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  • Writer's pictureDebra M. Dudek

Adam Poole Vandiver - The Hunter of Tallulah

Updated: Aug 9, 2019

I received an official membership acceptance letter last night from the National Society United States Daughters of 1812 (USD 1812). I'm pleased and honored to be a member of this great organization, as the stories of our veteran ancestors from this time period are so often overlooked in classroom lessons and history books.

Americans like a straight forward narrative. It's true. If something can be explained in a few sentences, the more likely it is to stick with us. The Revolutionary War, Civil War, and World War II all have straightforward narratives which resonate so loudly that it feels unpatriotic not to know them.

The War of 1812, just like the Great War (WWI), the Spanish-American War, the Philippine War, and so many of the shorter conflicts and war campaigns, tend to be forgotten. The USD 1812 has been working to recognize the service and experiences of veterans dating from 1784-1815. The early federal era was a period of immense change, and the USD 1812 has been working diligently to expand records access and materials available to researchers as well as housing a museum and library at their National Headquarters In Washington D.C.

If you are not familiar with the War of 1812, you can check out this great Crash Course video.

While compiling records for my granny's application to join the Daughters of the American Revolution, I found a reference of military service for my fifth great-grandfather Adam Poole Vandiver, and began researching his experience in the War of 1812.

My mother's family were part of the early westward migration from the new American nation to Habersham County, Georgia. Among those early settlers was Adam Poole Vandiver. The details of his life are the stuff of myth and legend. Prodigious hunter. Extreme mountain man. Husband to three wives (though not all at the same time). Father to over thirty children. And veteran of the Indian campaigns of the War of 1812.

Yes, you read that correctly. The War of 1812 was spread across thousands of the North American landscape, from Canada to Louisiana. From the Battle of Lake Erie to the defense of New Orleans, this conflict has so many fascinating facets.

Veteran pension records and bounty land warrant claims for the Indian Wars are lumped in those of the War of 1812. The National Archives estimates around 180,000 applications are available to researchers. It sounds like a large number, however, when compared to the 493,000 regulars and militia who served during the war, you can see there is a large hole in documentation for this veteran group. This is largely in part due to the lateness in which Congress approved land bounty awards (which began in 1850) and pension availability (which began in 1871).

Adam Poole Vandiver applied for both land bounty warrants and a pension. If this was the end of our first hand account information about Adam Poole Vandiver, you would think he was a poor, bed-ridden invalid, who had harbored life-long wounds from his wartime service.

Luckily for us a traveling journalist by the name of Charles Lanman passed through Habersham County in April 1848. Lanman's account of 'The Hunter of Tallulah' was published in newspapers later that year, and eventually compiled into a book entitled Adventures in the Wilds of the United States and British American Provinces. You can read and download his book for free.

I used this first page of Lanman's article as evidence for my USD 1812 application. I descend from Adam's son Alexander Vandiver, and searched like mad for a way to prove a father/son connection while compiling Granny's DAR application. Ultimately, I used a Adam Pool Vandiver's probate and War of 1812 pension record to prove their relationship.

When comparing information in the pension and the United States Federal and Agricultural Census records to Lanman's article, it leads us to question the large discrepancies in Adam Vandiver's 'invalid' status. Quite a bit can change between 1848 and 1871, however, the descriptions of how long Vandiver had been bedridden in his 1850 land bounty and 1871 government pension records does not mach with the first-hand narrative handed to us by Lanman in 1848.

Then there's the marriage question. I have spent about six years searching for documentation and proof of the 'three wives and thirty children' statement found in the Lanman article. Through various online genealogy forums, I have found lists of children, but very little actual documentation of each individual. The best documented children are from Adam Poole Vandiver's first marriage, and with two additional unions, it is possible the 'thirty children' could include step-children.

As for the three wives statement, apart from a name of 'Martha Whitting' found some lineage society records, there has been little else to substantiate the identity of Adam Poole Vandiver's first wife. Family stories and internet resources point to the identity of Martha Whitting as a Cherokee woman, followed by a second wife named Ary Cooper, and a third wife by the name of Arianne Wilkinson. While Adam's pension paperwork gives the name of Arianne Wilkinson as his current wife (no marriage record found), the witness testimony and the date provided do not match documented children. Adam's oldest son George Vardyman Vandiver presents his doubts of Arianne's marriage to his father, pointing out she had been living with neighbor Shorewood Cooper before taking up residence in the Vandiver household. This provides evidence that Ary Cooper and Arianne Wilkinson are the same person. The search for Adam's elusive second wife has been ongoing with surprising results.

I've made significant breakthroughs in research over the last three years, and I'm really excited share what I've found at the Federation of Genealogical Societies 2019 Conference in Washington DC next week. If you are planning to attend this year's conference, let me know!

I have to give a quick thank you to the DeMore Family Newsletter for cleaning the Vandiver family cemetery and providing some great new photos of the Adam Poole Vandiver burial site near Tallulah Falls. I'm making a point to visit the site next year, so thanks for a great overview of the location!

Hope to see you at the conference!


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laura hamling
laura hamling
Apr 05

Thank you for this information. I believe I am a descendent of Adam Poole Vandiver and his first wife. I would appreciate knowing anything you know about that marriage. Rainey Missouri Vandiver ( my third great-grandmother ) appears to be a child of that marriage. However, there is some conflicting information online about this. Thank you. Laura Hamling

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