Friday, December 7, 2012

Springfield's Earliest Seekers

Along with with its legends of cryptid activity, Springfield Missouri has a long history of being the home of cryptid hunters.  Though much of this history exists only as folklore, our research has uncovered documented accounts of these intrepid individuals. 

The first of these to be recorded in the annals of Springfield was Jesse Range Bayles, an explorer who resided with the friendly Delaware indians and frequently visited our tiny village in its earliest days.  John H. Miller, who was a child at the time, remembered:
"In 1831 a strange, odd and remarkable individual, in the person of an old and somewhat demented white man, appeared among us, named Jesse Bayles. He had some English education, but lived a wilderness life among the wild beasts and Indians, seemed half crazy, dressed very scant and odd, and wore an old white wool hat tucked up at the sides, and written thereon in large red letters, 'Death'!  He carried a long butcher knife and a tomahawk, and seemed dangerous to look at, but was harmless and even lively. I was with him considerably. He was fifty or sixty years old. He said that no harm should befall me; that he intended to keep the panthers, wolves and Indians from 'a'hold' of me. In a year or two he disappeared. He either died or followed the Indians."   (R. I. Holcombe  History of Greene County, Missouri, 1883)
It is said that he was continuously wandering the area, looking for some beast unseen by civilized men.  We can only guess what that was, or if he ever found it.

Later, as Springfield grew and prospered, some of its most respected citizens took part in the search for strange creatures.  According to the September 1st, 1907 edition of the Springfield Leader, former Springfield mayor B.E. Meyer, along with Lee Savage and Frank Rosback were searching for a monster "man eating" catfish said to live in Doling Park Lake when their canoe was capsized by the very animal they were seeking.  It should be noted that Mr. Meyer was listed in the rolls of a number of local secretive societies such as the Royal Arcanum and the Knights of Pythias, and was three times elected as the Exalted Ruler of the local lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, while Mr. Rosback was a successful clothier and loyal Freemason.  This should not be surprising, as it appears that they were members of an even more secretive fellowship, the Fraternal Order of the Seekers of the Skunk Ape, an organization rumored to have been founded on All Hallows Eve of 1872.


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