Tiger Whitehead’s nephew Andy earned bear hunter title, too

Published 10:12 am Monday, June 22, 2015

Mountain Echoes
Most of Carter County’s inhabitants have at one time or another heard a tale of the legendary Tiger Whitehead, but hardly a peep about his nephew Andy. There are so many tales around Tiger that it becomes rather difficult to find one story that actually matches another one in the details.
Many tales are recounted, such as the time he was paid to track down a runaway tiger that had escaped from a circus, hence came the nickname “Tiger.” Then there is the story about his frightening struggle for survival with a black bear when his rifle failed him.
The one legend that stands the test of time is the story of how he had killed ninety-nine black bear at the time he left this life. Newspapers recorded this deed several times during his life, and it’s rather hard to argue with the man’s tombstone in which his record is inscribed. As Tiger laid on his death bed, it is said that friends and family brought him a bear cub for him to dispatch in order to reach a goal of one hundred, but Tiger refused since the bear was not running wild and free.
He did, in fact, come very close to that goal while hunting with his nephew, Andy Whitehead. On one particular hunt, Tiger made his nephew promise that if the dogs caught wind of a bear, Andy would drive the bear toward Tiger’s hunting area in order to get that elusive 100th kill. It is said that the bear was not cooperating with the plan and in the end, Andy felt compelled to shoot the bear himself.
Now Andy wasn’t a slouch in the hunting department himself. It was said that he harvested eighty-eight black bears in his time. His wife also helped on the hunt when Tiger was not along for the chase. Bear hunting was a Whitehead way of life. It was in their blood, and it would be criminal for history to not give Andy his due. The following is such an account of his adventures:
In 1889, Andy lived in Hampton, and he discovered that a bear had been eating the peaches off his trees and causing considerable havoc to his cornfield. This didn’t sit right with him, and he was mighty determined to catch and kill the furry thief.
The next day, Andy, his wife Mary, and two dogs set out on the mountain, and Andy found a place to make a stand. He had his wife headed into The Laurels with the two dogs in hopes of startling the bear out of hiding. No sooner had she let loose the hounds, they started bellowing and howling and shot off through The Laurels like greased lightning. A short time later, a tremendous ruckus came through the thickets, and she suddenly found herself face to face with the desperate black bear.
Before she or the bear had time to react to one another, the dogs sprang forth and gave chase. For eight miles the determined hounds pursued the beast, and for eight miles Andy and his wife followed behind through Laurel Creek.
At last the dogs cornered the bear, barking and snapping, as their prey rose up on its hind legs in an attempt to mount an offensive.
While this was going on, Andy made ready a battle plan to bring the bear to its end. With the bear surrounded, husband and wife opened fire, guns blazing, eyes stinging from the gun smoke, until together they felled the mighty beast.
Now while I cannot tell you how many bullets were fired at the bear, I can tell you how many it took.
All told, six bullets penetrated that bear’s hide and laid it down for good. It took Andy, his wife and a local boy to drag the carcass three miles down the creek and through the water to the Whitehead home.
The bear weighed right at 400 pounds after Andy cleaned and skinned the brute.
Scott Bowers is Carter County historian and commander of Camp 2083 Lt. Robert J. Tipton of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Send questions or comments about his columns to community@elizabethton.com.

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