Pioneer Hunting Stories of John Warth


By Jordan Pickens - Special to OVP



An account of hunting adventures, as described by Mr. John Warth and reported by Mr. Silas Jones, who was a member of Mr. Warth’s family in 1832. He says that Mr. Warth never tired of entertaining his guests with narratives of perils and adventures in his early life, and Mr. Jones reports, as near as possible, in the actor’s own words.

“In the time of great peril, when it was not safe to look out of the fort, and our brother Robert had been shot while chopping a log near the fort, it became necessary to procure some meat for the families in the fort. Thinking the Ohio bottoms less liable to be infested with Indians, George and I stole out of the fort at night, and paddled noiselessly down the river to a point opposite Blennerhasset Island, where we hid our canoe in the willows. As soon as it was light we started in different directions to hunt for deer. I had not gone half a mile when I saw two tall savages coming in the direction I was going. I squatted in the high pea vines and thick undergrowth that covered the ground while they passed by near me but did not see me. However, they soon discovered my trail, which they followed back to the canoe, which I supposed they would watch until the owner would come.

My great concern now was the safety of my brother George, as he not being aware of the presence of the Indians would return to the canoe and fall a prey to them. Then I decided on a plan to save George, which was to proceed to a point out of sight of the Indians, hide my gun, swim across the river, then swim to the island and watch for George’s return. This plan I fully carried out. Along in the afternoon I heard the report of my brother’s gun after which my anxiety amounted to agony — minutes seemed hours. At length I saw George coming out of the woods with the carcass of a deer on his back. He looked up and down the shore, when I got his attention and by signs and gestures got him to take in the situation. We both regained the fort without further trouble. When the danger was over I went with a party and recovered my gun and the canoe.

“Another time George and I went out in search of game, and were separated some distance, when I heard the report of his gun, after which I heard cries of distress coming from George. I ran to him with all the possible speed of my limbs, and found him pinned to the earth by a large elk. I was so exhausted that I could not draw the bead, so I ran up and thrust the muzzle of my rifle against the animal’s ribs and fired, when he fell dead at my feet. My brother was not much hurt, the horns of the elk had not penetrated through the ample folds of his hunting shirt, which held him to the ground. The hunter’s shirt was made sufficiently large so that he could stow a week’s provisions above the belt.)

George had fired on the elk, only wounding him, and so enraging the beast that he turned on the hunter and compelled George to take refuge in a high upturned root where he fought with his clubbed rifle till he had nothing left but the bent barrel, when the maddened elk finally dislodged him, with the above result. Our capture was a valuable one, but did not compensate for George’s gun.”

An Encounter With Wolves at Shade River.

George Warth and Peter Niswonger took their rifles and went out for a hunt. After traveling some time they came to a ridge that ran to near the mouth of Shade River, when Warth said to Niswonger, “You go on the bottom on one side of the ridge and I will take the other side and will come together at the end of the ridge on the bank of Shade River.” They started thus, but Niswonger got out of the way, and came out above the second ridge.

Warth went directly to the river end of the ridge — there sat seven to ten wolves. They showed no alarm at his approach, the largest walked toward him, the others following. He shot the foremost one, and it fell dead. He reloaded his rifle as soon as he could, for the wolves indicated fight. Then he went into the river until the water was up to his hips, and the wolves went in after him. He shot the foremost one through the shoulder and he went back to the water’s edge and sat down and looked at him. He defended himself with his empty rifle, broke the stock in many pieces, and then fought them with the empty barrel.

He had the advantage of being in the water deep enough to swim the wolves, and he pounded them until they retreated to the edge of the water and sat down on their haunches and looked at him. He dared not go out of the water as he might not be able to fight if they followed him. Soon Niswonger came on the shore opposite the wolves and Warth crossed over to him and told him “not to shoot — we will call it a draw game, neither party whipped.”

He would not let Niswonger shoot lest they might be attacked. The hunters returned to their homes on Old Town creek, and next day increased their force and went back to the place of the battle and found two dead wolves but no live ones.

Black bears were numerous in these parts of southern Ohio in the first years of the nineteenth century. Henry Roush, of Letart Township, related an incident of his encounter with bears. He said: “I was going out to bring in the cows, and contrary to my usual custom did not take my rifle with me, and while passing along the rear of my neighbor’s field of corn I saw two young bears helping themselves to roasting ears. I succeeded in capturing one of them, which began to squall at a furious rate, which brought the mother bear rushing upon me with great fury. I had to drop my prize and run for a high fence which was near, with the angry bear at my heels. After gaining the top of the fence, I seized a stake and beat off my assailants.”

Elk were seen, but not in great numbers. Wolves were numerous and very troublesome. It was as common to hear the howl of a wolf in the twilight of an evening as it was to hear the crowing of a cock in the morning. They would answer each other from hill to hill when gathering their pack for the depredations upon the settler’s sheep or young cattle.

In 1827, parties of road viewers were cutting out a road from Chester, the county seat of Meigs County, to Sterling Bottom, on the Ohio River, and at a certain point lay out a road from this to Old Town. The viewers were Nehemiah Bicknell, Samuel Bowman and one or two other men. They had progressed only half way from Chester when night came on and they had to spend the night in the woods. They built fires for protection from wolves, whose howling they heard apparently in force, at no great distance, at intervals all night. The men kept the fires burning, but slept little.

Wolves continued to commit depredations on the farmers’ sheep in Lebanon Township, a gang having dens somewhere about the head of Ground Hog creek and Old Town creek. An expert trapper named Allen came from Washington County in 1840 and successfully exterminated these wolves.

The panther was often met by the hunter, but was easily killed, as the animal was of a bold, defiant nature, he would climb a tree where he was an easy mark for the hunter’s rifle. Deer were found in great numbers and were a great blessing to the pioneer families, who depended for meat upon the wild game. Venison was a choice meat, while the deer’s hide was tanned and served to make various articles of apparel. The deer has disappeared from this county. Gray foxes were numerous and were great enemies to poultry raising, but the red fox seems to have superseded the gray, and neither are seen in later years. The raccoon was a great pest, destroying large quantities of corn while in a green state on the stalk. Coon hunting with dog^ was a common sport for boys until the animal has disappeared. The opossum and red and gray squirrel remain in limited numbers.

As the old Ohio flows….

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By Jordan Pickens

Special to OVP

Jordan Pickens is a local historian and educator.

Jordan Pickens is a local historian and educator.