Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 30th, 2012
The media stories of an exciting new animal out of Africa were all the rage in the last half of the 1800s. Above is a print of a gorilla, 1866. None were in zoos yet. None were in America.
The reports of “gorillas” (as Bigfoot/Sasquatch were termed in the 19th century) in Kansas in 1869, first noted by researcher and author Mark A. Hall of Minnesota, are well known. I have written about these chronicles often. Here are some more news accounts of the time confirming these reported events.
Barkerville (BC) The Cariboo Sentinel, October 16, 1869, p. 1
Kansas is enjoying a new sensation. A gorilla is at large in Crawford
county in that State. It has at different times been seen by every
inhabitant of the valley. The settlers have christened it Old Sheff.
Whether the strange animal is a gorilla or a wild man is not decided. Sixty
settlers turned out one day to hunt it down but it escaped. It has so near
a resemblance to the human form that the men are unwilling to shoot it down.
Dubuque (IA) Dubuque Daily Herald, September 4, 1869, p.2
WHAT IS IT?
A Gorilla or Wild Man in Kansas.
The Arcadia, Kansas, correspondent of the St. Louis Democrat says:
“Aside from the excitement caused by the trouble in regard to the ownership
of these neutral lands, we, of Arcadia valley, in the southern part of
Crawford county, are having a new sensation which may lead to some new
disclosures in natural history, if investigated, as it should be. It is
nothing less then the discovery of a wild man, for a gorilla, or “what is
it?” It has at different times been seen by almost every inhabitant of the
valley, and it has occasionally been seen in the adjoining county in
Missouri, but it seems to make its home in this vicinity. Several times it
has approached the cabins of the settlers, much to the terror of the women
and children, especially if the men happen to be absent working in the
fields. In one instance it approached the house of one of our old citizens,
Wm. Armsworthy, but was driven away with clubs by one of the men. It has so
near a resemblance to the human form that men are unwilling to shoot it. It
is difficult to give a description of this wild man or animal. It has a
stooping gait, very long arms, with immense hands or claws. It has a hairy
face, and those who have been near it describe it as having a most ferocious
expression of countenance; generally walks on its hind legs, but sometimes
on all fours. The beast, or “what is it?” is as cowardly as it is ugly, and
it is next thing to impossible to get near enough to obtain a good view of
it. The settlers, not knowing what to call it, have christened it Old
Sheff. Since its appearance, our fences are often found down, allowing the
stock free range in our cornfields. I suppose Old Sheff is only following
his inclination, as it may be easier for it to pull them down than to climb
over them. However, as it is, curses loud and deep are heaped on its head
by the settlers. The settlers are divided in opinion as to whether it
belongs to the human or not. Probably it will be found to be a gorilla or
large orang outang, that has escaped from some menagerie in the settlements
east of here. At one time over sixty of the citizens turned out to hunt it
down, but it escaped; but, probably, owing to the fright it received, kept
out of sight for several days, and just as the settlers were congratulating
themselves that they were rid of an intolerable nuisance, Old Sheff came
back again, seemingly as savage as ever. If this meets the eye of any
showman who has lost one of his collection of beasts, he may know where to
find it. At present it is the terror of all the women and children in the
valley. It cannot be caught, and nobody is willing to shoot it.”
Thanks to the archival research of Chuck Flood.