Friday, February 1, 2013

The Monster Catfish of 1907 - the final chapter

 - Before reading this week's post make sure you have read the first and second post regarding the entirely true story of Springfield Missouri's Monster Catfish of 1907! -

Following ex-mayor Ben Meyer's announcement of a $100 reward for the capture of the Monster Catfish of Doling Park Lake a number of local fishermen took up the challenge.  According to the August 29th 1907 edition of the Springfield Leader, "Many and varied have been the contrivances and schemes tried in an effort to capture the monster fish with the mouth which would make a hippopotamus blush with modesty", but of all these only one appeared close to bringing him in.

Page 2, Springfield Leader, August 29th 1907
After the failure of both trot lines and traps, a few Springfieldians devised a more ambitious plan.  They commissioned a local blacksmith to make a giant hook out of a foot of 1/2 inch steel bar, tied it to 75 feet of 1/2 inch rope and baited the hook with five pounds of liver.  On the night of August 28th they threw the baited line into the lake, securing it to one of the willow trees on the south side of the lake, and camped for the night.  At about 2:30 am:
"... they were awakened by the tearing and crashing of the willow tree and the creaking rope as it was drawn taut.  Rushing to the end of the tree they grasped hold of the rope, but they were too late.  The tree, almost bent to the ground, suddenly sprang back.  The large steel hook, having proved too weak for the mighty strength of the finny monster, was straightened out as though it had been hammered on the blacksmith's anvil."
As plans were already underway for an all city free fish fry on Labor Day, September 2nd, a decision was made to seine the lake to catch as many fish as possible for the citizens of Springfield, and Ben Meyer realized that this might be the best opportunity to get near the Monster Catfish.  The lake's dam was opened to reduce the lake to about shoulder depth and a small army of 50 men were employed to drag a seine net down the entire length of the lake.

Page 1, Springfield Leader, September 1st 1907
The results of this last confrontation with the beast were recorded in the September 1st 1907 edition of the Springfield Leader:
 "Ben Meyer, the jolly ex-mayor of Springfield, Lee Savage and Frank Rosback, hearing that the monster catfish had at last been drawn within the meshes of the great drag net, and desiring to be of assistance in landing the monster, procured a canoe, and paddled out to where the seine was being dragged.  Myers immediately grabbed hold to the top of the net. About this time the monster catfish spied him, and recognizing the ex-mayor as his sworn enemy, gave a big flop, cleared the top of the net which was over two feet out of the water and landed broadside against the canoe, upsetting it and the party in the cold and chilly lake."
Meyer went head first into the lake, with only his feet visible at the surface.  Seeing his foot:
"... the awful monster grabbed it and shook his victim, just as a rat terrier hangs on to a rat. His friends immediately went to his rescue and helped him to regain his feet. About this time the fish returned to the attack and all three men went down before his fierce onslaught. The seiners, about fifty in number, rushed and splashed to the rescue with the big drag net.  At this onslaught the monster disappeared and was seen no more during the afternoon."
Even though Meyer increased his reward for its capture the Catfish was never caught.  One local proposed that the lake be drained entirely and the Catfish be dug out of the mud with a steam shovel, but this was never done.

So, were there ever any more sightings of the Monster Catfish?  Is there any connection between it and the Giant Catfish currently living in Lake Springfield?  And do the underground rivers from whence the monster came hold any more secrets?  You can be sure that we will continue to search for the answers!

No comments:

Post a Comment