Friday, April 1, 2011

St. Thomas Man Recalls Trapping of Fifty Years Ago (Dan Shea)

This article was written by Win V. Working and appeared in the Belle Plaine Herald, 15 July 1926:

     On winter evenings when the wind shrieks around the corners of the house and rattles the window panes and shakes the rafters, the average small town or farm boy often sits beside the table in the cozy kitchen and examines a price list of traps, guns and the vast and varied paraphernalia considered indispensible to the equipment of the trapper and hunter.  Sighs escape from him from time to time as he ruminates on his lot and wonders whether he will ever get a chance to get out into the open spaces, trap rare fur-bearing animals and track and shoot moose, bear and other big game, in the nonchalant manner of the heroes in the pictures accompanying the price lists usually supplied by the hardware merchants of the town in which the boy's parents happen to trade.
      This is as true in Scott county 50 years as it is today.  However, there were more opportunities to emulate the pictured sportsmen nearer home for the resourceful boy.  In fact, there were a great many fur-bearing animals in this part of the state 50 years ago and some big game as well.
     In the St. Thomas community in Le Sueur county, where the transforming hand of the white man was not as busy in the earlier year years as in some other neighboring sections, and where the dense forest longer resisted the taming influence of the settlers, there was much to attract the youngster who like to trap and hunt. One such a youngster was Danny Shea, who lived in a little cabin in the woods, three miles south of the St. Thomas Catholic Church.
     Danny became interested in trapping and hunting at an early age.  When he was about 12 years old there were many more lakes in that district than there are now.  That was 50 years ago, because Danny was born on Lincoln's birthday, Feb. 12, 1864.  Muskrats were numerous, minks were plentiful also and even beaver were to be found. The youngster soon learned the habits and characteristics of these animals and it was not long before he was proudly displaying pelts to his parents and other elders of the neighborhood.  He did not have much opposition as most of the men and older boys were busy clearing land and performing other tasks associated with pioneer farming.
     He trapped hundreds of muskrats and mink and also managed to take a number of beaver.  In the early days there were no regulatory laws and it was not necessary to worry about game wardens.  But then, the pelts were not worth much either.  However, it was great sport anyway and the St. Thomas lad had a fine time. He did not confine himself to trapping though; the woods were full of raccoons and foxes were numerous. By way of variety Danny would hunt coons in the fall and occasionally go after foxes.  There also yielded pelts, of course, and, all told, his activities brought him in a tidy sum for those days.
     But while most boys lose their interest in such things about the time they are old enough to go 'acourting" Danny never did.  In fact, there is no reason to believe that he ever went courting, since he is still a bachelor and is 62 years old.  Since we have revealed these facts, perhaps we should refer to him as Mr. Shea, hereafter. Mr. Shea, while he is not so keenly interest in the inhabitants of lakes and streams and woods as he was in earlier years, has found some time for the sport nearly every year of his life and in fact, still traps and tramps through the countryside with his gun. But the laws are strict nowadays and Mr. Shea is careful to observe the regulations prescribed.
     Except for a few years spent at Le Sueur after he left home he has always lived in the St. Thomas community and has been a resident of the village 20 years. Near his home is a lake, now nearly dried up, but in wet seasons it becomes a fair-sized body of water and there, in season, Mr. Shea still catches muskrats.  Prices are higher now and the reward is greater. During the war period, for instance, he sold $700 worth of furs.
     "There is a lot of sport in trapping when you understand it," Mr. Shea told the writer.  "It takes patience and a good deal of scheming to outwit the animals you're after, but that makes it all the more interesting." The veteran sportsman can tell many tales of thrilling coon hunts on moon-lit October nights and we hope to be able to present some of them to Herald readers.--Midland Feature Service.
     The Dan Shea in this article is the son of John T. Shea and Hannah Donovan.  His siblings were Thomas J. Shea and Ellen Shea McCourtney.  John T. Shea's parents were Ellen Sullivan and Thomas Shea.
     Ellen Sullivan Shea emigrated to America.  Her husband died before she emigrated.  Her other children were Timothy,  Mary Shea Murphy, Johanna Shea Kehoe, Thomas, Jeremiah and Denis.
Dan Shea's House

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