History of Campbell County, Tennessee

Time Line


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.)

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