Panther Series: Kennison Mountain Panther?

May 3, 2012 |

A long black tail, yellow eyes, a scream in the woods at night…

There are more than 300,000 acres of National Forest in Pocahontas County, WV. Many people say that panthers still live in these woods, from the high peaks of the Allegheny ridgeline to the Cranberry Wilderness with miles and miles of unspoiled forests, there’s plenty of room to roam, that’s for sure.

Are there still mountain lions in Pocahontas County? Listen to Iva Williams and Danny McLaughlin talk about panthers they remember seeing when they were each children growing up near Kennison Mountain.


Last year I lived up on Droop Mountain, a quarter mile away from Iva Williams, who is 70 years old and makes a fantastic hot pepper jelly. I walk to her house one night when she has some of her family gathered to play old time music. She sings and plays the guitar. At one point, she sets down her guitar and tells me about growing up just a stone’s throw away from the Cranberry Wilderness. Her son in law, Danny stops by too, and it turns out that each have a similar memory, about a cat, with a long black tail. Here is what they told me:

Iva: We were living up there when my baby brother was born, March 28, 1950. And my mother got sick. She was wanting somebody to sit up with her because she was hearing a noise that she didn’t know what was. And of course, I knew very little to do, not even being quite ten years old but I had some water and what not and was trying to bathe her face. I set there till way up in the morning hours. So she finally came to her senses, and she said, “would you get in here at the foot of my bed and stay right here so I could wake you up if I needed to?”

And I said, “Yes,” and I did, and I went right straight to sleep.

I guess I no more got to sleep that she was taking her foot and shaking me awake. And I roused up and she said, “Listen, do you hear that?” I said, “Yeah.”            She said, “Well what is it?”

I said, “Well I don’t know.”

“Well,” she said, “Go get your daddy.”

Roxy: What was the sound?

Iva: It was clawin and scratchin. And what happened was us children had broken a window out in the kitchen, and she had had to put a pasted piece of cardboard in the window to keep the cold out, of course, till she could put some glass to put in it. That’s where the sound was coming from, so I jumped out of bed, and I picked up the oil lamp, and she was trying to say, “Don’t do. Get your daddy.” And I kept going with the lamp, and when I got to the kitchen door the table was sittin there, and that window was broke out right there too. This big ole, black cat was sittin on the bench clawin at the window

Danny: I lived up at Buckeye, and we used to have to pack water in from a cave, and that was my job. Anyway, I went to get water, and up there I heard this scream, just “rawllllll!”

Then I told my mom and stepdad the story, and they were totally in disbelief, and I said you can go and get the water….Anyway, I invited him to go get the bucket of water and see for himself, and he didn’t want to for some reason. But anyway, that panther was up there on that ledge.

Iva:  But I moved the lamp so I could see it better, you know? It looked in the lamp, just for a minute. The bright shine made his eyes glassy. And just dived, dived! Right out the window just like he was diving in a pool or something with his arms outstretched.

And she said, “What is it?”

“I don’t know what it was, but it was a great big cat!” And it was, it was a huge ole big black cat, and its tail dragged right on the floor, from settin on the bench.

But everybody swears, that that time that I told what was in there that I did not see any panther that there wasn’t any in Pocahontas County. And hadn’t been since the 1980s [1880s]. But it was a panther, and I know now for sure it was a panther. And then later on I know I’m not the only one that had seen a panther around here because I have a son in law that packed water at Buckeye and he said one was in the tree screamin at him.”

Mountains lions with colors of brown and beige used to be very common in West Virginia. Officially, no black panther has ever been discovered in North America, however, sightings of black panthers near the Cranberry Wilderness have been recorded for decades. The last mountain lion to be killed in West Virginia was in Pocahontas County, in 1887.11 But in the 1930s, panther tracks were spotted on Kennison Mountain, where Iva Williams grew up. Maybe the panthers were all killed off, maybe not. Maybe someone tried to bring them back. All I know is I walk home from Iva and Danny’s house at night, and listen. And I know there are animals out there. I guess I’m an animal too. I head back to my house, and not a single car passes me as I walk along the highway.


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Category: Marlinton to Lewisburg, Panther Tales, Stories & Legends

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