Filson Fellowships - Matthew Taylor

By L. Suzette Miguel
Development and Special Events Assistant

Matthew TaylorWhile reading The Middleground by Richard White, he noticed only two references to the eastern bison. "I didn't even realize bison existed in the east," he said. "I wrote a twenty-five-page paper for a class and presented it at the Northern Great Plains History Conference. It was the foundation for my Master's Thesis."

Legal depositions, land claims, the McDowell manuscripts, and other such primary sources in The Filson's collections proved very informative to Matthew during his research week here in July. Matthew learned about The Filson through bibliographies. "I didn't realize there was so much information. I had to hunt and peck, like a chicken," he said.

Like the buffalo on the American Plains, the eastern bison was almost hunted to extinction.  Hunting the Buffalo, frontispiece.  History of the Indian Tribes of North America, Vol. I, Thomas Loraine McKenny (1785-1859), 1855.Matthew explained that the bison in the east were not hunted for their skins, but rather for their meat. One legal deposition he read described how the skins were too uneven and bulky to be quality skins. "It took one hundred bison hides to buy one horse, but you read about wagonloads of meat going to feed the Continental Army." He mentioned the importance of the buffalo trace in the early settlement of Kentucky and the Ohio Valley, noting that, "The environment and natural world affected human civilization more than we affected it perhaps. Roads were formed by the movement of bison toward salt licks and water sources.

Matthew hopes to complete his thesis by December and would like to be accepted into a Ph.D. program. "I love teaching," he added. 

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