Friday, April 10, 2009

Bobcat attack in Standish, 1813

A big "THANK YOU!" to Dana Edgecomb, who sent this and another story along! Imagine -- a sentence no parent ever wants to hear: "Oh father come quick, some creature is biting me!" There's some great writing in this article, too, such as the imagery called up by lines such as "the cat turned and with eyes like balls of fire sprang at the settler..." Read on!
Standish Sketches of Early Times

The early settlers of Standish were much annoyed by wild animals particularly wildcats, and there are some citizens yet living in the town who can recall that when children they would be kept awake in the night listening to the savage screeching or snarls of the ferocious beasts.

A variety of these animals that seemed to be indigenous to the lake region was known as "bobcat" from having only a stump of a tail about an inch in length. This breed was a much larger and more ferocious animal than the common wildcat, and it was with such a cat made doubly dangerous from being mad, that Eleazer Parker had a desperate battle, in his own house, that cost him his life after about a year of the greatest suffering.

Parker lived on "Standish Neck" and was a poor but worthy farmer with a large family. One dark, cold night, in the last days of February, 1813, after the family had all retired, a crash was heard against one of the windows of his little home, and in a moment one of Parker's daughters cried out from her bed, "Oh father come quick, some creature is biting me."

The settler sprang from his bed and without stopping to dress seized a torch of pitch-wood, (which he ignited in the open fireplace) in one hand and a stout stick in the other and rushed into the room, where his children were now awake and crying out in terror. When the father entered the room and flashed the light of his flambeau upon his daughter's bed he was terrified to see an enormous bobcat upon the bed snarling and biting the child, who was vainly struggling to defend her self with her little arms against the teeth and claws of the maddened cat.

As soon as Parker entered the room the cat turned and with eyes like balls of fire sprang at the settler and then ensued a desperate conflict, the recital of which about firesides of the early settlers for a long time caused many a child to seek its bed in terror and drove sleep from their eyes more effectually than the cries of wild beasts without. Parker was an agile and determined man, and struck desperately at the cat, as it attacked his unprotected feet and legs, and made furious springs at his face.

It is to be regretted that the meager records and traditions of the event give us no fuller details of the struggle, but it appears that the cat finally abandoned the assault and disappeared by leaping through the window, which it broke out, to get into the house, though not until the settler had been badly scratched and bitten.

For the tragical consequences of this singular and perhaps unparalleled affair we are indebted to the diary of Daniel Shaw, son of the poet, Thomas Shaw.

Under date of March 13, 1813, the diary notes: "Went to Eleazer Parker's funeral. Mr. Parker and a daughter of his was bit by a mad wildcat a year ago, which came into his house in the night. The daughter made an outcry that the cat was biting her; he got up and drove the cat out of the house and in the scrape the cat bit him. Elder Leach preached his funeral sermon, and a great many people attended and it was a very solemn time."

"The bobcat" with its savage snarl has disappeared from Standish plains and the Lake region, as well as the wolves and bears, that were numerous in the earlier days.

William McGill (son of James McGill the famous hunter who lived in the old fort), shot the last wolf killed in Standish, and Isaac Whitney captured the last boar ever seen in town in the spring of 1839, but the bobcat has been occasionally seen or heard up to quite recent times.

[Source: Portland Evening Express, 1904]

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