Posted by: Loren Coleman on June 27th, 2010
Boston Daily Globe
September 9, 1891
STILL AT LARGE.
“Jack, the Wild Man,”
Causes a Scare.
Norwell Citizens Keep Their
Sentries Posted on the
Possible Solution of the
Missing Farm Laborer May be
NORWELL, Sept. 8. – A country hamlet bordering almost on the condition of a
panic; a wild man, scantily clad, gaunt of body, and with long flowing hair;
an excited populace scouring the woods, will partly describe the condition
of affairs in this most secluded and isolated town.
Last Friday [September 4] Mrs. Ensign Damon and another woman, while engaged
in picking blueberries from an extensive patch of ground in the rear of the
premises of Ensign Damon, were startled on seeing the form of a man suddenly
arise almost as from the ground in front of them.
The trunk of a large hemlock tree lay in front of them, and from a narrow
opening in the side there dashed forth a queer-looking creature.
It looked like a man, and it was almost naked.
Long flowing whiskers adorned his chin, and his body was covered with hair.
The women screamed, dropped their tin pails and scrambled through the
underbrush, and, almost in hysterics, succeeded in reaching a clearing, upon
which a friendly farmhouse sheltered them for the time being.
When they had sufficiently recovered from their fright they detailed their
experience to one of the town constables, and ever since then the woods have
been scoured in the hopes of capturing the strange creature.
Norwell is a small hamlet located about five miles from Scituate. It
contains about 2000 inhabitants, and several hundred of them find employment
in a shoe store. The little town is perhaps the most lonely village in
Massachusetts after dark.
The writer secured a team in Scituate and arrived in the centre of the
village about 9 o’clock.
A small corner grocery with a hall overhead furnishes the business centre of
the place. A narrow piazza surrounded the structure, upon which were
gathered a number of excited natives, and the all-absorbing topic of
interest was being discussed. Shortly after the news of the discovery of
the wild man was conveyed to the proper authorities and from them
transmitted to the residents of the town[,] the greatest excitement
Norwell contains a number of pretty girls and a like number of youthful
manipulators of the shoe last and plough. In the centre of the town is a
broad street lined with towering trees, and on both sides of which are
nicely laid walks. This street is known as “lovers’ lane,” and is the
favorite promenade of spooning couples.
But it was deserted last night.
Not a soul was in sight, and the reason could be easily explained.
About three miles from Norwell Centre is located the farm of Ensign Damon,
and the writer drove over the road to his house shortly before midnight. On
the road two men armed with shotguns were passed, but they ventured no
explanation of their presence.
Farmer Damon lives in a typical New England farmhouse. A savage building
guarded the approach to the house, and his incessant barking was the signal
for a light in the upper window before the vehicle had fairly entered the
yard. An old-fashioned knocker adorned the front door, and after it had
been manipulated for several moments a voice was heard inside: “Who goes
“Where is the Wild Man?”
was the answer.
Farmer Damon’s wife was the one who discovered the wild man and spread the
news of the wonderful discovery.
Mrs. Damon detailed the circumstances of the affair in a clear and concise
manner. She said:
“A young lady friend and myself went picking berries on Jacobs’ farm, and,
after working most of the day, we approached the trunk of a large tree that
was laying on the ground.
“Of course, we made some noise, and while there I saw this strange creature
dash out of the hole in the front of the trunk and run into the woods. He
was a weird looking thing, and of course we were frightened and ran as hard
as we could. He was a terrible looking thing.
“We know he was a man, and he certainly looked like one of the wild men whom
we have read about. His body was covered with hair down to his feet, but he
seemed to be awfully frightened, but no more so than we.”
When the story was told to the town constable and Deputy Sheriff Torrey it
was determined that instant measures must be taken to capture the wild man.
The deputy sheriff and a volunteer posse started towards the supposed hiding
place of the wild man, and Sunday afternoon the force was increased by a
number of other volunteers. As they marched through the town, armed with
guns, pitchforks and old army pistols, they created a sensation, and it is
safe to say that not a household in the town rested easy after this
Additional bars were placed across the windows and doors, and the church
socials and prayer-meetings that were usually well attended by pretty young
lasses were well-nigh deserted.
Almost a reign of terror exists in the neighborhood of where the trunk is
located. It is possible that the selectmen will call a special town
meeting, and some action taken towards offering a reward for the capture of
the wild man.
While he remains at large[,] not a resident of the entire country
Will Rest in Safety.
They fear that he may break into their homes at any time, and perhaps murder
some of the inmates.
That several houses have already been invaded is an absolute fact, but so
far the depredations of this creature have been contained to articles of
food. Home-made pumpkin pies have disappeared, and likewise well developed
chickens have been conspicuous by their absence from the roost at morning
The road to Norwell was dark when traversed by the writer tonight, and it
was only a few rods from a historic spot that the first armed sentry was
A long narrow pond, shaded by trees and crossing the narrow roadbed, bearing
no known name, is the spot designated in the old familiar song, “The Old
Oaken Bucket.” Here is the house once occupied by Samuel Woodworth, the
author of the song.
The answer to the challenge was satisfactory and the author proceeded.
At the corner grocery of Litchfield & Curtis the author met the committee
and secured a solution to the mystery.
It was here that the story of “Jack, the Wild Man,” was being dished up, and
there wasn’t any limitation to it.
According to the story of tongues it appears that last Sunday a formidable
body of citizens invaded the woods in the rear of Ensign Damon’s.
At their head was Constable Alpheus Thomas, assisted by Edward Jacobs, Oscar
Hammond, Henry Cortnell, Joseph H. Cortnell and George Cortnell.
They visited the old hemlock trunk, and found unmistakable signs of a human
residence in its interior. Old tomato cans, shells and hen’s eggs,
discarded hunks of corn left their telltale marks. Signs of smoke that had
forced its way through an upper aperture in the tree were found.
But “Jack the Wild Man” was not there.
The trunk is fully seven feet in circumference, and contains room in its
interior for three men to comfortably stand up.
It appears that a certain man working on the farm of Sylvester Clapp and who
about six weeks ago is supposed to be the mysterious terrorizer of the
county, and from the investigations of the writer this belief seems to be a
The man’s name was “Mike,” and he had been working for Deacon Clapp for
about three months.
About six weeks ago he approached his employer and said he must start for
Boston, as certain enemies were chasing him.
He demanded the money due him, and Mr. Clapp had no objection to letting him
The day he was to start for Boston he was riding on a team driven by Mr.
Clapp’s son, and when in a section known as “Valley Swamp,” he told the boy
to stop the horse while he went into the woods and secured his pipe, which
he had left there.
He jumped out of the team and hasn’t been seen since.
A few days later a portion of his clothes were found in the woods, with an
inscription pinned to them, which read as follows:
“Don’t touch the clothes. Mike will be mad with you.”
Whether or not he is the wild man is only a matter of conjecture.
The only people who have seen the wild man, declare that he is a most
grotesque human monstrosity and do not believe that he is the missing Mike.
The entire country surrounding Norwell is greatly excited and tomorrow an
armed body will be organized to search the woods. A party of Boston
visitors, headed by Charles Collins of the Boston custom house, have
volunteered to join the searching party, which will start in the early
Farmers have forgotten their autumn harvesting, husking bees have been
postponed, and Norwell will not assume its normal state until “Jack the Wild
Man” is caught.
C. C. LYNCH.