An 1856 engraving of Indians bear hunting with spears and dogs. Photo by: Provided
November 13, 2010 9:56:00 PM
I have several friends who believe that there are three important holidays each year: Christmas, opening day of deer season and opening day of turkey season. The roots of hunting in the South run deep. References to hunting are included in the earliest accounts of the settlement of the Columbus area.
The abundance of wildlife in what is now Mississippi is shown by the fur trade records of George Rapalji, who operated along the Big Black River during the 1790s. The animals he found included deer, otter, bear, raccoon, fox, cat, wildcat and tyger. Choctaw Indian trade records from along the Tombigbee in 1807 reflect the animal furs they were trading. They included deer, beaver, otter, fox, raccoon, cat and bear.
Two early residents who told of their hunting exploits were Peter Pitchlynn, who was born on the banks of the Noxubee River in 1806, and Gideon Lincecum, who moved from Tuscaloosa to the Columbus area in 1818.
During the 1820s, Pitchlynn lived in a log house on the south end of a prairie that ran from west of the present day Golden Triangle Regional Airport to a couple of miles south of Artesia. That prairie by the early 1830s was named Peter Pitchlynn''s Prairie. In an 1870 interview in the Atlantic Monthly he recounted how he enjoyed bear hunting. That would have been in Catalpa Creek bottom which bordered the prairie on the west. Lincecum also told of bear hunting and wrote a number of descriptions of hunts.
Lincecum related how many people would hunt bears armed only with a knife. In the early 1800s the forest around Columbus were home to packs of wolves, a natural enemy of the bear. Hunters led by a pack of dogs would pursue bears. The bear would ignore the human hunters to attack the dogs, associating them with wolves. That enabled the hunters to jump on the bear and kill it with a knife while it was preoccupied with the dogs. Lincecum told how the most dangerous aspect of the hunt was not the bear. It was a hunter armed with a gun who might accidentally shoot another hunter who was on a bear with a knife.
Lincecum especially enjoyed deer hunting. The first deer he recalled shooting around Columbus was a big buck he shot in 1818 near what is now the intersection of Main and Market Streets in downtown Columbus.
White Slough (on the Island north of the Columbus-Lowndes Port) was Lincecum''s favorite hunting grounds. He said that the Choctaws called it Shonk Colocherocoby or "Crooked Cypress." Lincecum recalled that; "In the canebrake and all around the cypress swamp could be found more turkeys and deer, and some bear, ''coons, foxes, panthers and catamounts than at any place I ever lived." He also found that during the winter the Slough filled up with ducks and geese. Lincecum hunted both to provide food for his family and to obtain venison to smoke for shipment to markets in Mobile, Ala.
The White Slough area had long been a hunting ground. When the new river channel was being cut through the west end of White Slough for the Tenn-Tom Waterway, an interesting artifact was found. It was a 2,000-year-old cypress knee with an Indian spear point embedded in it.
For those who wish to read Lincecum''s actual accounts, they are found in "Adventures of a Frontier Naturalist: The Life and Times of Dr. Gideon Lincecum," by Jerry Bryan Lincecum and Edward Hake Phillips.
Rufus Ward is a Columbus native a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to Rufus at firstname.lastname@example.org.