Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Sunday Bear Story

from The History of the Old Town of Derby, Connecticut, 1642-- 188O.
by Samuel Orcutt and Ambrose Beardsley

“A story is still told which illustrates the religious character of the people of that day and the perils of the wilderness. The occurrence must have taken place between 1670 and 1673. A family by the name of Johnson, (and there was but one here then,) before services were held in Paugassett, consisted of small children and the parents. The father went to Milford on Sunday morning to the meeting to remain to the two services. The mother was engaged dressing the children for the Sabbath, when sitting near the door which stood open, she heard some animal near it, and thought it to be a hog. But the next sound seemed different from such an animal, and she reached and shut the door which fastened with a latch, making it quite secure. She then rose and made it more secure by the usual method, and went upstairs and looked out the window to see what creature it was, when, lo! a bear of full size and power was seen. She took the gun, it being loaded for just such interesting occasions, and exercising the best of her skill, fired, and old bruin gave up his life at once. The hours of that day went slower in that house than ever before, until the master came. On arriving home the husband called the neighbors in general camp consultation as to whether it would be wicked to eat that bear, since he was killed on Sunday, for had it occurred on any other day except a fast day, there would have been no question, as such meat was judged quite delicious and healthful. The decision of the council was that since it was "killed in self-defense it would be Christianly consistent to eat the meat;" although how the bear could have entered the house to the injury of the family after being fastened out, is not easy to see at this late distance. The decision having been rendered, the animal lay untouched until the sun was quite down, when he was dressed, and furnished some two hundred pounds of provision. But it had cost a severe fright to that mother and her little ones. So far as she could judge the bear might be dead and harmless, or he might not; she could not venture out to see, and there she remained six hours in a prison of fear.

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