Why The Portville 'Panther'?
Origins of the mascot
by Jimmy Reynolds
PORTVILLE -- Very few people in town can tell you why Portville chose the panther as the official school
mascot. It took a few days looking through old newspapers at the Portville Free Library to uncover the mystery.
According to Native American history, this area near the Allegheny River was thoroughly inhabited by a number
of deer and their predators - particularly bear, wolves, coyotes, and panthers. The Iroquois people considered the Portville
area to be quite dangerous.
The Seneca Nation, the western-most Iroquoians, treated the area as a sacred hunting region.
Only male-hunters made expeditions to the town a few times per year, as did other tribes like the Erie (Cat) Nation, which
was named after the big cats roaming the hills.
Panthers lived in Portville year-round until the Euro-Americans invaded the area after the Revolutionary
War. Most of the cats were slowly pushed out, but through the years, some stayed around and could be seen in the area
regularly, especially when the deer were plentiful. During the pioneer days, panthers were an accepted part of the landscape
- and feared by most citizens.
Old Portville newspapers during the first half of the 1900s record many citings of panthers on the Bears'
Cave hill and elsewhere. The citings decreased in frequency over the next few decades, but a number of folks still
heard them screaming at night. The last time at least two people saw a confirmed panther in Portville
was in 1987.
When Portville consolidated all of its schoolhouses into a central school during the Forties, and a mascot
was chosen for the new building below the Bears' cave, the maroon/black panther was a logical choice at the time. Franklinville
did the same thing for the same reason. As a result, the two schools annually fought on the gridiron with the victor
gaining possession of a wooden statue of a panther.