Although Boone helped open up Kentucky to thousands of settlers, he ultimately was unsuccessful when it came to securing his own piece of the pie. During the 1780s and 1790s, he worked as a surveyor in Kentucky while also investing in real estate. However, his efforts as a land speculator failed to make him rich. Boone ended up getting swindled in some deals and in other cases failed to properly register his land claims. He got hit with lawsuits for selling property to which he didn’t have valid title and also got sued for producing faulty surveys. Boone even received death threats after his testimony in various court cases resulted in people losing their land claims. Boone tried, but largely failed, at other business ventures as well. He owned a store and tavern in Limestone (present-day Maysville); served as a supplier of ginseng root (the market eventually collapsed, leaving him in debt); and bought horses with the intention of reselling them (before this could happen a number of the animals escaped). By the late 1790s, Boone had soured on Kentucky and decided to leave.
Later in life, he left the U.S.
In 1799, Boone, then in his mid-60s, moved with his extended family from Kentucky, which achieved statehood in 1792, to present-day Missouri, then under Spanish control and known as Upper Louisiana. The Spanish, who wanted to encourage settlement in the area, welcomed Boone with military honors and granted him 850 acres of land in the Femme Osage district, west of St. Louis. They also waived the requirement that all immigrants had to be Roman Catholic and made Boone a syndic, or magistrate, of the Femme Osage district, responsible for settling disputes among settlers.
In 1800, the Spanish ceded the Louisiana Territory to France, and three years later the U.S. gained control of it with the Louisiana Purchase. Boone subsequently lost his land claims because he hadn’t followed the proper procedures to gain permanent title to the land. After the frontiersman petitioned Congress, President James Madison signed a bill into law in 1814 giving Boone his 850 acres; however, he soon had to sell the property to pay off Kentuckians who’d heard the news about the grant and traveled to Missouri to collect on old debts. Missouri became America’s 24th state in 1821, a year after Boone’s death.
He didn’t wear coonskin caps.
Boone has often been portrayed sporting a hat made from the skin and fur of a raccoon, but in fact the frontiersman thought this type of headgear was unstylish and instead donned hats made from beaver. According to Boone biographer John Mack Faragher, the myth of the coonskin cap can be traced to a full-length portrait of Boone made in 1820 by Chester Harding, who authentically depicted the frontiersman wearing leggings, moccasins and a fringed hunting shirt and holding a beaver hat. The painting was displayed in the Kentucky capitol for several decades until it deteriorated. Harding later cut out Boone’s head and pasted it onto a different background; however, a record of Boone’s outfit was preserved thanks to artist James Otto Lewis, who had produced an engraving of Harding’s original painting. Lewis hired an actor, Noah Ludlow, to help sell prints made from the engraving, and when Ludlow later performed a show that required him to dress like a frontiersman he modeled his costume after Boone’s wardrobe in the engraving. Unable to find a beaver hat, he substituted it with a coonskin cap. Ludlow’s performances were a success and the coonskin cap’s association with Boone stuck.
Boone might not be buried in his official grave.
Boone died on September 26, 1820, in present-day Defiance, Missouri. He remained active into old age, unsuccessfully volunteering to fight in the War of 1812 and going on his last big hunt just a few years before he passed away. Boone was buried in a graveyard near Marthasville, Missouri, next to his wife, Rebecca. In 1845, the owners of a cemetery in Frankfort, Kentucky, convinced the Boones’ descendants to allow Daniel and Rebecca’s remains to be reinterred in the Bluegrass State. The Frankfort cemetery was new and its owners were interested in drumming up publicity; they also promised to erect a monument to Boone at the new burial site.
An elaborate reinterment ceremony was held, featuring the governor of Kentucky and other dignitaries. However, charges eventually surfaced that Boone’s Missouri grave had been poorly marked and the wrong remains were dug up and reburied in Kentucky. In 1983, a forensic anthropologist examined a cast made of Boone’s supposed skull before the reburial and announced it was possibly that of an African-American man rather than a Caucasian one. When a second forensics expert later studied the cast of the skull, though, she decided it wasn’t in good enough condition to serve as the basis for any scientific conclusions.