In the Spirit of the Long Hunters

In the mid 1700’s this area I call home was wilderness. It was a fertile, wooded hunting grounds for indigenous peoples. Restless, adventurous men seeking hunting grounds made their way down the Holston River. Rivers were the thoroughfares of the day. One of these men was Elisha, or Elijah Wallen. Elisha Wallen is 7 or 8 generations back in our family line. Most Wallens with roots around Sneedville, Kyle’s Ford and Rogersville, Tn. have ancestral ties to Elisha Wallen. The coming of the Long Hunters to the area predated the arrival of settlers. The Long Hunters were peculiar to Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. The Long Hunter was a man of many skills, he was an explorer, adventurer, and survivalist. He knew medicinal plants and edible plants, he knew how to hunt and live off a harsh land. Most long Hunts were carried out in mountainous terrain over winter months. They often left for their hunts in October and returned in March or April with the treasured hides that provided funds for their families.

The Long Hunter was skilled with his weapons and able to navigate unfamiliar terrain. He kept pushing further and further afield. The Long Hunters were the first to follow the native American’s trails through the Cumberland Gap, in effect prefacing the opening of the western frontier for colonization.

The best known of the Long Hunters was Daniel Boone, but 7 years before Daniel Boone made his way through the Gap and officially mapped out the Wilderness Trail, one Elisha Wallen walked that path. Elisha Wallen is considered one of the founders of the fraternity of Long Hunters. He led the first recorded Long Hunt into Tennessee and his footprints were all along the Wilderness Trail. The Long Hunters hunted in small groups along the Holston and Clinch Rivers. They named many a land mark in passing.

As we continue this adventure that is The Original Neanderthal LLC, we honor the traits that made the Long Hunters successful. They were courageous, heading off into the unknown. They took with them the tools to make their efforts a success and they knew how to use them. They could adapt to circumstances they had no way of predicting ahead of time. They were resilient, pitting their skills against a harsh unforgiving environment. If you have ever weathered the winter in the mountains, its not easy with modern conveniences; just imagine how it was when you had to stay mobile and create your own shelter to survive the elements.

They chose not to follow the expectations of society, they set out and made their own way, doing their own thing and were successful; often making more money off their hunts than others made working their farms year round. They were rugged individualists. And I believe they were restless spirits, never satisfied where they were, always seeking the next great hunt. For the most part their stories have been carried down in the family traditions of their kin folk. Their names have been honored in the landmarks around the Gap. From Wallen Creek to Powell Mountain, you can find traces of those who walked there.

It is time for us to embrace some of these traits and step away from the Narrative that would have us spin off into oblivion. It will take courage to step off the train and into the unknown. We should seek to master the tools of our time and use them to establish our presence in our world. We should be resilient, honest, and rugged as we make our own way forward. Let us not be satisfied, let us seek that which will make our world a better place.

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