Saturday, June 3, 2017

Singleton tells of Pine Orchard 'wolf pits' used to trap timber wolves in 1800s

Some say timber wolves were once common in Alabama.
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “Wolves threatened Monroe’s settlers” was originally published in the June 10, 1971 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

During the middle 1800s, timber wolves were quite common in and around the Pine Orchard community. In fact, they were so plentiful that the settlers in the area trapped the wolves, trying to wipe them out because of the damage they were doing to their livestock and chickens and maybe the people themselves.

The timber wolf is considered one of the smartest of all animals in existence today. Very alert and one of the hardest animals to capture, the wolves were indeed a prize when killed or captured by local citizens.

Much time and work went into making one of these wolf pits. They were dug in the ground to a depth of about six feet. The width was about four feet and the length about eight feet. The sides were cut smooth so the wolf could not climb out once he was caught. The top was covered with a wooden door fastened on an iron rod or small pole exactly in the middle so as to balance it. This top or cover would turn either way, if the least amount of weight was placed on either end.

Before the trap was complete, a piece of fresh meat was placed on the trap door. The meat had to be fresh because a timber wolf will not eat spoiled or poisoned meat. After the meat had been placed, leaves and twigs were then scattered around and on the trap door. All traces of man had to be removed before the area was considered ready for the capture of old lobo. The wait began, each trapper hoping his work and efforts had not been in vain.

I’m sure that there were many who were disappointed. But there were times when their labors paid off and there was one less wolf around to harass and worry the settler, whose survival problems were many.

All that remains of the wolf pits are a few rotten timbers and half filled holes in the ground. One has to know the locations in order to find them; they are easy to pass by. This story, like many others that one hears around the country, have not been chronicled before. There are no records that one can refer to, only the word of the respected citizens that has been passed down to him from earlier generations, and so on.

My thanks to David McClammy, who helped make this story possible.

(This column also contained a photo of an old wolf pit by Monroe Journal photographer Aaron White. The caption beneath the photo read as follows: All that remains of the wolf pits are a few rotten timbers and half filled holes in the ground.)

(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County, graduated from Sweet Water High School, served in the Korean War, lived for a time among Apache Indians, moved to Monroe County in June 1964 (some sources say 1961) and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. For years, Singleton’s column “Somewhere in Time” appeared in The Monroe Journal, and he wrote a lengthy series of articles about Monroe County that appeared in Alabama Life magazine. Some of his earlier columns also appeared under the heading of “Monroe County History: Did You Know?” He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)

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