Saturday, December 31, 2011

Slave Preserves Daniel Boone from Capture

After he had settled Fort Boone, subsequently known as Boonesborough, Daniel Boone befriended Thomas Goff  (1747-1824), who had come west from Hardy County, Virginia in 1790. Boone, a mediocre surveyor and land speculator, helped Goff find land that he held a patent for.

Some time later Boone invited Goff to "hunt in that paradise for hunters, the former region of Eskippakithiki," according to Patsy Woodring. Called Indian Old Fields by Anglos, Eskippakithiki was the site of a former native village, since burned and abandoned. The hunting party included Boone, Goff, and several others, including Goff's cook. The cook, perhaps named David, was a slave Goff likely inherited from his father-in-law, John Gray of Calvert County, Maryland.

The hunting party was attacked. "Indians got them scattered by going after them," according to a family history account in The Four Goff Brothers of Western Virginia. Mounted on horses, the hunters were able to make their escape. Boone and Goff reunited at Boonesborough. The enslaved cook did not return there.

Word arrived from Virginia: after spending a considerable period of time lost in the wilderness, the armed slave had made his way back to civilization. In Woodring's account, the cook makes it known he does not want to live in Kentucky again.

It is likely that Boone and Goff realized their escape was in large part due to the slave's presence in the hunting party. It was said (though I find the idea unlikely by 1790) that their attackers had never before seen African-American skin. The natives were 'bewildered' by it. The warriors were said to forgoe pursuit of Boone, Goff and the others, in favor of chasing down a person of such distinctive color.

Perhaps implying Goff's recognition that the Anglos likely went unmolested due to his enemies' diversion in favor of the cook, Woodring reports Goff freed said slave.

It is known that Thomas Goff's 1824 will (penned perhaps three decades after the incident) provided $125 to a slave styled 'Old David.' If he lived a further one year, the "negro man slave" was to have received his freedom.