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 Boone, 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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: U.S. History: Biographies