Text Box:  The Long Hunters

 In 1750 when Dr. Thomas Walker  traveled through the area now known as Lee Co., VA, his part began their journey by following, what is now known as the Wilderness Trail.  Beginning their trek at the New River (near wht is present day Blacksburg ) continuing on to (current day) Wytheville, to Abingdon, to the Block House (present day Kingsport ) on the Holston River .  They journeyed on to Rogersville, Sneedville, on the Clinch.  They then crossed from Blackwater over the mountains into Virginia .  After crossing the Beargrass River (known today as the Powell River ) they passed through Jonesville.  They continued westward on to Indian Creek, near Ewing .  They followed Indian Creek on towards the Cumberland Gap and on into Kentucky [*].

The journeys of the longhunters began much earlier than 1760, beginning with their immigration to the colonies.  They by their very nature were adventurers who were able to take naturally to the wilderness like an Indian or wolf.  They cherished freedom, solitude, and the wilderness.  Possessing an unwillingness to live "cooped-up" in towns or settlements, this led to their ever increasing penetration into the wilderness.  They led the way to where others would only later venture in years to come.

By their neighbors they were often called "white Indians" because of their habit of dressing as part Indian and part civilized man.  The longhunter was in the business of selling furs and skins, which were a much sought after commodity at that time.

Having learned from early individual trappers and explorers, such as Dr. Thomas Walker , of the abundance of game to the west of the Allegheny they eagerly went.  It was a natural evolution for these men to "take to the woods". 

They were always far in advance of the ever advancing frontier.  To the settlers who followed they would become guide, advisor, and protector (during the Indian wars).

In preparation for a hunt a group of 40 - 50 individual longhunters would come together into a single hunting party.  Bringing with them the necessities for an extended stay in the wilderness, often a typical longhunter would bring the following supplies/equipment:

Supplies & Equipment  

The longhunter himself would be attired in a hunting shirt, usually made from flax wool lindsey cloth.  The shirt was topped with a loose coat that reached to mid-thigh and decorated with colored fringes.  The coat wrapped around the hunters waist and was held together with a broad belt.  officers wore brightly colored sashes around their waist.  Each hunter would wear a floppy rimmed hat - not the coonskin cap of present day fame.  Leggings were worn to protect the legs from briars and brush, these were held up by garters that were tied at the knee.  A breech cloth was worn instead of trousers, or sometimes in addition to trousers.  On his feet the longhunter wore moccasins - which were said to be a polite way of going barefoot. 

The longhunter would then carry along the following equipment/supplies:

tomahawk                             shot bag                                                powder horn
rifle                                        blanket, folded under his saddle           knapsack
long knife - commonly referred to as a "scalping knife"                      pistols
swords                                  bullet mold                                            lead bar

The longhunters rifle was carried as part of himself,. It became second nature for him to have it in his hands.  Alone in the woods a longhunter needed to be able to run fast, hide, strike hard and mercilessly as necessary.  Station Camps varied in size depending upon the length of the hunt - some later became forts.  Station Camp was used to store skins.  The profits from the sale of the skins were later used to purchase more supplies for the hunters.

Some of the first hunters who hunted on the Clinch were:  Elisha Wallen , Henry Scaggs , Blevins, Cox and others.

Listing of individuals who have been named as long hunters or associated closely with them.


Weaponry of a Long Hunter

The Pennsylvania Rifle is a .44 caliber, single-shot muzzle-loading long rifle.  It has a barrel that is 66" long with a diameter of 1".  The Pennsylvania rifle was also known as a long rifle, Kentucky rifle, etc.[6]

The American Long Rifle has a barrel length of 39" with an overall length of 55".[7]

The greatest difference between the musket and the long rifle was the barrel length, and barrel bore.  The musket had a round barrel with a smooth bore inside.   The musket could be fired five times a minute. 

The long rifle, on the other hand, had an octagon shaped barrel with a spiral bore inside.  The spiral bore is what allowed for greater accuracy.  The spiral bore was achieve by using a tool called a broach, which when drawn through the length of the barrel gave it, its unique spiral bore.  The long rifle took longer than the musket to fire - twice per minute.

The Blue Ridge Mountains were the great barrier.  During the French & Indian War (referred to as the 7 years war in Europe) the British troops crossed over the Blue Ridge in large numbers to fight the French and Indians.  Many recrossed the mountains to settle there after the war.  The settlement of these lands however, was forbidden by treaty.  In 1760 there was the added incentive of large profits in trading with the Indians to go over the mountains.

The Hunts

Long hunts - southwest part of Virginia , eastern Kentucky & Tennessee , up into the Ohio valley.  These long hunts would follow Indian trails, which in turn chiefly followed the trails of animals and most often avoided crossing rivers.

Purpose of these hunts:  To obtain game for furs and hides, learn the lay of the land, seasons, winds, rainfall, streams & mountains, plants (medicinal properties and how to treat his ailments & wounds).

These hunts usually began in October and ended in late March or early April; other hunts would last upwards of 18 months. The hunting party would consist of 20-40 men.  Once establishing a station camp they would divide into smaller groups of 2 or 3. The purpose for the smaller groups was to keep from scaring away the game and to draw less suspicion from the Indians.

The early longhunts were usually undertaken by large hunting parties.  The following is a list of known hunts together with information on the hunts.

1760  Daniel Boone - Yadkin River area NC - hunted the Watauga co.  (present day Johnson City TN )  " D. Boon  cilled a Bar on tree in year 1760". 
   Dr. Thomas Walker  - crossed the Clinch & Powell Rivers into what is now Kentucky .
Nathaniel Gist  Indian spy & hunter
Daniel Boon e  to present day Abington VA.
1761 - party of 18 men leaves from Pittsylvania, Henry & neighboring counties.  Leaving to hunt for 18 months in Carter's Valley (present day Hawkins Co., TN), led by Elisha Wallen .  Traveled through Mockason Gap in Clinch Mountains - establishing a station on Wallen's Creek.  Wallen's Creek feeds into the Powell River in the present day Lee County, VA.  This hunting party named the named to the Powell River , Powell Mountain , and Powell Valley after Ambrose Powell  who had carved his name into a tree near the mouth of Wallen's Creek.  Copper Ridge was named for the deposits of copper that were found there.  Newman's Ridge named for Newman who was in the hunting party.  Wallen's Ridge for a Wallen in the group {extends from Lee County through the counties of Hancock & Claiborne Cos. In TN.}  Wallen's Ridge was often used as a reference point in locating other points west.  Scaggs's Ridge for a Scaggs in the group.  Cumberland Mountain
was named by Elisha Wallen  after Cumberland Co., VA (his home place).  They called the present day Cumberland River the North Cumberland River .  They continued on for an additional 14 miles until they encountered Indians "thought to be Shawnees ".  Known Members of this hunt

Henry Scaggs
William Blevins, brother-in-law of Elisha Wallen
John Blevins, father-in-law of Elisha Wallen
Charles Cox
William Pittman
William Harilson
Walter Newman
Elisha Wallen

Fall of 1762 - Hunting on the waters of the Clinch.  Crossed the Blue Ridge at Flower Gap, New River at Jones's Ford, & Iron Mountain at Blue Spring Gap.  Down the South Fork of the Holston, crossing the fork of the Holston, on to Elk Garden (on the waters of the Clinch).  Finding signs of Indians.  Crossed the Clinch River the Hunter's Valley. Traveling for 7 or 8 days in a southerly direction (S 60º W) to Blackwater Creek.  Station established on the road that leads from Rogersville to Jonesville.  Here they tested out their firearms by shooting into a tree.  The group split up.  One party moved on to fix another station at Greasy Rock Creek.  (located presently about on the line between Claiborne & Hawkins Counties , TN ).   Here they killed a great number of bears.  As the hunters would lie on the rock to drink from the creek, their clothes became stained with the grease from the bear fat and contributed to the naming of that place Greasy Rock Creek.  Hunter's Valley named for the act of long hunting  it was the hunter's valley.
Fall 1763 - same Group (one or two did not travel with them this trip).  Went through the Cumberland Gap to hunt on the Cumberland for the season.
- Henry Scaggs  explored the Tennessee Region as a representative of Henderson & Company.
- Henry Scaggs  travels through the Cumberland Gap
- Daniel Boon e , w/Long Hunters hunt in Georgia going deep into Florida , coming in contact with the Seminole Indians.
- Traveling the headstreams of the Tennessee River, crossed the Clinch Mountains to the Cumberland Valley .  Exploring Tennessee , Ohio & Cumberland Rivers, continuing on down the Mississippi to Natchez .  Members of the party:  John Baker , John Steward , James Stewart .
- While hunting from the Forks of the Yadkin River to the Watauga to the west.  Captain Linville  & his on son (John) were killed in an Indian attack.  John Williams  was shot in the thigh during the attack.  The shot shattered the bone and broke in his attempt to escape.  It is said that he "crawled on his belly to a log" there by being able to mount his horse.  He then "rode eastward for five days eating only blackberries for food".  For a time it was thought that he died from the wound that he received, however, he is known to have survived into old age.
- a party of hunters from South Carolina , led by Isaac Lindsey ,  met up with James Harrod  & Michael Stone  at the mouth of Stone's River.
- party explores along the Cumberland down to the Ohio . {Uriah Stone , Joshua Horton  & William Baker , continue on into the Illinois Country).  Captain James Smith  & Jamie, negro slave boy, continue toward Tennessee arriving in North Carolina in October.  Stone's River named for Uriah Stone .
1767 - Uriah Stone  returned to the Cumberland w/a  Frenchman and hunted on the Stone River .

1767 - Daniel Boone  & two hunters go into Kentucky .  They traveled too far north inside the Gap and became landlocked on the rugged Cumberland Plateau along the Big Sandy River .  The hunt was met with extremely bad weather, few game trails, no salt licks and perplexing mountain ridges.
- Joseph Hollinigshead 's party of hunters traveled in two boats up the Cumberland River to hunt for game.  The meat was to be marketed in New Orleans and for the garrison supply at Fort Chartres in Illinois .  During the hunt they traveled over 300 miles from the mouth of the Cumberland and even further up the Tennessee .
May 1, 1769
- Traveling from the Yadkin River to Cumberland Gap then on into Kentucky .  Hunting in through Moccasin Gap to the Clinch Valley , across Wallen's Ridge & Powell Mountain into the Powell Valley .  Passing through the Cumberland Gap, crossing the divide between the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers onto Yellow Creek.  From Yellow Creek the7y followed a path which led them to an Indian camping ground at Flat Lick.  They traveled on from Flat Lick along a trail blazed by Wallen to the Rockcastle River .  The party traversed much of central Kentucky .  Members:  Daniel Boone , John Finley , Squire Boone , John Stuart   Joseph Holden , James Mooney , William Cooley .
1769 -  Hunting party of 4 young men from VA led by Gilbert Christian  & William Anderson .   Started from Long Island of the Holston and striking out from there explored into the present day Hawkins County , Tennessee to the junction of the Tennessee and Clinch Rivers .  Gilbert Christian - founder of Kingsport , Tennessee .
Early June 1769 - A great hunt took place in Kentucky and Tennessee - departing from the New River, eight miles from Fort Chiswell consisting of at least 20 hunters.  Many of which later made their homes in Tennessee .  Members:

John Rains
Joseph Baker
Uriah Stone
Robert Crockett
Jacob Harmon
John Baker
Castleton Brooks
Kasper Mansker
Joseph Drake
Henry Smith
Isaac Bledsoe
William Crabtree
Thomas Gordon
Abraham Bledsoe
Obadiah Terril
Ned Cowan
William Car r
James Aldridge
Humphrey Hogan

Wallen's trail down the Powell Valley though the Cumberland Gap.  Warriors' Path to Flat Lick, Kentucky.  Westward along the Cumberland River, then southward to Tennessee .  It was at this point that they dispersed into small groups, as was the custom during these hunts.  Robert Crockett  killed in an ambush by Indians Bledsoe's Lick & Mansker's Lick named for these individuals.  They saw thousands of buffalo.  The hunters riding horseback feared to dismount their horses.  They were fearful of being trampled by to death.
1769 - Hancock Taylor , Orange Co., VA led an expedition (hunters & explorers)  into Kentucky , then on by boat to New Orleans
1770 - John Knox  led a hunting party of more than 20 men from Southwest Virginia toward the Cumberland River in the Tennessee region.  They made a major expedition along the Rockcastle River .  Here they encountered a Cherokee chief, Captain Dick , who directed them to his "river" where they would find plenty of game.  They hunters named the river to honor this chief Dix River .
1770 - Henry Scaggs  passes through the Cumberland Gap .
1770 - A party of long hunters organized by Kasper Mansker , explored the Cumberland Country to find locations appropriate for settlement.
1770  Uriah Stone  & long hunters explored the countryside near the present Gainesboro , Tennessee .

Cumberland Gap

Carved by wind and water the Cumberland Gap forms a major break in the formidable Appalachian Mountain chain. First used by large game animals in their migratory journeys, followed by Native Americans, the Cumberland Gap was the first and best avenue for the settlement of the interior of this nation. In the late 1700's more than 200,00 men, women, and children crossed the Gap into the unknown land of Kentucky .

A visit to the Cumberland Gap State Park   will yield a number of exhibits and trails for exploration.

Visitor Center/Exhibits:

Museum (located inside the visitor center), Pinnacle Overlook, Iron Furnace, Three State Marker, Fort McCook , White Rocks and Hensley Settlement.

Trails, Roads:

Over 50 miles of hiking trails meander over the 20,000 acres of eastern forest. Distances range for 1/4 mile looped trail to the 21 mile Ridge trail. Road to Pinnacle limited to vehicles under 20 feet. Hensley Settlement accessible by 4-wheel drive ONLY road or by hiking up the Chadwell Gap Trail.

The Longhunters would have expected to see a variety of both large and small game.  Their chief interest was in bear, deer, buffalo, and beaver.  All of which would have provided an income to them from the sale of their pelts.

They did not have to look too far for additions to their diet.  The land was abundant with berries, edible weeds, fruits and wild grains.  Medicinal plants were also close at hand.

[*] *Names used for locations are present day names, unless otherwise mentioned.

[6] "Weapons An International Encyclopedia From 5000 B.C. to 2000 A.D.", p. 120, The Diagram Group [© 1980, 1990 by Diagram Visual Information Ltd., published by St. Martin's Press, New York]; "Red Head Hunting Specialists Catalog", p. 144, item B.
"Cabela's Fall '96 Annual Catalog", p. 226

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