Monday, March 19, 2007

The Last Bear Hunt of Wood County, Ohio

While reading the online version of the Toledo Blade, I came across this great oral history account of the last bear hunt in Wood County located in Northwest Ohio. The article is titled Old flintlock, tale survive by Steve Pollick.

The story relates on how Bill Lorenzen discovered that the story told by his grandmother about his great grandfather Washington Avery killing the last bear in Wood County was true. This was verified by both oral history and a 19th century newspaper account. In the process, Lorenzen also came to acquire the gun which killed the last bear.

The last bear hunt was in 1858. Today, someone killing the last bear in an area would be considered an environmental terrorist. In pre-Civil War Ohio, it was seen as heroic. The hunt took over a day, involved many people, and covered a large distance.

Here is an excerpt:

"Another hunter, 'Old' Jake Hedinger, turned loose a couple of dogs, which pursued the bear and pulled it from the lower trunk of a tree. The bear, still full of energy, took off toward Plank Road [State Rt. 25] and Sugar Ridge Road. More men joined the hunting party as the bear headed toward what was called Rudolph Ditch, now Toussaint Creek, off Devils Hole Road. Toward the end of the day Avery got another shot at the bear, his ball this time striking it in the back. A short time later another hunter, William Mears, shot the bear again, the dogs in hot pursuit. The bear, dying, took a last powerful swat at one of the dogs, mortally injuring it. And it was finished."

As a native of NW Ohio, I found the account interesting. Further, the hunt happened where I lived. My elementary School (Webster Elementary) is located in the small town of Scotch Ridge referenced in the account. My interest in history also is raised when a family oral history proves to be true 150 years after the event.

1 comment:

Geoff Elliott said...

Since you are an Ohio native, I assume you probably know that bears are gradually returning to the state. I live in Canton in northeastern Ohio and there have been bears sighted in my area as recently as this summer. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources estimates that there is a "permanent" population of approximately 50-75 black bears in Ohio now.

Geoff Elliott