The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

The village of Sylvia, Marion County, Ark., is 17 miles southeast of Yellville and St. Joe in Searcy County is 20 miles southwest of Sylvia. The last named place is sometimes called Desota Springs. In the early 80’s Calvin Dutton, Bill Breeding, Newt Nelson, Calvin Summers and McEllen were among the citizens who lived at Sylvia. Nelson was a merchant there, McEllen was a hotel man and Mr. Summers was the Post Master. John Butler was then Post Master at St. Joe and Jack Noe was Post Master at Yellville. In the year 1895 I was told by some persons that they understood that a panther attacked a mail carrier one day who was carrying the mail from some point in Searcy County to Yellville and killed him. Not wishing to write an account of it until I gather further details of it I waited a year or more when one day I was at Yellville and made diligent inquiry about it, but I could find no one that could tell me anything about a mail carrier being killed by a panther. But I was told that a panther did pursue a mail carrier one day and with the exception of giving the carrier a scare it did not hurt him. I never learned any further particulars of it until I went down to Coweta, Indian Territory, in 1906 when I met a man of the name of Joe Fletcher who lived 5 miles northwest of Coweta and one mile south of the section house of the M.K.&T. Railroad. This section house is between Coweta and Jackson Switch. Mr. Fletcher was a former resident of Marion County, Ark., and in giving some incidents that occurred in Marion County he told me of being attacked one day by a panther while he was carrying the mail. In giving the story Mr. Fletcher said, "I was born in Stoddard County, Mo., February 8, 1870. The names of my parents were Billy and Mary Catherine (Whitson) Fletcher. They have been dead some time and both of them rest in the graveyard 6 miles south of Yellville and one mile west of the Cowan graveyard. When my father moved into Marion County he was a mail contractor and had the mail carried on horseback twice a week from Yellville to St. Joe via Sylvia. I was 14 years old and my father put me to work carrying the mail. One day while I was mounted on a big black horse we called Black Hawk, I met a ferocious panther two miles and a half west of Sylvia. When I first noticed the panther it was at the side of the road some 30 yards in my rear and near about the moment I caught sight of the beast it screamed fiercely which made me feel chilly. I urged my horse into a gallop but Black Hawk did not seem to be afraid of it, but I could not say that for myself. The panther pursued me and soon caught up and ran along at the roadside near my horse for a quarter of a mile or more when it leaped up on a big log that lay parallel with the road and which was in a few feet of it. It ran along on top of this log until it reached the end of it and bounded off onto the ground again, and leaped back and forth across the road in front of me and the horse. Black Hawk seemed to be inclined to want to charge over the beast but the panther kept out of his way. I was not silent but the wood rang with my yells and screams until I arrived near to Sylvia when the dogs there heard me and they commenced yelping and ran and met me which scared the panther and It disappeared from my presence. The animal threatened to spring at me several times but it was afraid of the horse which kept it from me. A few days after this Brit Scoff while hunting in the hills two miles southwest of Sylvia saw a panther lying crouched on a log close to him ready to leap on him and he shot and wounded it and the beast lit a shuck and was gone. It was supposed to be the same one that interviewed me on the road."

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