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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Frontier Men As Hunters In The Ohio Territory

Contributor:
Dallas Bogan on 4 September 2004
Source:
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Frontier hunters of the new lands of Ohio sought the livelihood of their families in the huge surrounding forests. Wild game on both sides of the Ohio amply supplied the needs of the household as far as meat supplies go.
The Indians that were present when the first white man arrived used their hunting skills as a means of necessity, not sport. Facts have been presented that show the Indian villages were not always feasting abundantly, but sometimes on the edge of starvation.
Early white hunters also depended on the amount of wild game available. The flesh of the wild animal was a food source, their skins and furs being objects of clothing or trade and barter.
The life of a hunter was one of continuing excitement; sometimes destined to disappointment and other times, prosperity.
Amongst the first white men to explore the Ohio territory were the early surveying parties, which included guides, scouts and hunters. A sketch of General Nathaniel Massie (for whom Massie Township is named), written by Col. John McDonald, presents an interesting story that portrays a portion of the adventures of Massie.
Massie made extensive surveys on the east side of the Little Miami River. Besides himself he would have three assistant surveyors and six men with each surveyor. A total of four surveying parties consisted of twenty-four men.
The succession of men would be the hunters first, who would lead the way and look for game and guard against the Indians. Next would be the surveyor, chain carriers and markers, and last would be the packhorses cared for by the company cook.
Sometimes the only prepared food source would be flour; in one trip they had no bread for thirty days.
Each man carried his own rifle, tomahawk and scalping knife. After Wayne's victory in 1795, disturbances by the Indians were rarely noticed.
But sometimes the frontiersmen suffered for want of food, the hunters not being able to kill any game. McDonald wrote that on one occasion food was so scarce that it was described as "the starving time."
This related experience stated the whole party of twenty- eight men was caught in a driving snowstorm for about four days. They were surrounded by a wilderness with no shelter at all, no tents, covering, and worst of all, no provisions. On the third day they killed two wild turkeys that were "boiled and divided into twenty-eight parts and devoured, heads, feet, entrails and all."
McDonald said of Massie that he could live on bread without meat, or on meat without bread and be totally contented.

A Hunt In the Wilderness

Rev. James B. Finley, a pioneer Methodist preacher, spent several years of his life as a hunter in the Military Lands, midway between the Scioto and the Little Miami. He had completed his medical studies and acquired a good education, but the call of the wild was within him. He spent so much time in the forests with his gun and dog that his parents thought he would find comfort living with the Indians. This he never did, but he spent portions of several winters in hunting.
An experience he related in his autobiography was that at the age of twenty (1800), he and three friends started from Chillicothe for a winter's hunt. Their only provisions were their stock of supplies and cooking utensils. They took no horses.
Their supplies included a few corn dodgers, one camp kettle, about a quart of salt, a blanket apiece and their hunting gear.
Traveling for two days, they saw signs of several bears, but the signs were old. Encamping on the spot they hunted the next day, but the leaves being dry led them to kill only one wild cat. They boiled it in their camp kettle and it was the first meal they had eaten in two days. Finley made mention that it was the toughest meat he ever ate.
The third day was unsuccessful until near dark when the dogs treed a large raccoon that after several shots was brought down. It was skinned and roasted and thus the party had their second meal in three days.
The same night a heavy snow fell and comfort for the hunters was sought by getting their dogs to lie down next to their backs.
Killing bears was their goal, but the huge animal had apparently gone into hibernation.
Their next challenge was to hunt deer. On the fourth day, apparently finding no deer, they killed a number of wild turkeys for food.
The camp was next moved to the bottoms of Paint Creek. Luck was with them and their hunt proved successful, subsequently carrying home as many skins and furs as they could carry.
The going price at the trading posts for a muskrat skin was comparable to a quarter of a dollar; a raccoon skin to a third of a dollar; a doeskin to half a dollar; a buckskin to one dollar, and a bearskin from three to seven dollars, according to its size and quality.
Salt at this time was sold for four dollars for fifty pounds; it was worth one large bearskin, four buckskins or sixteen coonskins.


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This page created 4 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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