1800’s: Pioneer Encounters
By R.L. HEMINGER
Job Chamberlin, author of a series of articles many years ago providing recollections of pioneer days in Findlay experienced by his father, also named Job, and other members of the family, told of the wildlife in one of his early reminiscences.
“When we came to the hill in the 1820s we found the woods full of birds,” he wrote. “Those of a carnivorous disposition gave us much trouble for many years. The hawks, of which there were four or five kinds, were constantly on the alert to make a meal out of one of our chickens. The ravens were on the lookout for eggs and a newly hatched chicken.
“There was an abundance of animals to help carry on the extermination work among our fowls. The fox, mink, weasel, skunk, opossum, raccoon and muskrat were all quite numerous and all, like some bipeds nowadays, were sneaking around watching for an opportunity to prey upon our chickens and it was difficult to raise them for many years.
“Porcupines were plentiful, but we did not find them to be as remarkable an animal as they were represented. They were said to be able to throw their quills quite a distance and some people were at first afraid to approach them for fear they would shoot the quills into them. But they had no such power. If anything touched them in an unfriendly way it would strike upwards with its tail with great force and if it hit an enemy it stuck it full of quills; if it hit a stick, as was often the case, the quills would fly a considerable distance, which perhaps gave rise to the belief that they would throw them.
“Our cattle frequently came home with their noses full of quills, when they had ventured too near the animal. My brother once got well punished for his rashness in venturing his hand too near one of these creatures. It struck him on the back of the hand and it became full of quills. He undertook to pull them out, but it was too big a job for him and he hurried home for help, but before they were all out, his hand turned white and his face, too. He came near fainting. The quills were bearded at the point and like a bee sting, kept working in.
“The possums were quite numerous and very troublesome to coon hunters. The polecats were the most detestable of all the animals that infested out hen roasts. Besides catching our chickens they would eat their eggs and they were always prowling about nights seeking mischief.
“There were a great many bears and the white inhabitants would sometimes have encounters with them. Two of our neighbors wounded a large one and one of their dogs attacked the animal. The bear gave him a warm reception, hugging him until it looked like the dog was going to be squeezed to death.
“Its owner then jumped on the bear with a butcher knife and struck him with such force that the knife bent and was rendered useless without penetrating the tough hide of the bear. The man made a hasty retreat and finally shot the bear in time to save the dog.
“The wolf was the most troublesome of all the animals. It was almost impossible to raise sheep on account of them. We had to put our sheep in high pens at night to save them. We could hear the wolves howling nearly every night and frequently there were two or three gangs of them. One gang would howl and the other would answer them.
“It was not the music of the winds, but it was of the woods. They were very impertinent fellows and would come around at night and get the dogs after them and run off into the woods, then turn and chase the dogs back and keep up this kind of sport for hours on end.
“My father took great pains to destroy them. He killed 49 in all. He took the scalps to Perrysburg which was the county seat of the district at that time. He got $1.25 bounty for each scalp at first, but it was later raised to $3.25 per scalp. He had to take them within 30 days after killing them and make oath that he killed them.
“I recollect of once going with my father to his wolf pen, when sure enough, he had a big wolf. He lifted the top of the pen and let the animal get his head out, then let it down enough to hold the wolf. He then tied the wolf’s mouth securely and then tied his feet. He then took him on his shoulder and started for home. He had to cross Eagle Creek on a log, the wolf vainly trying to bite him in the meantime.”