A West Virginia Tragedy: Black Bear Devours Three Children


Bear Seizes and Devours Three Children Who Had Become Lost in the Dense Woods.

Three dead bodies — the remains of Willie, Mary and Henry Porterfield, who wandered from their home at Job, W. Va., one Sunday — were discovered Tuesday by a party of searchers who had been out in the mountains looking for the children. Near the bodies, which were found in a dense thicket, was discovered a large black bear. A shot ended its existence. The bodies of the little children, aged respectively three, five and seven, had been mutilated by the bear, which is said to be one of the largest specimens ever seen in the locality. News of their disappearance spread among the mountaineers and a large searching party of volunteers was hurriedly formed. The members spread out in all directions and covered the territory thoroughly. Sunday night the search was kept up, and Monday and Monday night, without finding the slightest trace of the missing children.

Tuesday new searchers started in, and all redoubled their efforts. Several women had volunteered their services to help find the three babes in the woods.

John Weldon, a Maryland hunter who happened to be in the neighborhood, tendered his services and made a point of examining thoroughly the thickets and spots where underbrush was most dense. In one of these secluded spots he discovered a hat, and also noticed what appeared to be evidence of a body having been dragged over the ground. Following the tracks, he and his companion saw the dead children, or what was left of them, and also saw the bear which had killed the three little ones. The killing of the bear followed instantly, and then the remains of the babies were taken up and carried to their home, where a grief-crazed mother awaited their coming.

New Castle News (New Castle, Pennsylvania) Jun 18, 1901


Their Mangled Bodies Found on the Mountain Side in West Virginia.

The three little children of Edward P. Porterfield, of near Job, W. Va., were killed by a black bear in the mountains twelve miles southeast of that town. The bodies were found on Tuesday on the mountain side where the children apparently lost themselves before falling into the clutches of the bear.

The children left home Monday, and as they did not return, searching parties were organized to scour the country. The last seen of the little ones was when they started into the country for a few hours’ frolic to rig ramps. One searching party came upon the torn and mangled bodies half way up the mountain.

The children had been fearfully mangled by the bear. Their ribs were crushed and their flesh torn. There was some evidence that Henry Porterfield, aged seven years, the eldest of the three, had made a struggle to defend the two smaller children — Mary, aged three, and William, aged five.

After the bodies were found, John Weldon, a Maryland hunter, started on the trail of the bear, hunted him down and killed him in a hand-to-hand encounter, in which Weldon escaped without injury. Before starting out on the trail Weldon vowed to bring in the pelt of the bear, and he did. A bullet and some knife thrust settled the brute. The bear was a monster of his kind, the largest ever killed in those mountains.

The News (Frederick, Maryland) May 25, 1901

Children Eaten by Bear.

Pittsburgh, Pa., May 23. — A Job (W. Va.) special says: To be crushed to death in the embrace of a monstrous black bear and their little bodies afterward mangled and partly devoured, was the frightful fate that befell the three young children of E.P. Porterfield, a mountaineer residing about 12 miles southeast of this place. The remains were found Tuesday by a searching party which has been out since Sunday evening.

Marble Rock Journal (Marble Rock, Iowa) May 30, 1901

No Headline, first paragraph the same as above:

Job, W. VA., May 22…..

The party included John Weldon, a Maryland hunter, who, within a few minutes after the discovery of the bodies, shot and killed the bear in a neighboring thicket. The children were Mary, aged 3; Willie, aged 5, and Henry, aged 7. Shortly after noon Sunday they left home to gather flowers in a clearing near the house. Nothing more is known, but it is supposed that they wandered into the woods and, becoming lost, continued on their way until they were overtaken by the bear, three miles distant from their parents’ home. The bear feasted on all three of the bodies. The bones of the children had been crushed like straws and the flesh stripped off with teeth and claws. The party divided and began a search. Within a few minutes Weldon discovered it in a thick clump of hemlock saplings near a small stream. A single shot ended its life. It was declared to be the largest bear ever seen in this neighborhood. The bodies of the children which presented a sickening sight, were carried home in sacks. The parents of the children are almost crazed with grief, their bereavement leaving them childless.

New Oxford Item (New Oxford, Pennsylvania) May 31, 1901


Mangled Remains Found in Woods In Wyoming.*

JOB, Wyo., May 22. — The three children of E.P. Porterfield, a mountaineer residing about twelve miles southwest of this place, while gathering flowers in the woods near their home, were killed and partially devoured by a bear. The remains were found by a searching party which had been out since Sunday evening.

The bear was discovered later and killed. The children were Mary, aged three; Willie, aged five, and Henry, aged seven. The parents are almost crazed with grief, the bereavement leaving them childless.

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) May 23, 1901

*Not Wyoming

NOTE: Job, West Virginia is in the Monongahela National Forest North-West of Harrisonburg, West Virginia.


Bear Images: cropped from postcards on cardcow.com.

Tags: , ,

One Response to “A West Virginia Tragedy: Black Bear Devours Three Children”

  1. GRANNY Says:


Leave a Reply to GRANNY Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: