Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for May 14, 2014 by Steve Weems

In response to last week’s column about the black panther sightings in the area, a reader related a fishing expedition earlier this spring on Table Rock Lake. While fishing near Holiday Island, he noticed a large black cat on shore and photographed it. The pictures are fuzzy because of distance and a rocking boat, but they do seem to show a black panther in an area of timber and large rocks.

“When the cat spotted me he was gone in a flash,” the fisherman said. After getting close to shore and comparing the size of the rocks in the photographs, he said the black cat must have been at least four feet long. “Definitely not your typical house cat,” he said. “I really feel blessed to have witnessed this beautiful animal, something I’ll always remember.”

Now onto another matter. I’ve long been fascinated by the old story of William Wrigley of Wrigley Gum fame and fortune coming to Eureka Springs and he loved the town so much that he tried to buy it. Most of what we know about the matter seems to come from four paragraphs in Otto Ernest Rayburn’s The Eureka Springs Story.

Mr. Rayburn’s account says that William Wrigley visited Eureka Springs in 1902 and 1903 and offered to purchase all the land “within a radius of three miles of the city and make it into a public park if the city authorities would agree to keep it policed and free from junk and garbage.” After being turned down, Wrigley “went to Catalina Island, off the California coast, where he spent millions in development.” That is true, but it occurred almost twenty years later when Wrigley was a much wealthier individual.

The earliest reference to the Wrigley episode that I found was a scathing 1936 editorial written by Roberta Fulbright in the Fayetteville Daily Democrat in which she ridicules Eureka Springs for not selling out. Roberta Fulbright is better known as the sister of Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright and grandmother of political pundit Tucker Carlson. She also married the head of the Swanson frozen-foods empire.