Old Times In Schuyler 

Snake Drive in Schuyler
By Howard F. Dyson, 1918

R. A. Glenn, one of the early pioneers of Schuyler, who afterwards moved to Mt. Sterling, where he engaged in the newspaper business, was the originator of the old settlers' meeting held in Rushville Dec. 23, 1859, and thru this meeting important facts of early county history have been preserved. Mr. Glenn doubtless had an intimate knowledge of men and measures of the early pioneer period, but as far as we have been able to find left no written record to be recorded in history. But he did his "bit" in furnishing the following interesting story of the biggest "snake drive" in Schuyler county which was published soon after the old settlers' meeting in 1859:

At the recent "Old Settlers' Convention" held at Rushville, many thrill incidents connected with the early settlement of the county were related, and will, no doubt, in due time find their way into the hands of the printer, and thus become material for the use of the future historian of the age. But among all the incidents related at that convention I do not recollect any having the slightest reference to the marvelous abundance of snakes in this county at its early settlement. As it was my fortune (or perhaps I should rather say misfortune) to meet with a number of adventures connected with those fearful reptiles, I propose in this paper to confine myself principally to the subject of snakes.

When I arrived in Schuyler, which was in the year 1831, there were but a few settlers south of Crooked creek, the whole territory now constituting the populous townships of Ripley and Cooperstown in Brown county, then containing only about ten or twelve families. The attention of the settlers had been drawn to the amazing number of rattle-snakes abounding in the woods, and also to the fact that at the commencement of winter they congregated at certain localities know as "snake dens," where they passed the winter in a state of turpor. There were a number of those snake dens in the immediate neighborhood of which I am writing. One of the most famous being situated on section 15, 1 N. 2 W near the "Indian Ford" on Crooked creek, and known as the "Rocky Branch Snake Den," and another one about one mile southeast of Ripley, on Sec. 3 in the same township, and was called "Logan's Creek Snake Den." These dens were situated in cliffs of rock, and were from their situation, almost impregnable to human force; I say almost, for the sequel will show that they were not quite so. I think those dens were originally discovered by the settlers observing the snakes entering them in great numbers in the fall and leaving them in the spring; and the hybernating habits of the reptile being well known, naturally suggested the purpose for which they resorted in such numbers to those cliffs and rocky fastnesses. It also suggested a partial remedy for the evil of their vast numbers, which, it was thought, might be remedied by breaking into their dens and destroying them while in their torpid state. It was resolved to make an attempt of this sort, and a day in the middle of winter having been agreed upon and due notice given every man and boy in the neighborhood able to work, armed with such mining tools as the county afforded, consisting of a few mattocks, spades and crow-bars, and the rest with wooden handspikes and axes to cut more as they were needed, assembled at the "Rocky Den," and very deliberately went to work mining for snakes. And, Mr. Editor, were it not that there are several living witnesses to the feats I am detailing, I would hestitate to relate them, lest my veracity should be questioned. But as I am able to substantiate the facts I shall feel safe in going on with the story. After several hours of hard and persevering labor, the mining party succeeded in forcing an entry to the rocky  chambers where the reptiles lay, all twined together in a hideous mass, but all in that state of torpor in which they invariably spent the winter season. Rattle-snakes, black snakes and copperheads, and every variety of snakes, all mixed together, indiscriminately, but by far the largest number being rattle-snakes. Of course the party had no difficulty in destroying all they could get at, but as the entry was only, as it were, to the ante-room of the institution, and the main hall was entirely inaccessible by any means within reach of the party, by far the larger part of this frightful communtiy escaped destruction. However, something over five hundred of the creatures were dragged from their winter quarters and destroyed, most of them rattle-snakes, and many of them as much as six feet long and as thick as a man's leg. They were all thrown into one vast pile, and for many years their bleaching bones sufficiently marked the spot. A few days after a similar attempt was made at the other den referred to above, with less success, but still resulting in the destruction of two or three hundred of the reptiles. Another mode of destroying them adopted by the settlers was to watch their dens on the first warm days of spring when the snakes first began to revive from their torpor, and seek the enlivening rays of the sun, and kill them as they emerged from their dens, which could be easily and safely done, as at that time they were incapable of escape or resistance. I have spent hours in company with other young men of the neighborhood, sitting with our rifles at the entry of one of those snake dens, shooting them as fast as they came out, which would be about as fast as we could load and fire. Many hundred snakes were destroyed in this way, the boys counting it fine sport; and after the country became more settled, many were destroyed by hogs, who are the natural enemies of the snake, and by their peculiar physiological structure are protected from injury by the reptile. So scarce have the snakes now become in the immediate vicinity of those vast dens that it is seldom one is to be met with, but at the time of which I write a man would hardly walk a hundred yards in the woods in the summer season without finding one or more.

I am aware that the foregoing snake story is rather a big one, but, if doubted, I can find plenty of living witnesses to its correctness.

Return to Schuyler Old Times Index

Return to Newspaper Index

This & That Index

Return to Home Page



Copyright by Judi Gilker 2006