By: Katy Rowe

Today, we explore Boone Day, commemorating Daniel Boone’s brave journey into the untamed wilderness, and uncover my Portwood connection. Join us on this journey through history and genealogy as we unravel the intertwined stories of Boone and the Portwood family.

It’s Boone Day! Picture yourself transported back in time to June 7th in Kentucky, where we commemorate the very moment Daniel Boone set foot in the untamed wilderness west of the Appalachians. Join me as we delve into the lasting impact he and his settlers made on the course of American history.

Daniel Boone and Fort Boonesborough

Daniel Boone was an American frontiersman who explored and established settlements beyond the Appalachian Mountains. Born to Quakers in Pennsylvania in 1734, as a hunter and trapper, he gained knowledge of the lands that were to become Kentucky and Tennessee. In 1773, Boone sought to establish a settlement in Kentucky, but his son and another potential settler were captured and killed when the party was attacked by the Cherokee. The survivors abandoned their goal and returned to North Carolina.

Boone and 28 others were employed by the Transylvania Company in the spring of 1775 to travel through the Cumberland Gap and establish a colony in Kentucky. The Transylvania Company claimed the land between the Kentucky and Cumberland Rivers and established Fort Boonesborough, the first settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains.

The Transylvania Purchase at Sycamore Shoals in Elizabethton, Tennessee and the Wilderness Road into Kentucky.

Despite having negotiated a treaty with the Cherokee Nation for 20 million acres of land, the Transylvania Company’s hold was questionable, and they faced numerous challenges from attacks by the Cherokee and Shawnee, the British Government, who claimed only they had the power to negotiate treaties with the Cherokee, and later the Continental Congress, who nullified the Company’s claims to the land.

Image: Fort Boonesborough Monument (Image from wikimedia commons, National Register of Historic Places, #94000303)

Today, Fort Boonesborough is a state park and monument, and Daniel Boone is popularized as a folk hero, symbolizing the pioneer spirit that established the American West. Thanks to the Boone DNA Project, you can find out if you match Daniel Boone’s Y-DNA in Discover!

One Booneborough Settler: Page Portwood, Sr

(Photo Credit: https://www.wikitree.com/photo/jpg/Portwood-68-1)
(Photo Credit: https://www.wikitree.com/photo/jpg/Portwood-68-1)

My 6th great-grandfather, Page Portwood Sr., was one of the Fort Boonesborough settlers employed by the Transylvania Company, along with two of his sons. Prior to the Transylvania Company’s arrival, Daniel Boone sent a letter warning of attacks by Native Americans and pleading for help. Afraid that Boone would be unable to hold out and having no idea that the Company had started traveling, William Cocke and Page Portwood embarked on a rapid journey that has been compared to Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride along the Wilderness Road to alert him that help was on the way. Boone was able to hold his ground, and the first settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains was established.

Sudie Portwood

My second great-grandmother was Sudie Portwood, a descendant of Page Portwood’s son Lude (sometimes spelled “Ludy”). She was born in Kentucky in 1874. When Sudie was nine, she, her parents, and two younger brothers moved to Lawrence, Texas, where her two younger sisters were born.

At the age of twenty, Sudie entered a racket and furniture store in Ennis to purchase sewing needles with her sister, and she met the 23-year-old owner, John Nelson Rowe. They were married six months later, right before Thanksgiving, at the Portwoods’ home—quick for 1893, especially when living miles apart. John and Sudie raised six children in Ennis before selling the racket store and moving to Dallas in 1918. They had a long and happy marriage.

As said by their daughter in an article celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary, “Mama met Papa when she and Aunt Emma went into his racket store to buy some needles. I guess she’s been sewing for him ever since.”

How Can DNA Testing Help Us Learn More About the Portwoods?

I’ve confirmed my paper trail to the Portwoods through autosomal testing (although I was pretty sure it was right considering my parents have lots of photos and documents about my second great-grandparents).

Through Y-DNA testing of the male Portwood line, we can learn more about our Portwood ancestors. The Portwoods supposedly came to the colonies from England, but where did they come from before that? What was their life like?

Traditional genealogy research has gotten me back a couple of extra generations on Sudie Portwood’s direct maternal line, but who are the mothers who came before them? Where were they from? Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing will help discover more about that line.

I don’t have a direct Y-DNA or mtDNA connection to either Page Portwood Sr. or Sudie Portwood, but by finding other testers who do, we can all learn more about our ancestors.

Join the Portwood Project and Test With Us!

If you are a direct male descendant of Portwood, help us discover more about this lineage by ordering a Y-DNA test today.

If you are a direct maternal descendant of Sudie Portwood or one of her direct maternal ancestors, get the mtFull Sequence test.

If you are a descendant, but not through a direct paternal or maternal line, get the Family Finder, and let’s reinforce that connection through autosomal DNA.

Whether you are a new tester or have been a customer for a while, join the Portwood Project so we can combine our research efforts!

Katy Rowe-Schurwanz - Product Manager at FamilyTreeDNA

About the Author

Katy Rowe

Product Manager at FamilyTreeDNA

Katy Rowe has always been interested in genealogy, inspired by her maternal grandparents, who told her stories about their family and family history when she was little. After studying anthropology and history in college, she joined FamilyTreeDNA in 2015 and became the Trainer for Customer Support. Katy created and improved training processes and was fundamental in the creation of the Big Y Specialist team. In September 2021, she became Product Manager and has focused closely on improving FTDNA’s genetic genealogy products.

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