While trapping near the cabin of a mountain man, John fell in love with the man's beautiful young daughter, Mollie. Fortunately for John, Mollie had fallen in love with him too, and the two became engaged to be married. When John and Will began their partnership, they made a pact to jointly sell the pelts they trapped and divide the money equally. But with marriage on the horizon, John wanted to take half the pelts and sell them himself since he was sure he could get more selling them separately.
After a bitter and loud quarrel, Will relented and did things John's way. Soon after though, Will began telling everyone in town that he had been cheated. This continued for a few weeks until a kill-or-be-killed fight occurred and John stabbed to death his old partner. Because of the stories Will had been telling, public opinion was against him and one day when he discovered the sheriff was coming to arrest him for murder, a hanging offense, there was nothing for John to do but flee the country. Before leaving, however, he managed to see his love and tell her he was going to find a place where they could be together and that he would return to take her away.
A full year passed and people lost interest in the matter. During all this time though, every morning and every evening, Mollie could be seen up on the mountain outside her father's cabin, silently looking off into the distance. Not once, as far as anyone knew, did she hear from her murderer lover. Then, a little after sundown on April 13, 1841, as she did every day, the mountain girl went to the barn to milk the cow. After she had been gone an unusually long time, her father decided to investigate. He found the cow not milked and in the empty pail, a Bowie knife with dried blood around the hilt. The distinctive deer antler handle made it easy to identify as the knife with which John Dent had killed Will Marlo.
In the dark, Mollie's father searched and called for her, but he found no trace. The next morning, after summoning a number of surrounding mountaineers and a few towns people, the search began again. They found the tracks of a man and a woman leading to the Chickamauga River. On the bank, under the overhang of a leaning tree, they found a freshly driven stob to which, evidently, a small canoe had been recently tied. Mollie was gone without a word of explanation and without a moment's preparation. All she took with her were the clothes on her back.
Six months later, a letter arrived at the mountain man's lonely cabin. It was postmarked Galveston, Texas and read: "The Devil has a river in Texas that is all his own and it is made only for those who are grown. Yours with love, Mollie."
John and his bride settled by Dolores, but like the lone wolf he was, he built a small log cabin miles away from the town. Within a year, the colony had been abandoned. Indians killed most of the settlers, some went back to Mexico. All the rest, 14 adults and 3 children, headed east one day for more civilized territory in San Antonio. They stopped to camp for the night next to an unnamed lake near what is now Carrizo Springs. Before retiring, one woman went down to the water's edge to wash some clothes. Soon after she left the camp, the others were startled by her screams of "Por Dios!" (My God!). Though her fellow travelers rushed immediately toward the water's edge, they arrived only to see the swishing tail of a huge alligator disappearing beneath the lake's dark surface. Unable to recover the woman's body, the other settlers erected a cross at the site in her memory.
A day's ride west of the site of Dolores, three Mexican families, who, like John, had an agreement with the Indians, raised goats in the Pecos Canyon. One night in late August, 1842, during a thunderous rain storm, a man on a horse rode up to one of the ranches. He told the Mexican rancher and his wife that he was camped on Devil's River not far from Lake Espantosa. He said his wife was giving birth to a baby and they desperately needed help. Knowing the stories of Espantosa, the rancher was reluctant to go there, especially at night. The man kept pleading until the wife agreed they would go and told her husband to saddle up their burrows. The little party of 3, with the anxious man leading the way, had not gone far when a bolt of lightning struck from the sky killing the poor man instantly. At this, the Mexican refused to go onward in the storm and especially in the dark. From the description of his camp site given by the man, the rancher found the location the next day. There, under a large oak tree, lay the woman dead. Indications pointed to the fact that she had died giving birth to a child, but no baby was found. Tracks around the tree made the rancher suspect wolves had devoured the infant.
In the pocket of the dead woman's dress the helpful Mexicans found a letter. After burying the poor woman, they took the letter with them to show the first person they might encounter who could read English. A few months later, a white man did come along and read the letter. It was written a few weeks before her death by Mollie Dent and addressed to her father. It served to identify her and her husband, John Dent.
Ten years had passed when a young boy living at San Felipe Springs told of seeing a pack of wolves attacking a herd of goats and with them was a creature, long hair half covering its features, that looked like a naked girl. Some cowboys passing through the settlement heard the story and quizzed the boy, but they seemed more interested in getting his description of what a naked girl looked like than in getting information about the strange creature he reported. The boy was accused of making up the crazy tale, but the story spread among the surrounding settlers.
A little over a year later, a Mexican woman at San Felipe declared she had seen two big wolves and a naked girl eating a freshly killed goat. She said as soon as they saw her, all three ran. The naked girl ran on all-fours at first, but then rose up and ran on two feet, keeping up with the wolves. The Indians also reported seeing barefoot human tracks mixed among wolf tracks in the sandy places along the river.
The few people in the Devil's River country began to keep a sharp lookout for the girl. They remembered the disappearance of poor Mollie Dent's infant amid wolf tracks. The men told of how female wolves carry their young by the scruff of the neck without injuring them. Perhaps, they said, some female wolf had lost her own young and had carried the new-born to her den and raised it. Being confronted with unmistakable evidence of a human being reared by and running wild with wolves, a hunt was soon organized to capture the Wolf Girl, as she had now come to be called.
On the third day of the hunt, two riders found the girl in a side canyon. She was with a big, black wolf and both of them ran at the sight of the men. The wolf and the girl became separated when she dodged into a crevice in the rocks. Here, the men cornered her. She cowered at first, but as the men reached for her, she spat and hissed like a wildcat and began to fight, biting and clawing. While the men were tying her, she began to emit pitiful, frightful, unearthly sounds described as resembling both the scream of a woman and the howl of a wolf, but being neither. As she was howling this awful scream, the big wolf whom she had been separated from suddenly appeared, rushing at her captors. The men's lives were saved when one of them saw it before it could get close enough to use it's powerful jaws. He managed to shoot it with his pistol, but though the animal had been shot, it continued trying to get to the men, dragging itself forward, snarling and snapping its jaws. It took 2 more bullets into the body and another in the head before the light of life left its coal black eyes. When she saw her companion lying dead in the dirt, the girl fell into a silent faint.
After she was securely tied, the men closely examined the creature. She had a full head of long, tangled, dirty hair which had obviously never seen scissors, and very hairy arms and legs. Her hands and arms were muscled in an extraordinary manner, but not ill proportioned. Other features showed she was a normally formed human female.
|In the area where the settler's cabin with the |
potato bin stood
Shortly after darkness fell, the girl began howling her unearthly screams. The sounds traveled through the logs and far into the surrounding brush. They were quickly answered by the deep howls of wolves. The wolves seemed to answer from all sides, near and far. The ranchers, who had heard wolf howls all their lives, had never heard anything like this. It seemed to them that every wolf in the world was gathering around. It was easy to tell the wolves were getting nearer and nearer, their doom-like howling getting louder and ever closer. The wolves then began to howl in unison, a chorus of ferocity and darkness and lost hopes such as no man had ever heard. Then they would be silent as if waiting for an answer, and the wild, captured creature would let forth with her unearthly scream, a voice neither of woman or beast.
After a short time, the great pack rushed the ranch, attacking goats, cows, and horses. The noises brought the men out into the night, yelling and shooting at the dark shadows. A few minutes later, the men heard the girl emit her scream once more, and the wolves vanished into the darkness.
After gathering themselves, the thoroughly shaken men went to the little potato bin. Somehow, the Wolf Girl had managed to wrench off the cross board which held the door closed and made her escape. It was supposed she rejoined the wolves since no howls were heard the rest of the night. The next day, no tracks of the girl could be found except for a few leading away from the potato bin and for a long time afterwards, the sight of a wolf in that area was exceedingly rare.
For six years, nothing more was heard of the Wolf Girl of Devil's River. Then, in the spring of 1859, a trio of men passing through on their way to the gold fields of California, told of seeing a long-haired naked girl on the banks of the Rio Grande River, far above the mouth of Devil's River. She seemed to be playing with two wolf pups, but before the men could get close enough to get a good look, the girl jumped up and with a pup under each arm, ran into the dense brush faster than any horse could follow. Their story was met with stares and silence, but the residents knew it could have been no other than the wild Wolf Girl.
As far as is known, the girl was never seen by man again. For a number of years, the Indians told of occasionally still seeing human footprints mixed with wolves' far out in the wilds. The newcomers passed it off as just stupid tales told by the Indians and the few surviving old-timers never said anything different. But they knew.