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Women on the Frontier at
Fort Boonesborough

June 8th, 9th and 10th 2007

Photos by Jim and Kathy Cummings

friday 08 june, 2007

we planned to set from our land on Friday early in the day. Our land lay along the ohio river almost halfway between the falls and the Kentucky river. But the day dawned a gloomy one and before we were nearly packed the rains came on. We couldn’t hardly complain much, for it had been dry for nearly a month.

Finally it began to clear and we kivered our belongings to head on.We were short on provisions but it would have to do if we wanted to make the Fort at Boonesborough before night. I had written to Mr. Farmer to expect us early in the day. But surely they would not suspect Indians - for they would not be about in the wet and raney weather.

They call this land we were heading to the great meadow. It was beautiful as we came upon the kentucky river in the late afternoon. The palisades forced us to the only crossing at Leestown. we were obliged to wade through the shallow waters to the crossing.


We planned on meeting up with our party who were coming in from the rolling fork but they were not there. But nonetheless Boons foart was bustling with activity. It was heard that there were Indians about and a party was to set off. My husband Mr. Cumming was to go with them back towards the falls.

I settled in for the night in one of the blockhouses. The company was pleasant. Mistress Graves had arrived from the north near the Indian shore as had captain Willyard’s wife while he was out on patrol in the Illinois country. I think he traveled with Colonel Clark’s company.


Saturday June 9th, 2007

The day came on suddenly. I could hear the birds outside the gunports in the blockhouse. I was certainly that this would be a good day. More travelers had arrived in the night and the fort was near to busting. I listened for Mistress Graves to sound the call to prayer but had not heard it yet when I tiptoed out into the early morning. A cookfire was nicely under way at the Heasleys place, but the children were not yet about. Some folks I had met some yeears before at Ceasers Creek also had a fire under way with coffee and tea already on.


Due to the constant threat of Indians the agenda for the day was to be sure that each of the inhabitants that had come in, be well versed in firestarting, rolling cartidges and shooting. One new not how long we would be forted up and every precaution had to be undertaken.

Mrs Farmer and her indentured girls were going to see to the even meal.


 At mid morning a guest arrived that I had been expecting. She came with a friend from Lexington. Her name is Eslinger and she is a teacher from up North. It is not often that the fort is graced with one so full of knowledge of the caintuck. We have planned to gather out back of the fort on the hillside to listen as she speaks and shares the accounts of the travelers that she has met along her way.

After that we practice loading the rifles. We practice sparingly as gunpowder is scarce in these parts. The Indians load their guns lightly to conserve powder - thus you can always tell the difference in the shot when are men are out hunting.

Several of the forts inhabitants feel it is safe enough to leave and the begin to pack up and scatter as the day wains. Others partake in the feast Mrs. Farmer has prepared out near the halfaced shelter where they first stayed when they came to this land.


The women gather this evening in the blockhouse and the talk turns to clothing and the scarity of fabric here. Mrs. Poague has brought a spinning wheel with her from Virginia and her husband has built her a loom for weaving at Harrodsburg. But the women who’s hands are always busy with their mending and sewing discuss caps, and aprons and children - I guess like women everywhere. But it has been a full day. Except that someone has brought a few books to the blockhouse and I see Mrs. Thomas pouring over them in the candle light. Books are rare enough here that one must read when one has the opportunity.

The stillness is disturbed when someone tells us that one of the young girls has a fester upon her hand and her parents have ventured out of the fort for a formentation of herbs to assuage the swelling. But they return safely and the fort settles for the night.


Sundy June 10th, 2007

I heard some women singing outside the fort this morning. They were holding a church service on the hillside. It was very beautiful. The last of the side saddles has worn out here and many of the women have determined to ride astride like a man. They took turns this morning, learning what it is like to mount and dismount in a petticoat. My mother would be aghast - but she has not known this country and the hardships that prevail upon us.


Everyone is moving on today. The threat of Indians seems to have passed although we had quite a scare yesterday. An Indian had approached the fort late on Friday night. Many of the people were ready to dispatch him immediately. But I know no Indian that would come so close or so boldly while alone. And for certain it was not an Indian at all - although dressed as they do. His name was Green and he had been captured as a child many years before while living near the Monagahela. He has  returned and although he cannot remember all of this language he is a help in knowing their talk and what they are thinking.

Later some silliness ensues as the women (I guess in relief that the Indian threat has passed) begin racing each other in doing their chores. It is a fun time for this fort and these women will look back upon this time with fondness. The day passes all to quickly and we begin the process of packing up and leaving this place. As long as the Indians threaten this land I am sure that we will return to this fort often. Besides James Harrod’s place this fort of Daniel Boon’s is a very safe place having withstood many an Indian threat.

We git back to our hous at dusk and there are deer eating our plantings. As we pull up they scatter and there is no time for a shot - we are pinched for victuals agin - but we are home.

from theTravel Journal of Kathy Cumming

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