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New York Folklore Quarterly, Vol. XX, No. 4, December 1964

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NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. XX, No. 4, December, 1964

HUNTING THE HUNTER: NAT FOSTER TODAY
by Eleanor Franz

NAT FOSTER needs no introduction to any lover of New York’s folklore. The legendary marksman, trapper, hunter, Indian fighter and explorer of the Adirondacks has become a vivid character in the folklore of pioneering days. Clad in his buckskins, Foster announced in a St. Johnsville tavern in 1787 that his name was “Leatherstocking,” and 26 years after that incident James Fenimore Cooper undoubtedly used him as the prototype for Natty Bumppo’s adventures. Jeptha Simms, who collected oral traditions in the Mohawk Valley, recognized Foster’s exciting and colorful career in his Trappers of New York, or a Biography of Nicholas Stoner and Nathaniel Foster, published first in Albany in 1851 and in at least two later editions. Simms used a very formal title in this biography, for to most of the pioneer settlers, and to all of their children, Foster was always known as “Uncle Nat.” Arthur Lester Byron-Curtiss reported new details about Nat’s exploits in The Life and Adventures of Nat Foster, Trapper and Hunter of the Adirondacks (Utica, 1897). More recently, Harold W. Thompson provided a capsule account of the tales told about Foster in six pages of Body, Boots and Britches (Philadelphia, 1940). It would appear to be impossible to add any new particulars about Foster’s prodigious activities.

Yet the ghost of the buckskin clad figure still stalks the Adirondack foothills around the Town of Salisbury, in Herkimer County. Here Foster made his home for approximately 30 years. And to the people of this neighborhood, Foster is both a heroic and historic character....


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