The Wildman of The Navidad: A Legendary Texas Mystery

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Tony Maples Photography


A rustle in the bushes. A set of footprints. A blip out of the corner of your eye… Tools gone missing. Rumors. Food disappearing from tables and plants missing from family gardens. Evidence? Paranoia?

These are just of a few of the things early Texas residents of current day Jackson County near Edna and Victoria experienced. Their explanation? A Wildman lived somewhere in the Navidad River bottoms.

The Wildman of The Navidad: A Legendary Texas Mystery

Photo: Flickr/Steve Baxter

While current historians cannot conclusively confirm the story of a Wildman, many local reports from the 1840s-1850s identified something that lived in the river bottoms for several years during that time.

The legend goes that the man/creature was covered in black hair and could move with great agility. According to “The Cavalcade of Jackson County” by Ira Thomas Taylor, the Wildman could have had some partners. In Taylor’s account, Reverend Samuel Rogers spotted three different sets of prints, allegedly belonging to three different “Wildmen.” The prints also sparked rumors of a “Wildwoman,” but could there have also been a “Wildchild?”

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Photo: IMDB.com/The Wild Man of the Navidad (2008)

The two most notable written accounts of the Wildman, Taylor’s and J. Frank Dobie’s Tales of Old Time Texas, both leave room for the possibility. Dobie goes so far as to say that the Wildwoman was spotted and was said to carry a club, “about 5 feet long and polished to a wonder.”

What is the most likely explanation of this phenomenon? Reverend Rogers offered that the man was an escaped slave who spoke an African dialect. When captured, the “Wildman” spoke with an interpreter to explain his odd existence in the Navidad River bottoms. The “Wildman” reported that he was sold for the paltry amount of some tobacco and a knife and that he was really the son of a tribal chief.

The “Wildman” described his method of survival in that he would sneak into houses while people were sleeping to steal supplies. When asked about why he was never caught by dogs, or dogs didn’t bark at him, he explained that his tribe knew there were specific hours during that night that dogs would not wake.

Is the “Wildman” still out there? By all accounts, no, but the legends of his presence still abound.