"[W]ere they free people I dont know that it would give me Any uneasiness, but to Send a parcel of poor Slaves where I dare not go myself [should anything happen] I fear it would prove a great drawback on my future happiness in this Life." - Thomas Hart to his brother Nathaniel, proprietor of the Transylvania Company; land speculators backing Daniel Boone's founding of Boonesborough, Kentucky, 1780.It was common for pioneers (particularly those intent on speculation), when taking advantage of lands opening to settlement in Kentucky, to send slaves to build a cabin and prepare the land for farming.
Slaves bore their share of the brunt of Boone's first (1773) attempt to establish a permanent settlement in Kentucky. While making slow progress as he blazed a forest trail with enough equipment to build a village, Boone dispatched his son James and the Mendinall brothers to procure flour from Captain Russell's outpost at the edge of civilization.
"Russell sent forward his oldest son, Henry; two Negroes named Charles and Adam, together with Isaac Crabtree and a youth named Drake, with several horses ladened with farming utensils, provisions, and other needful articles and a few books," according to Draper in The Life of Daniel Boone.Five of the six Anglos trailing Boone's main party were killed in a predawn Indian attack in Powell's Valley, Virgina.
"The Negro Adam fortunately escaped unhurt, hid himself in some driftwood on the bank of the creek close at hand, and was an unwilling spectator of the painful scene enacted at the camp." "The other Negro, Charles, older and less active than Adam, was taken prisoner by the Indians, who carried him off with the horses and every article they esteemed of any value. When they had gone about forty miles, and getting into a dispute about the ownership of the Negro, the leader of the party put an end to the quarrel by tomahawking the poor captive."
In Diversity and Accommodation, Eslinger documents slaves living in exposed conditions on Virginia's Kentucky frontier:
“An early Kentuckian named John Bruce, for example, erected a small cabin in Bourbon County and left a man and a woman slave there to open the land for cultivation, arranging for hunters to occasionally supply them with meat. How long they remained there is unknown, but one day the man was discovered scalped and tomahawked, and the woman was missing and supposed taken prisoner.”
“Slaves also endured harsher conditions because of their inferior status in the frontier household, as illustrated by the fate of Bob, the property of a prominent early settler named John Floyd. In November of 1779, Bob slipped and severely wounded himself in the foot with an ax while erecting a cabin for Floyd. Throughout one of the harshest winters, Bob languished in a temporary shelter, perhaps the same shelter previously used by Floyd and his family. Frostbite led to gangrene, and, 'reduced to a mere skeleton,' Bob finally died three months after receiving his injury. Floyd and his young family, meanwhile spent the winter huddled in the cabin. No doubt conditions were miserable, as they were for all westerners that particular winter, but the suffering of the Floyds can hardly compare with what Bob endured before he finally expired.”