The Great Streetsboro Hunt of 1819

The Great Streetsboro Hunt of 1819

It was called the Great Streetsboro Hunt of 1819.  Streetsboro is a township in Portage County, Ohio, and had bears, wolves, wild cats and deer in large numbers.  These animals were killing some of the residents' sheep and calves.  The townspeople were getting more and more upset about it, so they organized the hunt in hopes of stopping some of their losses. Despite the protest of some of the local residents (the wild animals served a good purpose to them-- they often ended up on their dinner tables or were made into clothing), the word went out about The Great Hunt.  

Somewhere between thirty and forty acres in the center of Streetsboro were marked off.  It was the middle of winter, so the swamps and lakes were frozen.  There were three inches of snow on the ground, making it easier to track the animals.  Hunters came from around the county, including Phillip Willyard, my 5th great grandfather who lived in Rootstown, several townships away.  At 10:00 in the morning, the hunt started.  Deer were shot in large numbers.  Bears were spotted up in the trees, scared for their lives.  But the biggest prize of the day went to anyone who managed to shoot and kill a wolf.  

Wolves were especially pesky animals, because they had quite an appetite for the farmers’ sheep.  A solution for this was already in place, in which a bounty would be paid to anyone who brought in a wolf scalp.  Some early settlers were known to have made a nice side income just by hunting wolves.  A good day could bring in one or two wolves, worth between $4 and $7 per scalp (between $65 and $115 in today's money).  These bounties were paid in Portage county mostly in the 1810s and into the 1820s, and gradually declining into the 1830s and 1840s.  Very few were redeemed in the 1850s, and the last one was paid in 1860.  Phillip previously had only redeemed one bounty back in 1815, but he must have had that in mind when he came to The Great Hunt.

Phillip was standing near Samuel Curtis when the cry went out. "Wolf!  Wolf! Wolf!"  A wolf was headed their way.  They both drew their guns, both fired, and both went after the wolf as it fell dead.  A tug of war match broke out between
 the two, both claiming to have rights to the scalp.  They dropped the wolf and started pounding each other with their fists, rolling around on the ground.  Phillip eventually outwitted Samuel Curtis, but only after both had been bloodied and beaten by the other.  When the fight was over, Phillip went to get the wolf.  But he himself had been outwitted by an unknown bystander.  The wolf was scalped and gone-- in the hands of someone else.

By the end of the day, seven bears and over sixty deer were killed.  Five wolves were killed, and presumably five bounties were paid too.  But none of them were paid to my poor great-great-great-great-great grandfather Phillip that day.   

Sources consulted:

Harold A. Geer, compiler, Record of Bounties by Wolf Scalps, Portage County, 1810-1860, 1961, held in the Portage County (Ohio) Historical Society Archives Room, Ravenna, Ohio. 

Christian Cackler, Recollections of an Old Settler, Stories of Kent and Vicinity in Pioneer Times. (1874; reprint, Ravenna, Ohio: Record Publishing Company, 1964).
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