Cache Valley Bear Stories
In 1862, Father Graham and Andrew P. Shumway were cutting willows on Muddy River, east of Mendon. A mother bear and two cubs attacked and killed Father Graham. Mr. Shumway came to Mendon and all the men armed and hurried to the river. After a good fight, the mother bear was killed by James Hill and the two cubs were captured.
A bear attacked John Thatcher of Logan. He ran and climbed a tree. The bear thrust his claws into John’s back just as John’s brother shot it. Mr. Thatcher carried the scars as long as he lived.1
I was only twelve years old and my mind was full of fantasizes as I slept late under a buffalo robe this cold winter morning. It was Saturday and no school. As the fire crackled up the chimney of the fire place, I imagined I saw the heads and pushing shoulders of animals and heard their soft padded footfalls.
We had two fears, wild animals and Indians, but as the years passed the latter of these lost the early terrors with which we had associated them. We grew indifferent to their going and coming. All the while we regarded with respect the grizzly bear, the timber wolf and the mountain lion. The experiences of other settlers had taught us to avoid these furry creatures and give them ample elbow room.
Every settler had hair–raising tales to tell of encounters with one or the other of these animals. My own was to come this very morning. Uncle Tom Graham called me to go with him for dry willows down below town, on the Little Bear River. After a hasty breakfast of corn meal we pushed off for the river with a team of mules hitched to an old homemade bobsled. My young eyes were peering eagerly among the bushes on the alert for any moving object. Suddenly I saw at a little distance, and coming directly toward Uncle Tom, who was walking ahead on the ice of a slough that meandered toward the river, a great grizzly bear. As it reared up on its hind legs; all the horrible stories I had heard of these ferocious animals flashed into my mind; for a moment I was dumb with terror. Then, I saw Uncle Tom swing his axe at the brute, which with one mighty switch of a powerful forearm literally tore Uncle Tom’s head from his shoulders; I came out of my stupor and wheeled the mules around and raced for town; at my alarm men jumped on horses with every manner of a shooting iron and headed for the river. Some one rode to Wellsville and men from there came to the hunt. I drove the sleigh back loaded with men and boys. It was well that I did, to carry back the remains of my uncle who had been literally torn to pieces by the great beast.
This old she–bear was finally cornered in her den which was back in a thick clump of willows. James H. Hill followed his father through the brush toward the den; lined out behind these two, were several other men, with their guns primed and cocked. As they neared the den the old outlaw rushed at them. Joseph Hill, James’s father raised his gun, but it failed to fire, and he rammed the barrel down her throat and calmly turned around, casually remarking, “Boys, that’s the first time she’s ever refused to shoot.” His shot brought this great denizen of the river bottom down. It was estimated she weighed 450 pounds.
In the den they found two cubs. Joseph H. Richards killed one of them and the other was found the next day with fourteen bullet holes in its head. This bear family was wiped out.2
The Bear Marauder
A long time ago when people first came to Providence, they had to take very good care of their gardens because that was the only food they had. One summer when the food was getting ripe, there was a man whose name was Mr. Gates who had a wife and a big family. One morning when he went out to his garden, he saw that just about all of his vegetables were eaten up. He saw some very huge bear tracks. They were bigger than any bear tracks he had ever seen in his life. That night he set a trap. Then he tied a very strong rope to a big post. He wanted to make sure that the bear wouldn’t get away.
In the morning he went out to see if he had caught anything. He was very surprised when he saw what had happened. The garden was ruined again and the bear had pulled the log away. There were some drops of blood on the ground.
He told all the men in Providence what had happened. The men had their horses and they brought their guns. Two of the men brought a wagon. After they had gone for a long time, they came to a mill and found the bear under some bushes. Mr. Gates went around it and was going to chase it up so the other men could shoot it but the bear knocked him off the horse. Mr. Gates tried to kick it but the bear chewed his leg. A man jumped on its head and shot it through its ear. They took Mr. Gates home in the wagon but he died before they got to Providence.3
Mary And The Bear
This is a true story about a little girl name Mary. Her mother and father had a flock of sheep and they lived close to the woods. One night a bear came out of the woods. It crawled through the fence and killed six sheep. The next morning when Mary’s father saw the sheep he was very angry because he had told Mary to sit up and see that nothing harmed the sheep.
Mary’s mother and father had an old log shed with a straw roof. In the evening Mary climbed up on top of the shed. It got later and later. Around dusk a great, big, old black bear came crawling through the fence. Mary didn’t dare shoot the bear because she might just wound him, so she thought she might sneak down from the shed and then maybe she could get behind the straw stack and hit him in the head. She got about half way and the bear saw her. She ran for the stack and fell. She lay there a moment then heard a bang and a squeal. A hand patted her shoulder. She looked up and saw her father. He said, “Mary, the bear got away.”
The next morning Mary’s father told her to go over to her Aunt Mae’s and get some pork, so she went to the barn and got her pony, Star, to ride. When half way there she saw a big, black bear come out of the brush, then she heard the yell of Indians coming around the bend. Off she rode as fast as she could. The bear came out in the road and stood up slashing and driving back the Indians making them turn back to camp.
Mary got to her Aunt Mae’s, took the pork and started home. She thought she would take a short cut and started through the woods. After a time she found she was lost and when looking for a way out two Indians came running out of the brush. It frightened her so badly that she fainted. When she woke up she saw her father and the Indian chieftain standing by her. The chief told her he did not want to frighten her but his warriors were following her because he did not want the bear to harm her. After that time the Indians and Mary and her parents were good friends.4
1. Cache County School District Children and Teachers, et al., History of Cache County, 1938 & 1946, p. 117.
2. Cache County School District Children and Teachers, et al., History of Cache County, 1938 & 1946, p. 127.
3. Cache County School District Children and Teachers, et al., History of Cache County, 1938 & 1946, p. 128.
4. Cache County School District Children and Teachers, et al., History of Cache County, 1938 & 1946, p. 128-129