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John Filson (1747 - 1788)

Filson, John

John Filson was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1747. Filson spent several years in Kentucky, finally acquiring land he called Losantiville, where he taught school and began to write. Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucke first appeared in 1784 and was a travel companion book of the state. The book included a map which Filson put together after interviewing early settlers and other explorers. Both the book and map were reprinted numerous times in the United States as well as in England, France, and Germany. The appendix, however, is what took the attention.

"Curiosity is natural to the soul of man, and interesting objects have a powerful influence on our affections. Let these influencing powers actuate, by the permission or disposal of Providence, from selfish or social views, yet in time the mysterious will of Heaven is unfolded, and we behold our conduct, from whatsoever motives excited, operating to answer the important designs of heaven. Thus we behold Kentucke, lately an howling wilderness, the habitation of savages and wild beasts, become a fruitful field; this region, so favourably distinguished by nature, now become the habitation of civilization, at a period unparalleled in history, in the midst of a raging war, and under all the disadvantages of emigration to a country so remote from the inhabited parts of the continent." (from The Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boon)

The Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boon was published on Boone's fiftieth birthday and claimed to be written in Boone's own words, including "a narrative of the wars of Kentucke." However, it was actually written by Filson. It turned Boone into a legend and Filson into a recognized author. The book should not be considered a reliable history, though Boone, himself, noted every word to be true.

Other writings include A Topographical Description of the Western Territory of North America, (1793), A Diary of a Journey from Philadelphia to Vincennes, Indiana, in 1785, and A Journal of Two Voyages by Water from Vincennes to Louisville.

While exploring in 1788, Filson disappeared and is believed to have been killed by Native Americans.

Suggested sites for John Filson:

Encyclopedia article about John Filson
Texts by Filson
Adventures Of Col. Daniel Boone
The life of Daniel Boone told "in his own words," but written by Filson.

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