Bear Tolley Letterbox  LbNA # 24894 (ARCHIVED)

OwnerBelmont Bunch    
Placed DateAug 3 2006
LocationBuchanan, VA
Found By Knotty Lady
Last Found Jul 24 2013
Hike Distance?

A long distant relative of my husband is Archibald "Bear" Tolley (also known as "Bar" Tolley in the local dialect.) He was a famous bear hunter in the mountains of Virginia near Buchanan and Natural Bridge. Alan's 100 year old grandmother tells us that he would head off with his dogs and hunt in the mountains for weeks at a time and come back with the bear meat and skins. There is a likeness of him in the Wax Museum at Natural Bridge along with some history.

I found a few other tales of him on the web as I searched:

1. Photo info: Archibald Tolley. Legendary bear hunter in Rockbridge,
Bedford and Botetourt Counties of Virginia

BORN: NAME: DIED 1801 Bear Tolley 1901 1823
Wife - Rachel ... Tolley,
Son of Eliza Virginia Tolley Dec. 16, 1875 J ...

3. Charlie Leighton

I had found the death record for my Great Grandfather John H. Austin in the Bedford Co. death register. The reason for his death was accidently shot, July 3. 1876.
A cousin ask me how was he shot? That sent me on a quest to find out the specifics.
On a visit to the Virginia Room at the Roanoke Library I sorted thru the Lynchburg Gazette newpaper film and I got very lucky. Here is what I found:
Lynchburg Virginian Thursday Morning, July 6, 1876
Accidentally Killed --We hear of a fatal accident which took place a few miles
above Big Island on Monday. Mr. Archer Talley, a well-known huntsman, and his son-
in-law, a Mr. Austin, started out from the house for the woods, Mr. Talley
being in front and having his rifle in his hand and a bucket swung on his shoulder.
In some way the bucket struck the cock of the gun discharging it, the ball entering Mr. Austin's head near the eye, and killing him instantly.
The "Mr.Archer Talley" was Archibald "Bear Tolley"that has been featured in
numerous articles relating his bear hunting experiences. ( that's another whole story)
Charlie Archer

4. Road named after him in the Glenwood & Pedlar Ranger Districts

5. Near the summit of Highcock Knob is rumored to be the site of Archibald "Bear" Tolley's cabin-- a legendary bear hunter and hermit who lived there until the late 1870's. He apparently had two roosters who used to crow at dawn on a tall Oak tree provoking the name, "High Cock Knob" which appeared on maps from 1893-1940 when it was changed to the current "Highcock" Knob. We enjoyed expansive 360 degree views along the rocky summit of Highcock and headed back down towards Petites Gap through a prominent sag locals call "Archie's Notch" after, you guessed it, that legendary bear hunter again. How does one become legendary anyway?

5. Obituary: The Gazette, Lexington, Va. November 19, 1902
Noted Bear Hunter Dead
Submitted by: ChazTuna (

One of the most unique characters that ever lived in Botetourt County died last Friday in his log hut, on top of Purgatory Mountain, about four miles north of Buchanan. He was Archie Tolley, but known through Bedford, Rockbridge, Botetourt, Alleghany, Highland and Bath counties as "Bear" Tolley from the number of bear he has killed, which number in the hundreds. He was about seventy years of age and never did anything but hunt for bruin. He was a typical mountaineer, warm hearted and true to a fault. He leaves an aged wife, his pack of hounds and his old gun, which he loved so well.

6. Don't know about this book but there is a section on "Bar" Tolley in a book THE NATURAL BRIDGE AND ITS HISTORICAL SURROUNDINGS and was in the library at W&L University at Lexington several years ago. They moved all the historical material there.

Hope you enjoy learning about this colorful character and finding the letterbox!

Take Rt. 11 off I-85 to Buchanan, Virginia. Buchanan is a quaint little town in the Shenendoah Valley between Roanoke and Natural Bridge. My in-laws live here so we've always enjoyed the area and the shopping and restaurants. Enjoy the town while you are here!

On the north side of the James River on Route 11, turn immediately onto First Street. Go up the hill and past the Hillside Store on your right. Turn Right onto Fairview Street. Take the third entrance to the cemetary on the left. On the right of the driveway is the Unknown Confederate Soldiers grave by a Confederate flagpole. Walk diagonally a little to the left and toward the fence (towards the sign on the other side of the fence). About 35 steps from the flag is Bear Tolley and Rachel Tolley's tombstone. It is a low, rough rock with their names etched on it. The grave claims he lived 100 years, but that is a controversy according to web histories.

When you are facing his tomb stone, look forward and to the left again. There you will see a big bush. Walk about 50-60 paces to this closest bush. Inside this bush is the letterbox. I held the branches up while my 10 year old son crawled in there to plant it. Good luck and enjoy the historical, peaceful scene.

Please re-plant well and e-mail your find.