Nib Ellis with the last known wolf in the Town of Concord.
By Derek M. Otto
With summer is well underway, the residents in the village of Springville and the Town of Concord are dealing with a taste of the surrounding wildlife. Bear sightings and numerous fox and raccoons making their way into the village are making life a little more interesting for our residents.
Years ago, the wildlife was part of daily life. Over time, farms developed and overhunting led to the decrease of bears and other creatures being seen in and around the village.
Hunting still is a great sport in the area, especially for deer and turkeys, but little is heard of the old pastime of coon hunting.
A friend recently told me of a story of his neighbor on Henrietta Road that would have coon hunts. Men would gather on Friday or Saturday nights and, with their dogs, would head into the woods and chase raccoons. When the dogs treed the coon, the men shook the trees and the coon fell, where it was hit over the head. The coon was bagged up and taken for its pelt. They’d put the coon in a back room of the house and went to go fetch more coons.
Well on the one occasion that my friend talked about, the coon came to. The room was a mess when the gentlemen came back. It’s something you would not do today due to the risk of rabies and treatment of animals is far different than just a generation or two ago.
The conversation led to talking about Zoar Valley and its most famous resident, Norbert “Nib” Ellis. Ellis had lived down in Zoar Valley and was known as the “hermit of Zoar Valley.” Based on the stories I have heard over the years, he was more like a Grizzly Adams. He wasn’t much into newer technologies as they developed, but he was sociable and well liked by most who talk of him. He was even considered a ladies man! Not necessarily a hermit.
Ellis was fond of the hunt and his house was full of pelts and stuffed animals. His house was a place that was falling in around him except for his kitchen— his old wood fired cook stove was his source of heat. His chickens had free run of the place. For the mid-twentieth century, this was a bit odd, sort of like Ma and Pa Kettle.
Ellis was known for being generous. At one time, he had hired a cook for the winter months. It seems that Nib hired a street dweller from Buffalo and gave him the winter job. When the weather warmed, the cook would go back to the streets of Buffalo. An odd set up, but it worked for Nib.
A local newspaper wrote about him in the 1960s, giving him the title of Hermit of Zoar Valley. However, it was Nib that would have his picture taken with the last known wolf in the Town of Concord in 1950. He was one of the last great frontiersman in Concord.
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