Draper Manuscripts: Simon Kenton Papers, 1755-1836

Summary Information
Title: Draper Manuscripts: Simon Kenton Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1755-1836

  • Kenton, Simon, 1755-1836
Call Number: Draper Mss BB

Quantity: 1.5 cubic feet (13 volumes)

Archival Locations:
Wisconsin Historical Society (Map)

Papers which Lyman Draper gathered for a proposed biography on Simon Kenton, a noted scout and Indian fighter. Included are biographical sketches by other writers; correspondence with surviving pioneers and Kenton descendants; narrative notes about Kenton and his associates; original manuscripts by Kenton's contemporaries; dispositions describing Kenton's military career; legal documents; and newspaper and periodical articles. Kenton's own papers are sparse; although he could sign his name, he never learned to read or write.


Descriptions of the volumes are copied from the Guide to the Draper Manuscripts / by Josephine Harper. Out of date and offensive language may be present.

This collection is also available as a microfilm publication.

Forms part of the Lyman Copeland Draper Manuscripts. The fifty series included in the Draper Manuscripts have been cataloged individually. See the Draper Manuscripts Overview, and the Guide to the Draper Manuscripts / by Josephine Harper (Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1983) for further information.

There is a restriction on use to this material; see the Administrative/Restriction Information portion of this finding aid for details.

Language: English

URL to cite for this finding aid: http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/wiarchives.uw-whs-draper0bb
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A Virginian by birth, as a boy Kenton worked on his father's farm and received no formal education. At sixteen he fled west in the mistaken belief that he had killed a fellow combatant in a youthful fracas; he adopted the surname Butler until he learned in 1785 that his adversary was still alive. From 1771 until the close of the War of 1812, Kenton was actively involved in border events in the Ohio Valley from Virginia and Pennsylvania to Illinois. He hunted in the Maysville and Wheeling regions, served as a scout in Dunmore's War in 1774, moved to Boonesborough in the following year, and during the late 1770s and early 1780s scouted for Boone, Bowman, Clark, and other military leaders. Captured in 1778, Kenton spent nearly a year as prisoner of the Shawnee and the British. In 1793-1794 he served under Wayne, and four years later moved from Kentucky to Ohio, where in 1805 he was appointed brigadier general of the militia. In the War of 1812 he was again in active military service and participated in the battle of the Thames. His later years were spent near Zanesfield, Ohio, where he lived in poverty due to faulty land titles, other business misfortunes, and an inadequate government pension.

A book recounting Kenton's colorful and exciting adventures was sixth on Draper's 1851 list of projected titles, but the text was never drafted. Nevertheless for nearly half a century Draper gathered the materials about Kenton found in this series: biographical sketches by other writers, correspondence with surviving pioneers and Kenton descendants, narratives and notes about Kenton and his associates, and some original manuscripts mainly by Kenton's contemporaries. Kenton's own records were very sparse; although he could sign his name, he never learned to read or write, a situation which was not conducive to the creation of a large body of personal correspondence or other papers.

Scope and Content Note

The major topics consist of Kenton's military career and expeditions including the Paint Creek expedition, his captivity among the Indians, Benjamin Logan's expedition into Ohio (1786), William Hubbell's fight, Alexander D. Orr's Scoito campaign, John Edward's Blackberry campaign (1791), Charles Scott's expedition (1791-1792), Kenton's Little Miami expedition (1792), Kenton's Scioto trip, Anthony Wayne's campaign, the War of 1812, and Shawnee Indian affairs correspondence kept by Edward Tiffin and Thomas Kirker.

Administrative/Restriction Information
Use Restrictions

PHOTOCOPY RESTRICTION: Photocopying originals is not permitted; researchers may copy from the microfilm available in the Library.

Contents List
Draper Mss BB
Series: 1 BB (Volume 1)
Scope and Content Note: Draper notes and letters on Kenton's early life and associates in Virginia, present West Virginia, and western Pennsylvania from 1755 to 1777. Topics include the location of Logstown and Provance's Station in Pennsylvania; buffalo in West Virginia; data on the families and descendants of John Briscoe and James Wood in Virginia and West Virginia. From Robert Patterson's papers there is one original memorandum (1802) about Kentucky lands escheatable to Transylvania University, in which Thomas Williams, an early companion of Kenton, is listed.
Series: 2 BB (Volume 2)
Scope and Content Note: Draper correspondence and notes on Kenton's life, 1778-1779. Topics include the Paint Creek expedition, Kenton's captivity among the Indians, and biographical information on Jesse Copher (Coffee) and his family.
Series: 3 BB (Volume 3)
Scope and Content Note: Mainly Draper notes and correspondence on Kenton's life from 1780 to 1790. The material pertains particularly to Benjamin Logan's expedition into Ohio in 1786 and to persons associated with Kenton in the 1780s: the Shawnee chief Blue Jacket, Michael Cassidy, John Edwards, Thomas Kelsey, James Livingston, John McIntyre, David Tygart, Michael Tygart, Cornelius Washburn, and Nicholas Washburn. Original documents include an authorization for a land survey in 1785 signed by Kenton and an agreement (1831) for the lease of Livingston's black slaves in Kentucky.
Series: 4 BB (Volume 4)
Scope and Content Note: Draper correspondence and notes on Kenton's life and associates primarily during the years 1791-1799. Major topics include William Hubbell's fight, Alexander D. Orr's Scioto campaign, and John Edward's Blackberry campaign in 1791; Charles Scott's expedition, 1791-1792; Kenton's Little Miami expedition, 1792; Kenton's Scioto trip and Anthony Wayne's campaign, 1793; James and Timothy Downing; John Dowden; Alexander McIntyre; and Robert Renick.
Series: 5 BB (Volume 5)
Scope and Content Note: Notes and correspondence on events and persons involved in Kenton's later life from 1800 to 1836. Topics include Kenton's personal appearance, portraits, death, burial and reinterment; Simon Kenton, Jr.; Alexander Macbeth; and William Ward. This volume also includes one original letter (1809) to Kenton concerning payment for land surveys and copies of notes made by John H. James during interviews he had with Kenton in 1832-1833.
Series: 6 BB (Volume 6)
Scope and Content Note

Mainly original papers, 1783-1832, comprised of correspondence, 1783-1792, of Henry Lee of Mason County, Kentucky; one letter (1823) and three documents (1785, 1793, 1823) signed by Kenton; contemporary copies of several depositions by Kenton describing his military services; depositions and legal documents by numerous Kenton associates; a prospectus for a proposed publication of Kenton's memoirs by John Bickley about 1820; and a draft of an early biographical sketch of Kenton written by John D. Taylor in 1830. Writers of letters include Christopher Greenup, John Fowler, Josiah Harmar, Gilbert Imlay, Harry Innes; Alexander D. Orr, Charles Scott, and James Wilkinson.

Among other deponents and signers of legal papers are William Bush, William Hayden, Robert Johnson, William M. Kenton, John Logan, John McIntire, Robert McMillan, Richard Masterson, Robert Patterson, Thomas Sweet, Levi Todd, Robert Todd, Haydon Wells, Samuel Wells, and John Williams. This volume also contains copies of a few pension statements of later dates, 1835-1848.

Series: 7 BB (Volume 7)
Scope and Content Note

Mainly original manuscripts, 1784, 1806-1815, with a few papers of later dates. Composing the major segment is correspondence, 1806-1807, on Shawnee Indian affairs kept by Edward Tiffin and Thomas Kirker, successive governors of Ohio. Included are letters signed by Tiffin and Kirker and by Henry Brunt, William Creighton, Thomas McPherson, Thomas Moore, Robert Renick, John Riddle, Stephen Ruddell, William Ward, William Wells, Benjamin Whiteman, William Williamson, T[homas?] Worthington. With these are contemporary copies of several documents to which Kenton was a party.

A few papers of John Edgar of Kaskaskia, Illinois, include his fur trade partnership agreement in 1784 and assorted legal records, 1814-1815, supplemented by Draper correspondence and notes about Edgar and his wife Rachel. Also in this volume is a biographical account about Kenton and the Owen family begun by Asal Owen.

Series: 8BB (Volume 8)
Scope and Content Note: Interview notes, recollections, and narratives about Kenton primarily during the War of 1812 and postwar years, materials which were collected by Draper from friends and members of the Kenton family. Also included is information on the Dowden and Jarboe families, to which Kenton's wives belonged, on Peter and George Drouillard, and on William Wood and his family. Incidental references to a great many of Kenton's other contemporaries are scattered through this volume.
Series: 9 BB (Volume 9)
Scope and Content Note: Draper interview notes and correspondence from persons in Ohio and Kentucky who had reminiscences or information about Kenton and his career. There is also some correspondence and notes about Shadrach Bond, Sr., Samuel Frazee, James Ward, and Benjamin Whiteman.
Series: 10 BB (Volume 10)
Scope and Content Note: Reminiscences mainly about Kenton, obtained by Draper chiefly from Kenton family members and descendants. Found in the material also is biographical information on the Arrowsmith family; Michael Cassidy; the Downing family; John Hughey; James McKinley; Laban Records; Charles, James, and John Ward; and Thomas Williams.
Series: 11 BB (Volume 11)
Scope and Content Note: Draper correspondence containing recollections and narratives about Kenton and biographical references to Joshua Baker, Luther Calvin, John Hough James, Sr., William Leachman, the McCulloch family, Joshua Robinson, Sr., Thomas Waring, George Will, and the Zane family.
Series: 12 BB (Volume 12)
Scope and Content Note: Mainly Draper correspondence, 1843-1891, on contemporaries and associates of Kenton, including notes on John Beck; Samuel Curtright; John Dowden; Jacob Drennon; the Edgington family; David Edie; Charles Fellenash; Fielding Figgins; John Fleming (of Kentucky); John Gunsaulus (also spelled Gunsoly and Kingsaully); the Leedom family; Joseph Leman; John Masterson, Sr.; Benjamin Massie; Alexander D. Orr; Josiah Osborne; George Stockton; John and Samuel Strode and Strode's Station, Kentucky; and Cornelius Washburn. Closing the volume is a group of printed periodical and newspaper articles about Kenton; one (from Harper's New Monthly Magazine, February 1864) is copiously illustrated with drawings and portraits depicting Kenton's career and some of his contemporaries.
Series: 13 BB (Volume 13)
Scope and Content Note

Original manuscripts, 1780-1839. Among these are seven documents signed by Simon Kenton; two are notes (1801) for payments to John Cleves Symmes for Ohio land parcels; other signers on Kenton documents include John Cameron, Joseph McClintock, Robert Renick, and Joel Walker. Single letters were written by several of Kenton's contemporaries: John Brown to John Preston (1787); John Edwards to Isaac Shelby (1793); Benjamin Harrison to Charles Scott (1793); John McKinney to Shelby (1796); John Edgar (1798); William Hubbell (1802); A.L. Johnston (1824); John Kenton (1827); William Owens (1833); John G. Parkison (1823); and E. Stockton (1823). A few personal family letters in the 1830s were composed by Elizabeth, Sarah M., Simon, and William M. Kenton; William Jarboe; and other relatives.

Also found in the volume are birth records for members of the Cleland family and death records for members of the Jarboe family; a document (1786) concerning the sale of a Negro woman in Kentucky by Timothy Downing; a land indenture (1801) involving Nathaniel Massie, his wife Susan Massie, and John Brown; and miscellaneous Kentucky land surveys and other business papers.