Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Henry W. Shoemaker, Part II: The White Wolf of Sugar Valley

A white wolf haunted the earliest settlers of Sugar Valley, near Loganton (Clinton County) around 1840. The wolf was first encountered by Philip Shreckengast of Tylersville near his barn. It had apparently been eating some animal as its mouth was bloodstained. Shreckengast managed to sever the wolf's tail by slamming the barn door. The wolf was also seen in the graveyard at Brungard's Church by a preacher, who said it was yelping "like a yellow cur that had had boiling water poured on it" as it ran out of the gate.

Granny McGill, a supposed witch living near Lock Haven, told Jacob Rishel that before contacting George Wilson (the killer of two "werewolves" in Wayne Township) they should attempt to locate a black lamb born during a new moon in the Autumn of the year. One was eventually procured, and the wolf was indeed trapped and killed.

The pelt was described as being shaggy and long-haired, almost like an Angora goat, rather than short-haired like the average wolf.

The head of the wolf was displayed mounted on a pole near Jacob Rishel's home. Children were afraid to pass by the head. It was reported that the jaws of the severed head moved, and that the eyes flashed green, and that as long as it was present it warded away wolves from Rishel's farm.

Shoemaker also recounts in his account of the white wolf in "Wolf Days in Pennsylvania" that another wolf which he likened to the French Beast of Gévaudan terrorized the area around Carroll, although no date is given for this event. This wolf was killed by John Schrack, who also had the pelt of the white wolf, as it was attempting a 16-foot leap over a stockade fence at a sheep pen. One of its paws was impaled on the top of the stockade for a good luck charm (elsewhere Shoemaker mentions that this tradition was a widespread one in Sugar Valley and elsewhere).


  1. Wolves disperse long distances from their natal packs. My guess it was a wolf from the nothern Great Lakes region that dispersed south into that part of PA. The aborginal gray wolf of the East (Canis lupus lycaon) isn't a very big subspecies, and it was always dark gray in color.

    As for black wolves, black wolves (and coyotes) are always indicative of some hybridization with dogs somewhere in the animal's ancestry (google black wolves and dogs for the study that found this out).

    The last wolf killed in Scotland by a legendary deer-stalker named MacQueen of Pall a Crocain. He was the Scottish Davy Crockett of his day. This large black wolf (most likely a hybrid) had killed two children. The whole region went on a wolf drive, and MacQueen's long-dog (a greyhound/deerhound cross) caught the wolf. MacQueen slit the wolf's throat and then cut the head off, which he presented to the clan chieftain. MacQueen was hansomely rewarded. He received lands and eventually founded the Clan MacQueen.

    Shoemaker is a very good source for wilderness and hunting stories from Pennsylvania from that time period.

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