The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

"Many years ago," said Mr. James Griffin, "while my parents lived on Hog Creek in Texas County, Mo., a man and his wife with seven children—four girls and three boys— stopped on Hog Creek one mile from our house. They were moving and had come a long distance and had stopped to rest a few days and wash their clothing and look at the country. I cannot call to mind the names of this family except one little girl and her name was Sarah. This was in the fall of 1850 and we had been living on Hog Creek only a few months. At the time I speak of there were big hazle thickets on Hog Creek which produced hundreds of bushels of hazel nuts in the fall season of the year. In the year 1850 the crop of hazel nuts were unusually heavy and the hazel bushes were loaded with the nuts. Two of the girl children of this family were little tots of things, one being four years old and the other three. This last one whose name was Sarah is the subject of our sketch. one day near noon these two children wandered off into the hazel thicket that was near their camp. Their father was gone and their mother and the older girls were busy washing their wearing apparel at the spring which was only a few paces from the wagon. The boys were idle but neither mother, brothers or sisters noticed the absence of the little children until they had finished washing and went to the wagon to eat a cold lunch when they missed the two children, and the mother called them and the older child emerged from the thicket alone and the mother says, "Where Is Sarah", and the child replied, "She is tummin, I dess". They waited a short time for her to make her appearance but she did not come. It was now that the mother became alarmed and she realized that the country was overrun with wild beasts and her and the older children ran into the thicket to search for her. The woman called repeatedly for the child without hearing an answer. She continued to call and hunted all through the hazel bushes but little Sarah could not be found. The frantic mother with the help of the other children did not slack in their energy to find the whereabouts of the little one. The search was kept up until the husband and father came back to camp from an opposite direction from where the children had gone into the thicket. He was much grieved to learn of the absence of his little baby girl and he and wife made a hurried search further from camp than the woman and children had gone, and were horrified to find some blood, a few pieces of flesh and some fragments of the child’s clothes scattered along on the ground. A further investigation revealed several locks of hair that had been torn from the child’s head. It was a sore trial to the family for there was no question now in their minds but that the little innocent being had been destroyed by a wild beast. The sweet little girl child was gone forever from earth. It was hard to have to give her up in such a horrible manner. The mother was bowed down in grief. The father was broken-hearted. The sorrowing mother blamed herself. She said she was too careless and neglectful but she was so busy washing that she did not think like she ought to have done or she would have paid attention to the absence of the little ones. If her little darling had sickened and died she could have born the loss easier but as it was she did not know whether she would be able to bear up under it or not. The father sent two of his boys to our house to give the alarm and for help to make a further search and to try to find and slay the wild beast that destroyed the life of their child and my father sent word to three other settlers and soon after the middle of the afternoon five men on horseback with a number of dogs collected at the spring and with well-loaded guns went to the scene where the little child had been torn to pieces, and went to work immediately to trail the beast to its den. They were all intensely anxious and determined to kill the animal whatever it was. They all separated and each man with his own dogs took his own course and they hunted all around in a circle of two miles across and routed a panther and the dogs attacked it and the beast fled and the dogs pursued it. By this time it was sundown and the dogs chased the animal until late in the night when the beast leaped over the yard fence of a settler and ran across the yard in front of the door and a small fice that the settler owned dashed at the huge beast which frightened it and it sprang up a pine tree that stood close to the yard fence. The pursuing dogs soon reached the tree that the panther had gone up and was closely followed by the men. The man who lived there took some fire out to the tree where they all built a fire for a light and they all saw the big panther resting on a limb high above the ground and my father shot and killed the panther by the bright light of the fire. Whether this was the same animal that destroyed the child or not was never known by us. Though they found some meat in its stomach, but nothing to prove that it was the flesh of the child, but it was supposed that it was the same animal. The panther measured nine feet in length and my father cut off one of its forepaws and brought it home. The men continued the search for several days to find more remains of the child but no other discovery was made as far as known. In a few days after this the bereaved family came to our house and remained overnight with us and left Hog Creek on the following day to locate a home further west. This was a sad incident and all who knew of it sympathized with the family."

Mr. Griffin furnished me this account on the 10th of August, 1906, while he lived near the Verdigris River in the Indian Territory.

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