Historical Society of Southwest Virginia


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By Emory L. Hamilton

Long Hunter - Logan Salyers

The Long Hunter was peculiar to Southwest Virginia only, and nowhere else on any frontier did such hunts ever originate. True, there were hunters and groups of hunters on all frontiers in pioneer days, but they were never organized and publicized as the long hunts which originated on the Virginia frontier. Most, if not all of the long hunts originated on the Holston in the vicinity of present day Chilhowie, but were made up of hunters who lived on both the Clinch and Holston rivers. The idea of his manuscript is to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that these long hunters were native to the area and were land owners, or residents along the waters of these two rivers.

Perhaps no group in history, who contributed so much to the knowledge of the topography of our country, have been so nearly completely by-passed by historians as have the long hunters of the late colonial days. In almost every instance when the pioneer settler moved toward the extreme frontier, he had long since been preceded by the long hunter. When the first settlers were arriving at Wolf Hills (Abingdon) and Cassell's Woods in 1768 and 1769, the long hunters had long ago bypassed these points and were then hunting far away in the Ohio and Cumberland river basins of Kentucky and western Tennessee.

Most of the rivers and steams, gaps, salt licks, mountains and valleys had long ago been named by these hunters. When the first settlers arrived, they, in most cases, adopted the names bestowed by the long hunters on natural land marks, with very few changes, and we are still using most of them after a lapse of nearly two centuries. Dr. Thomas Walker, on his trip to the Ohio, entered in his Journal on April 9, 1750, this statement: "We traveled to a River, which I supposed to be that which hunters call Clinche's River, from one Clinch, a hunter who first found it." (1) This entry was made almost twenty years before a settlement was made on the Clinch River and leaves little doubt as to how the river got its name.

In the annals of American history there is no braver lot than these early hunters. Not only did they endure the rigorous winters in crude shelters but the danger of sickness, privation, exposure, hunting accidents, and the very real and ever present danger of being scalped by the Indians. They were especially disliked by the Indians, being looked upon as robbers of their hunting grounds, which they truly were, and also, as forerunners of the ever-spreading, land-clearing, soil-tilling settler.

Just why was this particular group of men given to hunting, instead of tilling the soil as most settlers? Perhaps there are three answers to this question; first, the spirit of adventure born in some people which they are unable to quell, among whom were James Dysart and Castleton Brooks who were quite well-to-do, as well as Colonel James Knox, who is referred to as the leader of the long hunters and who later became very wealthy. Secondly, there were those who enjoyed, above all else, the spirit of the hunt, among whom were Elisha Wallen, William Carr, Isaac Bledsoe, and others, who, all their lives were hunters and nothing but hunters. The last answer, but certainly not the least, was the profit derived from these hunts. It was not uncommon for a hunter to realize sixteen to seventeen hundred dollars for his season's take, and this was far in excess of what he could earn in almost any other lucrative endeavor. The hides and pelts were sold along the coast, where animals were no longer plentiful, and in England, for making leather, especially buffalo skins. The British market was lost at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War and the long hunts were never again pursued after the Revolutionary War began.

The long hunter today would be called a scientist, naturalist, explorer, or some other high-sounding name, for he had to be master of many arts. He knew the sky and what a sunset foretold; he knew the wind and could tell it by smell, as to whether dry or moist, and could wet his finger with spittle and tell in which direction it was blowing. He could, in numerous ways, tell the seasons, predict the weather, and by the stars he could tell the time and direction. He knew the plants and where they grew, and by feeling the moss and shaggy bark of a tree, determine the north and find his direction by night. He knew the medicinal properties of plants and how to treat his wounds and ailments therefrom.

He knew his rifle, how to use it, repair it, and even in some instances how to make one. He knew the use of the hunting and skinning knife, the tomahawk, and other tools and weapons of the hunt and the kill, which was oft times the kill of an Indian whose skill and cunning he was forced to match and outwit in order to survive. He was aware of, and knew the habits of animals and birds and was able to distinguish the true call of such from the imitation by an Indian. He received his training from masters, for all who lived on the frontiers had to be masters of natural history to survive. The very toys of his childhood were imitations of his future life.

The long hunters usually went out in October and returned the latter part of March, or early in April. Their winter's take consisted of both fur pelts and hides, especially the hides of buffalo which were wantonly slaughtered for the hides only, the carcass left to be devoured by animals and vultures. There are recorded events where hundreds and, a few times, where thousands were slain, and certainly the Indian was justified in his feelings that his hunting grounds were being robbed.  The best descriptions of the long hunter have been left to us by John Redd, who knew many of them intimately, both in his native Pittsylvania County, and also in Powell Valley when he came out to Martin's Station in 1775. (2)

According to Redd, the long hunters seldom hunted in parties larger than two or three men. Their reasons for this were two-fold; first, larger parties were more apt to scare game away, and secondly, the Indians were less likely to become suspicious of a small group robbing their hunting grounds, not to mention that smaller parties were less likely to be discovered by the Indians. Redd tells a very interesting story about Powell Valley that was related to him by the long hunter, William Carr.

"Twelve miles south of Martin's Station on Powell River, there was a very rich piece of bottom land called 'Rob Camp'. In this there was the remains of an old hunting camp from which the land took its name. Some five years before Martin's Station was settled, (Martin first came to Lee County in 1769, explored the valley, but stayed only a few days. He returned in 1775 and established his Station, hence the above referred to event must have taken place about 1770.) three men, with two horses each, and with their traps, guns and other necessary equipment for a long hunt, settled down in the bottom above alluded to, built a camp and spent the fall, winter and part of the spring there in hunting.:   "At that time peace existed between the whites and Indians. These hunters were very successful in killing game and lived in perfect harmony with the Indians, who frequently visited the hunters and congratulated them upon their success in taking game. This intimacy continued until the spring, at which time, the hunters concluded that they had as much fur and skins as they could conveniently carry home. Accordingly, they commenced packing, loaded their horses and were in the act of setting off for home, with the earnings of their successful hunt, when twelve or fifteen Indians came up, took possession of their horses, furs, guns, and in fact all the hunters had, and in exchange gave them three of their old guns, and told the hunters that they land they were hunting on belonged to the Indians, and also the game, that they would spare their lives that time, but cautioned them never to return." (3) 

Redd tells of another interesting camp he saw in Powell Valley. He states: "I was born on the 25th day of October, 1755. In January 1775, when we were on our way out to settle Martin's Station in Powell's Valley, in going down Wallen's Creek, near its junction with Powell River, were the hills closed in very near the creek, was found the remains of an old hunting camp, and in front of the camp the bones of two men were lying bleached. They were said to be the bones of two men who went out hunting in the fall of 1773 and never returned. Their names I have forgotten." (4)

In another letter to Dr. Lyman C. Draper, Redd has this to say in his answer to a query made by Draper: "The remains of the camp I saw in Powell Valley were on its north side and as well as my memory serves me, were within forty or fifty yards of the mouth of Wallen's Creek at the ford of Powell's River. The camp was built beside a large limestone rock which served for the back of the camp. The names of the persons whose bones I saw there I should be unable to accurately distinguish were I to hear them. This may be possibly the camp pitched by Boone's war party. The bones I saw were not known certainly to be those of the two long hunters having gone on a long hunt in Powell Valley in 1773, who had not returned. The camp was eight or ten miles from Martin's Station." (5) 

Redd's reference to "Boone's war party" must be a reference to the spot where Daniel Boone's party camped in 1773 to await the party coming to join them from Castlewood, which was ambushed and massacred near the head of Wallen's Creek on October 10, 1773. The location described by Redd also fits the general location of Elisha Wallen's long hunting camp of 1761.  Redd says the long hunters set out with two pack horses each, a large supply of powder and lead, a small hand vise and bellows, a screwplate and files for repairing their rifles, and while he makes no mention of it, they also carried a supply of flour for bread. In fact, on the way out they could carry quite a lot of supplies as each hunter had two pack horses.

The long hunters went out together in large parties, built a station camp, then fanned out in twos and threes to range and hunt over large areas. The first known station camp established in Powell's Valley was that of Elisha Wallen in 1761. It is thought his party consisted of eighteen or nineteen men, but since no list has been preserved, only the names of a very few are known certainly to have been in the party. Wallen's Station camp, set up at the mouth of Wallen's Creek, was probably like other station camps, built of poles, sometimes only eight by ten feet, covered with puncheons or bark, walls on three sides, the front open, along which a fire was built for warmth. Upright poles were set up - often a forked pole was driven into the ground, with a cross pole on which the bark or puncheons were laid, sloping toward the back in order to drain melting snow or rain away from the fire. This type of shelter was known as "half-faced" camps. Other times an extra large, already-fallen tree or large rock  was used for the backwall of such a camp shelter. Some of Wallen's party are said to have seen the eleven-year-old carving of the name of Powell and so named the Valley, river and mountain. Ambrose Powell had been a member of Dr. Thomas Walker's exploring party of 1750." (6)

"Redd says that when he knew Wallen on Smith's River in Pittsylvania County in 1774, he was then some forty years old and had been a long hunter for many years before. That he usually hunted on a range of mountains lying on the east of Powell's Valley and from Wallen the mountain took its name. Wallen described the ridge and surrounding country on which he hunted as abounding in almost every known specie of game. The animals and birds had been intruded on so seldom that they did not fear his presence, but rather regarded him as a benefactor, but soon learned to flee from his presence."

"Wallen, along with the Blevinses and Coxes, who were connected with him by marriage, lived on Smith's River in Pittsylvania County in 1774. They owned no land, but were squatters. During the Revolutionary War, the Virginia legislature passed a law that British subjects who owned land must come in and take the oath of allegiance or their lands would be confiscated. Redd says that some in Pittsylvania County did this, and Wallen, the Blevinses and Coxes, packed up "enmass" and moved to the frontier for fear they would have to pay many years back rent as squatters. He states that the Blevins and Cox families settled on Holston River, above Long Island, (now Kingsport) and that Wallen settled on the Holston about eighteen miles above Knoxville, and that in 1776 he stopped by to see him, and was informed by Wallen's wife that he had then been on a hunt for two months. Redd further states that Wallen later moved to Powell Valley, lived there a short time and then moved to Missouri."(7)

Redd's statement of Wallen's movements is borne out by a letter written to Dr. Draper by F. A. Wallen, a nephew to Elisha, from Fairland, Livingston County, Missouri, dated Octobe 15, 1853, in which he says: "He (Elisha) moved from Virginia to Tennessee, thence to Kentucky, thence to Washington County, Missouri, at a very early date."

That Elisha Wallen lived for sometime in Powell Valley, near Martin's Station is further proven by a letter of Colonel William Martin, son of General Joseph Martin who built Martin's Station. This letter is dated Dixon Springs, (Tennessee) 7 July 1842, and is also to Dr. Draper. In the letter William Martin tells of going on hunting trips with Wallen who lived near his father's station in Powell Valley. He said Wallen told him of going back and forth to Pittsylvania County where he lived, of his helping Colonel (William) Byrd establish Fort Chiswell (1761), of being at Fort Loudon. Colonel Martin says that he was intimately acquainted with Wallen in his latter days. The time Colonel Martin knew Wallen was in 1785 or thereafter, as he did not come out to his father's station in Powell Valley until 1785. (8)

In Wallen's party of 1761, some were known to hunt as far way as the Cumberland River in western Tennessee. Among those known to have been in this party, besides Wallen, there was his father-in-law Jack Blevins, his brother-in-law, William Blevins, Charles Cox, William Newman, William Pitman, Henry Scaggs, Uriah Stone, Michael Stoner, James Harrod and William Carr.
At this time, William Pittman was in his early twenties, six feet tall and of fine appearance. There were several Pittmans and more than one named William. (9) 

Of this William Pittman, John Redd says:  "In the latter part of February, 1776, Pittman and Scaggs came to Martin's Station in Powell Valley. They were returning from a long hunt they had taken in the "Brush" on the northwest side of Cumberland Mountain. They returned earlier than usual and their reason for doing so was that they had seen a great smoke some distance off which they knew was Indians "ring-hunting", and besides, they had seen Indian tracks through the wood where they were hunting; whereupon they set out for home. They spent some eight or ten days at the Station. While they were with us, they showed some silver ore they had found on top of a little hill in their hunting ground. They said that while they were hunting, a snow fell some twelve to eighteen inches deep. Scaggs and Pittman went out through the snow to kill some game. After going a short distance from their camp, they discovered that on top of a certain hill, there was no snow, while all the surrounding hills were covered with it. This led them to go upon the hill and see the cause of its not being covered with snow like the rest. On arriving at the summit of the hill, they discovered that it was covered with a very heavy kind of ore. Each of them put some of the ore in their shot bag and returned to camp." 

"When they arrived at the camp, they took some of the ore, and by means of their hand bellows and some thick oak bark, it was melted and they found it to be silver ore. They brought it back with them to Martin's Station- the silver they had extracted and some of the ore. The silver was pronounced by all who saw it to be very pure." 

"Scaggs and Pittman were said to be men of a very high sense of honor and very great truth. By the next fall the war with the Indians broke out and they went no more on their long hunts." (10)  He further states that in 1776 Scaggs and Pittman lived on New River.
In Washington County, Virginia, Land Entry Book 1, page 86, dated November 8, 1782, I find where William Pittman once owned the land on Sugar Hill, overlooking St. Paul, Virginia. This is the land upon which John English settled in 1772, where his wife and children were killed by Indians in 1787, and which he sold to the French Baron Pierre De Tubeuf in 1791, and the site where the Baron was murdered in 1795. The land had changed hands many times by assignment of warrant before the Baron bought it. English obtained it from Henry Hamlin, who had obtained it from Joseph Drake, another long hunter, and Drake had gotten it from William Pittman, who in turn had received it from Thomas Pittman and he (Thomas) had it assigned to him from Chippy Ally Pucket. Thomas Pittman was supposedly a son of Uriah Pittman. On May 5, 1774, Arthur Galbraith sued this Thomas Pittman and Joseph Drake. Just what relation Thomas was to the long hunter, William Pittman, is unknown. 

Henry Scaggs left the area and moved on into Kentucky, dying on Pittman's Creek in Taylor Country, Kentucky about 1808 or 1809, upwards of 80 years old. (11)  Collins, in his "History of Kentucky," says "He was six feet tall, dark skinned, bony, bold, enterprising and fearless. He and his brother (perhaps Charles) were noted hunters, and nothing but hunters. It was from Scaggs that Scaggs Creek in Rockcastle County, Kentucky, got its name."  "In 1779 Henry Scaggs was living on the Clinch in Tennessee. He had been hunting for twenty years on the other side of the mountain, and this fall in addition to a party of upwards of twenty men, with extra pack horses, he took his young son. In Powell Valley, his party had the not-very-unusual luck of being attacked by Indians, who, though they killed no man, took all but eleven of their horses. All the hunters turned back except Scaggs, his son, and a man remembered only by the name of Sinclair. (Undoubtedly this was Charles Sinclair who lived on new River at Sinclair's Bottom.) Scaggs' young son sickened and died on this trip and because the severe winter of 1779-80, the ground was so frozen he had to bury him in a hollow tree." (12) The severity of this winter is attested in many Revolutionary war pension claims. In 1779, William Pittman was recommended for Lieutenant in Captain John Dunkin's Militia Company. Captain Dunkin lived in Elk Garden in Russell County. William Pittman also reflects in the 1772 tithable lists on the Clinch. Whether these entries are for the long hunter Pittman or another, there is no way to ascertain.

Of William Carr little is known, except the little left to us in the Reminiscences of John Redd, who says: "He was raised in Albemarle County, Virginia, and at a very early age removed to the frontier. In 1775 I became acquainted with him in Powell's Valley. He lived on the frontier for twenty years or more and had spent the whole time hunting. Carr hunted over in Kentucky, beyond the Cumberland Mountains to the right of Cumberland Gap in a place called "The Brush." Carr always returned with his horses laden with furs and skins. He described the game as being so gentle the animals would rarely run from the report of his gun."  "Carr was the most venturesome hunter I ever knew. He would frequently go on these hunting expeditions alone. After the breaking out of the Indian war of 1776, few men ventured on these long hunts. Carr determined to take one more long hunt, and as no one would go with him, he determined to go alone. Accordingly, he supplied himself with a good supply of powder and lead, his steel traps, two good horses, and set out on a long hunt and was never heard of afterward. He was no doubt killed by the Indians." (13)  I do not know just where Carr resided on the frontier. It is hard to trace the name since the records show both a William Carr and William Kerr, and whether they are one and the same I do not know. In a land suit in Augusta Superior Court in 1809, (Fugate vs Mahan) with the land in question lying on Moccasin Creek, Agness Fugate Mahan, widow of Francis Fugate, said: "That in 1771, Francis Fugate purchased the land in question from William Carr, a "Negro man of color," and that Carr was supposed to have bought the land from John Morgan, one of the first settlers in that area." 

In the same suit John Montgomery, another witness said: "William Carr is supposed to be a near relation to General Joseph Martin." In connection with Agness Fugate Mahan's statement about William Carr being a Negro man of color, John Redd tells this intriguing story: "William _____ was born in Albemarle County, Virginia. He was the first son of his mother; notwithstanding his mother and her husband were both very respectable and had a fine estate, yet when William was born he turned out to be a dark mulatto. The old man being a good sort of a fellow and withal, very credulous, was induced by his better half to believe the color of his son was a judgement sent on her for her wickedness. William was sent to school and learned the rudiments of an English education and, at the age of eighteen, he was furnished with a good horse, gun and some money and directed by his reputed father to go to the frontier and seek his fortune and never return."

"In the early part of the spring of 1775, I became personally acquainted with William at Martin's Station in Powells Valley. He was then about forty years of age; he never married, and had been living on the frontier something like twenty years. He lived in the forts and stations and lived entirely by hunting. Notwithstanding his color he was treated with as much respect as any white man. Few men possessed a more high sense of honor and true bravery than he did. He was possessed of a very strong natural mind and always cheerful and the very life of any company he was in. He had hunted in the "brush" for many years before I became acquainted with him. He was about the ordinary height, little inclined to be corpulent, slightly round shouldered and weighed about 160 or 170 pounds and very strong for one of his age." (14)

One William Carr was in Captain Robert Doak's militia company June 2, 1774, and a William Carr was also in the Cherokee Campaign under Colonel Christian in the same year. Bickley, in his "History of Tazewell County," tells of a hunter named Carr making an early settlement in Tazewell County, Virginia.

Another long hunter, who was in the Clinch are for sometime, was Uriah Stone, and it seems he made land improvements in many places where he hunted, probably with the hope of selling them as he did one in the present Tazewell County, as shown by a land suit in Augusta County Superior Court, Maxwell vs Pickens, filed 1807. In this suit James Maxwell states:  "In 1772 I went from Botetourt County where I lived to present Tazewell County to make a settlement. I was in company with Samuel Walker. Found a tract with some improvements, viz: the foundations of a cabin, some rails split and some trees deadened. That night we fell in with a party of hunters, among them Uriah Stone, who claimed to have made the improvement, and I purchased it."

In the same land suit Lawerence Murray stated: "Thirty-three years ago (1774) I was in Wright's Valley at Uriah Stone's cabin."
Another land suit in the same court, Wynn vs Engle's heirs, the same Samuel Walker referred to in the other case, stated that he came to the head of the Clinch in 1771, and the following year he came again with Robert Moffett. Shortly thereafter two men came out, viz: Uriah Stone and John Stutler.

James Smith, a Pennsylvanian, left his home in the fall of 1765, and the following spring of 1766 found him in the Holston country of Virginia where settlement was thickening in the general vicinity of Samuel Stalnaker's place. There, Smith, in company with Joshua Horton, William Baker, Uriah Stone, for whom Stone's River in Tennessee was named, and another James Smith from near Carlisle in Pennsylvania, had gone west. (15) Stone returned to middle Tennessee again in 1767, and at this time, or soon after, Stone made an improvement on a claim to "A certain place known as Stoner's Lick, on the east side of Stone's River. (16) 

Stone was a juror in the Fincastle Court of July 7, 1773, and on this same date, he, along with Obediah Terrell, Gasper Mansker and Castleton Brooks were witnesses in the case of John Baker versus Humphrey Hogan, all of whom were long hunters. Then again in the Fincastle Court of November 3, 1773, there was a motion of Uriah Stone to stay the proceedings of a judgement obtained against him by Obediah Terrell. The last mention of Stone in the Fincastle records was on December 6, 1774, when Gasper Mansker was plaintiff against Uriah Stone and Jacob Harmon.    ichael Stoner, whose real name was George Michael Holsteiner, along with Isaac Bledsoe, Gasper Mansker, John Montgomery and Joseph Drake were on the Cumberland in 1767 and are said to have had a station camp in 1768 on what is now Station Camp Creek, north of Cumberland in middle Tennessee. A group of hunters from South Carolina, who were on the Cumberland in 1767, make mention of meeting James Harrod and Michael Stoner on Stone's River, who were from Fort Pitt by way of the Illinois. (17)

This is the very same Michael Stoner who was at Castlewood and went with Daniel Boone in 1774 to Kentucky to warn the surveying parties of Indian dangers just prior to the outbreak of Dunmore's War, and without proof, there is every evidence that Stoner was much better acquainted with Kentucky than was Boone, for Boone's first trip through Cumberland Gap was in 1769, and after having missed finding the gap on previous trips, he was at this time led through the gap by John Findley, another long hunter and settler on the Cumberland River in Tennessee.

While trying to find someone to send to Kentucky to warn the surveying parties, on June 22, 1774, Colonel William Christian wrote to Colonel William Preston that he was thinking of sending out a certain Crabtree to search for the surveyors, having him do this as a sort of atonement for his late achievement in murdering some friendly Cherokees. Having some doubt about the ethics of this, however, he next thought of sending out Joseph Drake, who, as one of the long hunters, was tolerably well acquainted with Kentucky. 

Colonel Preston wrote Captain William Russell of Castlewood about this matter, and Russell, on the 26th of June 1774, answered Preston saying: "I have engaged to start immediately, on the occasion, two of the best hands I could think of, Daniel Boone and Michael Stoner, who have engaged to search the country as low as the Falls (Louisville), and to return by way of Gasper's Lick on Cumberland, and through Cumberland Gap." (18)

Michael Stoner went to Kentucky with Boone when he made his settlement at Boonesboro, and Cotterill, in his "Kentucky in 1774" implies that Stoner was with Boone's party when they made their unsuccessful attempt to settle in Kentucky in 1773, and that he had been a close associate of Boone for several years before, Boone and Stoner having first met on the New River, and that, when Boone's party was turned back in 1773, he had probably been living with the Boone family on the Clinch. Stoner, born about 1748, was also a member Boone's road-cutting party through Cumberland Gap and was still alive in 1801, when he made a deposition in Wayne County, Kentucky. (19)

He married a daughter of Andrew Tribble. He was wounded at the siege of Boonesboro, fainted from loss of blood after he had refused to let anyone come to him, for he was outside the fort walls. His wounds were only flesh wounds, one in the hip and another in the arm. After losing his land grants he settled with his father-in-law near Price's Station. (20 Two other long hunters of Powell Valley were William Crabtree and James Aldridge, both of whom were probably in Wallen's hunting party of 1761. Of these two, John Redd, says: "I have seen them both frequently, but know nothing of interest connected with their long hunts. More of an Indian scout and hunter than a farmer, William Crabtree was a real backwoodsman, tall, slender and with slightly red hair." (21) 

The Crabtrees lived on the Holston, a numerous family, with many of the same name, therefore it is hard to distinguish which William was the long hunter, but it is believed he was the William who was a son of William and Hannah Whittaker Crabtree whose residence was at the Big Lick near Saltville. If so, he was born in Baltimore County, Maryland, circa 1748. His first wife was Hannah Lyon, sister to the long hunter Humberson Lyon. After her death he was married in 1777 to Katherine Starnes and she died in Tazewell County in 1818. The father of William Crabtree, whose name was also William, lived near the Salt Works (now Saltville) where he died in 1777. 

Redd says: "I know not where Crabtree was from originally. In 1777 he was living on Watauga, not far above its junction with the Holston. I know not what finally became of him. He was about thirty years of age." Of the long hunter, James Aldridge, this writer has been unable to recover any data of significance, as he seems to be mentioned in none of the court records. Some writers have said that he lived on the New River, but John Redd says he lived in the neighborhood with the Crabtrees on Holston. He is described as being about 30 years of age, a dark haired, heavily built man, stoop shouldered, but with a spritely mind. 

Humberson Lyon, was another of the long hunters who early hunted on the Cumberland. He was a brother-in-law to William Crabtree, having married his sister, Hanna Crabtree. His will was exhibited in Washington County, Virginia, court on March 16, 1784, and proven by the oaths of Isaac, Job, and Hanna Crabtree, and who, along with William Crabtree were witnesses to the will. Abraham Crabtree was Administrator of his Securities were William and James Crabtree. The will was probated March 16, 1784, and he left his estate to his wife and sons, William, James, Stephen and Jacob, and daughter Susanna. Humberson Lyon was a Juror in Fincastle County in 1773, and was recommended Captain in the Washington County, Virginia militia, October 9, 1780.

Part II

Elisha Wallen went out again in 1763 with much the same group as were in his party of 1761. Glowing reports of the Cumberland and Ohio River basins brought back by Uriah Stone, Joshua Houghton, or Horton, and others of the long hunters fanned the urge for exploration to the boiling point. Plans were laid for a great hunt in Tennessee and Kentucky. The rendevous was to be on New River, eight miles from Fort Chiswell, in June 1769. This party consisted of at least twenty of more men, and Williams, in his "Dawn of Tennessee History," names ten, to wit: John Rains, Gasper Mansker, Abraham Bledsoe, Joseph Baker, Joseph Drake, Obediah Terrell, Uriah Stone, Henry Smith, Ned Cowan and Robert Crockett. (22) 

To these ten, the following names also should be added: Isaac Bledsoe, William Carr, James Dysart, Jacob Harmon, William Crabtree, James Aldridge, John Baker, Thomas Gordon, Humphrey Hogan and Castleton Brooks. "Passing through Cumberland Gap and far into Kentucky, a station camp was built, and the company there dispersed into small hunting parties, as was the custom. Traveling southeast, one of these parties reached Roaring River and Caney Fork of the Cumberland. On what is now known as Matthews Creek of Roaring River in Overton County, Tennessee, Robert Crockett was killed, Indians firing upon him from ambush." 

Of the above group of nineteen long hunters, not heretofore mentioned, is John Rains who became one of the first settlers on the Cumberland, going there from the New River settlements in Virginia, where he had first settled after emigrating from Culpepper County, Virginia. He was noted for his woodcraft and Indian fighting, became an officer of militia, and like Gasper Mansker, survived close to twenty-five years of Indian warfare, fifteen of those on the Cumberland; yet he lived to be 91. (23) Of Humphrey Hogan, little is known. The only record found of him is in the Washington County, Virginia, court where on November 17, 1778, he was on bail for Alexander Hamilton. He moved to Tennessee where he became one of the first school teachers. It is not known just what he taught for he signed his name with an "X".

Gasper Mansker, luckier than most long hunters, in that he kept his scalp, but was engaged in more skirmishes than most, was outspoken and then only twenty years old. He had been born aboard ship, of emigrating parents, and spoke with a heavy German accent, but sometimes described as a "Dutchman." He was reared on the Virginia borders in the region of the South Potomac. After twenty-five years of Indian warfare in which he got several wounds, he died in 1822 on the lands over which he had hunted in 1769. 

He built a Station Camp near Gasper's Lick in 1779, and had a wife and a brother George Mansker. It was to Mansker's Station about twelve miles above what was to be Nashville, that Andrew Jackson's future wife, Rachael Donnelson, fled with her kin in the troubled Indian times of 1780. (24) 

Gasper Mansker lived on Moccasin Creek in present day Scott County, Virginia, prior to his going to Tennessee. On the 6th of December 1774 he entered 190 acres of land in old Fincastle Land Entry records, lying on Moccasin Creek. He was married to Elizabeth White of Virginia, who eloped with him. He had a Station near Goodlettsville, in Davidson County, Tennessee. He lived at Mansker's Lick in 1792, and never had any children.

Obadiah Terrell, for whom Obey's River in Tennessee, was named, was a chunky, small-sized man with a club foot. (25)
He spent several years on the Cumberland as a farmer and hunter, and before permanent settlement was made in Tennessee, hunted and camped along the river in what later became Cumberland and Pulaski counties. In 1780 Daniel Smith spent one night in his camp near the mouth of Obey's River while on a buffalo hunt. (26) It is highly probable that Captain Daniel Smith and Terrell knew each other back on the Clinch in earlier years, for Smith was a militia officer and Surveyor for Fincastle and Washington counties in Virginia, before his removal to Tennessee.

While on the Clinch frontier, Obediah Terrell lived on Obey's Creek in Scott County, Virginia, which was named for him. The last official court record pertaining to him in Washington County, Virginia, was April 22, 1778, when he was appointed Overseer of the road from "two big springs" on Copper Creek to the head of Moccasin Creek, and on August 18, 1778 when he was appointed Administrator of the estate of Thomas Kindrick. It was perhaps soon after this date that he moved to Tennessee, for less than sixteen months thereafter Daniel Smith was spending the night with him on Obey's River in middle Tennessee. 

Joseph and Ephraim Drake were brothers, and Ephraim seems to have been much less a hunter than was his brother, Joseph.
Joseph Drake had apparently been in Daniel Boone's party to Kentucky in 1773, when his son, James Boone and Henry Russell, with others were killed on Wallen's Creek on October 10, 1773. He probably left the Clinch with Boone in 1775 for he was killed by Indians at Boonesboro in 1778. (27)  

He married Margaret, a daughter of Colonel John Buchanan, and after his death, she married a man named William Jones. Drake left one son John who was living in Nicholas County, Kentucky. Joseph Drake went from his father's home near New River, and near Anchor and Hope Plantation (present Max Meadows) to Southwest Virginia, at least by 1772, and probably before, according to the court records. He took up a tract of 326 acres on Carlock's Creek. This is the creek that flows into the Holston just east of Chilhowie, and along the road that leads from Chilhowie to Saltville today. 

Drake got a tract from Colonel John Buchanan's land, the Hall's Bottom land (South of the Bristol Howard Johnson Restaurant) and went to live there, but there was a German living there, named Jacob Young, who had moved in on the land and squatted. He came to Drake's home and fired a pistol across the front porch and heckled Drake in general until he moved. James Dysart was Sheriff of Washington County and wanted to help Drake run Young off, but Drake moved away nonetheless. Dysart wanted to help Drake because of his attachment to him. He said he had been hunting on three long hunts with Drake - one in 1769 for seven months, in 1771 for nine months, and a third for eleven months in 1772. 

Drake moved to Kentucky in 1777 from the Hall's Bottom land. He had bought his Carlock tract from the Loyal Land Company early - about 1771-72. Drake had moved his family to the Hall's Bottom tract in 1775, and then with the outbreak of the Cherokee War in 1776, moved back up New River near his father's home. (28)

It will be recalled that William Christian to Colonel Preston, in a letter dated June 22, 1774, in regard to sending someone to Kentucky to warn the Surveyors, said: "Next thought of sending out Joseph Drake, who, as one of the long hunters was tolerably well acquainted with Kentucky." In Fincastle County court of January 6, 1773, Joseph Drake was granted permission to keep an Ordinary (Inn), and on January 5, 1773, he was appointed road Overseer from the Town House to Eighteen Mile Creek, proving his residence in the vicinity of Chilhowie at that date.

Joseph Drake was killed by Indians near Boonesboro in August, 1778. He had married Margaret, a daughter of Colonel John Buchanan, and his brother, Ephraim Drake had married her sister, Anna Buchanan. These Buchanan girls who married the Drake brothers were first cousins in General William Campbell (whose mother was a Buchanan), and of Captain James Thompson, whose mother and wife of Colonel Buchanan were sisters and the daughters of Colonel James Patton. (29)

Part III

In 1769, a party of approximately forty hunters with James Knox as their leader spent more than a year in the Cumberland country. Many conflicting accounts of this party of 1769 have been written. Much of the confusion because the party split into several smaller parties, each going in a different direction. Everybody is pretty well agreed that they went in a body over the Hunter's Trail to Flat Lick (near Stinking Creek, about eight miles north and a little west of Cumberland Ford.) (30) 

Just about all the long hunters heretofore mentioned in this manuscript were on this hunt, and those not mentioned previously being the Bledsoe brothers, Anthony, Abraham and Isaac, John Baker, Thomas Gordon, Jacob Harmon, Castleton Brooks, John Montgomery, James Dysart, Humphrey Hogan, David and William Lynch, Christopher Stoph, William Allen, Joseph Bowen, and Ned Cowan. 

The Bledsoe brothers, Anthony, Abraham and Isaac were tall men of fair complexion and of English origin. Their parents had come from England to Culpepper County, Virginia. Their mother died and they left home because of an unkind stepmother. They came about 1767 to the New River country. Anthony, the eldest, married Mary, the daughter of Thomas Ramsey, a noted Indian fighter and active in French and Indian War. (31) 

Abraham Bledsoe became a professional hunter, but Isaac and Anthony were interested in land. Both settled in middle Tennessee about 1784, Isaac, at this time about twenty-four years old, and after surviving years of border warfare in Virginia and Eastern Tennessee, spent two or three years in Kentucky, and, when that was safe from the Indians, went back to Bledsoe's Creek, and there he was killed as was his brother Anthony, by the Indians. Isaac Bledsoe was a Captain in the Cherokee Campaign in 1776. He lived on Highway 58, between Bristol and Gate City, about five miles outside Bristol. His land is now the property of the Spahr family who bought from him in 1782.

A very interesting letter is to be found in the Draper Collection written by General William Hall, of Locustland, Tennessee, to Dr. Draper, dated 21st of July 1845, wherein he says: "Sir, you wish to know something about Colonel Bledsoe's discovering Bledsoe's Lick, and the route of the long hunters, and Colonel Mansker's killing the buffaloes at Bledsoe's Lick for the tallow and tongues." 

"The long hunters principally resided in the upper country of Virginia, and North Carolina, on the New River and Holston River, and when the intended to make a long hunt, as they called it, they collected near the head of Holston, near where Abingdon now stands. Thence they proceeded a westerly direction passing through Powell's Valley crossing the Cumberland mountain where the road now crosses leading to the Crab Orchard in Kentucky. Then crossing the Cumberland River where the said road now crosses Rockcastle, and leaving the Crab Orchard to the right and continuing nearly the said course, crossing the head of Green River, going on through the Barrens, crossing Big Barren River at the mouth of Drake's Creek; thence up Drake's Creek to the head, crossing the ridge which divides the waters of the Ohio River from the waters of the Cumberland, and the hunters, after crossing the ridge, either went down Bledsoe's Creek, or Station Camp Creek to the river and then spread out in the Cumberland ready to make their hunt." 

The first trip that the long hunters made was about 1772 or 1773. There were several very enterprising, smart, active members along. I will name a few: Colonel Isaac Bledsoe, Colonel John Montgomery, Colonel Gasper Mansker, Henry Scaggs, Obediah Terrell, two Drakes (this would be Joseph & Ephraim), and a number of others could be named. When the hunters crossed the dividing ridge first named, they fell on the head of Station Camp Creek, and went down it about three miles and from Cumberland River, came to a very large, plain, buffalo path, much traveled, crossing the creek at right angles north and south. The south side of the creek was a pretty high bluff and a beautiful flat ridge made down to the creek. The hunters pitched their camp on the bluff and on the buffalo path, and they made their Station Camp from which the creek took its name. 

"Colonel Bledsoe and Colonel Mansker, the first night they pitched their camp, agreed that the buffalo path that ran by their camp must lead at each end to Sulphur Licks or springs, and they made an agreement that night for Colonel Bledsoe, in the morning, to take the north end of the path, and Colonel Mansker to take the south side of the path, and each to ride one half day along the path to see what discoveries they could make and give themselves time to return to camp that night and report what they had seen." 

"They were both successful in their expectations. One found Bledsoe's Lick at the end of thirteen miles, and the other found Mansker's Lick at about twelve miles. They both returned that night, with great joy, to their companions at the camp, and make known their discoveries of the two licks."  "Colonel Bledsoe told me when he came to Bledsoe's Creek, about two miles from the lick, he had some difficulty in riding along the path, the buffaloes were so crowded in the path, and on each side, that his horse could scarcely get through them, and when he got to the bend of the creek at the Lick, the whole flat surrounding the lick of about one hundred acres was principally covered with buffaloes in every direction. He said not only hundreds but thousands."

"The space containing the Sulphur Springs was about two hundred yards each way across, and the buffalo had licked the dirt away several feet deep in that space, and within that space there issued out about a dozen sulphur springs, at which the buffalo drank. Bledsoe said there was such a crowd of buffaloes in the Lick and around it, that he was afraid to get off his horse for fear of getting run over by the buffaloes, and as he sat on his horse he shot down two in the lick and the buffaloes trod them in the mud so that he could not skin them. The buffaloes did not mind the sight of him and his horse, but when the wind blew from him to them, they got the scent of him, they would break and run in droves." 

The same year that Bledsoe discovered the lick, a Frenchman by the name of Denumbre, who lived at Kaskaski on the Mississippi River, with a party of French hunters, in a keel boat, came up the Cumberland River to the mouth of Bledsoe's Creek, and came to Bledsoe's Lick and killed at the Lick, and around in the vicinity of the Lick a sufficient number of buffaloes to load their boat with tallow and buffalo tongues. The second year after, when Bledsoe and the long hunters returned, when they 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 I the woods that they thought they had mistaken the place until they came to the Lick and saw what had been done. Bledsoe told me that one could walk for several hundred yards around the lick, and in the lick on buffalo bones. They then found out the cause of the canes growing up so suddenly a few miles around the Lick which was in consequence of so many buffaloes being killed. 

"Sir, you was mistaken in thinking that I told you that Colonel Mansker was the person that had killed the buffaloes at Bledsoe's Lick for tallow and tongues." (32) The Frenchman referred to as Denumbre, in the foregoing letter, was really Demunbreun, and of him Williams, in his "Dawn of Tennessee History", states: "Some long hunters about 1766 or 1767 observed on the bluff near French Lick, a hut or trading post - evidently that of Timothe Demunbreun who, about that time arrived at that place in a sail boat and began to trade with Indians and hunters." 

In a long footnote Williams tells a lot about this Frenchman. The footnote says in part: "He and his family for some time lived in a cave on the banks of the Cumberland between the mouth of Mill Creek and Stone's River. A marker at this cave has been erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Demuenbreun had a lineage and a career more remarkable than our historians conceived. His name in full and correctly was Jacques Timothe Boucher de Montbrun, descendant of Pierre Boucher who was the first French Canadian to be raised (1661) to the rank of nobility in recognition of his work in bringing colonists into Canada."

Williams, in "Dawn of Tennessee History," says, in speaking of Castleton Brooks, that he also came to the Cumberland, most possibly merely to see the country, for he was a man of means, and six years later, served as witness for the biggest land deal in all the history of the west. (33) (Henderson's purchase of the Cherokee land.) 

Castleton Brooks lived on the Holston and served as a Juror in Fincastle in 1773 and in 1777 was appointed by the Washington County Court as "Constable from Patterson's Mill as far down the river as there was settlers." James Knox was referred to as "leader" of the long hunters, because of his instrumentality in organizing these hunts. He organized the group who went out in 1769 and in 1771. Knox, a Scotsman, had emigrated from northern Ireland when he was fourteen. He had soon learned the
ways of the border, for by that date any community west of the Blue Ridge had plenty of good teachers. Most of his life, like that of the other long hunters, was to be spent in skirmishes with the Indians and British. He rose to the rank of Major in the militia and settled in Kentucky, where he married the widow of Benjamin Logan, whom some say he loved before she was married to Logan. He lived to become rich, a Kentucky Colonel and member of the Legislature from Jefferson County in 1788, and a member of the Kentucky Senate from Lincoln County from 1795 to 1800

James Knox was a member of the Surveying party under John Floyd in 1774, when Governor Dunmore sent Daniel Boone and Michael Stoner to Kentucky to look for them and warn them of danger prior to the outbreak of Dunmore's War, Knox deserted Floyd's party with a man named Allen, perhaps William Allen, another long hunter, Knox and nine others, perhaps all deserters from Floyd's party, were fired upon by the Indians while encamped on Salt River and James Hamilton, and Jared Cowan were killed. Jared Cowan is perhaps the long hunter sometimes referred to as Ned Cowan. (34) After this Knox and his party made their way back to the Clinch, arriving at Castlewood on July 9, 1774. 

In 1784, James Knox led a caravan, which had started out from Augusta County over the Wilderness Road, to Kentucky. This caravan had been joined by settlers along the way down from Augusta and many from the Clinch and Holston settlements joined it, and when Knox took command at Bean's Station, it numbered some 300 people. Many of these pioneers settled in Jessamine County, Kentucky. 

Another Scotch hunter from Northern Ireland was young John Montgomery. As previously stated, he was related to the Bledsoe brothers through marriage, marrying a daughter of Josiah Ramsey, and a niece to Anthony Bledsoe's wife. The Montgomerys lived in what is now Montgomery County, Virginia, and from the family the county derived its name. Lieutenant Colonel John Montgomery who had been commissioned very young, was sent by Virginia in April 1779 to help George Rogers Clark in his Illinois Campaign and received distinction for his efforts in that campaign. He went down the Holston-Tennessee rivers by boat to Chattanooga with General Evan Shelby, going on to the Illinois in the same boats. Drury Bush from Castlewood, and the Kincaid brothers, James and Joseph, who lived directly across Clinch River from St. Paul, were with Montgomery on this trip. (35) Colonel John Montgomery founded Clarksville in Tennessee, and died there in 1794. (36)

Still another Scotchman from Northern Ireland was James Dysart, an orphan, who came to America as a teenage boy. He, like many immigrants, had landed at Philadelphia and gradually worked his way south and west to the Holston River country. His old home "Book Hall" stood east of Abingdon on Highway U. S. 11.  "He may have, on his way to Southwest Virginia, carried a few books. In his old age, after service at King's Mountain where he was wounded, he removed to a remote section of Rockcastle County, Kentucky, but when a friend commented on his isolation he answered, 'I am never lonesome when I have a good book in my hand.' He, in time, collected quite a library and lived to enjoy it, dying when he was 74 in 1831." (37) 

After settling on the Holston River in Fincastle County, Dysart married Agnes, a daughter of John and Eleanor Beatty. He served as Captain in General William Campbell's regiment at the Battle of Kings' Mountain. He was a signer of the call for the Rev. Charles Cummings in 1772, and, when Washington County was organized in 1776, he became a Justice of the Court and first Sheriff of Washington County in 1776. He rose to Major in the Washington County Militia, and held many minor offices. He had a mill and owned more than 2000 acres of land scattered from the Holston to Powell Valley, mostly in small tracts. John Finley, another long hunter and the one who led Daniel Boone through Cumberland Gap on his first trip to Kentucky, after Boone had previously missed finding the gap, was also a resident of Southwest Virginia, and was on early trips to the Cumberland country. 

I first find him mentioned in the Fincastle Court records November 2,1773 when he bought land. In the Washington County, Virginia Court of 26th of February, 1777, is entered this order: "John Finley making it appear to the satisfaction of the court of Washington County that he upon the 20th day of July, 1776, received a wound in the thigh in the battle fought with the Cherokees, near the Great Island, and it now appears to the said court that he, in consequence of said wound, is rendered unable to gain a living by his labor as formerly. Therefore his case is recommended to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia."

Finley was in Edmondson's Company at the Battle of Long Island Flats (now Kingsport) when he was wounded, and was probably in the same company at King's Mountain. At one time he was probably a resident of the Watauga Valley.
Jacob Harman was one of the long hunters, but there was more than one Jacob Harman, as well as many other Harman's, and all were hunters, so it is hard to determine just which Jacob was the long hunter. The long hunter may have been Jacob Harman, Jr., a son of Jacob, Sr. The Harmans, who were all descendants of Heinrich Adam Herman, a German immigrant who settled on the New River in the late 1740s or early 1750s with a large family of boys who were all born prior to his emigration to the New River Settlement. All these boys were great hunters and Indian fighters.

In speaking of the long hunters, Jonathan Daniels, in his book, "The Devils' Backbone," says that John Rains, one of the long hunters who settled in Tennessee, in referring to the lawyers, doctors and politicians arriving on the frontier, said, "We used to think we had the Devil to pay (and a heavy debt, running in long installments) before the doctors and lawyers came, but the doctors introduced disease and the lawyers instituted suits, and now we have all to pay."


(1) Journal of Dr. Thomas Walker
(2) John Redd's Narrative, Virginia Magazine History & Biography, Volume 4
(3) Ibid, Volume 7, page 10
(4) Ibid, Volume 7, page 9 & 402
(5) Ibid, Volume 7
(6) Arnow, Seedtime on the Cumberland, & Filson Quarterly II, page 70
(7) Virginia Magazine History & Biography, Volume 4
(8) Draper MSS 6 XX 8
(9) Virginia Magazine History, 1893
(10) Virginia Magazine History & Biography, Volume 7, page 250
(11) Draper MSS 3 B, 230, 238
(12) Draper MSS 3 C 74
(13) Virginia Magazine History & Biography, Volume 7, page 249
(14) Ibid, Volume 6, page 335
(15) Arnow, Seedtime on the Cumberland, page 134
(16) Ibid, page 157
(17) Ibid
(18) Filson Quarterly, Volume I, page 24
(19) Arnow, Seedtime on the Cumberland, page 57 (20) Williams, Dawn of Tennessee History
(21) Virginia Magazine of History & Biography, Volume 7, page 249
(22) Williams, Dawn of Tennessee History
(23) Arnow, Seedtime on the Cumberland, page 159
(24)Draper MSS 6 XX 52-54, 85, 86, & 5S62
(25) Draper Mss 5 S 62
(26) Tennessee Magazine History, Volume 1, page 58 - Smith's Journal, Tuesday
(27) Draper Mss 10 DD 80-83
(28) Historical College, Gordon Aronhime, Bristol, VA
(29) Ibid
(30) Williams, Dawn of Tennessee History
(31) Draper Mss 31 S 191-201
(32) Draper Mss 6 XX 8
(33) Williams, Dawn of Tennessee History, page 329
(34) Draper MSS 6 XX 85
(35)Pension Statement James Kincaid, National Archives
(36) Draper MSS 36 J 22 & Calendar Virginia State Papers, Volume I, page 382
(37) Arnow, Seedtime on the Cumberland, page 168.




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