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Life on the Frontier

Re-enactor Smith finds Daniel Boone’s daughter a strong character

She will present her program
in April in Shelbyville, Bedford

(April 2017) – Born on Oct. 4, 1762 in Rowan Co., N.C., Jemima Boone Callaway was the fourth child of frontier couple Daniel Boone and Rebecca Bryan Boone. She lived the typical life destined for all frontierswomen who called Kentucky home. In 1777, she married Flanders Calloway, a union that lasted nearly 50 years. Together with the other settlers at Boonesborough, they endured times of terrible suffering, facing starvation, cold and the ever-present fear of attack. 
Jemima seems to have had an impetuous bent, and, though she may have been afraid in times of danger, she wasn’t hesitant to take action in dangerous situations. That being said, she did not seem to relish the adventure of a life spent on the frontier,” said Betsy Smith, who portrays Jemima for the Kentucky Humanities Council.

Photo provided

Betsy Smith of Cynthiana, Ky., portrays Jemima Boone Callaway for the Kentucky Humanities Council.

Smith will be busy in April. She is scheduled to perform as Calloway twice – on April 13 in Shelbyville, Ky., and again on April 25 in Bedford, Ky. Smith will portray Callaway in “Life on the Frontier, 1762-1834,” a Kentucky Chautauqua presentation, at 7 p.m. at the Stratton Community Center, 215 Washington St., in Shelbyville. This program, sponsored by the Painted Stone Settlers Inc., is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.
Smith will present her program at 6:30 p.m. at the Trimble County Cooperative Extension office, 43 High Country Lane in Bedford. This program is sponsored by the Trimble County Homemakers Club as part of its Annual Meeting. It is free and open to the public.
A study of Calloway’s life reveals “the loss of two brothers, one son, and her uncle Ned (who many argue was actually her father) which marked a life beset by sorrow.” Smith goes on to say that, “she lived in a time when women did not have a lot of say in the course of their lives. As a girl, she followed her father west; as a wife, she accompanied her husband even further.”
On her family’s first attempt to settle Kentucky, Calloway lost her 16-year-old brother, James, when Indians tortured and killed him. She was 10 years old at the time.
Smith, 52, said a granddaughter who was interviewed later in the 19th century remembers “seeing Jemima sitting on her steps, smoking a clay pipe, and bemoaning a life spent in the wilderness.”
Calloway was a woman who made her own mark on history when she was very young. She and two friends, Elizabeth and Frances Callaway, were taken by surprise and kidnapped on a Sunday afternoon in 1776 from Fort Boonesborough by a Cherokee-Shawnee raiding party.
The incident occurred 10 days after the signing of the Declaration of Independence and one year into the Revolutionary War. At this time, fewer than 200 Americans remained in Kentucky and were living primarily at the fortified settlements of Boonesborough, Harrodsburg and Logan’s Station.
Callaway and the two sisters were rescued three days later by her father and other men from the fort. One of the rescuers, Flanders Callaway, later married Jemima, and the two settled in the Femme Osage Valley of Missouri.
Married for almost 50 years, she and Flanders had nine children. Jemima died on Aug. 30, 1834, in Marthasville, Mo.
The story of their kidnapping inspired James Fenimore Cooper in 1826 to pen “The Last of the Mohicans.” Their rescue was even the subject of an 1855-1856 painting titled, “The Abduction of Boone’s Daughter by the Indians,” by Charles Ferdinand Wimar. This was but one of many incidents in the life of Jemima Boone Calloway.
Through her presentation, Smith will bring Calloway’s story to life and give the audience “a vivid, immediate picture of the struggles faced by the pioneers who carved out tenuous lives in frontier Kentucky,” she said. Smith began her Kentucky Chautauqua career in 2006 by portraying Emilie Todd Helm.
Helm was Abraham Lincoln’s Confederate half sister-in-law. Her husband was Brigadier General of Kentucky’s famed Orphan Brigade. When he died at the Battle of Chickamauga, his wife refused to take the oath of loyalty that would have allowed her to return to her home in Kentucky. Lincoln had her sent to the White House, where her presence created a quiet scandal, said Smith.
Preparing a Kentucky Chautauqua character requires many hours of thorough research. “Sources on Jemima alone are scarce,” Smith said. She relied on work by author Craig Thompson Friend, and she contacted individuals in the area of Missouri where the Callaways settled.
“One person in particular shared the research and writing she had done on Jemima’s husband, Flanders, and that was very illuminating. For the most part, though, I had to glean what I could from biographies of Daniel Boone and histories of the Kentucky and Missouri frontiers.”
Smith had initially “thought about choosing her mother, Rebecca, but the more I learned about Jemima, the more I realized that she had the more exciting tale to tell.”
While Rebecca dutifully followed her husband to two different frontiers, “it was Jemima who survived being captured by Native Americans and being shot aiding in the defense of Ft. Boonesborough. Her rescue bound her so inextricably to her famous father that only she among her large family refused to give up hope on Boone’s return when he spent a winter in captivity.”
Smith believes “we should learn about women like Jemima, if for no other reason, to appreciate how hard it was to carve out a life in frontier America. She deserves the right to finally tell her side of the story.”
Smith is a native of Cynthiana, Ky., and graduated from Georgetown College with a bachelor’s degree in American Studies, History and Communication Arts. She has resided in Chapel Hill, N.C., Morehead, Ky., and Austin, Texas. Her husband, Dr. Edward B. Smith, has played Adolph Rupp since 2000, and they have two sons who are Chautauquans.

• For more information, call (502) 228-3746 regarding the Shelbyville event, or call (502) 255-7188 regarding the Bedford event.

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