By the time the winter of 1818 rolled around, the local farmers had had enough of this bullshit.
The farmers worked the land and raised livestock in the four townships surrounding Hinckley. Those four townships were good land for that sort of work. Hinckley was not. Full of hills and cliffs, rivers and lakes, Hinckley made for poor farming. It was mostly uninhabited by people. The problem was…everything else lived there. Wildlife. Preditors. Wolves, in particular.
So, at dawn on December 24 of 1818, 600 men, boys, and hunting dogs lined up on the perimeter of the township, armed with guns, clubs, pitchforks, flails, rifles and whatever else they could use as a weapon. On the signal, that began advancing through the 25 square-mile wilderness, driving every manner of wild beast into the center of Hinckley township.
In the words of Bill Coggswell, one of the hunters:
“I soon came in contact with plenty of wolves and bears, and shot several of them, when I saw near the center a monstrous bear — I think the largest I ever saw of that species. We wounded him twice, so that he dropped each time, when he retreated toward the south line, and I followed in hot pursuit.”
The hunters forced the creatures into a marked half-mile clearing and shot them all. The final count was that the hunters had killed 21 bears, 17 wolves, 300 deer and huge numbers of turkeys, foxes and raccoons.
What did they do next? It was Christmas Eve. They threw a big party in the clearing. Giant fires were lit, meat was roasted, whiskey was consumed. The party went on into the night, and the next day people for miles around came into the township to witness the bounty of the hunt. The spoils were divded evenly amongst the participants…no one went hungry that winter.
When they were through, the remaining parts of the animals that no one claimed were piled in the center of the clearing and left all winter. In spring, when the carcasses thawed, scavenger buzzrds decended on the clearing in large numbers, having their own feast.
Most have forgotten the hunt, but not all. Each year around March 15th, the buzzards return to that clearing, which is now part of the Cleveland Metroparks. People still come from miles around to see them, and parties, or at least pancake breakfasts, are still thrown. Wolves and bears are a thing of the past in Hinckley Township.
The werewolves, however…that’s another story for another time.
(Top image: Illustration depicting the “Great Hinckley Hunt,” from Henry Howe’s “Historical Collection of Ohio,” 1907. Via Ohio Memory.)