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Rebecca Boone
A Portrayal by Bonnie Strassell

Presented by The Painted  Stone Settlers
April 2, 2015 - Shelbyville, KY

Photos by Kathy Cummings



By Helen McKinney and Kathy Cummings

Each year in the spring, The Painted Stone Settlers of Shelbyville, Kentucky invite a first person performer to an open meeting in Shelbyville. This year Rebecca Boone was the chosen historical figure and Bonnie Strassell is the living historian and story teller that portrayed her.

For the last 15 years Strassell has focused her storytelling abilities on frontier women, telling the amazing stories of Rebecca Boone, Jennie Wiley, Eva Lail (a Shawnee captive take from Ruddles Fort) and Elizabeth Zane (famous for her courageous gunpowder run during the Revolutionary War). “It is difficult for us in the present century to imagine the personal hardships and tragedies daily faced by women of the 1700’s. Their stories remain largely untold, yet they persist, waiting for someone to rediscover and assign them their rightful place in the annals of American history,” said living history interpreter, Bonnie Strassell.

It is women like Rebecca Boone that captivate Strassell. “There are many women such as Rebecca Boone whose undaunted courage on the bleak and lonely frontier is undeniable,” said Strassell. “I believe Rebecca Boone epitomizes these self-sacrificing individuals and I am fascinated with her absolute fierce strength of character that enabled her to raise a family, defend her home when needed, and patiently remain a steadfast anchor in Daniel Boone’s life.”

Her first presentation as Rebecca Boone was given three years ago at the Patriot Fair in Ohio. Since then, Strassell has continued to add to her story as new documentation surfaces.

To garner clues about Rebecca’s life, Strassell interviewed Boone descendants, read endless books and articles on Daniel Boone and pursued the Lyman Draper manuscripts along with those of John Dabney Shane, two noted 18th century historians.

Rebecca Boone 6

Strassell’s own heritage stems to Ireland, Scotland and Wales where her ancestors traveled from to settle in North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio. A native of Ohio, she currently lives in Owen County, Ky. She is a storyteller and member of the Kentucky Storytelling Association, in addition to writing a weekly history column for the News-Herald in Owen County. Strassell and her family have been involved in historical re-enacting for thirty years and she has just written a book entitled  1812: Kentuck Is Coming.


Information on Rebecca Boone mainly comes from her husband Daniel. Strassell stuck closely to history in her performance, holding strictly to the dates and times that she and Daniel were together. Most interesting was also the question and answer period after the performance. Here Strassell ventured more into the life of Rebecca - not as facts but as the suppositions a living historian that carefully has studied her subject. In her portrayal Strassell sticks to the known facts - that Rebecca left Boonesborough in the spring after Daniel was captured with the saltmakers in 1778 at the lower Blue Licks. But Strassel expanded on this in the Q & A portion later. She doubts that a women who waited patiently for her husband to return from longhunts of up to 2 years would have packed up and left after a few short months. Strassell surmises that the tensions at Boonesborough were what forced Rebecca back to North Carolina. Rumors of Boone’s betrayal of the men (which later led to a court martial hearing) were probably harder on her and her children than any speculation that her husband was dead.

Likewise she dismissed the rumor that all of Rebecca’s children were not fathered by Daniel. She looked closely at the timeline of Daniel’s whereabouts before Jemima’s birth and saw no reason that Daniel would not have returned to the Yadkin before venturing back to Kentucky. The Boone’s and those of that era were very private people said Strassell and she personally finds that reason enough that not only would that have been rare but that it would not have come to light during their lifetimes.

The highlight of the performance was when Rebecca Boone broke out in a Welsh lullaby, cradling a quilt she had been sewing on, and imaging the countless children and grandchildren she had rocked to sleep. Boone’s mother was of Welsh descent and on this one point Strassell made the imaginative leap that Rebecca would have learned such a tune from her and sang it to her children. So on April 2, 2015 the woman that stayed by the side of Kentucky’s frontier hero Daniel Boone came to life for a brief period in a community center in Shelbyville, Kentucky. From their first meeting at a sister’s wedding to their later years in Missouri, Rebecca Boone stayed by Daniel’s side, went hunting with him and even helped bring in the game. She raised his children, and buried several of them. Strassell also commented on how many of the Boone daughters were dead by the age of 40. Yet non lived a harder or more courageous life than Rebecca who died in 1813 at the age of 74.

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