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Descendants Gather at Fort Boonesborough

Kinfolk of founders and original settlers of Fort Boonesboro gather in Richmond

Fort Boonesborough State Park hosted the "Gathering of Descendants" of the park on June 15, 2019. Photo: Kathy Cummings/Graphic Enterprises
The Fort Boonesborough monument honors its original settlers. Anne Carmichael's four times great grandfather, Edward Jesse Hall, and two of his brother's names are engraved on the monument. Photo: Anne Carmichael
Descendants of Fprt Boonesborough founders include Anne Carmichael, center, with cousin Cheryl Adams Palmer and brother Don Fain. Photo: Anne Carmichael

Discovering that I am a descendant of one of the original founders of the state in which I was born is, to say the least, exciting. As an adoptee, to be able to trace my ancestry back nearly three centuries was a gift.

In the past decade, there has been a resurgence of interest in finding one’s roots. Many people have confirmed ancestral connections to the founders and first settlers of Fort Boonesborough in Madison County, Kentucky, using tools such as DNA technology, the resources of organizations like the Sons of the American Revolution and Daughters of the American Revolution, and online software for finding documentation. 

I am no stranger to the quest to discover my heritage. I was adopted as an infant and unwittingly stumbled upon my biological roots when I was 21 years old. My journey for the past 40-plus years has been a roller coaster of emotions. With the help of my paternal cousin, Cheryl Adams Palmer, a member of the Jemima Boone Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, my brother and I have been able to trace our roots back to the 1700s. Our interest was piqued further when we were able to document that we had an ancestor who fought in the American Revolutionary War. 

We are the four-times great-grandchildren of Edward Jesse Hall, who fought alongside George Rogers Clark in the American Revolutionary War. After the war, our ancestor joined Daniel Boone as a founder of Fort Boonesborough. 

Richard Henderson, founder of the Transylvania Company, chose Daniel Boone and 31 of his men to cut a path through the Cumberland Gap from Tennessee to Kentucky, along the Kentucky River. The Wilderness Trail was the roughest terrain on the continent, but in April of 1775, the group reached and settled what is known today as Fort Boonesborough.

As a schoolgirl, I took many field trips to the fort. Later with my family, we enjoyed Fort Boonesborough State Park on picnics and camping trips. But when we were invited to visit the fort as descendants of one of the founders, it became hallowed ground for my brother, Don Fain, his children, Cheryl and me. 

Descendants arrived from all across the U.S. to Fort Boonesborough State Park in Richmond on the morning of June 15, to visit the reconstructed village and see what day-to-day life might have been like for their ancestors. Historical interpreters guided visitors throughout the fort and reenacted candle-making, fire starting with flint, blacksmithing, and colonial music. Some guests even tried their hand at tomahawk throwing, while others chose instead to view the genuine artifacts used by their relatives back in the 18th century, that are now housed in the Transylvania Store.

Author Nancy O’Malley released her new book, Boonesborough Unearthed: Frontier Archaeology at a Revolutionary Fort at the original site of the fort, located on lower ground in the park. Authors Harry Enoch, Anne Crabb, Neal Hammon, Randell Jones, George Chalfant, and Joan Mayer, who have also written books about Fort Boonesborough, were on hand to share the history gleaned from their research. 

Members and officers of the Society of Fort Boonesborough organized and staffed the Gathering of Descendants event.

“We host events at the fort throughout the year. We have raised over $200,000 in the last 10–12 years, and those are the funds that help keep the fort open and maintained,” says Bob Moats, president of the Fort Boonesborough Society.

“We’re so happy to welcome everyone whose ancestors were the founders and first settlers at Fort Boonesborough today,” Elizabeth Chalfant, the society’s treasurer, says.

Fort Manager, Bill Farmer adds, “We have many more events throughout the year, such as battle re-enactments, Blacksmith’s Weekend in the fall, Winter Trade Days in November and an 18th century Christmas in December.”

Local historical groups and societies on hand to provide information to the descendants included: Society of Boonesborough, Madison County Historical Society, Winchester Black History and Heritage Committee, Friends of Boone Trace, Daughters of the American Revolution, Sons of the American Revolution, Ruddles and Martins Station Historic Association, Kincaid Family, Boone Society, Eastern Kentucky University Library, French Family, Chenault Family, Bluegrass Heritage Museum, and the Clark County Historical Society.

I’m certain this trip to Fort Boonesborough will not be my last. I will, however, be viewing it with eyes that more fully see the history behind each cabin door and with a heart that now feels the sacrifices of our great-grandfathers that allow us to enjoy the land and freedoms we have today. 

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