A Panther Attacks Dr. Hawkins, Loses



Dr. Howkins

The following story about Dr. Hawkins appeared in the Northwest Arkansas Times, a Fayetteville, Arkansas, paper, many years ago, told to the reporter by Loddie Stone, a distant relative. The story was also passed down independently through the Freyschlag branch as oral history.

From the Northwest Arkansas Times:

"Attacked By Panther
Pioneer Physician
Kills With Pkt. Knife

Pioneer days demanded that a doctor be able to use a bowie knife as well as a lancet, according to Loddie Stone, who recalls an incident that occurred to Dr. Hawkins, one of this section's earliest settlers, who once killed a panther with his pocket knife as his only weapon.

On his way to set the broken leg of a man who had been hurt while clearing timber, Dr. Hawkins was attacked by a panther, which dropped from a tree onto his horse's rump. Plunging off the horse dislodged the wild beast, which was pinned down by the throat by a companion bulldog which had set out with the doctor, unawares, from his home early that morning. Dr. Hawkins jumped from the horse and pulling his knife, came to the aid of the dog, which, with jaws fastened on the jugular vein of the panther, was pivoting madly to escape the claws of the jungle beast.

The doctor's trip, from what is now Benton County deep into Carroll County, was typical of those taken by the pioneer doctor of this section."

Freyschlag family version includes the additional detail: Martin cut a paw off the panther to bring home and show his family. A portrait of Martin Hawkins is shown on the opposite page.

Martin's father, James Hawkins (1756-1806), married Lucy Wyatt (1758-1847, descendant of the Renaissance poet Sir Thomas Wyatt) in 1779 in Richmond, Virginia. James and his brother acquired large tracts of land in Kentucky by buying bounty land rights of American Revolution veterans in the 1780s. James and Lucy (Wyatt) Hawkins moved to Logan County, Kentucky, in 1786, where Martin Luther Hawkins was born in 1788.

Before becoming a physician, Martin Hawkins was a captain in the War of 1812 with the Kentucky 17th Infantry Regiment, which fought the British, Canadians, and Indians in the area around northern Ohio and northwest Pennsylvania, including skirmishes around Fort Erie. After the war, he practiced law for a while; there isn't much detail about that time in his life. Martin attended medical school just after his 1823 marriage to Jane Curl Walker (1804-1884). Martin proposed marriage by a letter since they were in separate states at the time. Martin also enclosed a letter to Jane's father asking him for her hand in marriage. It was Jane's decision whether to give it to her father, depending on her view of Martin's proposal. Such was the mechanism of a marriage proposal by mail in 1823.

Martin attended the Transylvania School of Medicine in Kentucky, starting in 1824, after which he apprenticed with a brother-in-law of his wife's, Dr. Robert Howe Paris. Transylvania Medical School was so named because Kentucky was once a part of Virginia and was known as the part of the state that was "across the woods," or trans-sylvania. Today, Transylvania University survives as a small liberal arts Christian college in Lexington, but they still have transcripts on file of some of Martin Hawkins's medical school coursework from the 1820s. So it turns out that when something goes on your "permanent record," it might stay there for several centuries!

During the 1830s, Martin Hawkins practiced medicine in the newly settled Carroll/Benton County, Arkansas, where the panther incident occurred. He was also president of the county in 1833: a record of a meeting he presided over in that capacity survives. Records also survive that show he was elected county coroner in 1837. Martin contracted pneumonia in 1841 and died at the age of 53, abruptly leaving his wife as a frontier widow with six young children, aged one to 12.