William Dees, my ancestor, was the first school teacher in a little community in southern Idaho. He and 11 other families settled the area, greatly offending the Shoshone Indian tribe. They were recorded as being "fierce" and "a menace." In fact, the entire settlement spent all summer someplace else, returning only to harvest their crops. Eventually, they did return to their community for good, only to continue struggling with their crops.
Just to be clear about what these homes consisted of, they were dugouts. Little more than mud, dirt and grass. Home, sweet, home.
Additionally, the settlement struggled with wild animals wandering into their corrals and killing their animals. While I sometimes worry about the stray raccoon or hawk stealing away my chickens, or possibly a coyote that lives in the gully, these pioneer settlers had coyotes, mountain lions, and bears.
I can, in no way, match the commentary of this grueling scene as the author of this newspaper article, published in 1863. Please note (aside from the mispellings) the personifications of the bear; being indignant and resentful.
AFFAIRS IN UTAH; Fatal Adventures with Grizzly Bears
Correspondence of the New-York Times.
Published: October 3, 1863
SALT LAKE CITY, Thursday, Sept. 10, 1863.
The grizzleys have been very active of late in some parts of the Territory, and especially in Cache Valley. The drouth having made their mountain provender scanty, they, impelled by hunger, descend into the cultivated fields in the valleys. I noticed, last week, the accidental death of JOHN HILL, of Wellsville, formerly of this city, who went out with another to catch a depredating grizzly, but in the moonlight was riddled by seven balls from another hunting party, who mistook him for a bear. A few days ago another bruin rencontre occurred in that county, and resulted fatally, not only to his bearship, but to one of his hunters. I briefly state the particulars: Mr. IRA RICE, of Providence, set a trap to stop the depredations of a bear in an adjacent cornfield. The animal found the trap, but, being indignant, walked away with it, having put his foot in it. Mr. RICE and some companions tracked the depredator to his lair on Logan River. War was immediately opened on him, which he resented, turning upon his enemies. He came into collision with WILLIAM DEES, spread the man with a sore head upon the earth, and then retreated, carrying back four or five shots safely lodged in his hide. The men then retired in as good order as possible. The war was renewed the next day by more than a dozen men with shot-guns and revolvers. Bruin was found on the field all ready, and he made good fight, one of his enemies soon making strategic movements toward the tops of the timber adjacent. Two ran, but they were too slow for the bear. They turned, one on each side to let him pass, ALPHEUS HARMON pulling the trigger at him, but no fire. Bruin closed in and gave HARMON more fight than he wished. Another combatant attempted to put some lead in the beat's ear. Another miss-fire. Still another, HENRY GATES, came up and gave the beast a dose of buckshot in the mouth, knocking out several teeth. In return, the beast attacked GATES and tore his legs, arms and face frightfully. Others of the company came up, and three or four revolver-shots were given to the bear, who did not mind them much, WILLIAM DEES, wounded the day before, hidden above in a tall tree, then jumped astride of Bruin, and presenting his gun to the tenacious creature's head, ended the conflict. GATES died of his wounds in six days. HARMON is recovering. Brave, but rather inexperienced hunters.
Grizzly is not an enemy to be trifled with, nor to be attacked and fought carelessly.
Life lessons to be learned by my ancestor:
- No matter what happened yesterday, get up the next day and conquere what needs to be done.
- When confronted with an insurmountable problem that can not be solved in the usual manner, find a way to get a different perspective and attack it from an unconventional angle; like above.
- Newspaper articles were a lot more fun to read in the days of yore.
- Grizzlies are not to be trifled with, nor to be attacked and fought carelessly.