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Robert Kirkham and Boonesborough

This month I joined a new book club, just in time to read a selection I found both helpful and interesting. The Taking of Jemima Boone by Matthew Pearl tells the story of a pivotal event on the frontier during the early days of the Revolutionary War.

Jemima, of course, was the daughter of famous frontiersman Daniel Boone. One Sunday afternoon in 1775, she and a couple of friends left the protection of the fort to take a canoe ride on the Kentucky River. They were kidnapped by the Shawnee.

Their subsequent rescue, and the retaliatory events that followed, shaped the course of the war in the Ohio River valley. Pearl’s book describes the role of the Boones during this time and introduces the reader to all the other players involved.

I felt a particular connection to the war contributions of these pioneers of Kentucky because a member of my own family was there for part of that time.

Robert Kirkham (1754-1819), my 4th great-grandfather, served at Boonesborough during the war. His name appears on the roster of Capt. John Holder’s Company in 1779.

That spring, a militia force crossed the Ohio to attack the Shawnee village at Chillicothe. This operation was part of the tit-for-tat that took place in the years immediately following Jemima Boone’s kidnapping. I do not know whether my ancestor participated in this raid. The militia failed to take the village, but the attack served as a warning to Britain’s Indian allies to back off.

I had hoped the book would mention Robert Kirkham, but it did not. I did learn something about his commanding officer, John Holder.

Holder married Frances Callaway, one of the other girls who was kidnapped with Jemima Boone. Perhaps my ancestor heard firsthand accounts of that event from her or others in the rescue party.

Reading this book helped me understand the political situation my ancestor faced during his Revolutionary War service. I can add some colorful information to his life story.

Earlier this month I submitted a supplemental application to the DAR to document my descent from Robert Kirkham. Reading this book has made his life and my connection to him feel much more real.

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