Volume 9, Number 1 - Fall 1985

Terrified by Wolves
Fireside Stories of the Early Days in the Ozarks by Silas C. Turnbo
contributed by Elmo Ingenthron

Among other wolf stories which have been gathered from the pioneers I present this one as being as serious as well as it is amusing, which was given me in a letter by one of our lady contributors, Mrs. Dosha Wilson whose father, Henry Bradley, settled on Beaver Creek, in Taney County, MO, in an early day. Mrs. Wilson is a sister of John Mitchell’s wife, who lived on the south bank of the river, two miles below Forsyth. Mitchell was killed in December, 1864.
The story alluded to is about a bunch of wolves attacking a flock of sheep one night in war times, while Mrs. Wilson and other women were in camp on the road. In giving the account Mrs. Wilson writes as follows:
"My sister Lucy married John Gimlin, who, with his father, Sam Gimlin, came to Taney County in 1841. John was a well-to-do man, but when the war broke out he told Lucy that he loved the South and that he was going to help fight for it. He put his words into effect by telling his wife to do the best she could, and bid good-by to Lucy and the little ones and enlisted in the Confederate army and served until the close of the war.
"For a year or more Lucy was not molested, and she managed to keep the stock together, but as the war progressed until it was much warmer in Southern Missouri, the property began to disappear, and it went on vanishing until there was not much left. In an effort to save the remainder Lucy deemed it prudent to move down to Marion County, Arkansas, where she lived several months on Clear Creek. In the fall of 1864 the horror and destruction of war proved to be worse in Marion County than in Taney County. By this time I learned that my sister wanted to come back to Taney County, and receiving word that she needed my assistance, I went down to Clear Creek to aid in her return. All the property she had left up to that time was a flock of sheep, two yoke of oxen, two milch cows and one ox wagon. Arrangements to start were prepared in haste, then we loaded what household goods she had left into the wagon and Lucy yoked the oxen and hitched them to the wagon and we started back toward Missouri. Lucy drove the oxen equal to her husband. Louisa Foster, a mulatto woman named Puss Coker, and I walked behind the wagon and drove the sheep and cows. It was a trying time then on women and children, as well as men. No man knew when he would meet an enemy and get shot down. We women did not know what moment we would meet bunch of robbers or a lot of bushwhackers, claimin the name of soldiers and take everything away froi us. Oh, those bitter days of strife, sorrow and troi ble. How sad it makes me feel when I reflect back t those dark times. Then I rejoice when I think of th present and know that the war has gone and left u in peace. We were compelled to travel slow makin, frequent stops to allow the cattle and sheep to graz In two days we crossed Bear Creek, and camped oi Bee Creek the third night out. It was near night whei we reached the latter stream and stopped to camp
"There was an uncultivated field on the right o the road, a steep hill on the left and a long hill jus in front, where the road led up. When we stopped w~ let the sheep go up on the steep hillside on the left an lay down. Lucy drove the wagon out of the road anc unyoked the oxen and we turned them and the cows into the waste field. Wood was not handy and we car ned fence rails and built a fire of them in the road and cooked and ate our supper. The weather was a little cool, but the air was calm and when night set in the stars twinkled in the sky. Soon after dark we made our bed down near the fire, for the country appeared so wild, lonely and desolate that we were afraid to sleep away from the fire. Puss, the negro woman, had been sleeping at our feet, and we prepared her a place as usual. We had not yet gone to bed when we were startled by the awful howling of wolves near where the sheep were resting. It seemed that I never heard so many before in my life. There followed a commotion among the sheep at once and we heard the sheep bell start down the hill, and the bunch came in a wild rush toward us, bleating and frantic with fear. They were right on us before we could offer to get out of the way. We screamed, as women usually do when they are terrified, and the crazy sheep, followed by the frightful pack of wolves, crowded over us and passed on out of the light of the fire and beyond into the darkness. It seemed that a thousand black demons mixed with other monsters were turned loose on that wild spot as the fleeing sheep and pursuing wolves were passing over us. We never ceased screaming until after they had all gone. I remember that while they were running over us we sheltered our bodies the best we could with bed quilts. It was done so quick we could hardly realize what did happen. After the sheep and wolves had passed


beyond our hearing Lucy leaped to her feet and ran to the wagon to get the dinner horn to call back the sheep. But as she got out of the wagon she missed her footing and fell to the ground. Without taking time to get up she blew the horn vigorously for the return of the sheep. My fright soon melted into fun and Louisa Foster and I laughed until our sides ached with bad pain. It was so funny to see my excited sister lying on the ground blowing the horn. But her fine flock of sheep did not heed her call. Just before she arose one of her children who was scared nearly to death, uncovered her head and said, ‘Ma, is de woofs all dun gone?’ Puss, the colored woman, was so terror stricken that after the trouble had passed over we could not persuade her to leave the bed long enough to put wood on the fire. Some hours afterward wolves began howling again, and they made a terrible noise until the morning dawn faded into broad daylight, and Louisa and I sat up all night and kept a big fire of rails burning. It seemed at times as though the wolves would attack our camp before day, for they approached veryclose and did not let up until full daylight, when their racket ceased and we saw nor heard nothing more of them. After sunrise we gathered up all the live sheep we could find. There were only three live ones—the wolves had slain the others. My poor sister was greatly troubled at the loss of her sheep. But like hundreds of others in a like condition, she was compelled to bear it.
"As we journeyed on that day our prayers were that our civil war might end soon and enable the people what was left to be at peace with one another again, for the survivors were suffering for the want of food and clothes. The women and children had already suffered beyond endurance. We toiled on with our woes and sorrows until we stopped on the river, on the old Wilson Yardell (Yarnell or Yandell) farm in Taney County. This land lies on the right bank of the river, just above Ben Majors farm, and is some seven miles below Forsyth. Here we lived several months in the midst of troubles and trials of the unrelenting war.


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