It’s hunting season again in Ohio! The deer, relegated to deer parks when I was a child, are now over abundant, as I can confirm, having been in four different vehicle interactions with them through the years.
I often wonder what it was like when our ancestors entered Ohio as pioneers in the virgin forests. They, too, followed regulations enacted by the Ohio State General Assembly where animal life was controlled.
In genealogy, we sometimes see wolf scalps hidden among the loose court records in common pleas court, with the county treasurer, or in township boxes.
The Richland County Chapter OGS maintains a rich collection of wolf scalps covering the period 1813 through 1829 within the OGS Samuel Isaly Library. These have all been scanned and recently were added to the Digitized Manuscripts section of our OGS website. Filter for Richland County. They are in chronological order.
In the early 1800s, the State of Ohio offered a bounty for each wolf the pioneers would kill. After drying the hide, they would take the scalp of the wolf to the local authorities as proof of the capture. Beginning in 1822, the affidavits were actually signed by the affiant instead of the Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas. The abstracts, by OGS volunteers Maxine Kinton and Mary Jane Henney, have faded and did not scan well, but the original documents are pristine. The pioneers named are often the men who lived in the woods and perhaps did not own land and never appeared on tax lists. There are approximately 300 wolf scalps in the two-part collection. Some Native Americans were among the claimants.
“I do certify that Samuel Hill this day presented one woolf [sic] scalp before me and being sworn as the law directs do find it to be over the age of six months. Given under my hand this 20 day of September 1813. Geo. Coffinberry.”
The amount given the hunter was generally $4.00. This was certainly a magnificent sum in 1813. These wolfs must have been dangerous to livestock and even children for the bounty to be this rewarding.
Other wolf scalp collections are found in Ohio library catalogs and certainly more are yet to be identified:
- Adams County – Wolf Scalps from Commissioner’s Records 1803, listed in History of Adams County, Ohio, p. 109
- Allen County – Wolf Scalp Bounty Records 1844-1858, MS198, Center for Archival Collections, Bowling Green State University
- Belmont County – Wolf Scalps 1803-1808, listed in History of Belmont and Jefferson Counties, Ohio, p. 174
- Cuyahoga County – Wolf Scalp Certificates 1810-1821, MS0657, Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland
- Defiance County – Wolf Scalp Affidavits 1845-1855, Defiance Co Chapter OGS, list at https://www.defiancecountygenealogy.org/WolfScalps.html
- Gallia County – Wolf Scalps part of published work, Gallia County, Ohio Residents
- Richland County – Wolf Scalps 1819-1829, Richland County Chapter OGS (see above); some additional certificates were discovered after scanning – https://sites.rootsweb.com/~ohrichgs/scalp.pdf
- Sandusky County – Wolf Scalp Orders 1836-1859, Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library, Fremont, client uploads, December 2009
- Shelby County – Wolf Scalps 1819-1854, listed with names and then yearly totals in the History of Shelby County, Ohio, published in 1883
- Union County – Wolf Scalp Records 1826-1849, available in digital format on Family Search – DGS 104968183, Union County Records Center & Archives
- Williams County – Wolf Scalp Orders 1835-1837, Williams County Genealogical Society, listed at http://williamscountygenealogy.org/wolfscalps/
Tom Neel, OGS Library Director