Mad dog causes 1882 holiday season tragedy

Published 12:33 pm Saturday, December 22, 2012

Around midnight on a late November 1882 evening, Levi Bowers was startled awake by squealing chickens.

He figured a fox or weasel had gotten into the hen house. He ran into the yard, calling his hound to catch or scare off the varmint.

In the dim moonlight, he suddenly saw something coming toward him from the hen house. It looked like a dog, not a weasel. When it was about 6 feet away, it sprung up toward his face and bit him on his lower right cheek.

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He grabbed the dog by the throat, threw it onto the ground, and put his knee on its body to hold it down. He called to his 83-year-old father and wife to bring an axe.

When he took his knee off the dog so his father could strike it with the axe, the dog bit Levi’s hand and held it in its mouth. Levi picked up the clinging dog and carried it into a brighter, moonlighted area. The father hit the dog’s back and crippled it. Levi pulled his bleeding hand from its grip, allowing the father to cut off its head.

Dr. W.A. Mooney of Gowensville was sent for quickly. He dressed the cheek and hand wounds but could not speculate whether the dog was mad or not.

Other than pain from his wounds, Levi had no ill effects until the night after Christmas when he had a slight spasm. By Dec. 29, his throat began to bother him, but he hoped that, since the symptoms were slight, he could continue to go about his usual business.

On the morning of the 34th day, he felt slightly worse but still hauled cottonseed all day. At dinner he could eat only a little. Later that evening, he felt much worse and went to bed. About midnight, he had a real “fit,” which grew worse and worse.