The Hunting Pioneers, 1720-1840: Ultimate Backwoodsmen on the Early American Frontier [hardcover]


This book is the first comprehensive account of the ultimate wilderness archetypes — the hunting pioneer families in the deep woods. These hunting pioneers had a totally different perspective on the wilderness than did the farming pioneers who far outnumbered them. The hunting pioneers continually sought out remote forests where the game animals roamed, while the farming pioneers followed close behind, methodically destroying those wilds with their axes and plows.


A dynamic force from the early 1700’s to the mid-1800s, the hunting pioneers originated in the Delaware River colony of New Sweden. The Swede-Finns lived there in the forests where their way of life was greatly influenced by the local Indians. Over the years, these Swede-Finns were joined by English, German, and Scotch-Irish immigrants who also adopted the hunting pioneer lifestyle. Together they led the frontier advance through the backcountry of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, all the way to the edge of the treeless Great Plains.

Often illiterate, the hunting pioneers left virtually no written records. Fortunately, foreign and American travelers recorded their impressions of these colorful backwoods people, describing in detail their clothing, dwellings and unique lifestyle. Excerpts from thirty of these eyewitness descriptions have been included in this work.

The book contains an introduction, six chapters, a summary, endnotes, a bibliography, and a full-name plus subject index. Chapter 1 gives an overview of the hunting pioneers’ role in American frontier history and compares the similarities and differences among the hunting pioneers and their two greatest nemeses: the Indians and the farming pioneers. Chapter 2 explores the background and evolution of the hunting pioneers. Chapter 3 recounts the role of the hunting pioneers in wilderness warfare, including the siege of Boonesborough, the capture of Fort Sackville, the Battle of King’s Mountain, the Battle of Blue Licks, and several clashes with the Indians north of the Ohio River. The remaining chapters describe the advance of the hunting pioneers into the Ohio River Valley, the Illinois Country, the South, and across the Mississippi River to the edge of the Great Plains. This book is a wonderful resource for historians, re-enactors, and genealogists.

Robert John Holden with Donna Jean Holden

(2000), 2006, 5½x8½, case-laminate, indices, 244 pp

ISBN: 9780788429118