Panther Series: A Panther Shredded His Hat

January 17, 2014 |

Here is another episode in our series about mountain lion and panther sightings in West Virginia. In the early 1900s in Monroe County, a mountain lion stole the straw hat right off the head of Clarence Mohler. His grandson, Craig Mohler, editor of The Monroe Watchman, told me this story last year when we were hiking up Peters Mountain to visit the Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory:

Monroe County—My grandparents on my Dad’s side lived near Union. In that era, the closest railway access to Union would have been the C&O along the Greenbrier at Fort Spring or Alderson; or the Potts Valley Branch of the N&W, at Waiteville. One of the first automobile dealerships in the area was at Gap Mills. Model-T Fords were shipped in to Waiteville by train, and then carted across the mountain by horse and wagon for final assembly at Gap Mills.

One story my grandmother told was about a mountain lion on Peter’s Mountain in the early 1900s. My grandfather was riding across the road on Peter’s Mountain. They lived near Salt Sulphur Springs, and he was headed to Waiteville to pick up something that was gonna come in on the train at the train station.

He was riding on his horse, and something reached down and swiped the straw hat off the top of his head. And the family tradition was that it was a mountain lion. He rode on hurriedly down the mountain to get whatever he was supposed to get. And when he came back across, I don’t know if it was the same day or maybe the next day, he found the hat shredded in the road. So the family story was that it was a mountain lion that had taken the straw hat from his head.

His name was Clarence Mohler. I don’t remember him. He died the year before I was born, but my grandmother lived till I was in my mid twenties, so I remember her telling the story pretty often. Her name was Annie Mohler.

When the railway opened in 1909, Potts Valley still contained vast stretches of virgin timber, and this proved to be the mainstay of the railroad until it closed in 1932. Much of this would have remained in 1910 because large-scale timbering didn’t begin until there was a reasonable way to transport the logs via the railroad. It ended up taking about 20 years to harvest most of the big timber, and the railway closed soon thereafter.

Atop Peters Mountain, you can see as far as 60 miles in a 360 degree angle.

Atop Peters Mountain, you can see as far as 60 miles in a 360 degree angle.

I have heard of other, more recent, sightings of mountain lions and panthers in the Peters Mountain region of Monroe County. From Sweet Springs, Rt. 311 crosses Peters and Potts Mountains on its way to Roanoke, Virginia. My mom and brother were returning one night from a shopping trip to Roanoke, and both are convinced they saw a cougar cross the road in front of them on Potts Mountain. They described it as having a long tail, and being colored more or less like a deer. It apparently jumped from the bank on one side, landed in the middle of the two-lane road, then cleared the rest of the road with one more leap and continued down the mountainside. They’ve both seen enough deer to not mistake them as something else, so I think it’s likely they did see a mountain lion. This would have been about ten miles down the valley to the northeast from Hanging Rock, and one ridge over.

More Panther Stories from Traveling 219:

A Panther Before Christmas    Kennison Mountain Panther

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Category: Blog, Lewisburg to Rich Creek, Panther Tales, Roads & Rails, Stories & Legends

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