, Derry, New Hampshire


January 31, 2013

Column: Derry plays host to ‘When Animals Attack’

I suppose most people have heard about that cat attack this month (Jan. 7) in Brookfield, Mass. A man discovered a bobcat in his garage and before he could flee he was badly mauled by the animal. The man managed to escape into his house but moments later a teenage boy was set-upon by the same infuriated feline. The homeowner managed later to kill the animal and upon testing it was found the bobcat had rabies. So far I’ve found only two cat attacks have been recorded in the long history of old Nutfield.

One night in September 1798, the residents of Derry Village were awaken from their sleep by a “frightful noise.” Some locals reported seeing their house cats fleeing from a large unidentified fast-moving animal. Recently there had been a large forest fire in the west side of the town and many suspected that the mysterious animal had been driven here from its deep-woods home by the conflagration.

The home of Major Joseph and Suzanne Gregg was on a rise of land just outside of Derry Village on the road to East Derry. The residence was the oldest in the village having been built in 1723 as a garrison to be used in case of Indian attack. A little to the west was the family’s grist mill. The Gregg garrison was torn down in 1810 and replaced by the stately federal-style home at 24 Thornton St.

In early October 1798, one of the Gregg daughters went out into the yard to pick some cucumbers for dinner. There she saw a strange-looking, cat-like animal “eagerly watching a hen.” Immediately, the Gregg girl yelled for her brother to come out and see the visitor.

Suddenly and without warning, the beast sprang towards her. The terrified young girl ran in a panic toward the house. As Miss Gregg fled to safety, she had to pause to open the garden gate. This hesitation gave the animal just enough time to catch up to her. The cat sprang at the young girl and dug its claws into her body. The Gregg girl’s clothes were ripped and the frightened youngster was left bleeding from wounds on her side and hand.

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