The Conversion of Simon Kenton

Simon Kenton’s conversion to Jesus the Christ Fire on the Mountain,The conversion of Simon Kenton, by Mark Sage.  This article was originally published in the 2008 Nov/Dec issue of Muzzleloader Magazine, one of my favorites.

Simon Kenton was a close friend of Daniel Boone and a tremendous frontiersman in his own right!!

Slowly, the 63 year old Simon Kenton dismounted from his horse and gazed out over the valleys, hills and ridges that extend their fingers down to the Mad River at a point North and East of Urbana, Ohio. The year was 1819 and normally, the beautiful fall weather and the river country would be a tonic for him, but not today! Usually, this superb woodsman would routinely be absorbing what was going on around him consciously and unconsciously. His years of moving through virgin forests from one point to another and working as a surveyor had sharpened his latent skills of orientation better than almost any man of his time—and there had always been Indians or highwaymen to watch for. But today, the autumnal, color-draped landscape and surroundings were nothing more than a slate-gray blur that interested him not a bit.

Today, he needed to think some things through.

Looking at him from a distance one could still see strength and character in his actions and demeanor. He was a large man, even for his time with strong, well-defined features. Looking at him face to face could be a bit unnerving. He had a way of looking right through a person, especially with his right eye—his shooting eye. Added to that, his strong chin, well defined cheekbones prominent nose, and a mouth whose lips pulled down slightly on the left side, promoted the impression that he disapproved of something. But all this belied a genuinely friendly and caring person. However, there was also a steely side to this man’s character that made his friends greatly respect him and his enemies fear him.

As Simon led his horse over to a knoll overlooking the river, he walked erectly, rifle firmly in hand, his gray-streaked auburn hair blowing softly in the breezes under his weathered, sweat and time-beaten hat. On top of that knoll there was a large oak tree and it was there that he would process in particular what he had been avoiding for years. Letting go of the horse’s reigns, the general (or old worthy), as he was called by his contemporaries, leaned his ever-present rifle against the tree, sat down with back to the ancient wood and adjusted the position of the knife and belt axe tucked into his belt. Reaching in his haversack for his pipe, he filled the tobacco stained bowl and with a deft motion struck flint and steel to fire its contents. Usually he preferred snuff, but on special occasions he would turn to his clay pipe, the stem of which fit neatly in his upper molars where a tooth was missing. With a sigh he let out his first puff, staring abstractly over the moving water and let the process begin. The horse contented himself with grazing on the rich grass that grew on the knoll.

Time stood still.

Simon had made many mistakes in his life, but he was no fool when it came to assessing a situation. The frontier as he had known it was a rapidly vanishing landmark on a road he had help pave. The 49th parallel had recently been established as the northern boundary of the United States and Illinois had just become a state—following Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky’ example. Bodies of water that had in times been traversed using wind or human muscle were now just starting to be challenged by the power of steam. And the Indian threat? It was all but gone! And as far as Indians went, Kenton didn’t hate them, he understood them and they respected him. In fact, Indians lived on his land, ate at his table and shared his bounty—that is, when there was bounty to be shared. Now, however, people of all sorts were populating the landscape and civilization had finally come to occupy a land that had been ignored for millennia’s—and he had been right at the forefront of the wave. But it was all so different than when he first explored the middle ground in the early 1770’s.

Gazing back through a haze of memories, Kenton remembered the youthful hope and energy that had characterized his early life. That idealism had dissolved through years of disappointments, missed opportunities; poor business practices and his own actions that he knew were contrary to the laws of God. In place of innocence there was now a worldly knowledge garnered in fields of painful experience. Hope had indeed been replaced with cynical pragmatism, but Simon was not the type of man to let setbacks and failure get him down—normally. But now, after life had dealt him cumulative blows of disappointment, he had come to the end of his preverbal tether. Emotions were pushing themselves to the surface and one of the drivers was the knowledge that an era had come to an end and he was quickly becoming an old, silent and forgotten feature of history—much like the timeless rocks that garnish the Mad River basin.

Recent events had heightened his sense of fragile mortality, starting with the death of his close friend, Simon Girty. Few had understood, much less respected Girty like Kenton did. They had shared a bond of friendship and brotherhood that few men ever experience that lasted over forty years—even when Girty was labeled a murderous, heartless, devil. Kenton knew the real Girty and no one spoke evil of Simon Girty when Kenton was around—no one dared. They had been friends when the frontier was new and fresh and when they were young. Girty’s life had sadly disintegrated over the years. Plagued with debilitating headaches and blindness due to an earlier sword wound delivered by chief Joseph Brant that permanently scared his face and fueled by the alcohol he so freely consumed, Girty had exited this life a very misunderstood man. But Kenton never forgot the covenant that had been forged between them in earlier days. Girty saved Kenton’s life back in 1778 when he was held captive by Indians and condemned to die and he had never forgotten that he owed his life to this man. Now he was gone, faded away into the mists of time. ”How long do I have?” Simon wondered out loud. The loss of his friend was painful.

The horse, startled by the break in silence, looked over at Simon momentarily and then resumed grazing.

That year before, George Rogers Clark had also passed on. “Another tragic life,” mused Kenton to himself. George Rogers Clark, a brilliant, brave and honorable military leader during the American Revolution, the hero of the attack on Vincennes who planed and engineered the capture of Fort Sackville and caused the infamous British military leader, Henry Hamilton (known as the “hair buyer”) to surrender. Clark had led other campaigns against the Ohio Indians that eventually made way for settlement, but had himself become a victim of circumstance. As a military leader during the Revolution Clark had signed notes of credit to help support various campaigns, but somehow the receipts had been lost or misplaced and with no written record of his military expenditures, he had become responsible financially for what he had purchased as a representative of the government. He had rescued so many people over the years, but nobody had stepped forward to rescue his reputation and fortune when he had desperately needed it. Kenton had scouted for Clark on different occasions and Clark was one of the few men Simon really respected. But, embittered, Clark had also succumbed to alcoholism and after a couple of strokes died at his daughter’s house overlooking the Falls of the Ohio. “Why do thieves and scoundrels seen to thrive while the salt of the earth gets trodden underfoot,” thought Kenton. The injustice of it and the sense of Clark’s wounded and tragic life scorched areas deep inside of him.

Just the other day two more names associated with the old days were brought to his attention as having passed on; Paul Revere and Henry “Light Horse Lee.” The list of the late and great was growing—heroes falling one by one like the great, old timbers of the forest. Some day soon the axe would be laid to the root of his own tree and that was a very sobering thought.

Then there was Boone. Though Simon was 19 years younger, they had been fast friends. In one of the early attacks on Fort Boonesbourogh, Kenton had saved Boone’s life and Daniel had never forgotten it. In 1805 Simon had been in Missouri with is son John and had stopped by for a visit. Though the meeting was a pleasant one, Simon knew he would never see his friend alive again. The once formable Boone was showing signs of physical frailty. Daniel and Rebecca had been through much in their lifetime together, suffering the loss of three of their children in the Kentucky days. Two had been killed by Indians and one had died shortly after childbirth. Since moving to Missouri, two of their daughters had also died, Susanna and Levina. Many other things also had happened that would destroy the average person, but Daniel Boone was no average individual. As of late, Daniel had told Simon, he had been attending Baptist services at the home of his daughter Jemimah’s. Also, Daniel’s brother Squire was a lay Baptist minister and though Daniel was not the type to preach, at times he would talk to people about his spiritual viewpoints if pressed. Simon had always respected the Boones and their beliefs and could see how their faith had brought them through many hard times.

After visiting the Boones, 15 year old John Kenton had stayed in the area and with Simon’s money had started a trading post. But John had been taken advantage of, much like his father had been at times and the venture went bust. Selling what he could, John had purchased 100 beaver traps, hoping to reclaim his loss. Sadly, this enterprise also failed when Indians attacked him and stole everything. Ashamed, young John had written a brief note saying that he would not return home again till he could repay what he owed. He was never heard from again. Simon could only cry when he thought of this loss.

Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton shared another bond. Both of them had had financial and legal troubles based upon land acquisitions and had become bitter and disillusioned with the way things had turned out. Both Boone and Kenton had been extremely land rich on paper at times, but poor filing practices, shingling of claims and trusting people who should not be trusted had left them strapped financially and both men’s reputations had suffered for it. Simon felt that by this time in his life, he should have been well-to-do, but instead times were tough. He recounted how he had once been imprisoned for a year in Urbana on a debtor’s claim. At least he was respected and trusted enough that they made him his own jailer. But, it had been so humiliating and inconvenient. He was not to leave the city limits of the town and he had honored this—even when his daughter Elizabeth had died. Everyone would have understood if he transgressed his word to go outside the limits for an occasion like this, but he hadn’t. All he had done is walk with the funeral procession till the city limits had been reached and there he had stopped and watch the mournful group proceed to the cemetery. Finding a place to sit down, he wept. Thinking of young Elizabeth just increased his melancholy.

After a while Simon’s attention turned again to the Mad River. Noticing how smooth some of the stones on the shore were, he considered how water, over time would smooth even the roughest one, till they had a warm polished feel when put into the hand. Reflecting how the waters of time had washed over his own life, he felt that he should be like one of those stones. But he was anything but polished. No place was this more apparent that with his anger. Though he was not a person that got angry a lot, sometimes rage would seize him, before he even realized that a fire was kindled inside of him. Then, he would act and often times with bad consequences. One time he was walking past a man and had accidentally stumbled. The man thought it quite amusing and laughed out loud. Suddenly, like someone else was in control, Simon had wheeled about, bringing his gun to bear on the hapless individual’s chest and squeezed the trigger. The only thing that saved that man from death was a misfire. Maybe that was a miracle, maybe not, but even as Simon considered it he trembled a bit. The look on the man’s face, that of fear and disbelief—that Simon would do such a thing—that is, kill someone just for being laughed at, was imprinted on his conscience.

On two other occasions fate had not so intervened!

On a campaign in the early days, a man shot an Indian, though not seriously. At that moment, a companion had ridden by and tossed Simon a belt axe and Simon, in the heat of the moment had buried the axe in the Indian’s skull. He remembered seeing the body twitching beneath him and wiping the splattering of blood and brain tissue off of his face while he watched the life drain out of the Indian. At that moment, Kenton had felt dirty and unclean. It is one thing to kill an enemy in battle, but for Simon it was quite another to kill a helpless, surrendered prisoner—yet he had done so implacably. From that moment on, his conscience haunted him. Of course he tried to justify in his own mind what he did, but time had not erased the sense of guilt.

Worse yet, a few years back Simon had gone after a man that had he had employed and trusted and had taken him for quite a lot of money. That was an act of cold vengeance that took him on a journey from Ohio to Florida. Yes, he had gotten satisfaction on one level, but he had not needed to kill the man. Simon had set himself up as judge, jury and executioner and when it was over, all he had was a broken leg and a tainted and stained soul to show for his efforts.

Lately, these memories would arise like specters in his mind and a very, uneasy, unholy and guilty feeling would take a hold of him. Almost as if the spirits of the dead had risen and were pointing their boney, spectral fingers in judgment at him. Up until then, he had never discussed any of these things with friends or family, but they were alive in his heart and severed as a perpetual reminder of the worst side of his failures.

Simon reached into his tobacco pouch, filled his pipe for the fifth time and continued to brood.

But of all the bad memories, perhaps none was as poignant as the death of his first wife Martha. In 1796 she had been burned alive in their cabin. Well, she had survived a few days after the fire, but that was the worst part. Just thinking of her in that condition, hair burned off, body so swollen that she was unrecognizable, pieces of burned flesh literally falling off, her moaning and screaming in agony and he so helpless to do anything. On top of everything else, the trauma of the burns had caused her to abort what would have been their fifth child. If only he had been home sooner he would think to himself. In the end, Martha’s death was welcomed by both husband and wife, but he would never be over the loss, though he had remarried a wonderful women and cousin to Martha, Elizabeth Jarboe. He felt that part of his soul had burned in that fire also.

Simon Kenton also felt guilty about the horrible death of a young man.

It had not been so much what he did, but what he did not do. In 1775 he and a partner, Thomas Williams had established a base shelter on Limestone Creek during one of his first excursions into Kentucky and were proceeding to Blue Licks to procure game and salt. They had come across two men who had spilled their canoe in the Ohio, losing their guns, gear and supplies. Seeking to find a settlement, they were lost. After a bit of conversation, one of the men decided to stay in Kentucky and the other one elected to return home. Kenton and Williams offered to outfit the man who wanted to return, help him build a new canoe and get him on his way. But first they would go back to camp and get supplies. The returning man decided to stay and wait for the others to come with the supplies. But when the group returned, they found that the man had been tortured and burned alive. Simon had not felt good about leaving the man in the first place and felt deep regret that he did not speak up, take control and insist that the man travel with the rest of the group. The smell of burning flesh was something he could never forget.

And yet one time he had almost shared the same fate!

With a deft, almost instinctive motion, Kenton reached over, picked up his rifle and put it over his lap. The wood had a warm, reassuring, and smooth feel to it. His rifle had brought him through many difficulties and rarely failed him. One day long ago it did and that failure led to one of the most trying ordeals of his entire life. And though it had help made him a legend, the experience had seared and branded him body and soul. As his powers of recollection started working, his fingers instinctively started to tighten around the wrist of the rife he had put so much trust in and the beat of his heart quickened.

John Bowman, an inept military commander in Kentucky had sent him on a spying mission in September of 1778 to the Ohio Indian town of Old Chillicothe. It was in Bowman’s mind to attack the town and he needed information to do so. Simon was to journey with his friend Alexander Montgomery and (by Bowman’s request) a man named George Clark. They had done well enough in the beginning, garnering the necessary intelligence, but then decided to stay until nightfall and steal horses, which they did. Simon remembered the sense of jubilation he felt as they put miles between themselves and the Shawnees. Then, at the Ohio River all of that had changed. It was so windy that the horses would not cross. Soon, the Indians had come looking for them and when Simon went to shoot one of them his gun misfired. Before he could reload or escape, he was captured. Moments later, he had heard a shot and later some Indians returned with the severed scalp of his friend Montgomery. Grabbing the scalp by the hair they had whipped Simons face back and forth with the bloody, fleshy side. Then they tied him backwards on a young, unbroken horse and let the horse run through the woods. And that was just the beginning of sorrows. He remembered the anger and the fear he had felt and for the next two months as he ran eight gauntlets, was tortured and abused in different ways till all hope had left him. During this time he had tried to escape—and almost had—till an Indian on horseback had whacked him on the head with the pipe end of his belt axe while he was running. That blow had left a permanent indentation in his skull and after a few days of recovery, he had been sentenced to die at the Shawnee town of Wapatomica by burning at the stake. It was here that he had run into Simon Girty, who stood up for him and the verdict was finally changed and he had been adopted into the tribe. But, fate switched sides again and some weeks afterwards he was again sentenced to death by burning. So, on November, 11 as he was being led to the place of pain and death, something occurred that both the Indians that witnessed it and he himself would consider the rest of his life as an act of Providence. Seemingly out of nowhere, a rain storm appeared and it rained and so hard that the fire wood was saturated! Some of the Indians present had considered this a sign and the execution was postponed. If that had not happened, Simon would have been dead for sure. But because of the divine intervention, events played out where he was placed in the hands of the British in Detroit and from there he eventually escaped. All of his life, the memory of this had never left him and try as he might, he could only ascribe this to the direct hand of Providence in his life. The older he got, the more he felt that he needed to make amends and better connect to the Being that had so acted on his behalf.

It didn’t slip by Simon’s attention that he was now settled in the very area where the various Shawnee towns had been located when he had been captured. They were all but vanished, but visiting the Mad River always stirred up those memories. Now it was time to clear the slate with the Almighty and Simon figured to make things right—but he hesitated. He thought of the camp meetings that he had attended for over 15 years and felt uncomfortable with the emotional outbursts that often accompanied these gatherings. Simon was simply not a man normally given to emotion—except those outbursts of anger, but even those, though potentially violent, were not frequent. A person had to keep a cool, rational frame of mind to survive. But inside him was a vault of pain and disappointment that had been kept under lock and key for years and these days it felt like an invisible hand was opening the lock. It was time he faced what was inside come what may.

Clutching his rifle, Simon stood up, emptied his pipe, returned it to the haversack, gathered up the reigns of his horse and mounted up. Pointing in the direction of home, he gave a gentle nudge and the horse responded with a methodical walk. Simon felt a certain weight had lifted from him and he now knew what he must do—but he wasn’t looking forward to it.

North of Urbana and near the Mad River lies Mt Tabor. It is not a tall, majestic mountain, but a high elevation of land with a view. Some people might refer to it as a “quickening place.” That is, a geographical place that is “blessed,” where the natural environment is awash with the supernatural. Who could argue the point? People would come from all over; including Indians to participate in a “camp meeting” and revival had struck like lightning here under the Methodist circuit riding preachers. They would preach the Word of God with power and authority. Those that came “under the Power” were “convicted” of sin and would enter a crisis phase and would wrestle with God in prayer till they felt a sense of inner peace. The crisis phase would include repentance, acknowledgement of what Christ had done on the cross and a turning of the will over to God. Some would resist this process and might act involuntarily in various ways (viewed as God’s supernatural intervention), including shaking violently—a phenomena referred to as “the jerks.” Others might pass out or seem to go into some sort of trance and others just might start laughing. Of course afterwards there would be a baptismal and there was always singing and more emotional expressions. But it was just this type of weird behavior that Simon Kenton reacted against. He just not envision himself in such a state of emotional turmoil where he was no longer in control. But all that aside, he had known a number of people that had the experience of salvation and had witnessed real, discernable changes in their attitudes and behavior. But, as he and his wife Elizabeth were traveling to Mt Tabor, he kept all these things to himself.

Built in 1816, the meeting house at Mt. Tabor was a simple log structure with a stone fireplace inside. Seating was nothing more than thick puncheon planks set upon upright logs taken from the base of felled trees. During camp meeting time the seating plan was a bit different. Instead of meeting inside the building, everyone would congregate on the eastern hillside outside the building. The puncheon benches would be moved and when those spaces were filled, people sat on the grass. This informal setting meant that the camp meeting was also a great social gathering time—almost like a family reunion. People looked foreword to these events not only for the spiritual encouragement and fellowship, but to renew friendships and have a general holiday. Those who were not particularly religious could just socialize and even conduct business—although that was frowned upon by the Clergy. Young people found events like these a great time to get together and over the years many marriages were enjoined that had their roots in camp meetings. All in all it was a good time on a number of different levels.

There were “official ministers” present, sometimes from different denominations and then there were the lay ministers. They were just your average farmer/preachers who had a call “to exhort” the people. Though not well educated, they were effective because they understood in practice what it was like to live on the frontier. Then there were the circuit riders. They would travel from place to place ministering to the needs of a wider congregation. Such a man was speaking today. His name was Robert W. Finley and he had lived on the Yadkin with the Boone and Bryan clan in the pre-Kentucky days. As a Methodist circuit rider, he had demonstrated integrity and steadfastness all his years on the frontier and was well respected by even those who did not espouse religion. Not so his son! Young James had been the prodigal for sure. A fighter and hell-raiser, Simon had trained him in scouting and in the type of border warfare tactics that was needed to survive back in those days and he was as tough and brutal as any man. As such, James had attainted the much-sought-after labels as “one of Kenton’s boys.” But he too had an experience of religion and had settled down to the point that he even shared the pastorate of his father. Simon was amazed at the change in him and yet James was also very sensible about practical things and had never acted towards Simon or anybody in a condescending, self-righteous manner. More important, this young man had stopped drinking and fighting and showed remarkable restraint in situations where before his conversion he would have jumped in “tooth and nail” and fought with ferocity and impunity. Now, Simon could see a kindness in James’s behavior, especially towards his wife and children. As a circuit rider, James presided over a district that covered a good section of central and southern Ohio. If salvation has that kind of affect on people, Simon thought he might want it also.

By the last day of the camp meeting the atmosphere had gotten positively electric. The preaching of Robert Finley had been powerful and many had come “under the Power” and been converted. Some had made public professions and many were waiting to be baptized. Something in Simon yearned to be a part of this, but he held back. Maybe it was pride, maybe it was a bit of social awkwardness, but he just could not bring himself to go forward to be prayed for. Looking over at Elizabeth, he wondered if she had any idea what was going on inside him, but if she did, she did not let on. He had no idea that she had been praying years for him. Instead, Simon purposed to talk privately to the minister, but there were so many people around him that he could not get close. Feeling a kind of desperation he had never felt before in his life and without further thought, he stepped forward and walked up to the preacher. “A word please?” is all he said. Now the minister only thought that Simon had something practical to talk about and so was surprised when the frontiersmen indicated that they should go to the woods. But it did not take the man of God long to figure out that Simon Kenton was going to talk to him about salvation. When the preacher remembered all the times that Kenton had helped others, whether it be by loaning money, or giving away food, or rushing to the rescue where there were Indian attacks, he felt humbled, for he admired Simon Kenton greatly. Watching the figure walking before him he was reminded of a painting he had seen one time of the Greek god Atlas, the one who carried the whole world on his shoulders. Suddenly he realized that Simon Kenton was going to bare his soul and like Atlas, the load was heavy. He had always felt that listening to confession was a sacred privilege and responsibility. And this time the man of God felt it stronger than most any time in his life and he prayed for wisdom. Finally, Kenton motioned to sit down on log and there they sat. The silence was uncomfortable for Simon and he felt that he should be saying things and was wondering what the preacher might be thinking of him. He also wondered what the minister was going to think when he told him the truth.

Finally, he could wait no more.

Forcing the words out he made it plain that he wanted to share some things and he needed those things to be kept private. With only one stipulation the preacher agreed. Simon began relating things to Finley that he had never told any man, glancing often at the preacher to see if he had any scolding or reproaching looks. But the man of God only listened quietly and occasionally would acknowledge what was being said. As Simon spoke, he began to feel a curious burning inside of his chest. He was sweating and his heart beat was rapid, but the more he spoke, the better he felt. It was if the man of God was a giant sponge and was absorbing all the wrong doing. When Simon’s words had run their course, the preacher simply asked him if he wanted to meet the Savior and all of sudden it seemed like he had wanted to do that all his life. So they prayed and when they were finished, Simon stood up a new man and the fire that had burned in his chest was a radiant glow that showed on his face. The guilt was gone, the pain in his heart lessened and for the first time he felt truly right inside. The preacher smiled and gave thanks quietly inside, this was something he had witnessed many times in his life and he was still in awe of it.

Some 18 years and many hardships later, the 81 year old Simon Kenton breathed his last in Zanesfield, Ohio. In the room where he died, leaning up against the wall lay the old longrifle, horn and shot pouch. In the early days, Simon carried a gun everywhere he went, but after his conversion he would only carry it only on certain occasions. In its stead he had carried a stick he had whittled out of a piece of hickory. This he used for walking and various chores like stirring a fire, or pounding the floor to make a point. Some said he quit carrying the gun because the threat of Indian attack was long gone, others because he put the trust of his well-being in the hands of a higher power. We may never know. But we do know that the fire Simon Kenton experienced on the Mt Tabor never left him and when the day of his death came, the angels bore a giant of a woodsman’s spirit to his heavenly reward. There was no fear in his heart as he journeyed to the final frontier. Some would even describe it as a “Kaintuck” of a place.

Author’s note:

The following passage if from The Historical Collection of Ohio, Volume 1 and was sent to me courtesy of Mark Baker:

“Simon Kenton was the friend and benefactor of his race. In the latter part of his life he embraced religion. In the fall of 1819 General Kenton and my father met at a camp meeting on the waters of the Mad River after a separation of many years. Their early acquaintance in Kentucky rendered this interview interesting to both of them. The meeting had been in progress for several days without any great excitement until Sabbath evening, when it pleased God to pour out his spirit in a remarkable manner. Many were awakened and among the number were several of the General’s relatives. His heart was touched, and the tear was seen to kindle the eye and start down the furrow of his manly cheek. On Monday morning he asked my father to retire with him to the woods. To this he readily accented, and as they were passing along in silence and the song of the worshippers had died upon their ears, addressing my father he said, “Mr. Finley, I am going to communicate to you some things which I want you to promise me you will never divulge.” My father replied, “If it will not affect any but ourselves, then I promise to keep it forever.” Sitting down on a log the General commenced to tell the story of his heart, and disclose it wretchedness; what a great sinner he had been and how merciful was God in preserving him amid all the conflicts and dangers of the wilderness. While he thus unburdened his heart and told the anguish of his sin-wounded spirit, his lip quivered and the tears of penitence fell from his weeping eyes. They both fell to the earth and prostrate, cried aloud to God for mercy and salvation. The penitent was pointed to Jesus, the Almighty Savior; and after a long and agonizing struggle, the gate of eternal life was entered and “Hymns of joy proclaimed through heaven the triumphs of a soul forgiven.” Then from the old veteran, who immediately sprang to his feet, there went up a shout toward heaven which made the woods resound with its gladness. Leaving my father he started for the camp, like the man healed at the beautiful gate, leaping and praising God, so that the faster and farther he went the louder did he shout glory to God. His appearance startled the whole encampment; and when my father arrived he found an immense crowd gathered around him, to whom he was declaring the goodness of God and his power to save. Approaching him, my father said, “General, I thought that we were to keep this matter a secret.” He instantly replied, “Oh, it is too glorious for that! If I had all the world here I would tell of the goodness and mercy of God.” At this time he joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, lived a consistent, happy Christian and died in the open sunshine of a Savior’s love. If there is any one of all the settlers whom the country owes the largest debt of gratitude, that one is Simon Kenton.”[1]

The author would also like to thank the following people who have offered insight into this amazing man’s life: Mel Hankkla, George Carol, Mark Baker and especially Barbara S. Lehmann—an astute and insightful Kenton historian. Barbara’s proofing of this article and suggestions are much appreciated. This article originally appeared in the November/December issue of Muzzleloader magazine and appears here by permission of the publisher.


[1] Howe, Henry, Historical Collections of Ohio—Volume one, pg. 879-880: Laning Printing Co, 1898