From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Panthers and Wolves in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky

A big mountain lion remembered


The following passage is quoted from A History of Muhlenberg County (pp 114-116), written by Otto Arthur Rothert and published in Louisville, KY, by J. P. Morton in  1913. I've divided the paragraphs and added some punctuation and words in brackets to make the passage easier to read on the screen. The Mud River, mentioned in the cougar story, forms the eastern boundary line of Muhlenberg County today.
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Speaking to me of the old days, Judge David J. Fleming said :

I have often heard my father, Samuel C. Fleming, tell of an incident that took place about the year 1815, or shortly after my grandparents settled in the Mud River country.

Ammunition was scarce in those days, but game was plentiful and easily caught. My grandfather, David L. Fleming,had cleared a small field, in which he built a turkey-pen for the purpose of trapping wild turkeys. One day at dinner my grandfather told my father, then a boy of about ten, to go over to the turkey-pen after dinner and see whether any turkeys were in it.

Shortly before supper, [my] father walked over to the pen, but found no turkeys nor any signs. On his return he followed a path through a strip of dense woods. Soon after entering the woods, he heard a noise like a crying child. He glanced around, and seeing nothing, rushed home and told his father, who was then in the blacksmith's shop at work. [My grandfather]... remarked that he had often heard a "child" crying in the woods at night, but never before so early in the evening.

Grandfather picked up his gun and followed the path leading to the turkey-pen. He entered the woods, looked and listened, and after hearing the expected cry, hid himself behind a tree and from there mimicked the slowly approaching beast. When it came within safe shooting distance, he blazed away and killed one of the largest 'Tom' panthers ever seen in Muhlenberg County. The animal measured eleven feet from the end of his nose to the tip of his tail. Although I was not born until about eighteen years later, I remember using this old panther skin for a pallet [a flat bed on the floor].

No panthers have been seen in Muhlenberg since about the close of the Civil War, notwithstanding that even to this day, reports are occasionally circulated that one had been seen, or rather heard, in the Clifty Creek country.

Wolves, too, have long ago disappeared. The desire to exterminate wolves, and incidentally to receive the bounty paid for their scalps, resulted in a war on wolves that lasted as long as there were any to be killed. Anyone producing the head of a wolf before a justice of the peace, stating under oath when and where he killed the animal, was granted a certificate to that effect. These certificates, upon presentation to the sheriff, were paid for at the rate of two dollars and a half for wolves over six months of age and one dollar for those under that age.

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Quoted from A History of Muhlenberg County (pp 114-116), written by Otto Arthur Rothert and published in Louisville, KY, by J. P. Morton in 1913.

An 1808 wolf-kill certificate, reproduced in A History of Muhlenberg County

4 comments:

Stitchy Mc Floss said...

You know I have often heard that the Panthers have a cry, some say like a woman, some say like a child...but it's just eerie.

I think we forget that our fore fathers lived in dangerous times and that life was hard back then.

Love reading your posts!

Blessings always

Genevieve Netz said...

We have bobcats around here, and I suppose that's what I heard scream or screech somewhere down the hill from us, one night about 15 years ago. We didn't have neighbors living so close then, and the land down the hill was in the CRP. I was sitting outside after dark one summer night, snipping beans, when I heard it call. It was unnerving enough that I went into the house and stayed there. (I wouldn't have been a very brave pioneer.)

In the "Little House" series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, she tells several stories about panther encounters and attacks. In those days, panthers had a lot more good habitat than they do now, and they were much more widespread.

Collagemama said...

Yes, I was remembering the Little House stories of panthers. Love the signature on the affadavit.

Genevieve Netz said...

The old penmanship copybooks of my school days emphasized using the whole arm, not just the hand. I'm sure you need your whole arm to get that much flourish into a signature.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.