Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Obediah Terrell, Long Hunter

This article was originally written for and published in Vol. XIV, No. 1 (Winter 2007) of the Western Kentucky Journal.

by Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG
copyright (c) 2007

Several years ago I came across an 1805 original Livingston County document in which Obediah Terrell listed his property and then gave it all away. The document was copied and filed away until there was time to learn more about Obediah Terrell and the purpose of this document.

A few months ago, while reading about the early settlement of Tennessee, the name Obediah Terrell jumped out at me. His name was listed among a group of adventurers, who, in 1769, left their homes in North Carolina and Virginia, traveled through what is now Middle Tennessee and up into the area of present-day Wayne County, Kentucky. These men were known as Long Hunters. They acquired this name because they were gone for a long time, sometimes two or three years, traveling, trapping and hunting, hence, the name Long Hunter. A complete list of the 20 or so men has not been found, but a partial list gives the following names: John Rains, Kasper Mansco, Abraham Bledsoe, John Baker, Joseph Drake, Uriah Stone, Henry Smith, Ned Cowan, Robert Crockett and Obediah Terrell.

There seems to be a division among historians about the true nature of these early adventurers. Some portray them as brave men who left their homes and families to venture out into unknown territory for the good of God and country while others believe they were more likely poor men seeking the means to support their families. Whatever the case may be, the Long Hunters did push the frontier beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains and paved the way for later explorations. Also, it would have taken some courage to travel through areas inhabitated only by wild beasts and often hostile Indians.

Could Obediah Terrell, the Long Hunter, have been the same man who left the record in Livingston County, Kentucky? A bit of research into the early history of Kentucky proved helpful.

Kentucky was still part of Virginia until 1792, when it became a state. Prior to that year, records of the Long Hunters in Kentucky would be found in Virginia.

Obediah Terrell was living in old Fincastle County, Virginia in 1773 when he obtained judgment against Uriah Stone, another Long Hunter. In 1778, Obediah was appointed administrator of the estate of Thomas Kindrick in Washington County, Virginia and sometime thereafter he moved to Tennessee. Obey’s Creek, Scott County, Virginia, was named for Obediah, who lived on the creek before he moved to Middle Tennessee. He recorded his stock mark in the Minutes of the Committee of the Cumberland Association in Tennessee on 23 Apr 1783. In December 1791 Obediah bought land from Isaac Bledsoe in Sumner County, Tennessee and sold a portion of the land in 1793.

The trail of Obediah Terrell disappeared at that point, but he was found, this time in Kentucky, in May 1799, when he received a grant of 200 acres of land on Crooked Creek in Christian County, Kentucky. This land fell into the new county of Livingston, created that same year, but would be in Crittenden County (created 1842 from Livingston County) today. So, with the exception of about six years, his path from Virginia to Tennessee to Kentucky was fairly easy to follow. If this was the same Obediah Terrell. I still was not sure.

If this was the same man, most likely he was at least 18 years old when he traveled with the Long Hunters in 1769. That would make his year of birth at least 1751. Again, if this was the same man, he was at least 48 years old when he acquired the land in Kentucky and, at that time, would no longer be considered a young man. Most likely, he was ready to settle down to a less strenuous life.

Obediah appears on Livingston County tax lists through 1809 with one white male age 21 or older and land on Crooked Creek. No record of him has been found after 1809. For a man who was active in the exploration and settlement of Tennessee and Kentucky, Obediah Terrell’s name is seldom mentioned in the early records of Livingston County. From tax lists we know he lived on Crooked Creek, possibly where it spills into the Ohio River. No record was found to indicate that Obediah married or had children.

One of the few records generated by Obediah in Livingston County was that 200+ year old document, which was actually an inventory of his property and was accompanied by a deed of gift to his friend, George Flynn.

The inventory, dated 31 December 1805, lists Obediah’s property as follows: “one Fethear Bed & furniture 2 putere dishes and five plats two Iron pots & tow Iron Kettles Three axes and Three Augers five Chisels one Hand saw & Draw Knife one Iron & one Iron wege Three Clives four Drawing Chains & hangins two sets of Plough Irons - Four head of horses Twenty head of Cow hide marked thus the Right ear a Crop & underbit The Left ear a Slit under and over Twenty three hogs with the Same Mark Three head of Sheep the same mark one Mattic and 2 weeding hoes Two Negroes Doll the name of one and fan her child the other “ Obediah signed his name and the document was witnessed by Wm. Hughes and Thomas Hughes.

The deed of gift states the following: “To all people to whom these presents Shall Come I Obediah Terrell do send Greeting Know ye that I the said Obediah Terrell of Livingston County State of Kentucy [sic] for an in consideration of the Love good will and affection which I have and do bear towards my loving friend Georg Filynn of the same State & County have given and granted and by these Present do freely give and grant unto the sd. Goerg [sic] Flynn his heirs executors or administrators all and Sundry my goods and Chattels now living in my present dwelling house in the same State & County afore said of which before the Signing of these presents I have delivered to him the said flynn an inventory Signed with my own hand and bearing even date to have and to hold all the Said goods and Chattels in the said premises or dwelling house to him the sd. Georg flynn his heirs executors or administrators from henceforth as his and their property goods and Chattels Absolutely without any Manner of condition In witness whereof I have here unto put my hand and seal.”

I knew from previous research that the Flynn family owned a ferry on the Ohio River in present-day Crittenden County and the road leading to the ferry from the direction of Caldwell County was known as Flynns Ferry Road. But what did that family have to do with Obediah Terrell? There was an older George Flin, who died in Livingston County by 23 July 1799, when letters of administration on his estate were granted to Thomas Hawkins. Could Obediah have been connected to that George Flin? Maybe so, but that still didn’t answer my question about a possible relationship between Obediah and the Flynn family in 1805.

Then, I remembered reading in Selections from Sam Steger’s Historical Notebook that George Flin or Flynn accompanied the Long Hunters on a excursion through the lower Cumberland Valley in the early 1770’s. According to the author, Flynn was paid by the government for serving as a guide and spy.

Perhaps Obediah Terrell became acquainted with Flynn when he was with the Long Hunters or maybe they met in Tennessee.

This hunch was confirmed by a sketch of Obediah Terrell, found in the Draper Manuscripts:

“Obediah Terrrill was a chunky, small sized man, with a club foot - lived in early times in the Nashville region - & finally lived & died in the family of Geo. Flinn, whom he raised, above Ford’s Ferry, in Livingston Co., Ky, about the time of the War of 1812. He was fond of boasting. He had no children - perhaps never married. Genl. Ramsey knew him well. He was an early explorer of Tennessee.”

Not only does this entry prove that the Long Hunter, Obediah Terrell, was the same man who settled in early Livingston County, but shows there was a relationship between him and the Flynn family and throws another name onto the scene. Who was Genl. Ramsey and what did he have to do with Obediah Terrell?

On the same page of Draper’s Notes where the physical description of Obediah Terrell was found, it was mentioned that Josiah Ramsey was a Major of Militia when he resided in Tennessee County (now Robertson County, Tennessee). It also states he received a pension for military service and died about 1834-1835 at his son’s in Calloway County, Missouri.

While too young to have a distant memory, Josiah was captured by Indians in the 1750’s in Virginia and remained with them for several years. After a treaty with the Indians, Josiah was claimed by Thomas Ramsey as his son, Josiah. However, Josiah stated he knew he was not a member of the Ramsey family and believed he belonged to another family. Nevertheless, Josiah remained with the Ramsey family. Josiah served as an Indian spy off and on from 1775 until the fall of 1780. He moved to Kentucky in the winter of 1780 and then to Tennesee in 1781, near the future site of Nashville. In the summer of 1782 and 1783 he served several tours, amounting to a total of three months.

In 1787, Josiah Ramsey received a grant from the state of North Carolina for his services as a Commissioner’s Guard. The tract containing 320 acres was located on Half Pone Creek in Davidson County, Tennessee.

By 1795, Josiah and his son, Jonathan, were back in Kentucky, where they appear on the Logan County tax list. At that time, Logan County included the area that became Christian County in 1796 (effective 1797) and Livingston County was created from Christian County in 1798 (effective 1799).

By 1800, Josiah Ramsey and his son, Jonathan, are found on the Livingston County tax list. At no time was Josiah listed as a land owner in Livingston County, although Jonathan owned quite a lot of land on Clay Lick and Deer Creeks.

On 27 Aug 1807, Josiah Ramsey appointed Jonathan Ramsey his attorney to redeem land in Montgomery County, Tennessee, which appeared to have been sold for taxes.

The Ramsey family left Livingston County before 1820 and settled in Callaway County, Missouri. The following sketch is from A History of the Pioneer Families of Missouri, written in 1876: “Jonathan Ramsey was born in Livingston Co., Ky. His father was Josiah Ramsey, who was captured by the Indians when he was 7 years of age, and remained with them until he was 30. He became a celebrated hunter, and settled in Callaway Co., Mo. in 1819. Jonathan was married in Kentucky to Hannah Lampkin, by whom he had Allen, Ewell, Maria and Jane. Mr. Ramsey was a delegate to the Constitutional convention in 1820, and afterward represented Callaway Co. in the legislature for several years.”

A little project to learn about an early settler of Livingston County resulted in learning quite a bit more. Not only did I learn that Obediah Terrell, who left the 1805 Livingston County document, was a Long Hunter, but at least one and possibly two other early residents were connected to the Long Hunters too.

Even though western Kentucky was settled after the rest of the state, sometimes we forget that this area also has a long and exciting history.


Anonymous said...

My ancestor, Doswell Rogers, ran with the Longhunters. His family married into the family of Elisha Walling the prime Longhunter from VA.

I have a copy of a document where my Doswell and Obediah were engaged in a suit in VA. Later, in 1850 on the Scott Co. VA census, Doswell's son Thomas had a young mulatto boy name Terrell living with him. I have always thought that this boy was a descendant of Obediah. It is said that Obediah had married at least one Indian woman who produced issue.

Kerry Ross Boren said...

My ancestor, Bazel Boren, was a long-time friend and associate of Obadiah Terrell. Obadiah was the next neighbor of the Borens on North Hico River, Orange Co., NC. Bazel Boren was a Long Hunter who accompanied Obadiah on the Long Hunt of 1769. Both were young men at the time. In later years, they were associated in Robertson Co., TN and Christian Co., KY.