New book highlights writings of mystery writer

This book tells about hunting bear, cougar, hogs and deer 150 years ago in the MS delta.(Photo by Glynn Harris)

My friend Jim McCafferty is a sleuth hound. When he gets a hint of something he’s looking for, he stays with it until he finds it, even if it takes a quarter of a century.

Such was the case when in doing research for material regarding bear hunting in  the early days in the Mississippi delta, he found something written in the 1840s that described in detail the bear of the delta, it’s habits and the guns and dogs used in its pursuit.

McCafferty was excited to find this treasured piece of writing but there was just one problem. The author’s name was not shown, only the initials H.J.P.

Tucking this bit of valuable information in the back of his mind, twenty-five years later he wrote a book about 19th century bear hunters of the lower Mississippi valley. As a result, Mc Cafferty’s book, “The Bear Hunter: The Life and Times of Robert Eager Bobo in the Canebreaks of the Old South” came off the presses.

“In preparation for that project,” McCafferty said, “I reviewed my files and began to read and transcribe old articles I had collected over a quarter century before. Among those vintage magazine pieces was H.J.P.’s “Bears and Bear Hunting”.

While transcribing the article written by the mysterious “H.J.P”, McCafferty came up with an ideal. Taking clues from the story, he searched the internet and within 20 minutes after a 25 year lag, he found the identity of the author, Dr. Henry John Peck of Sicily Island, LA along with a wealth of information on Dr. Peck, born in 1803 and died in 1881.

Peck practiced medicine in the Sicily Island area, was owner of Battleground Plantation on Sicily Island, grew cotton and entered politics serving both as a Louisiana state representative and senator.

McCafferty has put together a gem of a little 115 page book beginning with his introduction and notes as to how he finally came across Dr. Peck’s identity and events leading up to his publishing of H.J.Peck’s book, “Hunting Bear and Panther in the Old South”.

A blurb introducing the book talks about the big game that populated the delta in the 1800s. “The bear and panther that populated the woods and canebrakes of the lower Mississippi Valley in the 1800s left a permanent mark on the collective memory of that region. Little survives, though, to provide real insight into how the early settlers hunted the big game of that time and place.”

Peck’s book adds richly to that scant body of southern lore. Besides his writings on the animals named in the title, the book includes the doctor’s articles on hog – yeah, they had feral hogs even back then - and deer hunting. One thing of interest was his description of “fire hunting” for deer, an early description of something that would get one in trouble today, that being night hunting deer with spotlights.

Peck details how “bear knives” were made and describes accounts of dangerous and sometimes fatal encounters with panthers and bears. Armed only with knives and muzzleloader weapons, it’s easy to imagine what risky business it was to head into a thick canebrake thusly armed.

McCafferty has this fascinating little book back from the publisher and on sale. Search Amazon.com to purchase the book, priced at $12.95 plus handling. To order an inscribed copy, send a check for $12.95 plus $2.95 handling to Jim McCafferty at Canebrake Publishing Co., P.O. Box 822, McComb, MS 39649.

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