Filson, John

Filson, John,

c.1753–1788, Kentucky pioneer, b. Chester co., Pa. In 1783 he acquired land in Kentucky, taught school, and wrote Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucke (1784). This first history, or traveler's description, of the state contained a very good map that was also published separately in several editions. Perhaps its most popular feature, however, was an appendix, "The Adventures of Col. Daniel Boon," which purported to be Daniel Boone's autobiography. Filson obviously wrote out, in the first person, material he garnered from Daniel BooneBoone, Daniel,
1734–1820, American frontiersman, b. Oley (now Exeter) township, near Reading, Pa.

The Boones, English Quakers, left Pennsylvania in 1750 and settled (1751 or 1752) in the Yadkin valley of North Carolina.
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, as the studied literary style of the alleged autobiography was hardly that of the simple, vigorous, and unlettered frontiersman. Filson's book is not completely reliable historically, but it went through a number of editions, including several in London and Paris. Boone, however, delighted with his ghostwritten "autobiography," pronounced every word true, and Kentucke was mainly responsible for his subsequent high reputation in American history.


See W. R. Jillson, ed., Filson's Kentucke (1929), a facsimile reproduction with full bibliography; biography by J. Walton (1956).

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Filson, John

(?1747–88) explorer, author; born in Chester County, Pa. He entered Kentucky in 1783 and wrote Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucke (1784) to attract settlers. (The so-called "autobiography" of Daniel Boone first appeared in this book.) He was killed by an Indian while helping to lay out the settlement of Cincinnati.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.