HUNTING SQUIRRELS AND KILLING A HUGE PANTHER
By S. C. Turnbo
Barbers Creek in Christian County, Mo., is a branch of Swan Creek which comes in on the west side in a rough narrow gorge-like formation. The water is as clear as crystal. The following old time reminiscence was furnished me by Isaac Brumley when he lived near Witty, Douglas County, Mo., a post office a few miles up Little Beaver Creek from Bradleyville. Mr. Brumley died on Little Beaver several years ago. In relating the story he said that he was born in Christian County near the town of Ozark, May 23, 1853. "My parents, Wm. and Mary (Barber) Brumley, were early settlers of Christian County. My mother was a daughter of Orbie Barber who settled in Swan Creek Valley 16 miles above Forsyth in 1842, on what is now called Barber Creek. Other families came with them from Overton County, Tennessee, and together they formed a small colony in the Swan Valley. Among the number were Jimmie Cook, Ben Cook, Lee Hodge, Jim Waul and Henry Nash. These men all had families. There were also two unmarried men came with them of the name of Wilford and Demoss. The latter died soon after his arrival here. His friends selected a spot of ground on Swan Creek below the mouth of Barber and dug a grave and buried his body. I do not know whether the remains of Mr. Demoss rest alone or whether other dead were buried here afterward. The land where my grandfather Orbie Barber settled on Barber Creek is known, now as the George Adams place. Among Barbers children were four boys whose names were William, Robert, Henry and John. These boys soon learned to be good hunters of small game and were often in the woods killing squirrels and turkeys. There was plenty of big game, too, but the young Nimrods were afraid to tackle it. But one morning early they met some of this sort unexpectedly and attacked it fearlessly and came out victorious. This was in 1847. The four boys had gone into the creek bottom on Swan to shoot squirrels. Bill was 15 years old but not of sound mind. John was 10. The other boys were younger. John carried the rifle which was an old flint lock and the only gun the family owned. While passing along through the thick wooded forest in the bottom the dogs ran in advance and hurried something up a tree and barked furiously. The boys, thinking it was a squirrel, ran up toward the tree to kill it for they loved to feast on fried squirrel, but what was their astonishment to see, crouching on a big limb, an enormous panther. The animal was only 8 feet above the ground. Neither boys nor dogs were afraid to come to close quarters although the enraged beast was preparing for a spring. Johns gun was brought to his shoulder and fired just as the animal made his spring, and a leaden bullet wounded him severely. As he dropped among the dogs and boys the former attacked him savagely. But the huge beast had plenty of strength left to defend himself from the dogs. The fight went on while John was reloading his gun but before the task was completed excitement ran high. The dogs, though several in number, were all badly used up. The dogs whining and barking, the panther snarling and the boys hallooing made a loud racket and the creek bottom resounded with the noise. The battle was so hot that one dog was killed outright and the others were all wounded more or less. The noise and conflict reached their fathers ears and he hurried to see what the boys and dogs had come in contact with and he arrived just as a second shot from the rifle reached a vital spot in the animals body and killed it at once. The panther was dragged to the house and from tip to tip measured 11 feet. After the beasts body had become rigid in death the boys and their father propped it up on its feet to see how it looked in a standing position, and when their curiosity was satisfied they let the animal down and took off its hide and carried it to Springfield which was a small town then and sold it to Henry Fulbright, a fur dealer and merchant of that place. The hide was such a large one that Fulbright kept it for several years for visitors to look at."
Springfield-Greene County Library