Frontier
Who Came to Tennessee 01 Long Hunter Who Came to Tennessee  012 Statue of Timothy Demonbreun

Read more about hunting

Long before Columbus sailed to the New World, Indian men used the bow and arrow to hunt for large animals.  Even young boys used blow darts to bring down smaller animals.  Instead of trying to kill an animal from a distance, Indians got as close to the animal as they could.
 
Knowledge of animal habits was important for a hunter to be successful.  For example, the hunter would want to know where did the animals get water and where did herds of buffalo graze. 

In what is now Nashville, there was a natural salt lick.  Animals, which like humans need salt to survive, were drawn to the lick by the scent of the salt. Indians and later long hunters would hide close to the lick in order to hunt these animals.  Hunters would also need to be able to recognize tracks or other signs from different animals so they would know which animals to track.

All parts of the animals were used by both the Indians and pioneers.  The meat was eaten, cured or pickled.  The hides were made into blankets, clothing, moccasins, harnesses, and rope.   

After contact with Europeans, Indians began to trade animal skins for trade goods like jewelry and weapons.  By the early 1700s, more than 50,000 deer skins a year were exported from the harbor at Charleston, South Carolina.  English traders paid well for skins. 

Long hunters also wanted part of this trade, and started hunting in Tennessee to obtain animal skins for themselves. They would use the meat as food, but primarily want to kill animals for their skins.  Therefore long hunters would hunt large animals like buffalo, deer, and bears, while Indians hunted both large and small animals.

These hunters were experienced and skilled.  One historian estimates that an industrious hunter would return home with enough skins to bring $1,600 or so, a huge amount of money in those days.

One famous long hunter in Middle Tennessee was Jacques Timothe de Montbrun, commonly known as Timothy Demonbreun, who came to Tennessee from Canada.  Demonbreun had first come to the area by boat around 1769.  He found the salt lick and decided to stay.  

Demonbreun lived for a while in a cave on the Cumberland River, and later built a boat and took hides and tallow down to New Orleans to sell. He moved to Nashville permanently in 1786 and opened a mercantile business on the public square.  He is sometimes called Nashville’s “First Citizen.”  There is a street named for him in Nashville as well as a monument.

White hunters were a threat to wildlife numbers. In 1767, one English writer described how French hunters had “so thinned the Buffaloe that you will not now see the one-twentieth part of the quantity as formerly.” 

He went on to say “unless some method be taken to put a stop to the practice it will in a short time be a difficult matter to supply with meat.”  However, the English were also guilty of hunting animals for sport and not using the meat and skins.



Picture Credits:
  • A photograph of a statue of Timothy Demonbreum installed by the city of Nashville.  The statue was created by Alan LeQuire in 1996.  Photograph from Wikimedia.
  • A contemporary photograph of a lean-to shelter reproduction typical of what might have been constructed at a longhunter's camp during the frontier.  They would have put tree branches and/or skins across the poles to give them shelter from rain.  This was done as a demonstration at Bledsoe's Fort Historic Park in Sumner County.  Photo by Brian Stansberry, posted on Wikipedia


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