|Canadian River, Oklahoma|
Pierre Davis made his home in a small hut on the bank of the Canadian River, near the village of Porum in Oklahoma's Muskogee County. He lived in solitude in this humble abode for thirty years, and during that time he never journeyed more than six miles in any direction, and then only for the most necessary of provisions. Pierre stood six feet tall, was finely built, and had a commanding presence. However, it was neither Pierre's hut nor his imposing physique which made him famous throughout Muskogee County; it was his hobby. Pierre Davis' hobby was prophecy and, from what history records of the hermit, he was pretty darn good at it.
Unlike many prophets, whose predictions are vague and open to interpretation, Pierre had a specialty. His predictions were limited to floods. So accurate were Pierre's predictions that railroad workers from the Midland Valley Railroad consulted with the revered recluse before laying tracks and building bridges. Three times, in the autumn of 1908, he had predicted that floods would come and each time he was proven correct; the deluge arrived precisely on the date he had named.
Pierre first made his predictions known years earlier, while workmen were completing a new Midland Valley Railroad bridge to replace the one that had been washed away. For a long time he watched the bridge workers in silence, and the workers paid little attention to the queer old man on the river bank. Finally, Pierre spoke to the foreman of the work crew. "You see little water in the river bed now," said the hermit, "but in thirty days the floods will come and the bridge will be carried away." Saying nothing more, the old recluse strode away, amid the laughs and jeers of the workmen. Exactly twenty-nine days later the rains came and the river flooded. On the thirtieth day, the Canadian River swept away the newly-built bridge.
The bridge was yet again rebuilt, and once more the hermit appeared just as the bridge was nearly complete. He warned the foreman that on the 22nd of November, there would be a 14-foot rise in the river and once again the bridge would be swept away by the raging waters. On the prescribed date, the river raged and the bridge was destroyed.
Four days later, while the workers were repairing the badly bent and battered bridge, Pierre Davis appeared, saying nothing more than "The following Sunday the bridge will again go out." By this time, no one was surprised when the old man's prophecy came true.
The workers who at first laughed at the hermit began to defend him, as the wealthy railroad executives pushed once again for the rebuilding of the bridge which had collapsed so many times before. Even the prophet's skeptics grew worried when word came that the bridge over the Canadian River must be built yet again; some even speculated that the land was cursed. Were they building on a site held sacred by the Creek people? Whether or not the old hermit was right, one thing seemed certain: Mother Nature did not want a bridge built in that particular location.
Nevertheless, the railroad executives got their way and the bridge was rebuilt once more. On December 13, as the workers waited for the first train to cross the bridge, the elderly hermit made his final prediction. He declared that the first train would not cross the bridge until the 15th of December. Even some of the hermit's supporters scoffed at this prophecy, as the first train was already on its way. However, there had been an obstruction on the tracks miles away and the train that was expected to cross the Canadian River on the 12th didn't reach the bridge until the three days later.
Pierre Davis, the "Prophet of Porum" was seen very little after this event, and it was supposed that the old hermit had taken ill and succumbed to the ravages of time, ultimately ending up buried in a potter's field in a pauper's grave, forgotten by all, except for the mystified workmen who had been bedazzled by Pierre's precise prognostications.
Excerpted from "Hairy Men in Caves: True Stories of America's Most Colorful Hermits" by Marlin Bressi. Published by Sunbury Press, 2015.