Monday, June 17, 2013

Wolves in Lawrence County


Mahala Waggoner was born 1838 in Ohio and moved with her family from Coshocton, Ohio in 1849 in a wagon.  Her father Jacob was a land agent and the family lived in the Chauncey area. She married George Wurstbaugh in 1858.

Mahala wrote a letter to the Sumner Press in 1916 and included some of her memories of early Lawrence County. “(I)n olden times the prairie grass was taller than a man's head and the deer, wolves and all kinds of wild animals rove the country. Oh, how afraid I used to be when I heard those wolves howl at night.”

Even before she and her family moved to Illinois, the wolf population was a problem. The laws of the Illinois territory in the early 1800s encouraged the killing of wolves. In 1822, an act of law offered a reward:  

An Act to Encourage the Destruction of Wolves.

Sec 1.  Be it enacted by the people of the State of Illinois, That the person who shall kill the greatest number of wolves not less than 60 within this state, between the 15th day of April 1823, and the 15th day of November 1824, shall be entitled to the sum of $200; and the person who shall kill, within the time aforesaid, the greatest number of wolves, not less than 10, within the limits of any one County in the state, shall be entitled to the sum of $20: provided that when it shall appear that two or more persons applying for the premium have killed, as aforesaid, an equal and the highest number of wolves, such premium shall be divided equally among such persons.

Sec 2. Be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of every person wishing to obtain any of the above premiums, to take the scalps with the ears entire, to the clerk of the County commissioners, which clerk shall administer to him an oath …..(stating that the affiant did indeed kill the wolves during the prescribed time)…. and it shall be the duty of said clerk to destroy said scalps and to give to such person a certificate…

By 1825, the premium for each wolf was one dollar, but the County Commissioner could raise it to two dollars, with the County picking up the difference. In 1837, the Act read that big wolves of six months or older receive one dollar, each wolf of six months or younger $.50 and Prairie wolves $.50. In 1839 the premiums went to two, one, and one dollar respectfully. Coyotes were general referred to as Prairie Wolves. 

More letters like Mahala's can be found in the Society's newest publication:   "Letters Home from Former Sons and Daughters of Lawrence County Il, 1915-1919--The Sumner Press Pink Letters" $25.00 available at the Museum or the Genealogy Library. See the Publication page at the top of the Lawrence Lore blog for ordering instructions and other publications available for sale.  

You can even pick one up for sale while you are at Monday's (June 24th) 7:00pm. meeting at the Museum.  Kevin Borden will be presenting a "media extravaganza" about Captain "Don't Give Up the Ship" Lawrence. (Popcorn optional. )