Grieving fathers…Boone and Lincoln


“In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all…”

Abraham Lincoln


Dateline 1773-1774:

I have stood on the ground where James Boone was killed and buried. Well, it may have been the spot. There are three possible locations for his burial place. The location I was at was in Virginia. There was a marker noting the history that had occurred. I looked around. It no longer was a wilderness area. There were concrete highways with cars and trucks whizzing by. Hard to believe that the spot was considered the frontier with dangers all around. So in my imagination, I tried to picture what I have read took place. Daniel Boone was leading a party into Kentucky. Any movement of that nature had great risks. Boone had been warned previously to stay out of Kentucky by some Indians that had come upon his camp and robbed him. But Boone didn’t stay away. His party had to stop the day’s journey. His son James Boone (with others) was sent just a few miles away on an errand, more or less. They camped for the night. They did not survive. Young James Boone, and those with him, were attacked by some Cherokee and Shawnee Indians. Seventeen year-old James Boone and his companion Henry Russell died horrible deaths. I think all the others were also killed except one man-who related to Daniel Boone what had happened. The Indians had physically tortured Boone and Russell until young James pleaded for death. Daniel Boone took some men and quickly went to the scene but it was too late. Daniel carefully wrapped up the remains of his son in linen that Rebecca had provide for that purpose. James and Henry were buried together. Daniel made sure that there bodies would be protected as much as possible. I cannot imagine the pain he must have felt that day.

In 1774, Daniel Boone revisited the grave of his son James (and Henry Russell). It was a dark and dreary night. It eventually poured down rain. Daniel opened up the grave to inspect the body. Afterward, he rewrapped it and covered it back up. He sat by the grave alone in silence as he thought about his son. He was probably cold. He was wet from the rain. He once remarked that that night was the saddest moment of his life. Before the night ended, he quietly moved out of the area, as he suspected he was going to be attacked by Indians. I don’t know if Boone ever went back there after that. As a father, I’m sure he often thought of James. Did he felt guilty or responsible in some way for the boy’s death? I don’t ever think he said either way.


Dateline 1862:

Another boy that died is in my thoughts. He was Abraham Lincoln’s son William (“Willie”).  Lincoln had already lost one son (Edward) previously. He was no stranger to the pain of loss. Willie was only eleven years old. He was not murdered like James Boone was. Willie probably died of typhoid fever. The sickness was protracted. At times, he seemed like he was going to get better. Willie passed away in the White House. The grieving Lincoln said: “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth. God has called him home…we loved him so. It’s hard, hard to have him die…he is actually gone.” Like Daniel Boone, Abraham Lincoln had suffered a terrible loss. And like Boone, Lincoln would view his deceased son’s body. Lincoln, it is said, made at least two visits to Willie’s coffin, had it opened, and sat there with the corpse.


Both Daniel Boone and Abraham Lincoln went on with their lives. They both carried on with their families. They did what they had to do, in spite of their losses…


Life is short. There are no guarantees. Fathers, love your sons. Our children are our gifts. If we live long enough, we may experience losing one or more of them. We will have to carry on, as well. In that way, Boone and Lincoln are good role models for us. God bless you all.



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2 Responses to “Grieving fathers…Boone and Lincoln”

  1. B. Nash says:

    Roger: thank you for posting this wonderful account of this event in Lincoln’s life. It was a blessing to me personally to read this this morning. I’m sure that the readers if this blog will also find it a blessing. And thank you for being a frequent visitor here. Bill

  2. Roger Norton says:

    Bill, I was really moved by your excellent post. Regarding Willie’s death I have read that Lincoln had help in recovering from his grief. The story goes as follows:

    “Lincoln was absolutely crushed. He was so overwhelmed with grief that he set aside every Thursday to mourn his death. After some period of time, when he would see no one on that day, but wept and mourned and lamented the death of his son Willie, Dr. Francis Vinton, rector of Trinity Church, came down to Washington from New York. He was a friend of the family, and was allowed in to see the President. Not wanting to beat around the bush, he told him it was not right to mourn thus over his son. He said, “Your son is alive in paradise with Christ, and you must not continue.” Lincoln sat there as though he were in a stupor, and then his mind caught on to the words that Dr. Vinton had said, and he exclaimed, “Alive! Alive! Surely, sir, you mock me.” “No, Mr. President, it is a great doctrine of the church. Jesus himself said that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Lincoln leaped to his feet and threw his arms around this pastor. He wept openly and sobbed, saying, “Alive! Alive! My boy is alive!” From that day there began a change in Lincoln that even his wife Mary noticed. His religious views began to dramatically change.”

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