The Wolf Girl
of Devil's River
by Gary Humphreys
story begins on the Chickamauga River in Georgia. John Dent was a
trapper working with his partner, Will Marlo. Marlo and Dent traded
together for several seasons, each year selling their hides jointly
and splitting the profits. However, in 1833, Dent met Mollie Pertul,
a daughter from one of the neighboring farms, and fell in love. Dent
told Marlo he would not divide the profits according to their usual
arrangement but would sell his hides himself. Marlo was unhappy. Days
later, they engaged in a public argument, ending when Dent fatally
Now a fugitive, John fled west with Mollie, stealing off in secret
and leaving her parents to wonder. Months passed before Mollie penned
a note to her parents, postmarked from Galveston
during the autumn of 1834.
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
|In 1835, a group
of American colonists, led by Dr. Charles Beale, were camped at Lake
Espontosa, near what is now Carrizo
Springs in southwest Texas. Half a mile away from the Beale group,
John Dent and his pregnant wife Mollie Pertul Dent, both from Georgia,
had built a brush cabin. Dent had come to trap beaver in the Devil's
River area, north of the present day Del
Rio. The Dents were to prove fortunate in their choice of a site
distant from the lake. A band of Comanche’s raided the main Beale
camp and massacred most of the inhabitants, afterwards throwing the
bodies of the victims and their carts into the lake.
As Mollie was approaching the end of her pregnancy, the couple was
reluctant to travel despite the danger of hostile Indians. But moved
on to the beaver lake area on the Devil's
River. One night in May 1835, there was a severe thunderstorm
and Mollie went into labor. She appeared to be having problems with
the birth so Dent decided to ride westwards for help. He arrived at
a Mexican goat ranch on the Pecos Canyon, and told them desperately
about his wife's condition, begging for someone to ride back with
But as the Mexicans prepared their horses to leave there was a furious
crash of thunder and a bolt of lightning struck Dent from his horse
killing him instantly. After a considerable delay the goat herders
mounted up and followed Dent's directions. However, darkness fell
before they had got over the divide to Devil's
River, thus delaying the search. Finally, at sunrise the next
morning they located the Dent's isolated cabin.
But what they found outside the cabin, in an open brush arbor, was
Mollie Dent lying dead, alone. She had apparently died in childbirth,
but there was no trace of the baby anywhere. The child was never found,
but fang marks on the woman's body and numerous wolf tracks over the
area made the goat herders naturally assume that the infant had either
been devoured or carried off by lobo wolves.
of the Wolf Girl
But this was just
the beginning of the story. Ten years later, In 1845, a boy living
at San Felipe Springs (Del
Rio) reportedly saw 'a creature, with long hair covering its features,
that looked like a naked girl' attacking a herd of goats in the company
of a pack of lobo wolves. The story was ridiculed by many, but still
managed to spread back among the settlements. Around a year after
this incident, a Mexican woman at San Felipe claimed she had seen
two large wolves and an unclothed young girl devouring a freshly killed
goat. She approached close to the group, she said, before they saw
her and ran off.
The woman noticed that the girl ran initially on all-fours, but then
rose up and ran on two feet, keeping close to the wolves. The woman
was in no doubt about what she had seen, and the scattering of people
in the Devil's
River country began to keep a sharp watch for the girl. There
were similar reports by others in the region during the following
year and Apache stories told of a child's footprints, sometimes accompanied
by hand prints, having been found among wolf tracks in sandy places
along the river. A hunt was organized to capture the 'Lobo (or Wolf)
Girl of Devil's
River' as she had now become known, comprising mainly Mexican
vaqueros. On the third day of the hunt the naked girl was sighted
near Espontosa Lake running with a pack of wolves.
The cowboys managed to separate the girl from her wolf companions
and cornered her in a canyon, where she fought like a wildcat clawing
and biting frantically to keep her freedom. They finally managed to
lasso her to keep her still, but while they were tying her up she
began to make frightening, unearthly sounds somewhere between the
scream of a woman and the howl of a wolf. As she howled, the monster
he-wolf from whom she'd become separated appeared and rushed at her
captors. One of the cowboys reacted quickly and shot it dead with
a pistol, at which the wolf girl fell into a faint. Securely bound,
the men were now able to examine the girl and noted that despite a
body covered in hair and her wild mannerisms, her appearance was human.
Her hands and arms were well muscled but not out of proportion, and
she lacked the ability to speak, only making deep growling noises.
She moved smoothly on all fours, but was rather awkward when made
to stand up straight.
The girl was put on a horse and taken to the nearest ranch, an isolated
two-roomed shack amid the desert wilderness. She was put in one of
the rooms and unbound, the cowboys offering her a covering for her
body and food and water, but she refused, cowering in the darkest
corner. They then left her alone for the night, locking the door and
posting a guard outside. The only other opening in the room was a
small boarded up window.
But as night fell
the cowboys heard terrifying howls coming from the wolf girl's room.
The strange cries carried through the still night air, unsettling
her captors and soon finding answers from among the wolf pack in the
wilderness beyond the shack. Soon there were long deep howls coming
from all sides as the pack drew closer to the house, and occasionally
strange howling screams from the girl answering them from inside her
dark room. Suddenly the large pack of wolves charged into the corrals,
attacking the goats, cows and horses and bringing the cowboys outside
shooting and yelling to drive them away. In all the confusion the
wolf girl managed to tear the planks from the window and escape into
the night. The howls soon abated and the wolves crept back into the
wilderness. The next day not a trace of the girl could be found.
Though there were a few unverified reports in the following years
of a young hair-covered girl being seen with a wolf pack in the area,
no one ever came in close contact with her. Meanwhile gold had been
discovered in California and westward travel had increased significantly.
In 1852 a surveying party of frontiersmen searching for a new route
to El Paso
were riding down to the Rio Grande at a bend far above the mouth of
They were almost at the water's edge when they saw at close range,
sitting on a sand bar, a young woman suckling two wolf cubs. Suddenly
she saw them, quickly grabbed the pups and dashed into the breaks
at such a rate that it was impossible for the horsemen to follow.
The girl would have been seventeen years-old that year. After that
she disappeared into the country side forever. During the 1850’s and
60”s reports from soldiers at Camp Hudson, Texas that they would hear
howling and cries at night. It is impossible now to know what became
of Mollie Dent's daughter.
© Gary Humphreys - April
4, 2011 Guest Column