One of the legendary ancestors of the Blevins family in early colonial America was William Blevins, the Long Hunter. Since I started researching my family’s genealogy, I have read scattered bits and pieces about him. My ultimate goal is to determine whether or not my line descended from this man. There are lots of stories of William Blevins on different genealogy sites, but I will attempt to stick with published sources. I’ll try to piece the complete story together as best as possible in a series of posts.
Note: Despite some family claims, I don’t know if I am a descendent of this William Blevins or not. I just can’t fill in enough gaps to substantiate the claim at this point.
Which William Blevins?
One of the problems when researching William Blevins is knowing which “William” Blevins the information is pointing to. It seems like almost every generation in my family has had a William Blevins or two. This goes back to William Blethyn, Bishop of Llandaff in Wales, and many generations before him. Even in my immediate line, my father was Roy William Blevins, his father was Quillen William Blevins, his grandfather was William Smith Blevins… I think you are starting to get the picture.
There are even multiple William Blevinses that were Long Hunters. The William Blevins we are examining had a son named William who was also a Long Hunter, and later in life was known as “Old Bill”. This second William was purported to be a cruel man that would hang the meat from his hunts from the rafters of his house, but not allow his wife to have them, instead giving them to a mistress that he kept on his property (Williams, 2003). The William Blevins that I want to analyse here was a contemporary of a couple other men that are a little more well known: Elisha Walden (also Walling, Wallen), Lt. Henry Timberlake, and one of the most famous frontiersman, Daniel Boone (Draper, 1998). William Blevins was married to Agnes, Elisha Walden’s sister. Elisha may also have been the son-in-law of a different William Blevins, married to that William’s daughter, Mary (Withers, 1895, Luce, 1995). Other sources give Elisha’s wife’s name as Catherine Elizabeth, the daughter of a John Blevins (Wallin, ). According to Luce:
Within the Walden family there is a tradition that the Waldens left New Jersey and went along the Pennsylvania wagon trail across western Maryland and into Virginia accompanied by Blevinses from Rhode Island. This is very plausible as we know this was the common route of people moving south from the New England states.
There is also a bit of confusion as to who this William Blevins father was. Some say he was named John, others Jack, but again from Luce’s text:
Colonel John Sevier, writing in his journal, referred to Jack (John) and Will Blevins as having hunted along the Obias River, in what is now Fentree County, Tennessee.
The Long Hunt
The Long Hunt was a historical period of early American History that occurred in the 1760s. This was a period when very few settlers had ventured into what is now Kentucky and Tennessee. The men of the Long Hunt were the kind of pioneers that legend have been based on. William Blevins was one of these such men. There are several stories of his adventures in the wild. Here is one account recorded by O. Taylor:
There is no name on the hunter roll more familiar than the name of Blevins. Once William Blevins had to go through the mountains to salt his cattle. he came across them in a small clearing and was just in time to see them stampeded by a panther that had just killed a small heifer. As soon as the panther saw Blevins it leaped for him and succeeded in reaching his belt, which it tore from him, but with a dextrous swing of his knife, Blevins freed himself, the beast paying the penalty for its rash deed (Taylor, 1909).
Record of one of the early hunts is recorded in T. Belue’s The Long Hunt:
In 1761 Elisha Wallen, a tall, strongly built Long Hunter in his early thirties, led a score of like-minded men from the Smith River in Virginia to the Holston Valley. Jack and William Blevins, William Pittman, Henry Skaggs, Charles Cox, William Neuman, and William Harrison rode with Wallen. They skirted the Clinch and set up camp on Wallen’s Creek near the Cumberland Gap and slew game prodigiously for nearly two years. Wallen and his men returned to the region in 1763 for their fall hunt, this time pushing through the gap and into southeastern Kentucky, hunting and trapping along the Rockcastle, going as far as Crab Orchard. On both hunts the Virginians had reaped far beyond their expectations. Frontier Virginian John Redd, who knew Wallen well, said that “he always returned home from his hunts with his horses heavy laden with skins and furs”. (Belue, 1996).
The next major event in American history to which William Blevins was party was the Watauga Purchase, a contract between Charles Robertson, trustee for the Wataugah Settlers, and the Cherokee Nation:
This indenture, made the 19th day or March, 1775, by O-con-os-to-ta, Chief Warrior and First Representative of the Cherokee Nation or Tribe of Indians, and Attaculleculley and Savanucah, otherwise Coronoh, for themselves and the rest of the whole Nation, being aborigines and sole owners by occupation from the beginning of the time of the lands on the waters of Holston and Wataugah Rivers, and other lands thereunder belonging, of the one part, and Charles Robertson, of the settlement of Wataugah, of the other part, Witnesseth, &c. “The consideration was “the sum of two thousand pounds, lawful money of Great Brittain, in hand paid.” The deed embraced “all that tract, territory, or parcel of land, on the waters of the Wataugah, Holston, and Great Canaway or New River; beginning on the south or south-west side of the Holston River, Six English miles above Long Island, in said river; thence a direct line near a south course to the ridge which divides the waters of Wataugah from the waters of Nonachuckeh; thence along the courses of various said ridge nearly a southeast course to the Blue Ridge or line dividing North Carolina along the Virginia line to Holston River; thence down the meanders of Holston River to the first station, including all the waters of Wataugah, part of the Waters of Holson, and the head-branches of New River or Grate Canaway, agreeable to the bounds aforesaid, to said Charles Robertson, his heirs and assigns, ” etc. “And also the said Charles Robertson, his heirs and assigns, shall and may, peaceably and quietly, have, hold, posess and enjoy said premises, without let, trouble, hinderance, or molestation, interruption and denial, of them, the said Oconostota and the rest, or any of the said Nation.”
Signed in the Presence of John Sevier, Wm. Bailey Smith, Jesse Benton, Tillman Dixon, William Blevins, Thomas Price, Jas. Vann, Linguister.
Oconostota, and his X mark (Seal), Attacullecully, and his X mark (Seal), Tennessy Warrior, his X mark (Seal), Willinawaugh, his X mark (Seal) (Dixon, 1989).
Being of Welsh descent, one might assume that William Blevins might not have a strong allegiance to the British Crown. History doesn’t record the reason, but whatever his reason, in 1777, he renounced his allegiance to the Crown:
I do Swear or Affirm that I do renounce and refuse all allegiance to George the Third, King of Great Britain, his Heirs and Successors, and that I will be Faithful and bear true allegiance to the Common Wealth of Virginia, as a Free and Independent State and that I will not at any time, do, or Cause to be done, any matter or thing that will be prejudicial or Injurious to the Freedom and Independence thereof, as declared by Congress, and also, that I will discover and make known to some one Justice of the Peace for said State, all Treasons or Traitorous Conspiracies which I know or hereafter shall know to be Formed against this or any of the United States of America, so help me God. James Blevins, Jr., William Heard, Julas Scruggs, William Blevins Jr., Ignatius Sims William Blevens, Sr., Joseph Newman, Daniel Newman, Samuel Blevins, Whilliby Blevins, Elisha Walden, John Blevins, Dillion Blevins (Wallin, 1990).
- Alderman, P. (1980). The Overmoutain Men. Johnson City, TN: The Overmountain Press.
- Belue, T.F. (1996). The Long Hunt: Death of the Buffalo East of the Mississippi. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books.
- Dixon, M. (1989). The Wataugans: First Free and Independent Community on the Continent. Johnson City, TN: The Overmountain Press.
- Draper, L.C. (1998). The Life of Daniel Boone. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books.
- Hamilton, E.L. (1984) The Long Hunter. Retrieved from http://www.danielboonetrail.com/historicalsites.php?id=156
- Luce, W.L. (1995). The Blevins Hicklin Connection. Retrieved from http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~standridge/dboone.html
- Taylor, O. (1909). Historic Sullivan. Charleston, SC: Bibliolife.
- Wallin, C.D. (1990). Elisha Wallen the Long Hunter. Johnson City, TN: The Overmountain Press.
- Williams, C.D. (2003). Tales from Sacred Wind: Coming of Age in Appalachia : the Cratis Williams Chronicles. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company.
- WITHERS, A. S. (1831). Chronicles of border warfare, or a history of the settlement by the whites of north-western Virginia, and of the Indian wars and massacres in that section of the State; with reflections, anecdotes, etc. United States: J. Israel.
[Update 26 May 2021] I just realized it has been almost a decade since I left this post with the statement “More soon…”. so here is what I will update for now: (1) Links have been updated to point to InfoGalactic instead of Wikipedia (my personal preference), (2) the references no longer redirect to the defunct Amazon affiliate program (I’ll link them to elsewhere since Amazon has plenty of money as it is), and (3) added the marker for the Wautauga Purchase from the Carter County History website.