This page contains two interesting hunting stories …. and is prefaced with a brief explanation as to why fur trade was important to frontier Ohio.
France and Great Britain disputed ownership of the Ohio Valley in the mid 1700’s. Both empires were both keenly interested in fur trade. They established trade with Indians and exchanged tools and weapons for fur. Why was fur trade one of the earliest and most important industries in North America… and why were some settlers hunters by occupation?
Animal skins were taken in North America and transported to Europe for processing and final sale. Fur trade was based on pelts destined either for the luxury clothing market or for the felting industries, of which hatting (hats were a mandatory article of clothing for both men and women) was the most important….
Luxury clothing was not relegated to high society …. Luxury clothing included skilled trades clothing. Within European skilled trades, if you were a butcher, you would wear clothing specific to a butcher…. and if you were a baker, you would wear clothing specific to a butcher.
If you had a leather outfit for your skilled trade, then you were obviously not an apprentice, you were a man of means and accomplishment within your industry. Thus, fashion played a part in the conquest of the Ohio Valley.
So let’s fast forward to the early 1800’s…. John Johnston (prior to his promotion to Federal Indian Agent and relocation in Piqua) was working at Fort Wayne, Indiana, and was paying the following prices for pelts:
Quality Type Value
1st Beaver $2.00
2nd Beaver $1.00
1st Bear $1.50 2nd Bear $1.00
It appears inflation finally hit the frontier, because a buckskin was worth more than a buck… …and to put the values in perspective, at this time farm land in this area was selling for approximately $2.00 per acre..…
This bear hunting story concerns Henry Williams (my 3rd great grandfather -Isaac Mann's cousin) circa 1800.
Henry was hunting in the fall of the year and was accompanied by two trusty dogs. He came across a large bear in an oak tree … and there were four smaller bears on the ground nearby. He made a quiet approach and after some deliberation, concluded that if he could kill the old bear, he would be able take the balance at his leisure.
He loaded his flintlock and fired. He succeeded in crippling the large bear and making her furious. She came rushing down the tree and directly at him with open mouth –ready for a fight. When she was directly in front of him, she reared up on her hind legs and was ready to attack before he had a chance to reload. He stepped backward to keep out of reach -but tripped when his legs came in contact with a log. He landed on his back.
The bear lurched forward nearly on top of him, but his dogs came to his relief, one of them seizing her by the jaw and pulling her head sideways far enough to give Henry an opportunity to use his legs. He kicked with all the power he could use, then grabbed his firearm to finish his reload. The dogs continued to engage the bear. As he moved in to fire another shot, he was close enough that he pressed the barrel against the creature.
The character and temperament of early Miami Valley settlers is fascinating. Williams continued hunting that day…. he pursued the smaller bears.
William Johnston, my third great-grandfather, was an avid hunter. He submitted for the last wolf bounty in Shelby County, Ohio… on November 17, 1854.
Neighboring Miami County was settled prior to the War of 1812. Within it's early confines, there was a different breed of hunter…
In reminisces from original settlers, Tom Rogers was recognized as a well known hunter in Miami County. He did not shoot wolves; he employed another method of wolf hunting. Rogers used wolf pens to capture the animals.
A wolf pen was generally about 8 feet square, built of logs, with perpendicular logs two to three feet in height. As the logs continued upward, they were placed so that all sides inclined toward the center. As the walls neared the peak, a square opening left at the top. Then meat was placed in this structure. While a wolf might find it easy to climb up the sloping sides and pass through the hole, it was impossible to escape.
Rogers used such structures… and when he found a wolf or two in his trap, he would jump down among them and dispatch them with a knife. He visited the county clerk twice a year with wolf scalps. He stated that he believed his wolf hunting method was more sporting....
Our line of descent from Germany to present day is as follows: