Simon Kenton

Simon Kenton

(1755- 1836)

Simon was born on April 3, 1755 in Fauquier County Virginia.  He was the seventh of nine children, who preferred helping his father on the family farm to school.  When he was 15 years old he fell in love with Ellen Cummins.  Sadly for Simon, she chose the older and more stable William Leachman to be her husband.  According to Edna Kenton in her book, Simon Kenton His Life and Period 1755 – 1836, Simon caused a bit of trouble at the wedding and was given a “thorough beating in the presence of the entire neighborhood.”  In 1771, while being sent to the Leachman’s to borrow a saw, his temper got the better of Simon and he attacked William.  When the fight was over William was bloody, unconscious and Simon was convinced he had killed him.  He fled in fear to the wilderness of the west, taking the name Simon Butler. 


For the next two years he hunted along the Ohio River.  He served as a scout during Lord Dunmore’s War, 1774, but by 1775 he was living at Boonesboro serving as a scout for the fort.  He was often in contact with the Shawnee, and it is said that they called him “The man who’s gun is never empty”.  He is credited with saving the life of Daniel Boone, during a Shawnee attack. 


In 1778, Simon took part in George Rodgers Clark’s expedition into Illinois to attack British outposts and Native settlements.  That same year, he participated on the attack of Chilicothe, a Shawnee town, along with Daniel Boone.  This was a very busy year for Simon, he was also captured by the Shawnee and forced to run the gauntlet and suffer other forms of torture. Simon Girty, a longtime friend of Kenton’s, saved his life and arranged for him to be sent to Fort Detroit as part of a prisoner trade with the British.  He escaped and found his way back to Kentucky in 1779, where he resumed service with George Rodgers Clark. 


In 1782, he learned that William Leachman, had not died as a result of his attack, and Simon Butler went back to using his real name, Simon Kenton. Over the next several years his life settled.  He married Martha Dowden and purchased several large tracts of land near Maysville.  War with the natives again overtook his life in 1794, when he served under General Anthony Wayne and fought in the Battle of Falling Timbers. 


After Martha died, Simon remarried and moved to Ohio, first settling near Springfield, then later moving to Urbana.  By 1805, he had become a Brigadier General in the Ohio militia.  During the war of 1812, he participated in the Battle of the Thames.  It was in in this battle that the Famous Shawnee leader, and founder of intertribal confederation, Tecumseh was killed.  One of the interesting History Mysteries involving this battle is whether or not Simon saved the body of Tecumseh from mutilation.  It is said that, Simon was asked to identify the body of Tecumseh.  He knew that the body would be carved up for souvenirs, so he identified the wrong man; which allowed the Shawnee to be able to bury him with dignity. 


The final years of Simon’s life were lived in poverty, due to land ownership disputes and mismanagement of his money.  He was survived on a government pension of $20 a month.  He died in 1836 in Logan County near Zanesfield.  In 1865, his remains were moved to Urbana, and a monument was erected to mark his grave in 1884.