Archiver > LONGHUNTERS > 1999-03 > 0922330628

From: "Rhonda Robertson" <>
Subject: The Longhunters
Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999 21:57:08 -0500

I thought I would begin the series of articles with the following: Taken
from the Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia (Bulletin of the
Historical Society of Southwest Virginia), #5, March, 1970. pages 29 through
61. Due to the size of this article I will post in several sections.

By Emory L. Hamilton

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 this 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

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 hungers of the late colonial dys. 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 by-passed these points and were then hunting
far away in the Ohio and Cumberland river basins of Kentucky and western

Most of the rivers and streams, 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 settlers.

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.

To be continued.............

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