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Subject: [HAMRICK-L] A grey wolf hunt
Date: Sat, 29 Jan 2000 21:36:09 -0500

I am happy that it is story-telling time on the Hamrick list. Many of the
West Virginia Hamricks were extraordinary story tellers, and few could match
the wit and wisdom of my grandfather, Daniel Stoffer Hamrick. Granddad
killed the last grey wolf in West Virginia in a time when environmental
concerns were secondary to survival. That context should be understood.

An eight-day wolf hunt
By D.S. Hamrick
EDITOR¹S NOTE: The following account of an eight-day wolf hunt is an
abbreviated version of a story written in 1941 by Daniel Stoffer Hamrick of
West Virginia. This account appeared in the book, "Annals of Webster
County, West Virginia." P255-258. One of the interesting things about this
story is that Stoffer Hamrick was regarded as a great story teller but
this is the only one known that he committed to writing. Nevertheless,
there is an extraordinary prose style here for a man , a blacksmith, whose
formal education was limited, probably to a few short terms in grade school.

During the last 40 years there has been a lot of controversy about the
wolves still roaming the woods and hills of West Virginia. The following
article may set at ease some minds which still believe they hear the cries
of the wolf at night.
On January 8, 1897, the last gray or timber wolf was killed in West
Virginia, according to my belief. Some eight or ten years before that date,
wolves were playing havoc with sheep in Webster, Pocahontas, Nicholas,
Braxton, Greenbrier, and Randolph Counties. About 1891 or 1892, John Gregory
killed the mother wolf and one or two of her young.
From that time on for five years the male wolf was the lone representative
of his tribe in the West Virginia mountains. He ravaged sheep far and wide.
One night he would kill only one and the next night a great many.

On the night of Jan. 20, 1895, the wolf killed 27 lambs owned by my
brother, Jacob Hamrick, on Point Mountain, Randolph County. The wolf was
often hunted and traps were set for him to no avail. The county courts of
Randolph and Webster Counties offered separate bounties of $100 each to the
person who would bring the scalp of this wolf to them. The farmers of the
mountain region were discouraged. They said they could not afford to raise
sheep as the wolf killed the most of them.
On New Year¹s morning, 1897, Uncle John Hamrick, who was living on a farm
near Whittaker¹s Falls of the Elk River, came down to my father¹s house and
said that on the previous night the wolf had killed five of the best sheep
that he had, a loss of at least $50.
There was two feet of snow on the ground and it was very cold.
Nevertheless, we started immediately to organize a wolf hunt. Every man we
could coax into the hunt was sought. I still remember clearly my father
saying: "Sonny, you put the saddle on my horse and go as quickly as you can
to Joe Sharp¹s place and tell him I have sent you for him and his dogs."
This I did and I found Mr. Sharp in a willing mood. When we returned with
the dogs we learned that the wolf had been tracked into a thicket on Point
Mountain, just above where Currence Chapman then lived.
I do not remember all who started the first day but the second morning when
we met halfway up Mill Run there were 15 men and boys in the party, namely:
John, Robert and George Rose; Calvin Hamrick, Spencer Hamrick, W.S. Hamrick,
David W. Hamrick, Lilly Hamrick, Francis Cowger, John Dodrill, Garfield
Dodrill, Lee A. Hamrick, Adam Hamrick, Joe Sharp and myself. We followed
that wolf track for eight days, in subzero weather and over four counties,
but most of the time in Webster and Randolph. One evening just at dark we
found ourselves at the mount of Flint Run on the Back Fork of the Elk, where
Lilly Hamrick said to me: "I can¹t travel any more."
We built a campfire but we didn¹t have anything to eat. Brother Jacob
said that if someone would go after it, he could get a horse at his place on
which Lilly could ride. Brother Lee said he would go and I went with him.
We walked three miles up Point Mountain to the farm. Shortly after we left
the campfire someone produced a bottle of hot drops and told Lilly that if
he would take some he would be all right. Adam, who had been the leader of
the party from the start, remarked so Lilly could hear him, that there was
nothing wrong with him except that he had given up. Either the hot drops or
Adam¹s insult did the work for when we started down the mountain with a pair
of horses we met the whole part coming with Lilly in the lead.
One morning we were on stands on the Upper Elk. The wolf came within 50
yards of John Dodrill and stopped. He had a new gun, either a Winchester or
a Marlin. John took dead aim and pulled the trigger but the gun didn¹t go
off. He tried again, and again the gun refused to fire. The wolf had enough
of the fooling around and disappeared.
When we came up, John said: "Men, that wolf is not to be killed." We
hunted in the snow and found the two cartridges which had failed to
discharge. We put them back in the gun and they both went off this time.
Then John said: "The hand of the Almighty is against us." We tried to
convince him that the reason the gun didn¹t discharge was because ice was in
the gun. John finally said: "I will still go with the hunt but don¹t place
me where you think the wolf will come."
On the night of Jan. 7, we were cared for by the good Dutch people on
Turkey Bone Mountain in Randolph County. The next morning while I was
loading my gun, Mr. Wooftner said to me: "One cartridge is enough." I
replied that I could carry cartridges better in the magazine of the gun than
in my pocket. (Wooftner knew Hamrick was a good marksman.)
We went that morning to the spot where we quit the night before, the head
of Back Fork of Elk. Adam told Jacob Hamrick and Milton Hull to hold the
dogs for one hour and 20 minutes until he could have time to place the men
on stands. We all went down to the fork of the stream and took stands. Lee
Hamrick stood close to the creek. Alva Sharp stood above him, and I was
next. Laben Hull was next above me and John Rose above him. The rest were
strung out in like manner on up the mountain. I could see Mr. Sharp below me
and Mr. Hull above me.
Mr. Sharp got so cold he was building a fire when the wolf came straight
to him. The wolf must have winded him for he changed his course and came
between Mr. Hull and me. I was standing on a log that was lying against a
large maple tree when I sighted the wolf and fired the shot that brought his
depredations to an end. I fired past Lee Hamrick and I know he jumped at
least three feet when the bullet zipped past him. (Apparently Lee Hamrick
pursued the wolf when it appeared before Sharp.)
The others came up and measured the distance of my shot at 187 steps. It
was then one o¹clock. There was much rejoicing that our enemy was dead and
that our cold and painful tramping was ended. We walked from there to Laben
Hull¹s and danced all right. The next day everyone within a radius of
several miles came to see the wolf. We weighed the wolf at Mr. Hull¹s and
discovered it weighed 87 pounds. It had eaten nothing in the eight days
except one grouse. We didn¹t give it time to kill any sheep in that period.
I took the scalp to the county court at Webster Springs but the court
refused to pay the bounty. After finding a man for my guardian ‹ I was only
17 ‹ I employed the late Senator E.H. Morton, a very able attorney. He
brought suit against the county court and secured judgment in justice
court. The court appealed the case to the circuit court. But when we came
up for trial the court compromised and paid the bounty.
If there are any of those who would scoff at the above story, I refer them
to the above men now living and to the court record of Webster County.

Dan Hamrick
402 23rd Street NW
Canton OH 44709
Phone and fax: 330-454-2376

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