Daniel Boone and the Opening of the American West, a two-hour documentary, is Witnessing History, LLC’s most ambitious project ever. It has taken countless hours of research, script-writing, image acquisition and action scene planning to produce. Noted Boone scholars have been enlisted at each stage of the production to make sure the script and depictions of Boone and his times are accurate. This production, more than any other Witnessing History, LLC has produced, has required extensive filming of recreated scenes to bring the Boone’s story to life. It has also necessitated extensive travel, as Boone was born in Pennsylvania, lived in Virginia and North Carolina, settled Kentucky and lived his final twenty-one years in Missouri.
Daniel Boone traces the life of the famed frontiersman from his birth near Reading, Pennsylvania in 1734, through his years in Kentucky and to his death in St. Charles County, Missouri in 1820. A vast number of Boone documents, portraiture and imagery have been collected for use in the production. At least thirty manuscript repositories and art collections have been utilized to illustrate the production. Boone documents from the Filson Historical Society Collections, the Draper Manuscript Collections at the Wisconsin Historical Society, the Kentucky Historical Society and many held by private collectors will be seen throughout the production. Every known portrait of Boone, along with a vast number of paintings of Boone’s exploits, Cherokee and Shawnee warriors and frontier life are included. At least forty paintings from three of the most popular contemporary artists of frontier America are among those included in the production.
Action scenes of Boone’s early explorations of Kentucky, his first attempt at settlement, the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals, the opening of the Wilderness Road, the Revolutionary War in Kentucky and the Ohio Valley (including the sieges of Boonesboro, Ruddle’s Station and Bryan’s Station and the disastrous Battle of Blue Licks), and Boone’s later life as a surveyor, tavern keeper and even a legislator in Virginia have been filmed using more than 300 actors, including Scott New, who portrays Daniel Boone. George Rogers Clark and his expedition from the Falls of the Ohio to the capture of Fort Sackville (Vincennes), in retaliation for the sieg e of Boonesboro, is covered in detail using the magnificent murals of the George Rogers Clark National Monument and scenes of the Falls of the Ohio at Louisville. The production is studded with magnificent scenes filmed in Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri, as Boone would have seen them, the traces, caves, springs, rivers, creeks, hills, and even dwellings, churches and churchyards.
Four hours of battle scenes with the Shawnee were filmed on September 24 2011 as were scenes of Otter Creek, the Kentucky River at Boonesboro, Old Providence Church and Boone’s Station. Scenes of the defenses of Boonesboro, Bryan’s Station and Ruddle’s Station, along with scenes of Boone’s first attempt at settlement in 1774 and the death of his son, James, were filmed at the site of Martin’s Station in the Wilderness Road State Park near Ewing, Virginia on November 12, 2011. In addition, scenes of John Finley’s first meeting with Boone and the first exploration of Kentucky by Boone and Finley’s party in 1769 were also filmed, along with scenes of life in the frontier forts and stations during the early years of Kentucky’s settlement. The footage of the fighting from the blockhouses of the forts is positively gripping; all of the footage is so life-like that the viewer will believe he/she is witnessing the actual events as they unfold.
Scenes of Daniel Boone as a tavern keeper in Limestone, Kentucky and as a member of the Virginia Legislature were filmed in Frankfort, Kentucky in February 2012. A week later, scenes were filmed of the Kentucky River pallisades during a snowfall. Also filmed was the pioneer burial ground in Harrodsburg and at the gravesites of Daniel and Rebecca Boone in Frankfort.
On March 31, 2012 our camera crew filmed the pallisades of the Kentucky River between Madison and Jessamine Counties while aboard a pontoon boat, a twenty-mile journey. We reached the site of Tapp’s Cave, one of three caves known to have been occupied by Boone during his solitary explorations in 1770 and 1771. The cave was filmed, as were all the approaches to it. Filming continued three weeks later from the mouth of Hickman Creek to the mouth of the Dix River, a thirty-mile journey.
Our camera crews returned to Martin’s Station near Ewing, Virginia on May 12, 2012 to film scenes of the British and Native American attacks upon forts at Boonesboro, Bryan’s Station and Ruddle’s Station, as well as scenes of Boone with John Finley on Braddock’s expedition, Boone being captured by the Indians, Boone and his hunting party at what became known as Lulbegrud Creek and Boone in the Kentucky canebreaks. Over 200 actors were on hand. Our cameramen filmed scenes at the site of Bryan’s Station, Boone’s log cabin at Brushy Fork near Carlisle, Kentucky, the Buffalo Trace at Blue Licks, the Crossing of the Licking River at Blue Licks and Stony Creek on August 18, 2012. Battle scenes were filmed at the reconstructed Tanner’s Station, and about 30 Native Americans, along with the recreated Butler’s Rangers, twenty in number, acted out for our cameras scenes of the Battle of Blue Licks on August 18, 2012.
On September 30, 2012 Witnessing History, LLC’s camera crews returned to Martin’s Station in southwest Virginia for the third time to film some of the final scenes of Daniel Boone. Nearly 40 actors were on hand. The Siege of Boonesboro, Daniel Boone’s treason trial, the treaty negotiations at Sycamore Shoals, Boone and his hunting party at Pilot Knob, Boone being interviewed by John Filson and then by portrait painter Chester Harding, the death of Israel Boone at Blue Licks and even scenes of Rebecca and Daniel Boone’s final years and deaths in Missouri were filmed. On December 1, 2012 our camera crews shot scenes of Daniel Boone’s solitary explorations of Kentucky, cutting the Wilderness Road, the death of Edward Boone, Boone’s escape from the Shawnee and even Boone as a surveyor.
Daniel Boone’s birthplace, his grandfather’s home and the Exeter Friends Meeting House attended by the Boones were filmed near Reading, Pennsylvania on January 12, 2013. Also filmed in mid-February 2013 were the homes of Nathan Boone (where Daniel Boone died) and Jemima Boone Callaway (where Rebecca Boone died) and Daniel and Rebecca Boone’s grave sites in St. Charles County, Missouri. Elements of the Wilderness Road that are still extant, as well as central Kentucky scenery that remains unchanged since Boone’s first explorations of the region have been filmed.
Daniel Boone and the Opening of the American West is tentatively scheduled for completion and premier broadcast on KET in early 2014. The narration has been voiced-over, as have all of Daniel Boone’s voice parts. The “stand-ups” will be filmed in September in Cincinnati, Ohio. Film editing will start immediately thereafter. That is the tedious and time-consuming aspect of the production as we will be selecting scenes out of more than 18 hours of action footage! Then the sound effects and music is applied. Daniel Boone will actually have music composed for it. Composer, Clark D. Cranfill, of Icecap Music, has composed Boone’s theme and the action music. This is the first time Witnessing History, LLC has ever contracted with a composer to create music for a film.
To date, the Filson Historical Society (Louisville, Kentucky), the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Bluegrass Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau (10 counties surrounding Lexington), the City of Richmond, Kentucky Tourism Bureau, Kentucky Cabinet for History Tourism and Arts, Dupree Financial Group and the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville are sponsors. All of the visitors bureaus in central Kentucky are sponsors, as well as the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Tourism Cabinet.
Witnessing History, LLC will be announcing special gala premier showings of Daniel Boone in Louisville and Lexington shortly after its release.