A Bounty For Wolf Scalps in Early Indianapolis/Marion County, Indiana

Indianapolis, the capitol city of Indiana, was surveyed and designed in 1821 by Alexander Ralston, and Marion County was established on December 31, 1821.

The early Indianapolis/Marion County Indiana Commissioner Record books contain a detailed history of the county as recorded by the county commissioner. An interesting reference was a local law that a bounty would be paid to anyone who brought in a wolf’s scalp from a wolf killed in Marion County.

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“September Session 1827, Ordered by the Board that the holder of any certificate for a grown wolf killed in the County under the law, approved Jan. 27, 1827 receive from the Clerk also an order on the County Treasury for one dollar for a grown wolf and for fifty cents for each one under six months old.”

This Order was amended in 1834 to say that a wolf’s scalp should be brought in to receive the bounty:

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“It is ordered that for each wolf Scalp taken from a wolf hereafter killed, and which have heretofore been killed in this county and duly proved according to law and which have not been been paid for[,] an allowance of one dollar on each wolf over six months old, and on each wolf under six months old fifty cents is hereby allowed payable out of the County Treasury of this Board issue orders on the County Treasury to any person or persons producing said Scalps – and that the County Treasurer receive said orders as in any other case – and that the order heretofore made prohibiting such order be and the same is hereby repealed.”

It clumsily sounds like there was some confusion about how a hunter was to prove that he killed a wolf in Marion County to receive the bounty. So, the hunter was to bring in the wolf’s scalp. But, how prove that the wolf was over or under six months old?

Anyway, in 1840:

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“Allowed Elias C. Baldwin for a wolf scalp taken from a wolf killed by him in Marion County & duly proved before the Clerk, on December 14, 1839 the sum of one dollar payable out of the County Treasury.”

There is also a list of men who were paid the bounty, available at the Indiana State Archives.

This bounty to kill wolves in Indianapolis/Marion County clearly shows that Indianapolis was literally planned and built in the midst of a forest.

A painting of Indianapolis in 1820:20181212_133210270289412.jpg

 

Side note: early on the County paid to have a pen built around the sheep that were grazing on the State House grounds. I wonder if wolves were sneaking into the Capitol’s settlement and killing the County’s sheep.

by Robert F. Gilyeat, an Indiana State Archives volunteer

 

 

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