One of the symbols of Daniel Boone’s hunting prowess was the famous tree, once located in Gray, Tennessee. The inscription, ““D. Boon CillED A. BAr in the YEAR 1760.” Sadly, Milly Wheatley did the same thing, but her story has been lost to time.
William Wheatley and his wife rode to a religious service at neighbor’s house in 1819. The Rye Cove area of Scott County still wasn’t populated enough for safe travel. The family only had one gun, so Wheatley took it in case they encountered wild animals or highwaymen. While the service was just at a neighbor’s house, it was still miles away.
The Wheatley children remained at home. Milly was 17. Her brothers were “Anter” and Jackie. The family owned a single hog that they were fattening for slaughter. Their hog sty was around fifty yards from the house.
Around bedtime, the children heard the pig squeal, and instinctively knew it was bad. Milly knew it was being attacked by a predator, she just wasn’t certain what kind it was. Their parents had taken the only gun, so there was no other weapon left to fight off a dangerous wild animal.
She begged brothers to intervene. They refused. The animal continued to shriek until Milly couldn’t stand it. She ran out on the porch to see what was out there, but it was impossible. She only heard deep, vicious growls from a large predator. She suspected it was a bear, but wasn’t certain.
She again begged her brothers to go save the pig. It was all they had for the approaching winter, and they would go hungry if the bear ate it. Her brothers still refused. She had enough. She grabbed a long-handled iron skillet. She knew there was no choice if they were to have food when it grew cold.
She ran into the night. Her brothers called for her, but she ignored them. Her younger siblings were terrified. They only heard the animal growl more loudly as moments passed. They knew Milly was nearing the pig pen.
After a several agonizing moments of silence, they heard the iron skillet ring out once, then twice. The clang of the pan hitting a hard object continued for ten minutes. Then, complete silence overtook the night. They heard the pig, but no further growling, and even more worrisome, no response from Milly.
Milly then yelled the “‘fraidy cats,” could come outside. Her brothers ran to her. Milly had not only killed a predator, she’d taken out the largest bear ever seen in the area, at that time. The brothers helped her drag it out of the pig pen and to the yard.
Her parents returned and everyone celebrated. Her self-reliance and bravery fed their entire community for the whole winter. Every house in the region was given a massive portion of bear meat.
Milly eventually married Rafe Kilgore, in 1820. They made their home on Rocky Fork of the Guests River, near Big Laurel, Wise County.