Source: “The Explorers’ Texas” by Del Weiniger, p. 83
There are few stories of jaguars in East Texas, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there. The Gulf Coast was the first parts of the state to be colonized, so the cats were likely extirpated there early. I found one of the few stories in “The Explorers Texas,” a fantastic book by Del Weiniger. It is an account published by Captain William Seaton Henry in 1847 about an encounter on the Bernard River in Brazoria County.
Col. C. of Texas told me that out on the Bernard River while he was hunting coons with a friend, the dogs treed something in an immense live oak, over which they made an unusual commotion. Being the youngest, it was his fate to climb the tree and get, as they thought, the coon down. The tree was directly on the river banks and its branches reached nearly across… He climbed the tree and crawled out on one of those horizontal limbs.Expecting every moment to see the coon, what should present itself, upon his rising up to look around but an immense spotted tiger with eyes ‘like balls of fire.” What to do was the question. He could not back out; he dared not drop into the river, for it was full of alligators. He fell upon his plan: he swung himself below the limb and hung on by his hands! The tiger walked over him, descended the tree, and went through a crowd of nine dogs – as fierce ones that there were in Texas – which never even growled at him.
This is further evidence of jaguars on the Gulf Coast in the mid 19th century, as one was killed on the Live Oak Penensula in 1858. The story is also unique in that the jaguar wasn’t killed in the end!