STORY OF THE LONGHUNTERS IN THE BEGINNING
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan.
The following information was taken from the works of Robert Sparks Walker. It is an actual account of the long-hunters and their adventures into the wilderness lands now heavily settled by our own population in East Tennessee.
THE CONQUEST OF THE OLD SOUTHWEST: THE ROMANTIC STORY
long Hunters principally resided in the upper countries of Virginia & North
Carolina on New River & Holston River, and when they intended to
make a long Hunt (as they calls it) they Collected near the head of
Holston near whare Abingdon now stands.
Before the coming of Walker and Gist in 1750 and 1751 respectively, the region now called Kentucky had, as far as we know, been twice visited by the French, once in 1729 when Chaussegros de Lery and his party visited the Big Bone Lick, and again in the summer of 1749 when the Baron de Longueuil with four hundred and fifty-two Frenchmen and Indians, going to join Bienville in an expedition against "the Cherickees and other
Indians lying at the back of Carolina and Georgia," doubtless encamped on the Kentucky shore of the Ohio. Kentucky was also passed through by John Peter Salling with his three adventurous companions in their journey through the Middle West in 1742. But all these early visits, including the remarkable expeditions of Walker and Gist, were so little known to the general public that when John Filson wrote the history of Kentucky in 1784 he attributed its discovery to James McBride in 1754. More significant upon the course of westward expansion was an adventure which occurred in 1752, the very year in which the
Boones settled down in their Yadkin home.
In the autumn of 1752, a Pennsylvania trader, John Findlay, with three or four companions, descended the Ohio River in a canoe as far as the falls at the present Louisville, Kentucky, and accompanied a party of Shawnees to their town of Es-kip-pa-ki-thi-ki, eleven miles east of what is now Winchester.
This was the site of the "Indian Old Corn Field," the Iroquois name for which ("the place of many fields," or "prairie") was Ken -ta-ke, whence came the name of the state.
Five miles east of this spot, where still may be seen a mound and an ellipse showing the outline of the stockade, is the famous Pilot Knob, from the summit of which the fields surrounding the town lie visible in their smooth expanse. During Findlay's stay at the Indian town other traders from Pennsylvania and Virginia, who reported that they were "on their return from trading with the Cuttawas (Catawbas), a nation who live in the Territories of Carolina," assembled in the vicinity in January, 1753. Here, as the result of disputes arising from their barter, they were set upon and captured by a large party of straggling Indians (Coghnawagas from Montreal) on January 26th; but Findlay and another trader named James Lowry were so fortunate as to escape and return through the wilderness to the Pennsylvania settlements." The incident is of important historic significance; for it was from these traders, who must have followed the Great Warriors' Path to the country of the Catawbas, that Findlay learned of the Ouasioto (Cumberland) Gap traversed by the Indian path. His reminiscences of this gateway to Kentucky, of the site of the old Indian town on Lulbegrud Creek, a tributary of the Red River, and of the Pilot Knobwere sixteen years later to fire Boone to his great tour of exploration in behalf of the Transylvania Company.
During the next two decades, largely because of the hostility of the savage tribes, only a few traders and hunters from the east ranged through the trans-Alleghany. But in 1761, a party of hunters led by a rough frontiersman, Elisha Walden, penetrated into Powell's Valley, followed the Indian trail through Cumberland Gap, explored the Cumberland River, and finally reached the Laurel Mountain where, encountering a party of Indians, they deemed it expedient to return. With Walden went Henry Scaggs, afterward explorer for the Henderson Land Company, William Elevens and Charles Cox, the famous Virginia hunters, one Newman, and some fifteen other stout pioneers. Their itinerary may be traced from the names given to natural objects in honor of members of the party--Walden's Mountain and Walden's Creek, Scaggs' Ridge and Newman's Ridge. Following the peace of 1763, which made travel in this region moderately safe once more, the English proceeded to occupy the territory which they had won. In 1765 George Croghan with a small party, on the way to prepare the inhabitants of the Illinois country for transfer to English sovereignty, visited the Great Bone Licks of Kentucky (May 30th, 31st); and a year later Captain Harry Gordon, chief engineer in the Western Department in North America, visited and minutely described the same licks and the falls. But these, and numerous other water-journeys and expeditions of which no records were kept, though interesting enough in themselves, had little bearing upon the larger phases of westward expansion and colonization.
The decade opening with the year 1765 is the epoch of bold and ever bolder exploration--the more adventurous frontiersmen of the border pushing deep into the wilderness in search of game, lured on by the excitements of the chase and the profit to be derived from the sale of peltries. In midsummer, 1766, Captain James Smith, Joshua Horton, Uriah Stone, William Baker, and a young mulatto slave passed through Cumberland Gap, hunted through the country south of the Cherokee and along the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers, and as Smith reports "found no vestige of any white man." During the same year a party of five hunters from South Carolina, led by Isaac Lindsey, penetrated the Kentucky wilderness to the tributary of the Cumberland, named Stone's River by the former party, for one of their number. Here they encountered two men, who were among the greatest of the western pioneers, and were destined to leave their names in historic association with the early settlement of Kentucky, James Harrod and Michael Stoner, a German, both of whom had descended the Ohio from Fort Pitt. With the year 1769 began those longer and more extended excursions into the interior which were to result in conveying at last to the outside world graphic and detailed information concerning "the wonderful new country of Cantucky." In the late spring of this year Hancock and Richard Taylor (the latter the father of President Zachary Taylor), Abraham Hempinstall, and one Barbour, all true-blue frontiersmen, left their homes in Orange County, Virginia, and hunted extensively in Kentucky and Arkansas. Two of the party traveled through Georgia and East and West Florida; while the other two hunted on the Washita during the winter of 1770-1. Explorations of this type became increasingly hazardous as the animosity of the Indians increased; and from this time onward for a number of years almost all the parties of roving hunters suffered capture or attack by the crafty red men.
In this same year Major John McCulloch, living on the south branch of the Potomac, set out accompanied by a white man-servant and a negro, to explore the western country. While passing down the Ohio from Pittsburgh McCulloch was captured by the Indians near the mouth of the Wabash and carried to the present site of Terre Haute, Indiana. Set free after four or five months, he journeyed in company with some French voyageurs first to Natchez and then to New Orleans, whence he made the sea voyage to Philadelphia. Somewhat later, Benjamin Cleveland (afterward famous in the Revolution), attended by four companions, set out from his home on the upper Yadkin to explore the Kentucky wilderness. After passing through Cumberland Gap, they encountered a band of Cherokees who plundered them of everything they had, even to their hats and shoes, and ordered them to leave the Indian hunting-grounds. On their return journey they almost starved, and Cleveland, who was reluctantly forced to kill his faithful little hunting-dog, was wont to declare in after years that it was the sweetest meat he ever ate.
Fired to adventure by the glowing accounts brought back by Uriah Stone, a much more formidable band than any that had hitherto ventured westward--including Uriah Stone as pilot, Gasper Mansker, John Rains, Isaac Bledsoe, and a dozen others--assembled in June, 1769, in the New River region. "Each Man carried two horses," says an early pioneer in describing one of these parties, "traps, a large supply of powder and led, and a small hand vise and bellows, files and screw plate for the purpose of fixing the guns if any of them should get out of fix." Passing through Cumberland Gap, they continued their long journey until they reached Price's Meadow, in the present Wayne County, Kentucky, where they established their encampment. In the course of their explorations, during which they gave various names to prominent natural features, they established their "station camp" on a creek in Sumner County, Tennessee, whence originated the name of Station Camp Creek. Isaac Bledsoe and Gasper Mansker, agreeing to travel from here in opposite directions along a buffalo trace passing near the camp, each succeeded in discovering the famous salt-lick which bears his name--namely Bledsoe's Lick and Mansker's Lick. The flat surrounding the lick, about one hundred acres in extent, discovered by Bledsoe, according to his own statement "was principally Covered with buffelows in every direction--not hundreds but thousands." As he sat on his horse, he shot down two deer in the lick; but the buffaloes blindly trod them in the mud. They did not mind him and his horse except when the wind blew the scent in their nostrils, when they would break and run in droves. Indians often lurked in the neighbourhood of these hunters -plundering their camp, robbing them, and even shooting down one of their number, Robert Crockett, from ambush. After many trials and vicissitudes, which included a journey to the Spanish Natchez and the loss of a great mass of peltries when they were plundered by Piomingo and a war party of Chickasaws, they finilly reached home in the late spring of 1770."
The most notable expedition of this period, projected under the auspices of two bold leaders extraordinarily skilled in woodcraft, Joseph Drake and Henry Scaggs, was organized in the early autumn of 1770. This imposing band of stalwart hunters from the New River and Holston country, some forty in number, garbed in hunting shirts, leggings, and moccasins, with three pack-horses to each man, rifles, ammunition, traps, dogs, blankets, and salt, pushed boldly through Cumberland Gap into the heart of what was later justly named the "Dark and Bloody Ground"--"not doubting," says an old border chronicler, "that they were to be encountered by Indians, and to subsist on game." From the duration of their absence from home, they received the name of the Long Hunters--the romantic appellation by which they are known in the pioneer history of the Old Southwest. Many natural objects were named by this party--in particular Dick's River, after the noted Cherokee hunter, Captain Dick, who, pleased to be recognized by Charles Scaggs, told the Long Hunters that on HIS river, pointing it out, they would find meat plenty--adding with laconic signifigance: "Kill it and go home." From the Knob Lick, in Lincoln County, as reported by a member of the party, "they beheld largely over a thousand animals, including buffaloe, elk, bear, and deer, with many wild turkies scattered among them; all quite restless, some playing, and others busily employed in licking the earth . . . . The buffaloe and other animals had so eaten away the soil, that they could, in places, go entirely underground." Upon the return of a detachment to Virginia, fourteen fearless hunters chose to remain; and one day, during the absence of some of the band upon a long exploring trip, the camp was attacked by a straggling party of Indians under Will Emery, a halfbreed Cherokee. Two of the hunters were carried into captivity and never heard of again; a third managed to escape. In embittered commemoration of the plunder of the camp and the destruction of the peltries, they inscribed upon a poplar, which had lost its bark, this emphatic record, followed by their names:
2300 Deer Skins lost Ruination by God
Undismayed by this depressing stroke of fortune, they continued their hunt in the direction of the lick which Bledsoe had discovered the preceding year. Shortly after this discovery, a French voyageur from the Illinois who had hunted and traded in this region for a decade, Timothe de Monbreun, subsequently famous in the history of Tennessee, had visited the lick and killed an enormous number of buffaloes for their tallow and tongues with which he and his companion loaded a keel boat and descended the Cumberland. An early pioneer, William Hall, learned from Isaac Bledsoe that when "the long hunters Crossed the ridge and came down on Bledsoe's Creek in four or five miles of the Lick the Cane had grown up so thick in the woods that they thought they had mistaken the place until they Came to the Lick and saw what had been done . . . . One could walk for several hundred yards a round the Lick and in the lick on buffellows Skuls, & bones and the whole flat round the Lick was bleached with buffellows bones, and they found out the Cause of the Canes growing up so suddenly a few miles around the Lick which was in Consequence of so many buffellows being killed."
This expedition was of genuine importance, opening the eyes of the frontiersmen to the charms of the country and influencing many to settle subsequently in the West, some in Tennessee, some in Kentucky. The elaborate and detailed information brought back by Henry Scaggs exerted an appreciable influence, no doubt, in accelerating the plans of Richard Henderson and Company for the acquisition and colonization of the trans-Alleghany. But while the "Long Hunters" were in Tennessee and Kentucky the same region was being more extensively and systematically explored by Daniel Boone. To his life, character, and attainments, as the typical "long hunter" and the most influential pioneer.
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