Some of the travelers poured into the little settlement at the junction of the Elk and the Kanawha, where Charleston now lies. Others, who had been later in starting or had come from a greater distance, gathered along the banks of the Kanawha. At last shouts from those stationed farthest up the stream echoed down the valley and told the rest that what they had come out to see was at hand.
Several pirogues drifted into view on the river, now brightening in the sunshine. In the vessels were men and their families; bales and bundles and pieces of household furnishings, heaped to the gunwale; a few cattle and horses standing patiently. But it was for one man above all that the eager eyes of the settlers were watching, and him they saw clearly as his boat swung by--a tall figure, erect and powerful, his keen friendly blue eyes undimmed and his ruddy face unlined by time, though sixty-five winters had frosted his black hair.
For a decade these settlers had known Daniel Boone, as storekeeper, as surveyor, as guide and soldier. They had eaten of the game he killed and lavishly distributed. And they too--like the folk of Clinch Valley in the year of Dunmore's War--had petitioned Virginia to bestow military rank upon their protector. "Lieutenant Colonel" had been his title among them, by their demand. Once indeed he had represented them in the Virginia Assembly and, for that purpose, trudged to Richmond with rifle and hunting dog. Not interested in the Legislature's proceedings, he left early in the session and tramped home again.
But not even the esteem of friends and neighbors could hold the great hunter when the deer had fled. So Daniel Boone was now on his way westward to Missouri, to a new land of fabled herds and wide spaces, where the hunter's gun might speak its one word with authority and where the soul of a silent and fearless man might find its true abode in Nature's solitude. Waving his last farewells, he floated past the little groups--till their shouts of good will were long silenced, and his fleet swung out upon the Ohio.
As Boone sailed on down the Beautiful River which forms the northern boundary of Kentucky, old friends and newcomers who had only heard his fame rode from far and near to greet and godspeed him on his way. Sometimes he paused for a day with them. Once at least--this, was in Cincinnati where he was taking on supplies--some one asked him why, at his age, he was leaving the settled country to dare the frontier once more.
"Too crowded," he answered; "I want more elbow-room!"
Boone settled at the Femme Osage Creek on the Missouri River, twenty-five miles above St. Charles, where the Missouri flows into the Mississippi. There were four other Kentucky families at La Charette, as the French inhabitants called the post, but these were the only Americans. The Spanish authorities granted Boone 840 acres of land, and here Daniel built the last cabin home he was to erect for himself and his Rebecca.
The region pleased him immensely. The governmental system, for instance, was wholly to his mind. Taxes were infinitesimal. There were no elections, assemblies, or the like. A single magistrate, or Syndic, decided all disputes and made the few regulations and enforced them. There were no land speculators, no dry-mouthed sons of the commercial Tantalus, athirst for profits. Boone used to say that his first years in Missouri were the happiest of his life, with the exception of his first long hunt in Kentucky.