Buffalo in the Back Yard

image copyright Fred First

Another image picked up on the way home from the winery last weekend–and the first using the combination of (new) tripod, 80-200 telephoto lens (and new tripod mounting collar for same) and the 2x teleconverter.

The silhouetted shape behind the house takes the reposing form of a buffalo, hence its name, Buffalo Mountain.

Were there buffalo in these parts in the days before the western migration of the white man? Does anybody have any info or stories about that? I’d like to know.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I have no stories about bison in the East but I do have Google. I found a few pages that said their range was coast to coast and from Canada to Mexico. It would be interesting to hear about wild bison encounters east of the Mississippi in the past. I’ve never heard any before. I know elk once roamed the east before being hunted to extinction in the early 1800s. There’s still a wild herd on the Land Between the Lakes in western Tennessee and they have been reintroduced in to the Great Smokies. The success of the Smokies herd is still in doubt.

  2. I have an electronic copy of “A History of Watauga County, North Carolina: With Sketches of Prominent Families” by John Preston Arthur published about 1915 that speaks of Buffalo and elk being hunted in the Blue Ridge Mountains by the founding settlers.

    This is one of three references:
    “Pioneer Baptists.– Roosevelt says (Vol. III, pp. 101, 102): “Presbyterianism was not, however, destined even here[in the Watauga Settlement] to remain the leading popular creed. Other sects, still more democrtic, still more in keeping with backwoods life and thought, largely supplanted it. Methodism did not become a power until after the close of the Revolution, but the Baptists followed close on the heels of the Presbyterians. They, too, soon built log meeting-houses here and there, while their preachers cleared the forests and hunted elk and buffalo, like other pioneer settlers.”

    Also mentioned is that the original Boone trail followed an old buffalo trail. So it looks highly likely that buffalo are indigenous to Buffalo Mountain.

  3. Thanks Fletch, Gary (and Becky whose comment didn’t come through and she had to email.) This is a good beginning to support the premise that 1) there were Buffalo in and around the Floyd County area several hundred years ago; and 2) Buffalo Mountain was named after an animal present and familiar to FLoyd Countians when the mountain got its name. Thanks!

  4. In the foothills of North Carolina, it seems every other creek is named Buffalo. Charles Frazier’s latest, “Thirteen Moons,” refers to the sadly missing herds that once roamed the area of the Cherokee. Yep. They were here.