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Bear Hunting along the Caney Fork River

Bear Hunting along the Caney Fork River

In 1780 the region was being divided up amongst hardy pioneers and more recent settlers as part of the Cumberland Settlement. The settlers were starving.

This is taken from “Early History of Middle Tennessee”
By Edward Albright, 1908

Because of the scanty supply of food, lack of ammunition and danger from the savages, many left the colony during the fall, going to the several settlements in Illinois and Kentucky. By the first of December only about a hundred and thirty remained. These were indeed dark days for the pioneer, but among the latter were many brave spirits, men and women, who resolved to stay at their posts regardless of the cost. They believed and so expressed the belief that their newly adopted land, so rich in resources and fertile of soil, would in the future become a center of civilization and a seat of learning. In this they were not mistaken. During these trying times the intrepid spirit and unselfish example of Col. James ROBERTSON did much to prevent the breaking up of the settlement. Despite his own privations and personal bereavements, he looked always with the eye of an optimist to the future, believing in and advising others of the better times yet to come. When the supply of fresh meat, their only food, became scarce, mighty hunters under the leadership of SPENCER, RAINS, Jacob CASTLEMAN and others, braved all dangers and made long excursions into the woods, always returning ladened with an abundance and to spare. In one winter John RAINS is said to have killed thirty-two bears in the Harpeth Knobs, seven miles south of the Bluff, and not far from the present location of Glendale Park.

A party of these hunters went in canoes up the Caney Fork River, and in the course of a five days’* hunt throughout the region thereabouts killed a hundred and five bears, seventy-five buffalo and eighty-seven deer. After all we little wonder that the right to possess such a land should make it for fourteen years the bloody battle-ground of pioneer and Indian.”

Excerpt from Early History of Middle Tennessee
By Edward Albright, 1908
With thanks to the Albright heirs for the use
*I’ve seen other versions of this story that didn’t include the length of time spent on the game hunt. No version of the story I know of includes information about the size of the party. All versions of the story are consistent about the amazing bounty of the hunt.







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