WOLVES CONTEST A SETTLERS CLAIM
By S. C. Turnbo
This account of an amusing encounter with wolves was given me by William
R. Ellison, son of old Jimmie Ellison who we have stated elsewhere lived
on the north side of White River a short distance above the mouth of Beaver
Creek. "In the early spring of 1861 Alex Steward, a relative of our
family who lived with us, concluded to go down on Elbow Creek and select
a body of land for a farm. A day or two before he started father went to
Forsyth some three miles above where we lived and bought him an outfit,
together with the necessary tools for clearing and fencing land.
"Fully equipped, Alex was ready for business and went on his way
to establish his new home. Near two miles south of John Cardwells,
who had settled on Elbow four years before, he found a body of land which
suited, him for a home, and went to work to split rails and otherwise improve
the land, except that he did not build a house. He did not think he needed
one unless he enjoyed the blessing of a nice pretty wife to help him occupy
it. A wife he did not possess, but later on when he put his farm in proper
shape he would erect a dwelling and then he would entreat one of Taney Countys
fair maids to be his own darling love and companion for life and share with
him the toils and the happiness of life on a farm. During the time he worked
he boarded awhile at John Cardwells and then at Marion Ellisons,
who settled the Logan Hopper stock ranch in Buck Hollow. Marion Ellison
located here in the early fall of 1860. Alex Steward knew that plenty of
wolves infested the Elbow hills but thought it a foolish loss of time to
idle away a minute thinking about them. Others might be afraid of the varmints
but he was not. He was too busy at work to allow the tales told about vicious
wolves to trouble him. But in due time his mind changed on the wolf question
which was about this way:
One morning when the weather was just the sort to suit wolves, he went to his rail splitting and chopping timber early and was working away as usual when he heard a wolf howl.
Evidently the animal was out seeking whom or what he might devourbut
what need Alex care. He was not afraid of a dozen wolvesone wolf was
no cause for alarm with him, and he went quietly on with his work.
In a few minutes another one howled in another direction.
It was a long dismal noise and a kind of loneliness of his situation come over him for a moment as he listened and then went on with his mauling of rails.
Directly a third howl from still another direction rang out in the damp
air for there was a light mist falling. This last wolf was answered up and
down the valley, and seemingly from a number of places on the nearby hillsides.
Undoubtedly wolves were more plentiful than he had counted on, and Alex
felt cold all over and curious sensations played up and down his spinal
column. But he stood his ground for a time, awaiting developments, which
soon came. It seemed from the noise they were making that a goodly number
of them were approaching from various directions. They were howling ferociously
as they usually do when scenting something which they intend to attack.
The man was now thoroughly frightened, and hastily came to the decision
that the time had come for him to relinquish his claim in favor of these
earlier settlers of the neighborhood, who carried in their mouths numerous
and forceful arguments as to their right to occupy it. He must desert his
land and fly at once for safety; to climb a tree would be but a temporary
solution of the difficulty, so shouldering his axe he started in a demoralized
manner in the direction of John Cardwells who was his nearest neighbor.
Flight once commenced his demoralization increased and he lost all presence
of mind and became completely panic stricken. As he was leaving the ground
he imagined that he heard the wolves make a rush for him, and in his terror
he accelerated his speed to the full limit of his ability. Never halting
or looking back to see if the wolves were really following him, on he went
in a desperate run to outstrip his hungry pursuers for he believed they
were close on his heels and he was exerting himself with all the strength
he could bring into action to outrace them and finally arrived at Cardwells
exhausted with his two miles run and speechless with excitement.
The funniest part of the story," said Mr. Ellison, "is that
Steward never returned back to his claim to recover possession from the
wolves. They completely scared him away."
This same land lies on the east side of Elbow Creek and is owned and occupied by the well known farmer and stock dealer, Ben Westmoreland. The writer will add that Alex Steward is dead now. He died at the mouth of Yocum Creek in Taney County, Mo.
Springfield-Greene County Library