The Rolling Fork carved bears are a tribute to President Roosevelt’s 1902 black bear hunt, held in Sharkey County. Each year during the Great Delta Bear Affair, another larger-than-life bear is carved from a cypress trunk.
In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt came to the Mississippi Delta to hunt black bear at the invitation of the owner of Smedes Plantation in southern Sharkey County. The great bear hunter Holt Collier was the president’s guide.
On the first morning of the hunt, the dogs hit upon the scent of the bear and the hunt was on. Holt Collier directed the President and his companion to wait at the location where the bear would come out of the woods. As they waited, the sound of the barking dogs got further away. The dogs were heading in a different direction, so the two men returned to the camp for lunch.
Not long after they left, the bear turned and came out of the woods in almost the exact location that Holt Collier had predicted. However, the President was not in position to get his shot.
The dogs cornered the bear in a slough, and it turned on them. In its fury, the bear grabbed Holt’s favorite dog, Jocko. Holt jumped off of his horse and clubbed the bear with the stock of his gun, stunning the 250 pound bruin. He threw a rope around the semiconscious creature and sent for the President to shoot the bear.
When the President arrived, he was disappointed to see the addled bear at Holt’s feet. President Roosevelt refused to shoot the injured bear because he felt it would be unsportsmanlike.
This story spread across the nation in news articles and cartoons. Morris Mitchom, a toy shop owner in New York, wrote the President asking if he could name the stuffed toy bears in his shop “Teddy’s Bears.” The President agreed and before long all stuffed bears were known as Teddy Bears.
Each year during the Great Delta Bear Affair another larger-than-life bear is carved from a cypress trunk and placed somewhere around town.
Join us on a Bear Hunt as you travel our streets in search of the chainsaw-carved bears.
* Each bear displays a plaque stating the year it was carved and the artist that created it. Carved bears are landscaped and maintained by Rolling Fork Garden Club members.
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