Critter tails from the past

I have been collecting local history for almost 30 years, which means I have spent a lot of time with my nose in old newspapers, whether paper, microfilm, or online. greatdane_minihorse copy

Anytime I found a good animal story, I would stash it away. I always knew I’d find a good place to share them some day.

• Dog Shoots Dog — In 1876, a couple of boys were out chopping wood in Boone Township in the western part of Franklin County, Mo. As usual, they had their dogs and a gun with them.

The loaded gun was propped against a log. One of the dogs was napping near the gun while the other was busy checking out his surroundings. He spotted a rabbit and, just as the rabbit passed the snoozing pooch, the dog jumped up, knocking the gun down in such a way that it discharged and killed the other dog. (Franklin County Tribune)

• Cat Adopts Groundhog Babies — James G. Saucier of Morrellton (Mo.) killed an old groundhog in 1922 and captured four baby groundhogs. They were very young and their eyes were not yet open. He took them home and turned them over to his mother cat who was happy to add the strange looking kittens to her young family. They bonded well and she set about raising them. (St. Clair Chronicle)

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Photo provided by Xplore Magazine.

• Snake Ate the Wrong Egg — Charles Schloss, who lived three miles northeast of St. Clair in 1930, came across a seven-foot long blacksnake while he was hauling wood. It was close to the entrance of a small cave.

He killed the reptile, examined it, and found a big knot on its body. Curious as to what the knot might be, he cut the snake open and found a china nest egg. It appeared the egg had been inside the snake for a long time. The china egg was put on display in the window of Farmers & Merchants Bank of St. Clair. (St. Clair Chronicle)

• Long Turkey Trek — Jack Maupin followed a gang of over 100 wild turkeys for six or seven miles in 1875, crossing the river 10 times in his determined pursuit. After all that work, he was only able to kill one turkey, but managed to shoot a large deer while he was out. This probably took place in Franklin County. (Franklin County Observer)

• Model T Struck Steer — Aubrey Barber was driving his fairly new 1924 Model T down Main Street when he came upon Art Jahn driving 12 or 15 head of steers to Washington. Barber struck one of the steers.

Although Barber was driving slowly, the steer jumped into the side of the automobile and broke its leg. Barber had to pay for the steer as it was legal for people to drive cattle on the road.

Area butcher Emil McCrary quickly bought the steer from Barber and butchered it. (St. Clair Chronicle)

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A white pelican (photo provided by the MDC).

• White Pelican Killed — Louis Maune killed a white pelican on the Bourbeuse River in 1877. It measured eight feet from wingtip to wingtip, and five feet from beak to toes. Its bill was 13 inches long and the pouch underneath would hold more than a gallon of water. He stuffed the skin and preserved it. (The Tribune)

• Snake Party Interrupted — While cleaning out and repairing a clogged culvert in 1921, Arthur and Otto Kramme, Ernest Eggers, William Weber and others discovered a snake behind a rock in the middle of the road.

Closer examination revealed it was a regular army of snakes. There were 82 snakes — 12 copperheads, 60 black snakes, 8 brown snakes and 2 green-striped snakes. The men killed the snakes and strung them on a line.

They sent for Alfred G.L. Holland to come and take pictures of the snakes, which were then kept at the newspaper office for folks to see. (Pacific Transcript)

• Oddity of Oddities — In 1919, Ben Heeger of Stanton killed a snow-white squirrel and his hunting companion, Arthur Figone, killed a completely black one. It was the first time anyone could remember a solid black or solid white squirrel being spotted in the area. (Sullivan News)

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A young groundhog from northeastern Missouri.

• Horse No Match for Train — George Cone Spradling’s fine buggy horse was struck and killed by a Frisco train opposite his house in 1920. He had been offered $125 for the horse a short time before. In that era, there were many stories of horses being struck or spooked by trains and automobiles. (Sullivan News)

• Carrier Pigeons Freed — A coop full of carrier pigeons was shipped to Union, Mo., from Detroit, Mich., in 1920. The birds were liberated by Station Agent F.M. Peterson. It is assumed he was instructed to do so in order to see if the pigeons would return to Michigan. (Franklin County Tribune)

The River Hills Traveler does not promote the illegal practice of keeping wildlife as pets without a permit. Although there are no laws against killing harmless snakes, they serve to help control the population of rodents and other pests.

These stories are from an earlier era when wildlife preservation was less promoted and controlled.

By Sue Blesi

(Sue Blesi can be reached at

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