flickr (cc)

I didn’t find a lot of Boones completely removed from Daniel Boone’s influences so I dug a little deeper. How about Boondocks? This American English slang word often represented remote or unsophisticated places. It could have come from Boone who spent a lifetime on the frontier. However, it didn’t! Boondocks hid a much more interesting etymology. It came from the Philippines, from the Tagalog word bundok, meaning mountain. American soldiers adopted it during the period of American rule, 1898-1946 and brought it back home.

Boondoggle didn’t refer to Boone either. It appeared rather spontaneously, attributed to an old pioneer word for gadget. It came up in testimony during an investigation of the Relief Committee in New York City. The New York Times headline on April 4, 1935 read, "$3,187,000 Relief is Spent to Teach Jobless to Play … Boon Doggles Made." The paper reported:

"Who gave it that outlandish name?" asked Chairman Deutsch.

"That is an old-time name," the witness replied. "They catch it out West," he added hopefully.

"Named for Daniel Boone?" inquired Vice Chairman Joseph E. Kinsley.

"No, it is not named for Daniel Boone. It is boon doggles. It is spelled differently."

The word caught-on from there. Now it’s used widely in American English to represent a pointless or wasteful activity, especially one disguised as useful. At least it had nothing to do with Daniel Boone. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.

On October 9, 2016 · 2 Comments

2 Responses to “Boone Scraps”

  1. Ross Finlayson says:

    There’s also Booneville – a small town in northern California – named after a “W.W. Boone”. Booneville is also noteworthy for “Boontling” – a spoken jargon unique to the town.,_California

  2. Joe says:

    Couple points on the Missouri connections…

    1. Columbia, MO, mentioned in your article is not only the center of Boonslick Country, but is also the seat of Boone County, which like the surrounding area does not appear to be named for THE Daniel Boone.
    2. Boone’s Lick Road still lives on today as the front door to visitors of Historic Main Street in St. Charles, MO which was the location of the first state capital. The road itself goes for just under 2 miles west along I-70.

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