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The Long Hunters

The year 1769 witnessed the coming of the largest party of white men yet seen in Middle Tennessee. They were organized in June for the purpose of hunting game and exploring in the country west of the mountains and were afterwards called ''Long Hunters" because of the length of time they were away. Among them were Kasper Mansker, John Rains, Abraham Bledsoe, John Baker, Joseph Drake, James Knox, Obadiah Terrill, Uriah Stone, Henry Smith, Ned Cowan, Robert Crockett, Thomas Gordon, Cash Brook and Humphrey Hogan. Some of these were from North Carolina, some from the neighborhood of Natural Bridge, and others from a small settlement near Inglis' Ferry, Virginia. The party was well equipped with guns, ammunition and all other supplies necessary for a protracted hunting and exploring expedition.

After having met at the town of New River in southwestern Virginia, they proceeded to the head of Holston River, traversing the north fork of same. Traveling on from thence they crossed Clinch and Powell Rivers, and passing on by way of Cumberland Gap, journeyed through Kentucky to the headwaters of Cumberland River. Proceeding down this stream they camped at a place since called Price's Meadow in Wayne County, Kentucky, six or seven miles from the present site of Monticello. This camp they agreed to make a station or rendezvous, for the deposit of their game and peltries. The hunters then dispersed in many directions, a part of them crossing what is now the Tennessee line, and exploring the country as far south as Caney Fork River and along its tributaries in Putnam, White and DeKalb counties. Most of the hunting, however, was done on Roaring and Obey Rivers in Clay, Jackson, Overton and Pickett Counties. Obey River, as it is now called, was at that time given its name, the same being in honor of Obadiah Terrill, a member of the party.

A sad event of this outing was the death of Robert Crockett which occurred on the headwaters of Roaring River in Overton County. While returning to camp at nightfall he was fired upon and killed by a band of six or eight Indians who were hid in ambush. This is the first recorded death suffered by the whites at the hands of the Indians in the territory now embraced in Middle Tennessee.

The country at this time abounded in small game, and the expedition was very successful. The entire landscape was covered with high grass, tall trees and low undergrowth, the whole forming a boundless wilderness hitherto untrodden by the foot of civilization. Most of the game they got by what was called "still hunting." Some deer, however, was killed after having been lured within gun shot by imitating the bleat of a fawn. Some also were fired upon from scaffolds when they came to the salt licks at night. In mid-winter the hunters donned snow-shoes and followed the practice of ''crusting" the game, that is, running it down in the snow. Of this practice, however, many of the hunters did not approve.

They continued in the region above mentioned until the spring of 1770, when some of them returned home. Others, led by James Knox, went further north into the Kentucky country where they hunted for a season before re-crossing the mountains. The remainder, consisting of Stone, Baker, Gordon, Brook, Hogan and three or four others, all under the leadership of Kasper Mansker, having built two flat-boats, and hollowed out of logs two pirogues, or dug-out canoes, began a river journey with the proceeds of the hunt to Natchez, Mississippi. On their way down the Cumberland they stopped at French Lick, the present site of Nashville. There they saw enormous herds of buffalo, elk and deer, and great quantities of other game. The country surrounding was crowded with wild animals, the bellowing's of the buffalo resounding from the hills and forests. They had found but little big game in the upper country, so some of this they now killed, and of the hides made coverings for their boats. At this place also they met Timothy DeMonbreun, who, as before related, had erected his trading station there ten years before. This visit by Mansker to French Lick marked his advent into a region in the subsequent settlement of which he was destined to play a conspicuous part.

Rowing on down the river they came at length to the Ohio. There some of their boats were looted by a band of Indians, but Mansker and his party fell in with some French traders who were generously inclined, and in return for what they had lost, gave them a supply of flour, salt, tobacco, and taffa, the latter a drink which was especially prized.

Proceeding down the Ohio and Mississippi they arrived in due season at Natchez, then an outpost of the Spanish headquarters at New Orleans. There they sold their cargo, consisting of hides, furs, oil and tallow, after which Mansker and Baker returned to their home at New River, Virginia. Others went around by ship to North Carolina, and the remnant of the party settled in Natchez. Those who returned to the colonies gave such glowing accounts of the abundance of game and fertility of the soil on the Cumberland that the desire for western exploration became very intense.

At Natchez Uriah Stone found his boat which had been stolen from him by the Frenchman on Stones River several years before. The latter had descended to that place by water and then disposed of the boat and cargo, departing thence for parts unknown.

Early History of Middle Tennessee

Early History of Middle Tennessee, BY Edward Albright, Copyright, 1908, Brandon Printing Company, Nashville, Tennessee, 1909


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