||Kasper Mansker was part of a Southern Pioneer Family.|
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Possibly born at sea on board ship from Germany. He married Elizabeth White circa 1768 in Virginia.
When he wrote his will on 2 May 1776, Ludwig Minsker, the immigrant of 1749, listed his children as John, George, Casper, Ludwig, Mary, an unnamed daughter married to Peter Hashouer, and an unnamed daughter married to Henry Albright. From all evidence available to date, there is no doubt that his son, Casper, was the same Kasper Mansker whose name and fame are spread out the pages of the history of early Temessee. Adventurer, long hunter, Indian fighter, explorer and early settler of what is now the city of Goodlettsville, Tennessee, the name of Casper/Kasper Mansker appears time and time again in almost every account of the early days of the state, and his fame will live on for years to come following the rebuilding in 1986 of his fort at Goodlettsville.
Like his brother, George, he used the variant spelling of the name with an "a" instead of an "i." If Ludwig named his children in chronological order in his will, Kasper was the third son, but of that we can not be certain because records of his actual age and his date of birth are so contradictory. Several Tennessee history books, as well as local legend, claim that Kasper was born at sea while his parents were emigrating to America from Germany, and if this is true, he was born in July, August or early September, 1749. Some records state that he was 60 years old when the War of 1812 started, thus making 1752 his year of birth. Other records state that he was over 70 years of age when he died in January, 1821, suggesting that his year of birth was 1750 or 1751. He may well have been born at sea in the summer of 1749, but there is no definite proof of this; neither do we know whether he was the third son or whether he might have been the oldest of Ludwig's children.
We find no records of his childhood or early days, and other than the fact that he was of German descent, Tennessee histories have little information about his family or parentage. Some even mistakenly assume that his parents settled in Virginia when they came to America, while others suggest that he was of Pennsylvania German background. Undoubtedly, he grew up in Lancaster County, Brecknock Township where his parents lived; or around Clark's Valley in what became Dauphin County, Pennsylvania in 1785; and undoubtedly he learned many of his hunting and outdoor skills from his father, who was also known for his keen abilities in the woods and in dealing with the Indians. Ludwig taught his sons well. In later years, it was said of Kasper Mansker that there were none better than he in fighting Indians or hunting, and very few as good.
In his late teens, Kasper left his home in Pennsylvania and followed the hundreds of other German immigrants who made their way south, down into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, to seek their fortunes in greener pastures. Following the trail which we know today as Route 81. Kasper is alleged to have settled first around Berkeley County in what is now West Virginia, and there he met and married his wife, Elizabeth White. Twenty years after his death, one of his slaves, a mulatto named Jenny, gave information stating that Elizabeth's parents were so opposed to their daughter's proposal to marry Kasper that the young couple eloped, settling after their marriage somewhere in the vicinity of the Holston and New Rivers between the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains in what is now Tennessee.
It was from this place that Kasper began his hunting into western country which made him known as a long hunter. According to historian John Haywood, on 2 June 1769, Kasper Mansker was among twenty men who assembled at Reedy Creek, 8 miles from Fort Chiswell, in Wythe County, Virginia, starting his first long hunting expedition into the wilderness. From Reedy Creek, the group journeyed to Wolf Hills, near Abingdon, Virginia, then moved northwest through Moccasin Gap into Powell's Valley, and on through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky. These men, called longhunters because of the duration of their long hunting trips into the wilderness, are attributed with exploring large areas of Temessee and paving the way for settlement there. Usually traveling in groups of twenty or more men, they went west in the late fall and stayed in the wilderness for anywhere from six weeks to six months; usually not returning home until time for Spring rains. On Kasper's first expedition with the longhunters, he moved south to the South Fork of the Cumberland River down to the Barrens of Kentucky, with some of his party hunting around Roaring River and Caney Fork River, near present-day Cookeville, Putnam County, Tennessee.
On 6 April 1770, part of the group returned to the camp site in Price's Valley, Kentucky, but ten of the men, including Kasper, built two boats and two trapping canoes, and loaded their furs and bear meat with intentions of floating it down the river to Fort Natchez. It was on this voyage down the Cumberland that Kasper got his first glimpse of the French Salt Lick, near the present site of Nashville, and noticed the huge herds of game there. At the mouth of the Cumberland, the group was forced to land and make camp because the bear meat was spoiling and had to be converted to oil. Confronted there by Indians, they were robbed of their boats, some guns and ammunition, but shortly after that met some Frenchmen who gave then salt, tobacco, flour and taffy. Continuing to Fort Natchez, they found no market there for their furs, so they went on to Spanish Natchez.
Once their goods had been sold, the longhunters split up, some leaving for home, some remaining in Natchez. Because of illness which struck him in May, Kasper remained at Spanish Natchez until November, 1770, making the length of time he had been away from home almost seventeen months.
Kasper's second expedition into the wilderness began in the fall of 1771, when he joined other veteran longhunters such as Abram Bledsoe, Joseph Drake, James Knox, and Henry and Richard Scaggs for another journey to the Cumberland River. On this second hunt, the base camp was located in Greene County, Kentucky through the first winter, but problems with the Indians caused the longhunters to move southwest and base their new camp an a tributary of the Cumberland River, which they named Station Camp Creek. They explored this area extensively, and many of the landmarks of Sumner County, Tennessee, bear their names.
Joseph Drake was one of the men who explored west of Station Camp Creek, and Drake's Creek bears his name; Isaac Bledsoe discovered Bledsoe Salt Lick, Bledsoe Springs and Bledsoe Creek. Venturing farther west, Kasper Mansker discovered upper and lower sulphur springs located approximately three hundred yards apart on the west bank of the creek, and these became known as Mansker's Creek and Mansker's Springs. While passing between the two springs, Kasper is said to have killed nineteen deer. Mansker's Creek flows through the present-day city limits of Goodlettsville, Tennessee.
Returning to his home in late 1772, Kasper remained in Virginia with his wife until November of 1775. He then returned to the Cumberland and fixed his camp at Mansker's Lick, trapping for some months around the Red River and Sulphur Fork country. Historian John Haywood gave one of the most detailed accounts of Kasper's longhunting days in his book Civil and Political History of the State of Tennessee when he described events during this 1775 expedition. While hunting in the Red River and Sulphur Fork area, Kasper and his companions found a number of deer carcasses and wooden frames used to stretch the skins, and realized that the area was a hunting ground for the Black Fish Indians. They decided to make a quick exit upon learning this, but thought their escape would be safer if they could determine how many Indians were in the hunting party. Being the most experienced woodsman, Kasper was elected to scout the land and observe the Indians. He had traveled about twenty miles when he realized by the sycamore trees in view that he was near the river. Moving forward, he walked straight into the path of the Indian camp, and immediately stepped behind a tree to see how many hunters were there. Only two Indians were to be seen, and Kasper assumed that the others were hunting. As he prepared to quietly retreat, one of the Indians picked up a tomahawk and crossed the river to the other side; the other Indian picked up a gun and put it on his shoulder, and came directly toward the place where Kasper stood. Kasper kept still, hoping the Indian would go another way, but the Indian kept coming straight toward him until he was within fifteen steps. There was no alternative but for Kasper to shoot. The Indian screamed, dropped his gun, and turned back toward the camp, but missed the site and ran headlong down the bluff and dropped dead into the river. The second Indian ran back to the camp, but Kasper got there first, picked up an old gun and tried to fire it. The gun misfiredand the Indian escaped. Kasper managed to make his way safely back to his own camp and the next day, when he and his companions inspected the Indian camp, they found that the Indians had all left with their furs and meat, and had abandoned the camp except for the body of the dead Indian.
In spite of the Indians, Kasper and his companions were so impressed with the beauty and abundance of the Cumberland country that they decided to move west and make their homes there. In the spring of1779, Kasper returned for his third visit and to lay claim to 640 acres of land that lay "on both sides of Mansker's Creek upstream from the sulphur springs."
On May 1, 1780, the Cumberland Compact was adopted by 256 of the early settlers of the area, establishing the first civil government on the Cumberland River and in the western frontier. That winter, Kasper built his first fort in what would later become Goodlettsville. With the assistance of his fellow pioneers, the fort was built on the west bank of Mansker's Creek, about three or four hundred yards below the site of Walton Campground. The fort site, near present-day Long Hollow Pike, is marked by a Tennessee historical marker. Mansker's fort was the main stronghold for the settlers north of Nashville.
The first few years at the fort were years of hardship and suffering, with many hostile acts committed by the Indians against the settlers. The first winter, Kasper and Elizabeth abandoned the fort and went to live at Eaton's station, while many of the other settlers left the area and returned to Virginia. The Indian raids made survival difficult, and getting enough food was a hard task, but the settlers were determined to stay in spite of all the problems. On 2 April 1781, one of the best recorded confrontations of all took place between the settlers and the Indians in what is known as the Battle of the Bluffs. Lying in ambush, the Indians were winning the battle when one the settler's wives in the fort released all of the dogs, which had been trained to attack Indians. This disabled the Indians from doing anything more than trying to defend themselves against the raging animals and allowed the settlers to retreat and defend themselves. During this battle, Kasper Mansker was reported to have been wounded, the only time in history that he was ever known to have been hurt at the hands of the Indians.
At the end of 1782 and the beginning of 1783, Kasper rebuilt his fort on the east bank of Mansker Creek, about a mile north of the first fort. Many other new forts were built in the years following, and many of the new settlers coming into the area were Revolutionary War veterans claiming military land grants, among them Kasper's brother, George Mansker. About this time, Kasper added to his land holdings by serving as a guard for the Commissioner's Line, insuring safe passage through the wilderness for newcomers. A survey in 1783 showed that the settlements around the Cumberland had a population of 5,000, entitling the area to a representative in the North Carolina legislature. That April, Davidson County was created, and the people who were living in Mansker's Station fell under the county jurisdiction. In January, 1784, the county militia was reorganized and Kasper was named first captain from the Sumner area. In 1786, the settlement surrounding his area was split by the formation of Sumner County, and in July 1787, Kasper was appointed second major of the county militia. From 1787 through 1792, he was frequently listed as a jury member.
In the following years, in which Tennessee grew from a territory into a state, Kasper appeared time and again in historical accounts of the Sumner County area, and Mansker's Station grew into a good-sized community. Kasper was a prominent leader in the settlement, where he was highly respected by his fellow settlers and where often he was consulted for his knowledge of Indian ways and military strategy. In 1794, he was one of those who volunteered for an expedition to attack Nickojack, near present-day Chattanooga, a refuge for renegade Creek and Cherokee Indians who plundered the Cumberland, and he was responsible for building water-resistant boats which safely transported ammunition. His participation in this battle was recorded years later by William Pillow, who wrote: "Colonel Masker took some men that night up the river opposite the town, and waited until some of the Indians that escaped from the town landed, and killed them in landing. I saw but one make his escape, he by diving out of gunshot from my side, and when Mansker's men fired on the daring Indian, he turned down the river and went ashore between the mouth of a creek which Mansker's men could not cross without getting their guns wet.".
When the Indian wars were concluded, Kasper operated an inn at his home for a few years, but at the outbreak of the War of 1812, he once again took up arms in defense of his country. On 4 October 1813, alongside of his nephew, William Mansker, and his great-nephew, John Mansker, he enlisted in the infantry company of Captain William McCall in Colonel John Wynn's regiment, Robert's Brigade. Later, he served in Captain William Martin's company, a part of Colonel Williamson's Second Regiment of Temessee Volunteer Mounted Gunmen. His fellow frontiersman, John Carr, once remarked: "Mansker was a great woodsman and a mighty hunter, one of the best marksmen I ever saw shoulder a rifle. He was an excellent soldier, and no man among us understood better than he how to fight the Indians; so that he rendered great service in driving the savages from the country."
Allegedly 64 years old at the time of the Battle of New Orleans, the last battle of the War of 1812, Kasper returned to his house on Mansker's Creek after his long tour of duty, and lived out the rest of his life there with his wife, Elizabeth. He died in December, 1820 and was buried near his home. Later, his remains were removed to Peay Park, in Goodlettsville, Tennessee.
Kasper and Elizabeth White Mansker had no children, but in his last will and testament, written on 31 July 1820, Kasper left the home tract of land, his household possessions and his Negro slaves to his beloved wife for her lifetime. His property lying on the south side of Mansker's Creek and 110 acres on Lumsy's Fork were bequeathed to George and William, the sons of his brother George, and other personal items were left to his nephew George's children, Mary Miller, and Lewis and John Mansker.
On 26 July 1825, four and a half years after Kasper's death, Elizabeth Mansker married Isaac Walton, a widower and close friend of the family. Isaac died on 21 August 1840, and Elizabeth the following spring, on 28 April 1841.
In 1858, the town known as Mansker's Station was incorporated as the City of Goodlettsville, and in 1986, the city celebrated a Homecoming Celebration by dedicating the reconstruction of Mansker's Fort in Moss Wright Park, across from Mansker's Creek and near the original fort site. Some of the descendants of the Mansker family were present at this dedication.
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