Henry David Thoreau Panther 1856


Henry David Thoreau

The most interesting sight I saw in Brattleboro was the skin and skull of a panther (Felis concolor) (cougar, catamount, painter, American lion, puma), which was killed, according to a written notice attached, on the 15th of June by the Saranac Club of Brattleboro, six young men, on a fishing and hunting excursion.

This paper described it as eight feet in extreme length and weighing one hundred and ten pounds. The Brattleboro newspaper says its body was "4 feet 11 inches in length, and the tail 2 feet 9 inches; the animal weighed 108 pounds." I was surprised at its great size and apparent strength.

It gave one a new idea of our American forests and the vigor of nature here. It was evident that it could level a platoon of men with a stroke of its paw. I was particularly impressed by the size of its limbs, the size of its canine teeth, and its great white claws.

I do not see but this affords a sufficient foundation for the stories of the lion heard and its skins seen near Boston by the first settlers. This creature was very catlike, though the tail was not tapering, but as large at the extremity as anywhere, yet not tufted like the lion's. It had a long neck, a long thin body, like a lean cat. Its fore feet were about six inches long by four or five wide, as set up.

I talked with the man who shot him, a Mr. Kellogg, a lawyer. They were fishing on one of the Saranac Lakes, their guide being the Harvey Moody whom Hammond describes, when they heard the noise of some creature threshing about amid the bushes on the hillside. The guide suspected that it was a panther which had caught a deer.

He reconnoitred and found that it was a panther which had got one fore paw (the left) in one of his great double-spring, long teethed or hooked bear-traps. He had several of these traps set (without bait) in the neighborhood.

It fell to Kellogg's lot to advance with the guide and shoot him. They approached within six or seven rods, saw that the panther was held firmly, and fired just as he raised his head to look at them. The ball entered just above his nose, pierced his brain, and killed him at once.

The guide got the bounty of twenty-five dollars, but the fame fell to his employers. A slice had been sheared off one side of each ear to secure this with. It was a male. The guide thought it an old one, but Kellogg said that, as they were returning with it, the inhabitants regarded it as common; they only kicked it aside in the road, remarking that [it] was a large one.

I talked also with the Mr. Chamberlin who set it up. He showed me how sharp the edges of the broad grinders were just behind the canine teeth. They were zigzag, thus:


and shut over the under, scraping close like shears and, as he proved, would cut off a straw clean. This animal looked very thin as set up, and probably in some states of his body would have weighed much more.

Kellogg said that, freshly killed, the body showed the nerves much more than as set up. The color, etc., agreed very well with the account in Thompson's History of Vermont, except that there was, now at least, no yellow about the mouth or chin, but whitish. It was, in the main, the universal color of this family, or a little browner.

According to Thompson, it is brown-red on the back, reddish-gray on the sides, whitish or light-ash on the belly; tail like the back above, except its extremity, which is brownish-black, not tufted; chin, upper lip, and inside of ears, yellowish-white. Hairs on back, short, brownish tipped with red; on the belly, longer, lighter, tipped with white; hairs of face like back with whitish hairs intermingled.

Canines conical, claws pearly-white. Length, nose to tail, four feet eight inches; tail, two feet six inches; top of head to point of nose, ten inches; width across forehead, eight inches. Length of fore legs, one foot two inches; hind, one foot four inches. Weight usually about one hundred pounds. The largest he ever knew was seven feet in extreme length and weighed one hundred and eighteen pounds.

One had been known to leap up a precipice fifteen feet high with a calf in his mouth. Vide Lawson, Hunter, and Jefferson in Book of Facts. Hunter when near the Rocky Mountains says, "So much were they to be apprehended. . . that no one ever ventured to go out alone, even on the most trifling occasion." He makes two kinds.

Emmons makes the extreme length of one of the largest cougars nine feet four inches, and the greatest length of the canine tooth of the upper jaw from the gum nine tenths of an inch. I think that the teeth of the one I saw were much larger. Says it is cowardly and "rarely if ever attacks man;" that a hunter met five in St. Lawrence County, N. Y., and, with his dog and gun only, killed three that day and the other two the next. Yet he will follow a man's track a great distance. Scream at evening heard for miles. Thinks about 45° its northern range.

Journal of Henry David Thoreau, Edited by Bradford Torrey and Francis H. Allen
Vol. IX. (Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co., © 1906) pps 61-81.

Henry David Thoreau, Excursion Outfit Drawing.jpg

Henry David Thoreau

Drawn By Quaker Daniel Ricketson

An Excursion In 1854


Brattleboro Townsmen Meet Thoreau

The six men on this excursion were George Bradley Kellogg, Francis Goodhue, Sidney A. Miller, Linus P. Dickinson, Charles Goodhue, and Nathaniel Hayward. They are all named in "the Brattleboro newspaper" mentioned by Thoreau, specifically, the Vermont Phoenix for June 21, 1856 in an article entitled, "Fishing Excursion to Saranac Lake".

The "Mr. Chamberlin" who set up or stuffed the beast was Bela N. Chamberlain of Pond & Chamberlain Co. The panther was "to be kept in their Hat Store in this village as a memento of the doings of the Saranac Lake Club". This newspaper article articulates the ferocity of the panther species, but neglects to mention the detail of the bear-trap.

George Bradley Kellogg was born in November 1825, the son of Hon. Daniel Kellogg and Jane McAffey. He studied law with Asa Keyes of Brattleboro. Kellogg married Mary Lee Sikes, daughter of the temperance tavern keeper Uriel Sikes, on March 15, 1847. Doubtless a prodigious lot of trout was served up at Sikes Tavern.

Rev. Addison Brown's house at the end of Chase Street

Rev. Addison Brown House On Chase Street

Henry David Thoreau arrived in Brattleboro Friday night, September 5, 1856 as the invited guest of the Unitarian Rev. Addison Brown's family on Chase Street.

The next day Thoreau learned from the local botanist Charles C. Frost that the Aster ptarmicoides he was seeking in Vermont--it did not grow in his Concord, Massachusetts--was under the high water of the Connecticut River.

The author of Walden spent the days walking down the new railroad tracks, delving in the intervales and steep banks along the Cold Water Path along the Whetstone Brook, climbing the hill behind Chase Street up into "Brown's Woods" to the frog pond, and hiking Chesterfield Mountain.

Ann E. Wetherbee---Mrs. Rev. Addison Brown---remembered Thoreau all her ninety-nine years. Henry Thoreau boarded the north-bound cars on Tuesday morning, September 9, 1856.






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