National Plott Hound Association News American Cooner
Howdy, folks! I hope you and yours are well and surviving this endless summer heat wave. It has proven to be unrelenting here in North Carolina, with six straight days of over 100 degree highs – and it seems like a month or more since we have been lower than the mid-90s. Several mornings I have fed the dogs before going to work and it is already in the 80s and incredibly humid with the sun barely even up. Our only respite has been brief, but violent thunderstorms. However, instead of cooling things down, it just leaves us even more humid and muggy. Some people like this sort of weather —not me!
Again, I remind you and your dogs to be careful working, hunting and training in this weather. Heat stroke is serious stuff and is often fatal, so take extra precautions to avoid it if at all possible.
By the time you read this NPHA Plott Days will be history. I hope those of you that were able to make the trip to Indiana had a wonderful time there. The competitions are always fun and highly anticipated, but to me it is the family reunion feel of these events that truly makes them special.
Seldom will we have so much living Plott history at one location. It’s always wonderful to visit with old friends and make new ones, but it is also a unique opportunity to learn from many of the legends of our sport – folks like Harold Pace, Gene Walker, Orville Mansholt, Marion Allison, Wayne Allen and too many others to mention them all.
And it’s also a good time to reflect on all the missing breed icons – like Gene White, Berry Tarlton, Frank Methven and Lawrence Porterfield – that have recently passed away or that may have been be too ill to attend. We should never forget them and what they have done to perpetuate the Plott breed. Keep them forever in your thoughts and prayers.
Sorry to digress, but it is my sincere hope that you were indeed able to attend this great event and that you and yours had a wonderful time in the process. Congratulations and thanks go out to all the NPHA officers and for the Perry County Coon Club for putting on such a stellar gathering.
I know that my friend Danny Scoggins of Rock Island, Tennessee was there, and I believe that he picked up a couple of pups from Bill Harrell – another man well-known for his fine Plott dogs.
Danny has raised and hunted Plotts for over a quarter of a century, and his foundation stock originated with none other than other than the legendary Berlin King. The Harrell Plott hounds combined with the Scoggins/King dogs should make for a dynamic cross. I wish them luck in this process.
Speaking of pups, Charlie Markham sent me some more pictures of the first registered Finnish Plotts. I told you that story last month and thought that you might enjoy seeing some more of these photos. Thanks Charlie, for sharing them.
My buddy Rusty Gill of Old Town, Florida, reports that our newest litter of Von Plott pups is doing well and will be weaned from their mama by the time you read this. I bred Rusty’s gyp to my Bud Lyon bred Von Plott dog on March 31 and the pups were whelped on June 2, 2012. We are excited and honored to carry on this great tradition that was begun with Von Plott and continued for nearly half a century by C.E. “Bud” Lyon.
I think the hot weather and the fact that many folks are either on vacation or preparing for the trip to Plott Days has resulted in a slower than normal month for both mail and phone calls. And it makes sense as this is not only a busy time of year for most families, but as I said, it has been too hot to do much of anything but search for a shady, cool place to relax.
However, several folks did take the time to call or write and I wanted to mention a few of you in particular, as well as several that have been ill.
I hope that my friend Duane Smith continues to recuperate from his recent illness. Duane, you are in my thoughts and prayers and I hope we can talk or write again soon when you are feeling better. The same applies to Mr. Hoke Rawlins, and Bud Lyon as well. And I am happy to report that Bud is indeed doing much better – so that’s good to hear. I hope we can visit soon, Bud.
I heard from my friend Rick Jenkins, of Asheville, NC this week. Rick is a hard hunter and dedicated Plott man. One of his fine Plott dogs has been experiencing some serious health issues of late and I hope they are resolved soon. I saw the dog at Breed Days when he was just a pup a couple of years ago, and I was really impressed with his looks and performance. Good luck, Rick!
Steve Zimmerman of Wilmington, NC and me have been playing phone tag of late, but I hope to speak with him about his Plott dogs soon, and the same applies to Jim Wanta of Michigan and Oren Midzinski of Utah –both of whom I owe phone calls. I also enjoyed talking with Lynwood Jackson of Asheville, NC about his new Plott dog too. And it’s always a pleasure to hear from my old buddy Roger Bryson of Cashiers, NC –a guy who is continually willing to work hard to promote the Plott breed.
I had a delightful email from Jack Dobson recently. Jack is an avid coon hunter originally from Surry County, NC. He shared some great stories with me, as well as a lead on a living piece of Plott history that I recently contacted and interviewed. There will be more on that topic in upcoming articles. Thanks Jack, I hope to talk with you again soon.
In an earlier article I had commented on getting an email from Sgt. Larry Plott who is currently serving our country with the US Army in Afghanistan. And Jose Gardner –a hard core Alabama hog hunter and Plott man – is now out of the Marines and going to college after doing a combat tour of his own in the Middle East.
Jose is the son of Dan Gardner who has been a tireless supporter of the Plott breed for years. And Jose has followed diligently in his father’s footsteps. I think Jose is now attending college at Auburn and we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.
Today my friend Gene Walker sent me a great photo of a young friend of his — Chris Smith – who is also serving our country in Afghanistan. According to Gene, Chris is a native of Indiana and an avid coon hunter.
Chris is also a strong supporter of Gene’s Pocahontas Plotts, and owns a dog that came out of Gene’s famous Cody II female, and Gus. He and his army buddies are pictured in the Afghan war zone with Chris proudly wearing his Pocahontas Kennels cap. I have sent Chris an email myself, and hope to learn more about him soon. But in the meantime, I would like to thank Chris, Jose, Larry – and all our American veterans past and present –for their service to our great country.
My dear friend Bill Carter of Fuquay-Varina, NC, surprised me with a gift this week. He sent me a book called War Dogs. It is the story of all the dogs that the U.S. Military has used in combat since World War I. It’s really a great book and I truly appreciate Bill’s kind gift and friendship.
Bill is a retired Special Forces Colonel who served in Vietnam. He owns a Plott hound named Robert that is out of my deceased Archie dog and John Jackson’s Sweet Pea.
Robert was one of the Plott dogs featured in the TV show that we did for the History Channel last year. He is a beautiful Plott specimen and extremely intelligent.
Being an army veteran, Bill is very patriotic and raises the American flag outside his home on a daily basis. He also taught his dog – Robert – to salute the flag when it is being raised. I know this may sound like a tall tale, but you can go to my website – www.bobplott.com – and see a short video of Robert doing this. Robert and Bill will be special guests at Plottfest next year, so please make plans to come out and see them.
It’s always great to hear from folks that like my books, and I was especially pleased to get a message from some members of the Orr family a few weeks ago. I had written about Will Orr, a famous western North Carolina hunter, in my second book and the Orr’s had enjoyed the profile.
I hope to meet with them soon to learn more about their family and particularly about their relative the late Andy Orr. Andy was a rough character from the mountains of Graham County who reportedly killed seven men and later died in the federal prison in Atlanta. He allegedly murdered four of his victims for hurting or insulting his hunting dogs. I hope to get the real story about him through the Orr clan and get a photo of Andy as well.
One of the great things about writing books – or any historical piece – is doing the research on the subjects in the story. I profiled another old-time hunting legend – Granville Calhoun – in my second book too. And I included a picture of him and some other bear hunters in one of my recent American Cooner magazine articles.
Calhoun was not only a great hunter and dog man, but he was a superb businessman and humanitarian. He lived to be 103 and I talked to him often as a boy in Bryson City, NC, where he told me of his early days as a hunter and fisherman on Hazel Creek. Calhoun was also a close friend of the illustrious writer and outdoorsmen Horace Kephart. Kephart wrote quite a bit about Plott dogs, local bear hunters, and all forms of hunting and fishing stories in his books and magazine stories.
Kephart is much more famous than Calhoun, and well known for both his literary work and for his efforts in the formation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But while perhaps lesser known, Granville Calhoun was an equally extraordinary man.
Recently an individual –who has asked to remain anonymous – contacted me to show me a collection of Granville Calhoun artifacts, photos and documents. I was a bit skeptical at first, but it turned out to be the real deal.
The collection included Calhoun’s pistol, hunting knives, fly rod, creel and other hunting and fishing gear, as well as his gold pocket watch (that still works,) along with too many interesting documents and photos to mention them all. Needless to say, I was honored to gain access to this collection and I hope to write more in detail about it in the future.
But let’s get back to the mail bag. It was good to hear from my buddy Johnny Mash last week. Johnny is a farmer in Ashe County, NC, and long time Plott dog enthusiast. Johnny hopes to add another Plott dog to his kennels in the very near future.
Thanks go out to Mike Mehaffey of Clyde, NC, as well as to Joe and Henri McClees of the NC Sporting Dog Association for their efforts in protecting the rights of N.C. hunting hounds people. And thanks also to Irv Corbin, Pat Alcisto, Marion Diotte, and a host of other west coast dog men for their efforts in trying defeat the California SB 1221 – a bill that basically will outlaw hunting with dogs in California.
That about covers the mail bag for now. As always, I encourage you to write and share your photos and stories with me to include them in this column. I have said many times before that I want this be your column – but I can’t do it without your help.
I will close this month with a bit of Plott history regarding weapons used by well-known Plott family members and hunters that are still owned by several Plott family members today. I originally wrote this article back in 2009, but have updated it as more weapons and artifacts have surfaced and have come back into possession of the Plott family since that time.
All of these items are special, but none more so to me than the weapons of “Little” George Plott and his father John. They were returned to the Plott family in late 2011.
And seeing the battered Winchester rifle of none other than Von Plott will bring chills down the spine of any true Plott enthusiast. Man, if these weapons could only talk—what amazing stories they could tell!
But I am getting ahead of myself. Here’s the article, I hope you enjoy it:
PLOTT FAMILY WEAPONS
By Bob Plott Copyright 2009
If there is anything hunting houndsmen love almost as much as their Plott dogs, it is their hunting rifles. And a fine example of this is the arsenal of weapons owned by the Plott family – many of which still survive today. Probably the earliest and some of the best examples of these guns are the .32 caliber and .50 caliber muzzle loading rifles once owned by David, Robert Henry, and Herbert Plott.
David Plott, the third son of Henry Plott was the original owner of these weapons and he passed them down to his son, Robert Henry, who in turn passed them down to his son Herbert. They are of particular interest in that they both were originally flintlock rifles, later converted to percussion, and both – especially the .50 caliber rifle – were probably originally built in the late 18th century. Considering that David was not born until 1807, it is highly likely that these rifles were originally owned by Henry Plott (1770-1810) and later passed on to David by his father. If this is indeed the case, we are looking at a gun, or guns, once owned by Henry Plott, the man who brought the first Plott dogs to the Great Smoky Mountains around 1800. What a piece of Plott history!
There is an original powder horn and shot bag, with shooting accoutrements – bullet mold, priming horn etc. – accompanying the rifles. While these artifacts are almost impossible to specifically date, they are nonetheless at least 150 years old and are treasured Plott family heirlooms. They were used by three generations of the Plott clan – David, Robert Henry and Herbert Plott – all legendary bear hunters.
The hunting rifle of David Plott’s brother, iconic hunter and guide Amos Plott was a more ornate weapon, and it too, is a valuable piece of Plott history. The name of Amos Plott is engraved on the patch box and clearly it was once a top of the line gun. Before it was found and salvaged by its current owners, the Amos Plott rifle fell on to hard times. It reportedly was being used as a fire place utensil to “poke” the fire when found and purchased by a family member. This rifle dates back to the mid-1800s and was carried by one of the finest bear hunters of that era – Amos Plott (1805-1865.)
In addition to his rifles, Robert Henry Plott (1840-1926) also hunted bears with a muzzle loading pistol. This .54 caliber hand gun was captured by Plott during the Civil War. It is not known how many bears he killed with the weapon, but it was no doubt a significant number as he was a prolific hunter. Plott also captured a .44 caliber pistol from a Union officer which he used for personal protection. It is interesting to also note that Robert Henry Plott was likely the last Confederate prisoner of war released by the Union during the Civil War. Both of his pistols remain in the Plott family today.
Of course, there is no more famous pistol in Plott history than the hand gun owned by Montraville Plott (1850-1924.) This pistol was probably built about 1860. Plott used this weapon to kill 211 bears during his distinguished hunting career. And the Plott family still has the skinning knife that Mont used to skin many – if not all – of these bears as well.
Family legend maintains that Montraville Plott, or possibly his son Von Plott, traded a Plott hound for a Baxter Bean .45 caliber flintlock rifle. This may not be true as it probably was Mont’s father, John T. Plott, or even more likely his grandfather, Henry, who traded for the gun.
We make this assumption based on several facts. The rifle was a flintlock and was never converted to percussion cap as most early flintlocks later were. Since most flintlocks were not converted until 1822 and since a dog was so valuable, the gun would have to be of equal value to the dog. So it is highly unlikely that the Plott family would have traded an “antique” gun that was of little practical use to them, for one of their prized hounds. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the rifle was considered a high end gun worthy of trade, and that the trade was consummated in the early 1800s. In other words, a valuable dog would not have been traded for anything less than a premium weapon that was still highly coveted as a hunting rifle. And certainly a Bean rifle fits that description during this early time period.
The Bean family was some of the most renowned rifle makers in southern mountain history. William Bean, a hunting partner of Daniel Boone, first settled in east Tennessee in 1768. His son, Russell, was said to be the first white child born in east Tennessee in 1769. William Bean would later serve with distinction fighting the British at the Battle of Kings Mountain. He was the first of the Bean family rifle builders and he established a gun shop near Jonesboro, Tennessee in the late 1700s. The Bean family legacy of gun building continued until the late 1800s with a succession of prominent gunsmiths including Baxter Bean – who built the Bean rifle traded to the Plott family.
Baxter was the son of Russell Bean, and was born around 1790. He learned gun building from his father and grandfather and it is believed that the rifle now owned by the Plott family was built by Baxter Bean about 1820 –perhaps earlier. However, it is possible that the gun was traded at a later date with Mont or Von, and that the old gun was thrown in just to sweeten the deal as an after thought. But either way, the Bean rifle is truly a piece of Smoky Mountain and Plott family history. Due to its pristine condition and because it remains an original flintlock, the Bean rifle is extremely valuable and remains a prized possession in the Plott family today – along with several hunting bags and powder horns.
The favorite hunting rifle of Plott icon Von Plott (1896-1979) also still survives today and it is a testament to his hard hunting style. The rifle – a Winchester model 1892 38-40 – is battered and beaten due to extreme use. I have seen a lot of rifles, but few can match the battle scars of this historic gun.
The Winchester 38-40 was a favorite weapon of bear hunting mountaineers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was short, light, and easy to carry through rugged terrain. Moreover, it packed enough knockdown power to kill a bear—though not at long range. The lever action of the gun was very reliable and allowed for fairly rapid fire, while both pistol and rifle cartridges could be used as ammunition. This was extremely important as ammunition was often difficult to acquire back in those days and made the gun even more versatile and valuable.
Cody Plott, (1884-1948) the son of Robert Henry Plott, was a notable bear hunter and game warden, who helped introduce Isaiah Kidd to the Plott breed. Cody favored a more “modern” Winchester rifle – the Model 1905 .35 caliber automatic. This was an automatic firing weapon that while popular, never really caught on in a big way with local hunters. Perhaps it was the cost of a newer gun, or maybe they preferred the older lever action models, or even in some cases ancient muzzle loading guns. But Cody liked the rifle and he is thought to have been the only Plott that ever had one. His grandson still owns it today.
Cody’s brother, James Robert Plott, (1879-1967) enjoyed using a Spanish American War Krag rifle and it served him well on many bear hunts. Their brother Herbert “Hub” Plott primarily used his father’s old muzzle loading rifles to hunt with as Hub enjoyed preserving the old-time ways. Hub’s wife, Nannie Plott also was a crack shot and kept a vintage 1901 .22 caliber rifle in her kitchen to shoot varmints with.
Speaking of Plott women, nd while on the subject of Plott family weapons, perhaps we should also include a frying pan to our list. Julia Plott, wife of Montraville Plott, supposedly once killed a wolf with a skillet. The wolf had made the mistake of damaging her laundry and she was forced to take action.
Other notable weapons still owned by the Plott family – though not hunting related – include a World War I sword and .45 caliber pistol owned by Big George Plott. Big George was a veteran of the border war with Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, as well as World War I and World War II.
Another Civil War era sword, once owned by Verlin Plott, brother of Amos Plott, remains in the family, as do several Civil War muskets and a shotgun, along with multiple pistols. These guns were likely later used as hunting weapons as well – though no one knows for sure. Unfortunately several vintage flintlock hunting rifles once owned by John Amos Plott were reportedly stolen from his home after his death. And these were reportedly early Bean rifles too — similar to aforementioned Bean flintlocks.
Also thought to be missing or stolen were the hunting rifles of both John, and his only son, “Little” George Plott. However, as it turns out, only the muzzle loading guns were actually stolen. Three of these precious artifacts resurfaced in 2011 and are now back in the possession of the Plott family.
These weapons include a double barrel H Model Stevens 12 gauge shotgun circa 1900. John Plott (1874-1959) used this hammerless weapon as his preferred bear hunting gun and loaded it with heavy slugs to ensure a clean kill. This is the shotgun that John is shown holding in the classic 1928 photo of the Plott brothers – John, Sam and Von – bear hunting in Graham County, NC.
Also included in this collection is an 1890 8MM German Mauser. It is a top loading, short barreled rifle that holds a five round clip. This was “Little” George Plott’s favorite hunting rifle and he is shown holding it in several vintage hunting photos taken at the famous Hazel Creek, NC hunting lodge in the 1930s.
He was said to prefer this short-barreled weapon because it was easier to handle in the rugged mountain terrain – plus it had solid knock-down power. “Little” George Plott died heroically serving his country while fighting in World War II on Christmas Eve 1944 – his story is profiled in detail in my third book.
This rifle is in fine shape and can still be fired – and it includes two original clips and a box of original bullets, though I would be reluctant to fire them. However, we are considering taking the Mauser on one last bear hunt to honor Little George in the near future.
The final piece of this previously missing piece of Plott history is an 1873 .32 caliber first model Winchester repeating rifle. It too, was originally owned by “Little” George Plott and he hunted with it often. He reportedly loved the rifle but did not like its weight or longer barrel. Like the other two guns, the Winchester is in mint condition and can still be fired today. The Plott clan is honored and ecstatic to have these illustrious historical weapons back in the family fold.
Clearly the Plott family arsenal was as equally impressive as their dogs, and just as rich in historical value. We are indeed fortunate that so many of these weapons survive still today and that various Plott family members have allowed us to enjoy them as we imagine and appreciate their storied past.
I hope you enjoyed the article and photos. We’ll sign off for now. Until next month, may God bless you, your family and your dogs. Good hunting!
By Bob Plott