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There were 2 men in the early frontier that gained the respect of the Native American's living here: Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton. Everyone knows about Daniel Boone because Boone was a self styled politician of sorts and not one to shy away from publicity. He became even more well known when a book was published about his life. Simon Kenton, while just as experienced and capable a frontiersman as Boone, shied away from the limelight. In fact, during one fire fight, Kenton saved Boone's life in 1777 during a British and Shawnee attack in Kentucky that left Boone seriously wounded.
Born in Virginia in 1755, Simon Kenton would become the main frontiersman who helped open Ohio for settlement by European Americans. Kenton was responsible for assisting early settlers with the necessary skills that he had learned over years of living in the Ohio wilderness where he would rather live alone in the wilderness rather than be around others.
Simon Kenton left Virginia at 16 after having thought he killed a man in an argument over a girl. When he left he headed for the wilderness of Kentucky and Ohio, and changed his name to Simon Butler. It would take 11 years before Simon found out that the man had survived and it was then that Simon Butler, once again became Simon Kenton.
As a frontiersman, Kenton learned to survive in the wilderness. He became a keen marksman and hunter. He also admired the Native Americans he came in contact with, but was never friendly with them. In fact, throughout his life, Kenton was in continuing conflicts with the Native Americans whether it was stealing their horses when he could, or fighting against them in major conflicts.
During one of Kent's encounters with the Shawnee, he was captured, bound up and forced to endure a number of unimaginable tortures that would have killed almost any one else. These tortures included being bound and dragged by a galloping horse through the forest, forced to run the infamous "gauntlet" which killed many. After the sixth, while attempting escape, had a hole hammered in his skull and was unconscious for two days. Finally in June 1779 he was able to escape from Detroit and after a 30 day march he made it back to the American settlements.
During the Revolutionary War he frequently served as scout under George Rogers Clark.
Simon Kenton died in 1836 and is buried in the Oak Dale Cemetery in Urbana Ohio.
It took almost a 100 years for the bronze sculpture to be completed. The life-sized statue was started by local sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward who suggested to the Ohio Legislator that a statue should be made for Urbana's famous frontiersman. However, when the Civil War broke out, funding for the statue dried up. Although, John Ward would go on to become a very successful sculpture. Money that was raised by collections from Ohio school children were used to purchase the pedestal that would one day support the statue.
Over a hundred years later, the Simon Kenton Historic Corridor raised $30,000 to complete the sculpture that Ward had started. Local artist Mike Major was given the original drawings and a plaster image of Kenton created by Ward. After Ward's death, his wife had a 27" statuette created from the plaster study (that piece now resides in the Champaign County Library) Mike Major used that statue as his model for the final piece.
Located just behind the large sculpture and base is the original tombstone for Simon Kenton.
IN MEMORY OF GEN. SIMON KENTON.
Who was born April 3,
1755, in Culpepper Co. Va.
& Died April 29th. 1836,
Aged 81 years & 26 days.
His Fellow Citizens of the west,
Will long remember him, as
the skillful Pioneer of early
times, the brave solider, &
the Honest Man.