Gasper Mansker the Longhunter

     One might say that Gasper Mansker was luckier than most of the Long Hunters in that he kept his scalp which most did not. Who were the Long Hunters and how do they concern us?
     First of all they were a breed peculiar to Southwest Virginia and no where else on the frontiers were there such people as the Long Hunters. Their hunts originated around Chilhowie and on the New River. They were in the area fully a decade before the first settlements were made along the Clinch and Holston Rivers and their hunts continued until the outbreak of the Cherokee war in 1776. The mountains, gaps, rivers, and streams were named by these very same Long Hunters long before the settlers ever came into the area. The old Hunters Trace which crossed Clinch River at Hunter's Ford (now Dungannon) went up Stanton Creek, crossed Stony Creek and through Rye Cove to Cumberland Gap gave us the name of Hunter's Valley in Scott County.
     They went out at great distances in the wilderness, set up Station Camps and fanned out in parties to hunt over great areas of unexplored wilderness. Usually they hunted in pairs of not more than three persons for more would be likely to scare away game, and most important, two or three persons were less likely to attract the
attention of Indians. They went out in October and usually returned in April. They were particularly interested in buffalo hides which brought a good price in shipment to England, and also the pelts of other animals. A winter's catch often netted some $1600, which was much more than could be earned in other lucrative trades. They were utterly despised by the Indians for two very good reasons. First, they left thousands of animal carcasses to rot upon the ground and the Indians rightly looked upon this as wanton destruction of game, and secondly they were the forerunners, always, of the land-clearing settler whom the Red man thought no more of than did he of the Long Hunter.
     Many of these Long Hunters lived on the Clinch in the early days of Old Fincastle and Washington Counties, before they moved on to better, and less settled hunting grounds. Among these was one Gasper Mansker.
     In the Washington County land entry book is an entry for two tracts of land made from the same warrant by Daniel Frazier on July 22, 1781, and lying in the present bounds of Scott County. The first entry is for 100 acres lying about four miles above Anthony Heatherton's known by the name of George Mansker's place. The second 100 acre entry is on Coppery Creek, and above his former entry, to include Gasper Mansker's improvement. This is the same land that Gasper Mansker had entered in old Fincastle County on December 6, 1774, and on this entry was shown as 190 acres lying on Copper Creek.
     The writer knows nothing of George Mansker, except he was a brother of Gasper. Of Gasper, he was young, under 20 years of age when he started his hunting. He had been born on shipboard of immigrating German parents, and spoke a thick, German accent. He was sometimes described as a Dutchman, a common reference to people of German extraction in pioneer times. At what particular time he left the Clinch is not a matter of record, but the 1781 land entry certainly suggests that he had been gone for sometime then. He had a wife, but whether any children is also unknown.
     It was to Gasper Mansker's Station about 25 miles above what was later to be Nashville, that Andrew Jackson's future wife, Rachael Donnelson, fled with her kin in the Indian troubled times of 1780. It will be remembered that Rachael Donnelson and her kin went to the Cumberland from Southwest Virginia.
     When Gasper Mansker first came to the Clinch River Valley is unknown. The old Fincastle records first make mention of him in 1773, but he was probably hunting over the area many years prior to this.
     He died in 1822 on the land over which he had hunted in the year 1769, after a quarter century of Indian warfare and hunting in which he had received several wounds, but had saved his life and scalp.


 
 
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