Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bruin: My Family's Pet Bear

One of my hobbies is genealogy and I came across an amazing family story about one of my Pennsylvania ancestors! His name was Robert Stewart and he lived in Pennsylvania in the 1800's. And, he had a pet bear. Yes, a pet BEAR!

The story was written about 30 years after he died, but I can imagine the story was told over & over in the area. Here's the story which is taken from History of Centre and Clinton Countie, Pennylvania (page 523) which was published in 1883:

File:James Grizzly Adams - Towne & Bacon, 1860.jpg
An image of "Grizzly" Adams and his pet bear from Wikipedia
 Mike Swartz and the Black Bear

A tame bear belonging to the family of Robert Stewart was missing one morning, whereupon a man by the name of Mike Swartz and Mr. Stewart went in pursuit of him. After a while he was discovered in a tree a short distance from the house. One of the men, who had a gun, fired at the bear, and succeeded in bringing him to the ground, but slightly wounded. In order to prevent Bruin from escaping Mike ran up and caught hold of the bear, which in turn Bruin caught Mike by the hand with his mouth, at the same time giving him a hug such only as bears can give; at which Mike called out to his companion, who was at a safe distance, to come to his assisstance, but Stewart, who no doubt thought "self-preservation the first law of nature," cooly replied, "Mike, if you were my own born dear brother I could do nothing for you under the circumstances."

Isn't that a terrific story?!? Of course, the story doesn't tell what happened next. I'm assuming everything turned out fine and they had a good laugh about it later. I did look to see if Mike survived, and didn't find a death notice. And, with the humor of the story, I do think it must have turned out OK after all.

There was another brief passage from the book about Robert. It was on the preceding page and both gives me pride in my Stewart family and an idea of where to look for Robert's elusive parents and possible siblings. This is from page 522:

Robert Stewart came from Chatham's Run in 1816, and settled on the Valentine Hanna property, near the Bald Eagle Creek. He had formerly lived at the mouth of Young Woman's Creek. He was of Scotch descent, and was the father of eight children, - four sons and four daughters, - all of whom possessed energy, and were very remarkable for their powers of endurance.

I'm wondering how they behaved that they were spoken of as possessing "energy" and "very remarkable for their powers of endurance." It sounds like a great family, though, and I'm happy to claim them as mine!


Dana said...

OOoh, I like that comment on energy and endurance, too! Love that bear story - what a friend, huh? ;)

lahbluebonnet said...

I meant to comment on this the other night and got sidetracked. My great great grandfather from PA, did not own a bear, but according to local lore, he spent the night in the woods in a hole in the ground with one! He was famed for walking through the woods barefoot in the snow, walking on top of pinecones and sleeping with the bears. His son, my great grandfather, was the only one who could ever find him in the woods.
I loved your story! I like bears!

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