Williams Co. in 1838

 

 

 

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Attacked by Pack of Wolves on St. Jo Near Edgerton

(Reprint January 29, 1925 newspaper)

    Peaceful Stream Scene of Fight for Life

Eighty Years ago

    Here is a story that picnic parties along the St. Joe river next summer can think about.  It is the true story of a fight for life with a hungry pack of wolves that roamed over this county 80 years ago.  The incident occurred in the year 1838 on a spot somewhere south of where Edgerton now stands.  It was told about twenty years ago to the editor of the 'Wauseon Republican' by John Butler, a pioneer of Fulton and Williams counties, who has since passed on.  The story gives a wonderful picture of conditions when this section was covered with forests and peopled with wild animals:

    "About as badly scared as I ever was in my life, happened in the spring of 1838, while I was carrying the United States mails from Sylvania, to Lima, Lagrange county, Indiana, a distance of ninety miles. I was a lad then of fourteen summers and had carried the mail for more than a year over this trail which was through one almost unbroken forest. Along the route would be a settlement or a tavern here or there where a traveler could stay all night.  As I have just said I had traveled this route more than a year and I knew every turn it made through the forest as well as I now know the public highways of my own township where I have lived for more than seventy-two years.  Travelers wishing to go West would wait at Sylvania for the 'mail boy' to pilot them over this route.  The old Territorial Road, now know as the "Old Plank Road", was cut out at this time as far as Morenci but from there to the westward for a distance of thirty miles it was one unbroken forest, without a sign of civilization, and the only roads to travel were the Indian trails."

    "It was in March, 1838, when a traveler whom I was piloting through the wood, and myself left the old territorial road and set out to the westward over these Indian trails which I had traveled many miles.  To me it was the same old story over again, but the fellow with me seemed to dread starting into the "thirty mile woods."  It was a fine March day the sun shone warm and the snow began to melt and by two or three o'clock in the afternoon it was difficult fro the horses to travel, which we were riding.  As we were riding along the trail on the bank of the St. Joe river, near the Indiana line, the man remarked that we must be near a settlement as he had seen a dog down in the river bottom.  I told him that the nearest settlement was five or six miles ahead of us and what the dog which he had seen was a wolf.  He seemed to be looking for wolves and a long about sundown he called my attention to another wolf trotting through the woods some distance from us.  I knew those wolves meant trouble for us before we reached the tavern.  As the shades of night began to draw close upon us, the traveler stopped his horse and asked what made that noise which sounded like the howl of a dog.  I told him it was a pack of wolves and that they were on our trail.  We each cut a good club sprang onto our tired horses and pushed them forward as fast as they could go.  These clubs were the only weapons we had to defend ourselves.  Nearer and nearer the sound came until we knew they were almost upon us.  I had told the man with me not to try to run from the wolves when they came upon us, but to pull up to a big tree and fight them off with his club.  If he could kill one the rest of the pack would stop and eat it and that would give us time to go a little further.  Looking back I could see the forms on the snow of a dozen or more wolves close to us I directed the traveler to pull up to one side of a big tree and I took the other.  For half an hour we fought off these vicious beasts, then finally they retreated and we knew that one of them had fallen a victim to our clubs and that it was now our chance to push on.  It was only a short time until we could hear those wolves coming again and I knew that this fight would be a harder one than the other for the taste of blood had added to the fury of those wild beasts.  We were still two and a half miles from our tavern when we were compelled to pull up to a big oak to make another fight.  The fellow with me partially lost heart and wished many times that he had never started on this journey.  But we were in it and an attempt now to run or turn back meant certain death.  The wolves bore down upon us and how long we fought them off I do not know.  We shouted for help and in the fierce fight our horses became frightened and threatened to break away from us which if they did we knew meant certain death to us.  When we were almost exhausted and overpowered, I heard the report of a gun and I knew that the tavern keeper had heard our shouts and the howl of the wolves and that he was coming to our relief.  A little later I heard another report and it was a little nearer than the other and finally after what seemed hours of waiting and fighting we could see the light of a torch.  It was out tavern keeper who had come to our rescue with his trusty rifle.  A few well directed shots from his gun and the light from his hickory bark torch turned the wolves back and we half dead proceeded to the tavern, where the good landlady did everything that she could to cheer us up and make us comfortable."

    "Although nearly seventy years have fled since them, I remember that event as though it were but yesterday. A more scared boy you never saw although I did not know I was scared until I reached the tavern.  The tavern stood some five or sic miles over the state line in Indiana and I believe I could do to the very spot today.  Mr. and Mrs. Fowler kept it and were brave, kind, good-hearted people."

 

 

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