Union alum and first Daniel Boone Festival grand marshal will lead parade

Published on
October 08, 2013

A Union College alumnus who helped organize the first Daniel Boone Festival and served as grand marshal in 1948, has been selected once again to lead the parade.

Jack J. Early, Union College class of 1948, portrayed Daniel Boone and led the parade on horseback that same year, honoring Boone’s heritage and setting forth a tradition.

Early, formerly of Corbin, Ky., now a resident of Louisville, was a perfect choice to play Daniel Boone, not only because of his leadership in student government and the festival committee, his position as “Mr. Union” of 1947, or as a student pastor and minister of the Hindman Methodist Church, but as a descendant of the Earlys, Joneses and Bartons who settled in the 1790s the region that would become Knox County in 1799. He is also related to James D. Black, former Governor of Kentucky and a founder of Union College. Family legend has it that one of his ancestors accompanied Daniel Boone on his second expedition into Kentucky. 

Early earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in Education from the University of Kentucky and a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Lexington Theological Seminary. He has conducted motivational seminars throughout the U.S. and the world. His many honors include election to the University of Kentucky Hall of Distinguished Alumni and the Hall of Fame for the College of Education at UK, the Hall of Fame at Union College, the Chief Iron Eyes Cody Medal of Peace from a Native Americans organization, and is the holder of four honorary degrees from colleges and universities.

Now the governor of the Society of Colonial Wars in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Early has written widely on historical and genealogical topics. An abridgment of one of his studies of the War of 1812 appears in this edition of the festival program booklet.

Early tells an amusing story about his role as Daniel Boone in a history of “The First Daniel Boone Festival,” published in the Knox Historical Museum’s periodical, The Knox Countian (Fall 1997 edition). When informed that in his role as Daniel Boone he would be required to ride a horse and lead the parade as grand marshal, he confessed that he didn’t know how to ride a horse. A Knox County friend took him to a farm across the railroad to fetch horses. After they crossed the track from the farm on horseback, the engineer blew the train’s whistle, startling Early’s horse, which reared up straight on its hind legs, but Early managed to stay in the saddle. “I thought you said you couldn’t ride a horse,” his friend remarked.

The parade this year is scheduled for Oct. 12 at 2:00 p.m. in downtown Barbourville. The festival will take place this week in the town square. A full schedule of events can be found online at www.danielboonefestival.com.

The Daniel Boone Festival was created by Union College professor Dr. Karl Bleyl. Bleyl, along with Union’s then senior class, helped establish the festival as a way to celebrate the recently signed Cane Treaty between the people of Barbourville and the Cherokee Nation. According to the treaty, the Cherokee people could gather, without a fee, as much cane from the Barbourville area as they wanted.