I want to thank Brian for sending me this article.
Many believe that stories of Bigfoot, a gigantic hairy man-like creature with huge feet, originated in the Pacific Northwest. This is not precisely correct. Early settlers of the South reported encounters with strange Sasquatch-like monsters long before the first recorded sightings in Washington and Oregon.
As they pushed their settlements deep into the woods and their hunts even deeper, the early frontier people of the South often ran up against mysteries that defied explanation. One of the most bizarre involved a series of events surrounding a creature called the “Wild Man” by newspapers of the 1840s.
The earliest known recorded sightings took place in February and March of 1846 in the Crowley’s Ridge area of eastern Arkansas. Stories about the creatures appearance were carried in newspapers across the nation, with the Baltimore Sun reporting on March 13, 1846, that “his track measures 22 inches, his toes are as long as a common man’s fingers, and in height and make, he is double the usual size.”
Other reports followed, with a second surge of news coverage taking place in 1851. The New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette reported on May 29th of that year that an expedition was about to leave Memphis to hunt for “the wild man.” The monster was said to be “of gigantic size and covered with hair.”
The same newspaper followed with a page one account on June 5th, quoting the Memphis Enquirer as its source for a report that the Wild Man had been seen chasing a herd of cattle:
…He was of gigantic stature, the body being
covered with hair, and the head with long
locks that fairly enveloped his neck and
shoulders. – The “wild man” after looking at
them deliberately for a short time, turned and
ran away with great speed, leaping from 12 to
14 feet at a time
The Enquirer account noted that the monster had been seen in St. Francis, Greene and Poinsett Counties for 17 years, a statement that indicates that now lost reports may have been made as early as 1834.
Col. David C. Cross and Dr. Sullivan of Memphis were said to be organizing an expedition to search for the creature. This may well have been the first Bigfoot hunt in American history. No written details of the results of their search have yet been found, but certainly could exist.
Another round of accounts appeared in the nation’s newspapers in 1856. On January 3rd of that year the Pittsfield Sun reported:
A wild man, seven feet high, is stated to be
roaming through the great Mississippi bottom
in Arkansas. Numerous travelers and hunters
have asserted that they have seen him, but
none have been able to get near enough to
give particulars concerning the strange being.
Not all accounts, however, were from the swamps of eastern Arkansas. A fairly bizarre report appeared in May of 1856 reporting a sighting in April on the upper Red River and noting that the creature had also been seen in Northern Louisiana.
According to this version, which appeared in the Wisconsin Patriot on May 10, 1856, the Wild Man was spotted breaking the ice of a frozen lake. He was “covered with hair of a brownish cast” and was described as being “well muscled.”
A party of men from Louisiana had gone into the wilderness on horseback to find the creature and decided to try to capture it. One man from this group had gone ahead of his comrades and decided to try to take the monster on his own. This was a bad idea:
..So soon…as the wild man saw the horse and
rider, he rushed frantically toward them, and
in an instant dragged the hunter to the
ground and tore him in a most dreadful
manner, scratching out one of his eyes and
injuring the other so much that his comrades
despair of the recovery of his sight, and biting
large pieces out of his shoulder and various
parts of his body.
In perhaps the most bizarre part of the story, the Wild Man supposedly made off with the injured man’s horse. The hunter’s friends set off in pursuit, joined by a party of Choctaw Indians that happened to be in the area. The chase led up into the Ouachita Mountains, then covered in snow from a particularly brutal winter, where the pursuers failed to capture their elusive prey.
Stories of a gigantic, hair-covered, man-like creature are told in Arkansas to this day, notably in the Ouachita and Ozark mountains and in the swamps of the Mississippi and Red Rivers. The famed Boggy Creek Monster is just one modern manifestation.