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September Tea Party Winners: Janet Grunst's -- A Heart For Freedom for Chappy Debbie
audible of A Heart Set Free for Lucy Reynolds Roseanna White's is Wilani Wahl -- Debra E. Marvin's -- Kaily Behrendt paperback of Dangerous Deception, Carrie Fancett Pagels' -- The Victorian Christmas Brides collection goes to Nancy McLeroy!

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Longhunters


One cannot read colonial-era stories for long without finding mention of the longhunters—or long hunters, depending upon the writer. But just who were these people?

Only known portrait of Daniel Boone during his lifetime (1820)
The era of the longhunter probably starts with the expedition led by Dr. Thomas Walker in 1750 along the frontier of Virginia, into what is now Tennessee and Kentucky by way of Cumberland Gap, who reported on a land of unbelievable richness, with buffalo and beaver and all kinds of other game whose hides and pelts brought a great deal of money out East, and in trade to England. It wasn’t long before various parties of men followed, venturing into the wilderness for “long hunts”—expeditions that, like Walker’s, could last from several months to more than a year. The most famous of the hardy (some might say foolhardy) men who set out on these hunts was Daniel Boone, but he was by no means the only one.

The era reached its peak during the 1760’s. Up until that time, politics between France and England, and resistance from native tribes, kept most from venturing west. Tensions were bad enough during the French and Indian War, and at the close of that conflict in 1763, King George made it essentially illegal to hunt west of the Appalachians without a trading license. The vast majority of hunters ignored his proclamation. One accounts says that Daniel Boone himself did not make his first trip west until 1769, after a visit by English trader John Finley, but others say his first long hunt was in 1750. I'm inclined to believe the latter. Boone’s adventures included capture by the Cherokee and Shawnee, having his pelts confiscated, probable adoption as a native, returning home after so long that his wife had given him up for dead, and the later loss of a son to Indian attack. None of this deterred him from making the hunting grounds his eventual home, and persuading others to join him there.

Other notable longhunters included James Harrod (for whom Harrodsburg, KY is named), Simon Kenton, Elisha Walden (also called Wallen/Walling, for whom Wallen’s Ridge at Cumberland Gap is named), Abraham and Isaac Bledsoe (yes, from the same real-life family I used in both Defending Truth and The Cumberland Bride), and Benjamin Cutbirth (almost certainly a mispronunciation and subsequent mispelling of Cuthbert).

1852 painting of Squire Boone Crossing the mountains
By the time the American Revolution ended, the heyday of the longhunter had passed. The unbelievable abundance of game across Kentucky and Tennessee had thinned considerably, probably less by hunting than pushed westward by the rising tide of settlers. And so the explorers and adventurers went further west, as well. In the process, the Boones and Bledsoes left a trail across Tennessee and into central Missouri of both place names and descendants.

More reading:

William Blevins, Long Hunter
Daniel Boone (and at Wiki)
Simon Kenton
Longhunters (at Wiki)
Bledsoe's Station in Tennessee



10 comments:

  1. Fascinting history, Shannon! I really enjoyed learning more about the longhunters

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    1. Thank you, Carla! Glad you found it informative! :-)

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  2. Interesting. Thank you for sharing.

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  3. Very interesting. I always learn something when I read articles on this blog. :-)

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    1. Thanks so much! Y'all are why we keep writing. :-)

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  4. I'm sorry, but as far as I'm concerned, Daniel Boone looked just like Fess Parker. ;)

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    1. Hahahaa!! I have a good friend who's descended from his older sister, and do you know, she bears a strong resemblance to that painting? It's amazing!

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