That’s Some Bear Story

Following is a series of articles that ran in The Daily Transcript of Little Falls, MN, in the fall of 1880. The common denominator for the stories was bears. Once the bear stories got going, The Daily Transcript was inundated with attempts to top previous stories. While bears still make their home in Morrison County, they do not appear to be as numerous as these stories suggest they once were. – Mary Warner

Drawing by Mary Warner, 2005

Drawing by Mary Warner, 2005

The Daily Transcript – Little Falls, MN

August 30, 1880
H. J. Johnson killed a bear weighing one hundred pounds, on Friday last, eight miles west of this village.

August 31, 1880
Last evening as Martin Richardson was driving to this place from Rich Prairie with a load of wheat for Charles Salisbury, he discovered a large bear seated on the bank by the roadside on the hill just beyond the cranberry marsh three miles east of town. The bear was between Martin and town, and appeared to be watching for some one to come along whom he might devour. Martin concluded to unhitch the horses, mount one and lead the other, and ride past the bear, but just as he got the horses unhitched his bearship ran away. There is no danger of a bear attacking a man and team in this country.

September 4, 1880
Miss Jennie Conat and Mrs. Morris were picking highbush cranberries yesterday afternoon, about a mile northwest of this village, when they happened to discover a large bear about twenty feet from them, engaged in the same business. The ladies and the bear were frightened, and ran in opposite directions at a fearful rate of speed.

September 4, 1880
The other night they got up a bear excitement in Swan River. Geo. Hall, not of Green Prairie, discovered a bear in the brush near Frank E. Mansfield’s place. Frank soon appeared with a gun, and could hear the bear chewing hazelnuts in the brush. He remained on watch while Hall went for reinforcements. M. Crossland finally came up and declared that he believed it was his old ox, and he went into the brush and drove the ox out. Thus ended one bear scare.

September 10, 1880
We are informed that Robert Stutson, of Two Rivers, was out hunting the other day, met an old female bear and two cubs in the woods. He fired twice, killing the two cubs, and the old bear then attacked him. He drew a knife and first cut one of her eyes out, and then stabbed her in the heart, causing instant death. It sounds a little fishy, but is pretty well authenticated.

September 14, 1880
And now Rich Prairie comes up smiling with the biggest bear story. Wm. Virnig says that the other day he suddenly discovered ten bears on the edge of the woods while hunting. He fired several times, killing two bears and wounding the third. The other seven then ran away. Persons sending us bear stories are requested not to try to beat this one, for we are quite sure that this is fully as large as the law allows.

September 18, 1880
P. J. Gessner says that last evening when he was near the old town site of Swan River on his return trip from a trip into the country, John Nicholson killed a very large bear. After John had fired once and wounded it, it attempted to attack him, but he yelled as loud as he could to frighten it. His unearthly screams had the desired effect, and the bear started for a tree to get up out of danger, when John got in another good shot that finished the job.

September 21, 1880
We heard several days ago that Humphrey Fifield of Buckman, had killed eleven bears in two days, but considered the story incredible. To-day Prof. Robert Brown, of Royalton, was in town, and he says that the story is positively true, and that Mr. Fifield has the eleven bear skins nailed up on the side of the barn.

September 27, 1880
The bear boom has struck Todd county, judging by the columns of the Argus.

This article ran in the Morrison County Historical Society’s newsletter in 2005.

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