TRAVELS INCLUDE LOCAL AREA
By Dallas Bogan
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan.
This article was published in the LaFollette Press.
Regardless of the
Mansker family's uncertain location on the South Branch of the Potomac,
it was not long before young Kasper was attracted to the unexplored
western wilderness, probably by way of New River, Virginia. At about
the same time, Kasper also became attracted to Miss Elizabeth White
of Berkeley County, [now] West Virginia, and they were married, the
date and place unknown.
According to information given twenty
years after Mansker's death by Jenny, a mulatto woman who had formerly
been a slave property of the Manskers, Elizabeth White's parents so
opposed her proposed marriage that she and Kasper eloped and settled
at the head of the Holston River. Jenny said that it was from this place
that Mansker began his long hunts into the western country.
The first account of Mansker's participation
in a long hunt is reported by Judge Haywood. In June, 1769, Kasper Mansker
was one of "a company of twenty men or more" who assembled
with their pack horses on Reedy Creek to cross over into what is now
Middle Tennessee on an extensive hunting trip. Among Mansker's fellow
hunters were Abraham Bledsoe, John Rains, John Baker, Joseph Drake,
Uriah Stone, Obediah Terril, Ned Cowen, and Henry Smith.
During the second week in June, the hunters
set off for the head of the Holston River which they then followed down
to what is now Abingdon, Virginia. From Abingdon they went to the north
fork of the Holston and from there crossed to Moccasin Gap on the Clinch
River. They then came to Powell's Valley and Cumberland Gap, through
which they passed and soon reached the Cumberland River. Before attempting
to cross the river they traveled some six miles or so to Flat Lick from
which point they followed tributary streams back to the river and crossed
in what now the state of Kentucky at "a remarkable fish dam, which
had been made in very ancient times." Near the fish dam they passed
the place known as the Brush, its name derived from the intense undergrowth
of briers and vines that laced trees and tree limbs together in an almost
impenetrable wall of living plants.
From the Brush, the hunters went in a
southerly direction and soon reached the south fork of the Cumberland
River which they followed down into the barrens of Kentucky to a place
called Price's Meadow. Here their first base camp was made and they
hunted and explored the surrounding country for the next eight or nine
months. Some of the hunters returned to he settlements in 1770 but Mansker,
along with Stone, Baker, Humphrey Hogan, Cash Brooks, Thomas Gordon,
and four others unnamed, built two trapping canoes and two boats and
loaded the makeshift craft and a third boat, that had been left by others,
with furs and bear meat and pushed off down the Cumberland headed for
Natchez where they planned to sell their cargo.
When the fur-laden craft reached the present
site of Nashville, the hunters saw at the French Lick the largest number
of buffalo and wild game that they had ever seen at any one place. They
stopped and killed a few of the animals from which they obtained hides
to cover their open boats. Then they resumed their downstream journey
and presently reached the mouth of the Cumberland River. With their
meat beginning to spoil, it was decided to convert it into oil for the
market. While they were thus engaged, an Indian chief called John Brown
and twenty-five braves robbed them of two guns, some ammunition, salt,
and tobacco. Passing French traders however, were more friendly, trading
in exchange for fresh meat, salt, flour, tobacco, and some liquor, the
first spirits they had tasted for several months.
Mansker and his associates continued their
travels by entering the Ohio River, following it to the Mississippi,
and floating down the great river to Fort Natchez. Finding no sale for
their cargo at the fort, the tiny flotilla proceeded farther downstream
to Spanish Natchez. Here they sold the furs and oil that they brought
from the middle Cumberland. Before they had disposed of all the goods,
one of the boats broke loose from its moorings and floated down the
Mississippi. Mansker and Baker pursued it and finally overtook it at
Fort Kaspel, from which place they were able to return it to Natchez
and sell its cargo.
After completing their business at Natchez, Mansker's party split up.
Some returned homeward while others seem to have remained. Mansker was
one of those who chose to stay behind, his decision apparently dictated
by an illness which was upon him from May until November. After recovering
his strength, Kasper and John Baker set out by boat upriver. At Ozinck,
Mansker and Baker joined a party bound overland to Georgia with a herd
of horses. From the north Georgia the long hunters turned northward
and followed through the valleys of East Tennessee to New River, from
whence they had departed a year and half earlier.
In the fall of 1771, less than a year
after his return from Natchez, Mansker set out again for the western
wilderness, this time in company with Isaac Bledsoe, Joseph Drake, John
Montgomery, Henry Suggs, James Knox and others. The group encamped on
Russell's Creek in what is now Kentucky, built a house there in which
to store the furs and pelts they took, and hunted in the surrounding
country until February 1772. Discovering their supply of ammunition
running low, Mansker and all of the party, except Isaac Bledsoe and
four others who were left to protect the camp, returned to the settlements
to replenish their supplies. While awaiting an improvement in the severe
late winter weather to permit their return to camp, the long hunters
found Isaac Bledsoe coming in to the settlements to bring David Linch,
who had been stricken ill at camp. Bledsoe was then weather-bound with
the others and two months passed before they plunged westward to their
camp on Russell's Creek. Before reaching their destination, the hunters
met one of the three men who had been left behind at the camp when Bledsoe
and Linch came back to the settlements. He had escaped an Indian attack
on the camp but reported that his two fellows had been captured by the
Indians and taken away. On reaching Russell's Creek the long hunters
found no trace of the two missing men. The camp had not been disturbed
by the Indians and the stored "skins" were all intact.
Mansker and the hunters did not resume
camp here but pushed farther west, arriving finally in the middle Cumberland
country, probably in late May, 1772. A station camp was established
on a northern tributary of the Cumberland River at a point near Pilot
Knob hill in Sumner County. The tributary stream has since been known
as Station Camp Creek and along its fertile valleys ten years later
were located some of the earliest North Carolina preemption land grants.
The long hunters found an abundant supply
of game within a convenient radius of their station camp. They had been
in camp but a short time when Indians plundered it and destroyed, among
other things, over 500 deerskins. But game was so plentiful that the
hunters resumed camp and quickly restored most of their losses, breaking
up only when their supply of ammunition was exhausted.
The most important events of this hunting
expedition, conducted in 1772, were the separate discoveries of three
important salt licks. Approximately six miles northwest of the station
camp, Kasper Mansker discovered two salt licks a short distance apart
lying adjacent to a creek which, two miles to the south, emptied into
the Cumberland River. The lick area and the creek were given Mansker's
name and a spring on the west bank of the creek became the site of Mansker's
fort, erected in 1780. John Carr recalled that Mansker said that "When
he discovered the two licks which were only a few hundred yards apart,
in passing from one to the other, he killed nineteen deer." The
sites of the two salt licks are within the present boundaries of the
city of Goodlettsville in Davidson County.
Nearer the camp, Joseph Drake discovered
Drake's Lick and nearby, Drake's Pond, a favorite watering place for
deer. Sixteen miles east of the camp, Isaac Bledsoe, following the buffalo
trail, came upon the sulphur springs and creek that were given the name
Bledsoe's Lick and Bledsoe's Creek.
Mansker and his company began the long
journey home in August but, meeting another company of hunters in Kentucky,
Mansker and four or five others joined the fresh party and returned
to middle Cumberland where they hunted until the end of the season.
Mansker then returned to New River.
(Permission was given for this article through the Mansker website.)