American Longhunters: 4 Things You Should Know

If your are unfamiliar with the American longhunters, here are 4 basic things to help you understand this iconic frontiersman.

Daniel Boone leading settlers through the Cumberland Gap. Image via wikicommons.

The American frontier summoned a wide variety of people throughout history. Frontiersmen took the form of mountain men, gold seekers, cowboys, trappers, hunters, and homesteaders. All of these individuals lived on the frontier, the place beyond where Anglo civilization existed. Wherever these people lived, they developed individual cultures unique to their region and occupation. Each group developed distinct habits of dress, language, and used specific tools to help them stay alive. One such group of frontiersmen were the American longhunters.

Surprisingly, the American longhunter seems to be underrepresented in the study of the American frontier. Perhaps, it is just my personal bias after living a life in the west and learning mostly about western history, or perhaps their history is not taught in a wide swath of the country. If you are unfamiliar with the American longhunter, here are a few of the basics that can help you understand their place in history.

What’s in a Name?

American longhunters got their name in a fairly straight forward way. Starting before the American Revolution in the early 1760’s, groups of colonists began exploring west beyond the Appalachian mountains. These groups would generally leave their frontier colonial homes in the late fall, travel over the mountains, hunt for most of the winter, and then return home. As a result of their extended, or “long”, hunts, these groups of men became known as “longhunters”.

Where They Traveled

As mentioned, the longhunters lived in the American colonies, typically in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas. After gathering in large groups, and buying all the supplies they would need for the extended excursions, they traveled west through passes in the Appalachian mountains. Once over the mountains, these groups hunted in the Ohio River drainage. Today, this area consists of the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.

What They Did

Longhunters traveled into the wilderness to procure meat and hides for the settlements from which they came. As with the mountain men that came later, each individual came for a variety of personal reasons, but hunting was the occupation of all the men. While longhunters would hunt a variety of species, they mainly focused on buffalo, deer, and bear. Longhunter pursued their game with passion equal to the mountain men and buffalo hunters, and had equally harmful impacts on the game species. As an example of how effective they could be, it has been said that Daniel Boone (perhaps the most famous longhunter) killed 99 bear in one season, and 30 deer in one night. Once the animal was killed, the hunters would dry the meat and hides for transport back to the settlements in the spring.

Famous Longhunters

Of all the longhunters, Daniel Boone has to be the most iconic. In 1775 he opened The Wilderness Road, and blazed a trail through the Cumberland Gap, established Boonesboro, and helped to survey lands as settlers headed west. By the end of his life, Boone had become famous even during his own time. Other famous longhunters included Kasper Mansker, Isaac and Anthony Bledsoe, and James Robertson. Although their deeds may not be as heralded as Boone’s, these men had their own set of hair-raising adventures.

If you are interested in learning more about the American longhuters, you will surely enjoy these Youtube clips from the Townsends channel.

Once you get interested in learning about the American longhutners, you quickly find out there is so many fascinating things to study. As you can tell from the videos, we are also fortunate to have a group of people dedicated to preserving the history and culture of the longhunters in the modern world. Hopefully this article covering four basic elements of the longhunters has helped you better understand who they were, and their basic place in history.

If you found this article interesting or helpful, you can receive notifications about future articles by subscribing below or following my FaceBook page.