About the time gold fever struck the mountain region of North Georgia (1828) a traveler whose last name was Lanman wrote an account of what he saw in the mountains and of interesting people he met. His book entitled “Letters from the Alleghany Mountains” told of his meeting Adam Vandiver whom he called “the great hunter of Tallulah.”
Adam Vandiver was small of stature but his exploits measured to giant proportions. He was sixty years old when Lanman met him. Vandiver was described as having “a weasley face, a long white beard, and small gray eyes.” Born in South Carolina, he had spent his early manhood in the wilds of Kentucky, but had been for thirty years in the wilderness of the Georgia Mountains.
Vandiver told Lanman how he had been a soldier in the Creek War, killing more Indians than any other white man in the army. Thrice married, he was living with his third wife. He had fathered thirty children, but at the time of Lanman’s visit, only five of his offspring were under the Vandiver roof, the others having died young or were “scattered to the winds.”
Vandiver had one mule and some goats, and faithful hunting dogs. His main occupation was hunting the mountains of North Georgia. At the onset of hunting season in November, he provisioned himself with steel traps, food for himself and the mule, his gun and such ammunition as was available to him at the time. He set out to undertake his “fire hunting” and “still hunting.”
He named his mule after a well-known tale “The Devil and Tom Walker.” He preferred deer for their hides, but saved the fur of almost any four-legged creature he could trap or kill. The largest number of deer skins he took home at one time was 600. He estimated he had killed over 4,000 deer in his lifetime.
He practiced ingenuity and cunning in pursuit of his wild prey. One day he spotted a fine gray wolf and aimed his gun at its head. The wolf escaped into a cave. Vandiver waited, but hearing nothing he went in, thinking the wolf had died. In the back of the small cave, the wounded wolf and Vandiver engaged in a life-or-death encounter, with the wolf receiving Vandiver’s knife to its heart. On dragging out the wolf, he discovered that his initial shot had broken the animal’s jawbone and because of that the hunter’s life was spared.
One day when Vandiver was completely out of ammunition, a large black bear assaulted one of his favorite hunting dogs and was about to squeeze it to death. Vandiver took on the bear and again landed his trusty hunting knife in the big bear’s heart. The victory was not without its price, for Vandiver lost two of his fingers to his own sharp knife. The bear weighed 350 pounds, a formidable enemy for the small man to wrestle.
Another battle was with a buck which Vandiver shot at the top of a 30-foot high precipice. Thinking the deer dead, he approached it, but was assaulted by the deer which pushed Vandiver over the cliff into a pond of water below. The deer got away, and Vandiver suffered no broken bones, thanks to the pool that somewhat softened his fall. About a month later, the mighty hunter killed a buck with a bad neck wound. He felt sure he had finally killed the deer that had pushed him over the precipice.
In Union County, on one of the loftiest mountains, Vandiver heard the howl of a wolf at twilight. He climbed upon an outcropped boulder to try to determine the direction of the wolf’s howl. While on the rock, it loosened and began its rapid descent into the ravine a half-mile below. As good fortune would have it, an oak tree grew beside the rock with a strong limb drooped over the rock. In desperation, Vandiver grabbed the limb and held on for dear life. The thunderous thud of the rock as it struck the ground in the ravine below was a vivid reminder of his narrow escape. He dropped from the limb to the very spot the boulder had vacated. He told Mr. Lanman that he did not care one whit for pursuing the finest game in the wilderness for one whole day after that incident.
Was this legendary “Hunter of Tallulah” a real person? Yes. Male children in the Vandiver family to this very day are given the name Adam to honor this progenitor.
In cemetery records of Habersham County, Georgia, I found listed in a very old unnamed cemetery in the Shirley Grove Community the name of Adam Poole Vandiver, born August 21, 1788 and died February 19, 1876. Whether this is the grave of “the hunter of Tallulah” who wandered over Union, Towns, Rabun, White, Lumpkin and Habersham Counties in pursuit of game, I know not for sure.* But the dates would certainly match those of the hero of the hunting escapades recorded by one Mr. Lanman in the nineteenth century.
[*Note: Later, I learned the grave is, indeed, that of Adam Poole Vandiver, the “Hunter of Tallulah.”]
c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published January 13, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.