Explorers and Adventurers Famous Graves

Daniel Boone. American Pioneer Frontiersman. Born in Pennsylvania, the sixth of twelve children to Quaker parents, Sarah Jarman Morgan and Squire Boone, a weaver and blacksmith. As a boy, Boone received an elementary education. The Boone family left Pennsylvania around 1750 and eventually settled in North Carolina. In 1756 he married neighbor Rebecca Bryan; the couple would have ten children. In 1769, he set out with five others to explore the border region of Kentucky territory. They passed Cumberland Gap and on June 7, and set up camp at Station Camp Creek. They explored Kentucky as far west as the falls of the Ohio. In 1773, he returned home, sold his farm and set out with his family, two brothers, and five other families, to settle in Kentucky. They were intercepted by Shawnee in an attack that resulted in the death of Boone’s oldest son, James, and the party was forced to retreat to the Clinch River. Two years later, Boone succeeded in founding Boonesborough, Kentucky near present day Lexington. During the American Revolution, Boonesborough became the site of several battles. It was besieged at least three times over a period of months. The Battle of Blue Licks on August 19, 1782, almost ten months after the surrender at Yorktown, was a decisive victory for a combined force of 1,000 British regulars and tribes from the Ohio nations. It also cost the life of Boone’s second son, Israel. His story was included in a book, ‘The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke,’ published in 1784 by John Filson, a Kentucky land speculator, in an effort to lure settlers to Kentucky. The book of embellished tales was popular in both America and Europe, and made Boone internationally known. In 1792, Kentucky was admitted into the Union as the 15th state. Litigation arose that questioned many settlers’ title to their lands. Boone lost all his property due to lack of clear title. In 1795, he settled on the Femme Osage Creek, in St. Charles County, Missouri. He was appointed commander of the Femme Osage district, and received a large grant of land for his services, which he subsequently lost because he failed to make his title good. His claim to another tract of land was confirmed by Congress in 1812, in consideration of his services. The St. Louis Enquirer of October 14, 1820 ran an obituary notice that read: “DIED.- On the 26th ult. [Sep.] at Charette in the ninetieth year of his age, the celebrated Col. DANIEL BOONE, discoverer and first settler of the State of Kentucky.” After his death, the legend which began with the 1784 book, continued to grow with the publication of such best-selling works as ‘The Biographical Memoir of Daniel Boone, the First Settler of Kentucky,’ released in 1833, a sensationalized account of Boone’s life. In 1845, in a controversial move, the remains of Boone and his wife were relocated from Missouri to Kentucky. There is some controversy surrounding the final disposition of the Boones’ remains. Some claim Daniel and Rebecca’s remains are still in Missouri, and that the wrong bodies were removed and re-buried. Others have demanded the return of the bodies to Missouri. Seven counties, a national forest, and numerous towns and schools across the United States are named for him. In 1968, the US Post Office issued a six cent stamp in the American Folklore Series depicting him. From 1964 to 1970, he was the highly fictionalized subject of a popular television series.

David Crockett. American Western Frontiersman, US Congressman. Commonly referred to as the “King of the Wild Frontier,” his exploits as an American folk hero were popularized in films, stage plays, and books, which were often exaggerated.

Jim Bowie. American Western Frontiersman. On February 24 Bowie collapsed and took to his bed. Speculation on his ailment favors typhoid pneumonia or tuberculosis. On March 6 the Mexican forces attacked, and all the defenders of the Alamo died; Bowie was found on his cot in a room on the south side. He had been shot several times.

Meriwether Lewis. Explorer. Born on a plantation in Albemarle County, Virginia, he and his family moved to Georgia when he was ten but by thirteen he was sent back to Virginia for an education by private tutors. By 1794 he had joined the Virginia militia, and was sent as part of a unit involved in putting down the Whiskey Rebellion. In 1795 he joined the regular army and for a brief period he was attached to a sub-legion of General Anthony Wayne commanded by Lieutenant William Clark. He served until 1801 achieving the rank of captain. Thomas Jefferson recruited Lewis as his secretary-aide that same year and he soon became involved in the planning of the the Corps of Discovery expedition across the Louisana Purchase. In 1803 Congress appropriated funds for the Expedition, and Lewis was commissioned its leader. With Jefferson’s consent, Lewis offered the post of co-captain of the expedition to William Clark. The expedition took almost three years and solidified the United States’ claims to land across the continent, and acquainted the world with new species, new people and new territory. Upon the Corps’ successful return, Jefferson appointed Lewis governor of the Louisiana Territory and granted him a reward of 1500 acres. In October of 1809, while en route to Washington, D.C., Lewis died by violence at a wayside inn called Grinder’s Stand outside Nashville, Tennessee. No completely satisfactory explanation for his death has ever been found. Mrs. John Grinder who served as his landlady on the last night of his life reported: “… heard the sound of a gunshot and then the sound of something heavy falling to the floor… followed by the words, “Oh Lord!” … heard the sound of another gunshot and in a few moments, Lewis’ voice … “Oh, Madame, give me some water and heal my wounds.” … [she] refused to leave the room where she had been sleeping … she waited nearly two hours before … [rousing] the servants. They came inside and found Lewis on his pallet … He had been [shot] in the side and once in the head. The buffalo robe that he lay on was soaked with blood and Lewis was barely hanging on to life. … He died just as the sun was rising.” Lewis was buried there on the property. The land is now the Meriwether Lewis State Park in Tennessee. Thomas Jefferson is credited with the inscription on Lewis’ tombstone: Immaturus obi: sed tu felicior annos Vive meos, Bona Republica! Viva tuos (I died young: but thou, O Good Republic, live out my years for me with better fortune.) A year after his death, John Grinder, in whose home Lewis died, was brought before a grand jury on a warrant of murder. The charges were dismissed since no evidence or motive existed against him. Whether Lewis’ death was suicide, as was widely believed, or murder, as contended by his family, is still an open question.

William Clark. Explorer. Born in Caroline County Virginia, Clark moved with his family to Louisville, Kentucky in 1785. In 1789, he joined the militia. He was commissioned a lieutenant in the regular army in 1792, and was assigned to Anthony Wayne’s regiment, participating in the Battle of Fallen Timbers. One of the men briefly under his command was Meriwether Lewis. Clark left the army in 1796. In 1803, Captain Meriwether Lewis invited Clark to share the leadership of a corps of exploration in an extensive journey into the vast uncharted area newly acquired by the United States with the Louisiana Purchase. Clark acted as mapmaker and artist, portraying in great detail the life they observed. Clark was credited with rescuing the expedition from disaster on more than one occasion. After Clark’s successful return from the Pacific coast three years later, President Jefferson awarded him 1,600 acres and made him brigadier general of militia for the Louisiana Territory as well as superintendent of Indian affairs. He held that post the rest of his life. From 1813 he served as governor of the Missouri Territory. Clark died in St. Louis where a 35-foot gray granite obelisk was erected to mark his grave. His descendants raised $100,000 to rehabilitate the deteriorated obelisk and rededicated it with a ceremony on the bicentennial of the start of Corps of Exploration.

Sacajawea. Folk Figure. Born to the Lemhi Shoshone people between 1787 and 1789 in what is present day Idaho. At about age 11 or 12, a Hidatsa raiding party stole her from her home and took her to their territory in present day North Dakota. By 1804, she was living in a Hidatsa-Mandan settlement when she was taken by a French-Canadian fur trader, Toussaint Charbonneau, as his second wife. In November 1804 the The Corps of Discovery lead by William Clark and Meriwether Lewis arrived in the village. They recognized the value of Sacajawea and Charbonneau’s language skills; Charbonneau spoke French and Hidatsa; Sacajawea spoke Hidatsa and Shoshone, one member of the Corps spoke French and English, and the rest spoke only English. Two months before the group set off, she gave birth to a son, Jean Baptiste, whom she would carry throughout the journey. The Corps leaders saw the inclusion of a woman a child as a clear signal to unknown tribes that they meant no harm. Only a month into the journey she proved her worth by remaining calm and rescuing important papers, instruments, medicine, and other irreplaceable items that otherwise would have been lost during a boat accident. Lewis and Clark then named a tributary of the Mussellshell River “Sah-ca-gah-weah,” after her. When the group finally encountered the Shoshone near Lemhi Pass, she served as translator in trade negotiations, made easier when she recognize the Shoshone leader as her brother. She continued with the Corps to the Pacific coast and was granted an equal vote as to where they should encamp. Often incorrectly described as a guide for the Corps, she did serve as interpreter, peace token, and naturalist, identifying roots, plants and berries that were either edible or medicinal. She remained with the Corps on their return journey, leaving them at her starting point on August 14, 1806. She and her family traveled to St. Louis in 1809, and left Jean Baptiste in the care of William Clark, who had offered to provide him with an education. Sacajawea and Charbonneau left town in April 1811 to join a fur-trading expedition when she was described as: “…a good creature, of a mild and gentle disposition… but she had become sickly, and longed to revisit her native country,” by Henry Brackenridge who chronicled the trading voyage. She gave birth to a daughter, Lisette, in 1812 at Fort Manuel along the Missouri River. A clerk at the fort, John C. Luttig, noted that on December 20, 1812 “This evening the wife of Charbonneau… died of putrid fever. She was good and the best woman in the fort, aged about twenty-five years.” Although alternate fates for Sacajawea have been proposed, modern scholarship regards this record as the best historical evidence of her death, especially considering William Clark confirmed it in his list of Corps of Discovery members in 1825. Clark remained Jean Baptiste’s guardian and also took Lisette as his ward, and was was legally made the guardian of the children in Orphan’s Court in August 1813. Sacajawea has since been memorialized with countless statues and monuments, on postal stamps, and in place-names. In 2000, her likeness appeared on a dollar coin struck by the US Mint. In 2001, the President of the US granted her a posthumous decoration as an honorary sergeant in the regular army. Her name has been variously recorded as Sacajawea, Sacagawea, and Sakakawea.

John Boyden “Grizzly” Adams. Western Frontiersman. A wild animal fighter, collector and tamer, and a pioneer of live animal exhibits (menageries and zoos). Some believe him to be the greatest California mountain man of them all. Born simply John Adams, he was related to the famous Adamses of Massachusetts, among them President John Adams and patriot Samuel Adams. He had a typical New England childhood and received what was considered a good education for the times. His early experiences in New England and hunting and trapping in the wilds of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont prepared him for a life of self-reliance. In 1849, when (through no fault of his own) he lost his life savings and the savings of others in a business venture, he left behind his wife and three young children in Medway, Massachusetts and joined the stream of emigrants in the gold rush to California. Surviving two near-fatal illnesses on the way, once he reached California he made and lost fortunes in mining, grocery, and finally, ranching. It is a mystery even today, as to why he chose to use aliases of James Capen Adams (actually the name of one of his younger brothers) or William Adams. At age forty, he abandoned city life after losing his ranch near French Camp, California to creditors. He headed into the unspoiled wild areas of the Sierra Nevada mountains. After establishing a semi-permanent camp a few miles away from today’s Pinecrest, California. Adams sustained himself, as other mountain men before him had done, by hunting and trapping. His trade in Massachusetts was making footwear, so he knew how to work leather and craft the harness, packs, and other articles from the hides he harvested. What most set Grizzly Adams apart from other great mountain men of the West was his unique ability to dominate the “horrible bear” (Ursus horribilis) or the “ferocious bear” (Ursus ferox), the dreaded, fearless, grizzly bear. 

James Cook. English Navigator, Explorer, and Mapmaker. He is remembered for his three exploration voyages that circumnavigated the globe and for his discovery of the Sandwich Islands (now known as the Hawaiian Islands). Born the second of eight children, his father was a farm laborer. In 1736 his family moved to Airey Holme farm at Great Ayton, North Yorkshire, England and his father’s employer paid for him to attend the local school. In 1741 he began working for his father and four years later he moved to Staithes, England and worked for a grocer. 18 months later he became a merchant navy apprentice for ship-owners in the port town of Whitby, England. As part of his apprenticeship, he applied himself to the study of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, navigation and astronomy, skills he would need one day to command his own ship. After completing his three-year apprenticeship, he began working on trading ships in the Baltic Sea. In 1752 he passed his examinations and soon progressed through the merchant navy ranks. In 1755 he volunteered for service in the Royal Navy, when England was re-arming for what was to become the Seven Years’ War (also known as the French and Indian War) and he entered the Navy in June of that year. His first posting was with the HMS Eagle, sailing with the rank of master’s mate. In October and November 1755 he took part in the capture of one French warship and the sinking of another, following which he was promoted to the rank of boatswain, in addition to his other duties. His first temporary command was in March 1756 when he was briefly the master of the Cruizer, a small cutter attached to the Eagle while on patrol. In June 1757 he passed his master’s examinations at Trinity House, Deptford, England which qualified him to navigate and handle a ship of the King’s fleet. He then joined the frigate HMS Solebay. In 1758, serving aboard the Pembroke, he took part in the major amphibious assault that captured the Fortress of Louisbourg from the French, after which he participated in the siege of Quebec City and then the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759. He showed a talent for surveying and cartography, and was responsible for mapping much of the entrance to the Saint Lawrence River during the siege, thus allowing English Major General James Wolfe to make his famous stealth attack on the Plains of Abraham. His surveying ability was put to good use mapping the jagged coast of Newfoundland and from 1760 to 1765 he produced the first large-scale and accurate maps of the island’s coasts and were the first scientific, large scale, hydrographic surveys to use precise triangulation to establish land outlines. It also demonstrated his mastery of practical surveying, achieved under often adverse conditions, and brought him to the attention of the Admiralty and Royal Society. In 1766 the Royal Society engaged him to travel to the Pacific Ocean to observe and record the transit of Venus across the Sun. At the age of 39 he was promoted to lieutenant and named as commander of the expedition that departed England on 26 August 1768 and arrived at the pacific island of Tahiti in April 1769. He continued to New Zealand and mapped the complete coastline, then voyaged west, reaching the south-eastern coast of Australia in April 1770. He returned to England via Batavia (modern Jakarta, Indonesia), the Cape of Good Hope, and arriving at the island of Saint Helena in July 1771. His journals were published upon his return, and he became something of a hero among the scientific community. Shortly after his return from the first voyage, he was promoted to the rank of commander. In 1772 the Royal Society commissioned him to search for Terra Australis, a hypothetical continent first posited in Antiquity and which appeared on maps between the 15th and 18th centuries. He commanded the HMS Resolution on this voyage, circumnavigating the globe at an extreme southern latitude, becoming one of the first to cross the Antarctic Circle on January 17, 1773. He explored the Antarctic and almost encountered the mainland of Antarctica, but turned towards Tahiti to resupply his ship. He then resumed his southward course in a second fruitless attempt to find the supposed continent. On his return voyage to New Zealand in 1774, he landed at the Friendly Islands, Easter Island, Norfolk Island, New Caledonia, and Vanuatu. Before returning to England, he made a final sweep across the South Atlantic from Cape Horn and surveyed, mapped and took possession for Britain the Island South Georgia. His reports upon his return home put to rest the popular myth of Terra Australis. He was promoted to the rank of post-captain and given an honorary retirement from the Royal Navy, with a posting as an officer of the Greenwich Hospital. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society, and awarded the Copley Gold Medal. He then volunteered to take a 3rd voyage to find the Northwest passage and in 1776 he left aboard the HMS Resolution to the Pacific Ocean, landed in Tahiti and sailed north to find the Northwest Passage. In 1778 he became the first European to discover the Hawaiian Islands, naming them the Sandwich Islands, in honor of the Earl of Sandwich, the Acting First Lord of the Admiralty. He then sailed north and then northeast to explore the west coast of North America, making landfall on the present-day Oregon coast, and soon after entered Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island where he encountered the indigenous First Nations people. After leaving Nootka Sound, he explored and mapped the coast all the way to the Bering Strait, on the way identifying what came to be known as Cook Inlet in Alaska. In a single visit he charted the majority of the North American north-west coastline on world maps for the first time, determined the extent of Alaska, and closed the gaps in Russian (from the West) and Spanish (from the South) exploratory probes of the Northern limits of the Pacific. He then made several attempts to navigate the Bering Strait which proved to be impassable, and he returned to Hawaii. After sailing around the archipelago for some eight weeks, he made landfall at Kealakekua Bay, on ‘Hawaii Island’, largest island in the Hawaiian Archipelago. After a month’s stay, he attempted to resume his exploration of the Northern Pacific. Shortly after leaving Hawaii Island, the Resolution’s foremast broke, so the ships returned to Kealakekua Bay for repairs. Tensions soon rose, and a number of quarrels broke out between his crew and the Hawaiians at Kealakekua Bay. When one of his small boats was taken by an unknown group of Hawaiians, he was forced into a wild goose chase that ended with his return to the ship frustrated. The following day he went to the village to take their King, Kalani’ōpu’u, hostage and in a confrontation with the Hawaiians, he was killed at the age of 50. The Hawaiians took his body back to their village and prepared it with funerary rituals usually reserved for the chiefs and highest elders of their society, and some of his remains, thus preserved, were eventually returned to his crew for a formal burial at sea. A white obelisk monument to his honor was erected in November 1874 at Kealakekua Bay to mark the spot where he died. Additionally, a memorial statue in his honor is located at the Catani Gardens in St Kilda, Victoria, Australia, at Hofgaard Park in Waimea, Hawaii, and also in Greenwich, London, England. A US coin, the 1928 Hawaiian Sesquicentennial half dollar minted for the 150th anniversary of his discovery of the islands, bears his image.

William Mathewson. American Frontiersman. Born in Triangle, New York, he was a daring explorer, hunter, Indian scout and fighter, and the first to be given the sobriquet, “Buffalo Bill”. In 1849, he was employed by the Northwestern Fur Company, traveling through the Dakotas, Nebraska, Wyoming, trading with the Indians and acquired his knowledge of Indian warfare. He was most renowned in Kansas pioneer days, helping establish settlements, trading with Wichita Indians and creating the Chisholm Trail as a route of transport for the community. When the region was incorporated, he became Police Commissioner of Wichita, Kansas. In the later 1800s, he was employed by the government for services on his trading post at the Kiowa and Comanche agency. He died in Wichita, Kansas, in 1916.

Kit Carson. Civil War Union Brevet Brigadier General, American Frontiersman. He was known for his frontier skills and for his daring. Many people described him as brave, gentle, honest, and wise, but his most notable qualities were that he was humble, reverent, polite, ingenious, resourceful, respectful of all cultures, and loyal to his country. At five feet, five inches tall, 140 pounds, and slightly bow-legged, he was slow spoken, often spoke softly, and posed a great natural modesty. Born Christopher Houston Carson in Madison County, Kentucky, his family moved to Boon’s Lick, Missouri (near Arrow Rock), when he was a year old. He was a cousin to another famous frontiersman, Daniel Boone, through his mother. His father, Lindsey Carson, was a veteran of the American Revolution, and decided the nickname “Kit” fit his son better than his given name, and it stuck. On the Missouri frontier, Indians were a constant problem, and as a result, formal schooling took second place to survival skills. As a result, Carson never learned to read or write. When Kit was nine, his father was killed by Indians, and his mother remarried. He and his stepfather never agreed, so in 1824, his stepfather apprenticed the 14 year-old to a saddle maker, David Workman, in nearby Franklin, Missouri. Hating the work, in 1826 he ran away to join a group of traders going to Santa Fe, New Mexico. From 1829 to 1841, he trapped beavers from Arizona to Idaho, and along the Rocky Mountains; during these trips, he often fought the local Indians. In 1842, John C. Fremont, the famous explorer, hired Carson to guide him through the Rockies and Fremont highly praised Carson in his official reports, which helped make him famous. Carson then joined Fremont’s second and third expeditions, establishing trails to California and to Oregon. In 1846, Carson joined Fremont’s group that revolted against the Mexicans, and after several victories, went to carry the news to Washington DC, but at Socorro, New Mexico, he joined General Stephen Kearny’s troops and led them back to California. When the Civil War began in 1861, Carson was made Colonel of the New Mexico Volunteer Regiment, and fought the Confederates at Valverde, New Mexico in 1862, when the Confederates sent an Army from Texas to seize California. When the Confederates retreated back to Texas, and over the next three years, Carson fought Indians, including the Apaches, Navajos, Kiowas, and Commanches, forcing many of the Indians to accept living on reservations. Carson was fluent in English, French, Spanish, and in a number of Indian languages, include the common sign language used by mountain men. Spanish was the preferred language in the Taos, New Mexico home of his third wife, Josefa. On March 13, 1865, he was brevetted Brigadier General, US Volunteers for “gallantry in the battle of Valverde, and for for distinguished services in New Mexico”. Given command of Fort Garland, Colorado in 1866, the next year he resigned due to poor health, and died within eight months at Fort Lyon, Colorado, in the quarters of Assistant Army Surgeon H. K. Tilden, when an aneurysm ruptured in his trachea. Carson was transported to Boggsville, and buried beside his third wife, Josefa, who had died in childbirth a month earlier. A year later, both bodies would be taken to Taos, New Mexico, for their final burial.

RADM Robert Edwin Peary. Explorer, United States Naval Officer. He led the first expeditions to reach the geographic North Pole of Earth, reaching it in his final expedition in 1909. Commissioned an officer in the United States Navy in the civil engineering corps in 1882, he soon hired Matthew A. Henson to be his valet; Henson would accompany him on all his expeditions. In 1908, after having already attempted two trips to the North Pole, Peary and his party sailed to Ellesmere Island (at the far north of Canada) on the “USS Roosevelt”. In early March, 1909, the expedition (Matthew A. Henson, Dr. John W. Goodsell, Donald B. MacMillion, Ross G. Marvin, George Borup and Captain Robert Bartlett) left their base camp at Cape Columbia and headed north in dog sleds (which Henson built). Peary, Henson and four Eskimos reached the North Pole on April 6, 1909 (the others turned back at various places along the way). It is now thought that Peary and Henson may have been 30-60 miles (50-100 km) short of reaching the pole (because of navigational mistakes that were made). Frederick A. Cook (who had accompanied Peary on an earlier expedition) later claimed to have reached the North Pole before Peary, in April 1908; this claim was later rejected completely as a cruel hoax. Robert Peary retired with the rank of Rear Admiral.

Frederick Albert Cook. Explorer. Born at Callicoon Depot, New York, he was a physician whom became interested in the arctic and accompanied the expedition of Robert E. Peary in 1891, as surgeon. He accompanied the Belgian expedition to Antarctica in 1897 and made other polar voyages in 1898 to 1900. In 1907, he set out with an expedition for the arctic and claimed that he was the first to reach the North Pole on April 21, 1908. A year later Peary announced that he had reached the Pole first in April 1909 and accused Cook of fraud. The argument started one of the most publicized controversies, with Cook filing several libel suits fighting for vindication of his polar claim. He was supported by some well-known explorers as well as some ardent admirers giving him the credit of discovering the North Pole, despite public view.

Matthew Alexander Henson. Explorer. He accompanied Commander Peary on all expeditions to the Arctic for 18 years, culminating when they reached the North Pole April 6, 1909. Henson became a distinguished member of the Explorers Club in New York, his biography written in 1947, met President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the White House in 1954. He died in 1955 but his Inuit descendants live on today in Greenland and the USNS Henson sails the world performing oceanographic exploration.