WFYI Video RE: Daniel Boone and Eagle Creek Park

Friday, July 14, 2006

Click links tab (right column) for DANIEL BOONE TREE VIDEO
A beech tree growing in Eagle Creek, Indiana is thought to bear the carved signature of the famous pioneer Daniel Boone.
(This story was produced and originally broadcast by WFYI Channel 20 (Indianapolis). Although I vividly remember seeing this tree as it is featured in the story, by 2006 the dead and hollow tree was no longer standing.
Carving Out a Place in History
“I think Daniel Boone, being one of the country’s original folk heroes, has drawn a lot of people to this area to look at the tree and to be someplace that Daniel Boone might have been.” Eagle Creek Naturalist Fritz Nerding has told the story hundreds of times. It’s probably the oldest folk tale in the region, a story told since the time Indiana first became a state. Supposedly, back in the 1790’s, the great frontiersman Daniel Boone carved his name into this tree to help mark the uncharted territory now known as Eagle Creek. Daniel Boone was sort of a legend in his time and it carries on into today. People have always been fascinated with the explorers and I think that’s what led to his being famous.

Of course as a tree grows it grows out like when you used silly putty and put it on a comic strip and pulled it to make funny faces. That’s what would happen to the outside of the bark of a tree. It would distort over time as that tree grew and stretched so you can use your imagination now to form ideas of what it would actually have said or did say. The distortion of the 200 year old image lends itself to much speculation about both the message and the messenger.

Fritz has heard them all. One could be that it was just his named, carved with a circle around it. The other one was that it could have been a crude map that he had drawn of the area with Eagle Creek and showing some of the hills around the area. And then the third was that it was possibly like a bear paw print. Of course back then we did have bear in Indiana. The local legend raises many questions among historians. Here is what we do know: Boone helped blaze new trails throughout the Northwest Territory during the Revolutionary War period. His brother Squire Boone settled in southern Indiana during the 1780’s and Boone was said to have visited his brother on occasion. The Eagle Creek waterway would certainly have been navigable by canoe during that time.

So it is conceivable that Boone came through this area. Yet some questions remain. Why would a man known for his fierce fighting against Native American tribes wander deep into this territory when the only inhabitants were Miami and Shawnee Indians? And why would Boone choose this tree to carve his famous moniker? At the time this Beech would have been considerably smaller, certainly there would have been larger trees upon which to mark the territory.

The whole story might have just been ignored had it not been for this: an original settler in the area, David McCurdy, scrawled a hand-written note in 1820, claiming that he could confirm that the markings on the tree were indeed carved by Boone. The affidavit noted that Boone was a “land-cruiser” to chart new territories for the U.S. Government. Later a Notary Public put his seal of authenticity on McCurdy’s document.

People do come and look at the tree, not only as the Daniel Boone tree, but being a tree they can tie to history. But you can look at all the other trees, they are 200 to 300 years old and that ties back to when our country was founded. Think about the history in that respect and think about what it would have been like and if the tree could tell us a story about what it would have been like then and through that time. I think that draws people to the tree and the Boone legend.

The Boone Tree Legend has had far-reaching influence on this area. According to some accounts, the reason this vast wildlife area was protected from development in the early 20th century was due in part to Boone and the tree legend. Today Eagle Creek Park has been preserved in ways that echo back to the time of Boone.

Whether the frontiersman ever actually carved his name or not on this tree, Boone would have approved of the results associated with the local legen, if that tree helped save this forest because there was some history tied to it. Then I feel that was a good thing to have the history tied to the tree. Anyway, that you can people to appreciate trees and their benefits to the environment, that’s a good thing.” Transcript of the WFYI produced story as told by Fritz Nerding.

Video Link:
Boone Video


About Ross Reller

I am pleased you have expressed interest in learning more about the historic Traders Point area in Indianapolis, Indiana. From 1980 to 1982 I was employed in the PR department at Conner Prairie Museum in Hamilton County. There I learned about William Conner, an important figure in Indiana's pioneer days. A decade later I became interested in the history of the Traders Point area and was surprised to learn that William Conner had been the first land owner in the area. In 1823 he acquired, through the Federal land office in Brookville, a patent for an 80 acre tract carved by Eagle Creek and an Indian trail that was about to be named the first toll roadway through the township (Lafayette Road). Thirty years later a village took shape within this tract. A grain mill on the creek, houses, churches, stores, restaurants, and two gas stations would take shape here in the creek valley hamlet of Traders Point. By 1962 all improvements (except a farmer's co-op) had been removed by the Indianapolis Flood Control Board to make way for Interstate 65 and a new reservoir. This blog is dedicated to preserving evidence of this historic area but I will occasionally use it to discuss related topics. To activate this follow, simply click the confirm button below. If you don't want to follow, ignore this message and we'll never bother you again. I am also a member of the Old Pleasant Hill Cemetery, a non profit association still selling burial plots for those who would like to spend all eternity in Traders Point, and I am an officer in the Pike Township Historical Society and the Traders Point Association of Neighborhoods.
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