Grizzly!

By Jacob Wright Harlan

(Editor's note: This excerpt was published in the Contra Costa Chronicles, a publication of the Contra Costa Historical Society in the Spring 1966 edition.)

This incident gives a good idea of what trying to survive in the wilderness of Contra Costa in the early 1850's must have been like.

"I went to San Pablo to get my cows that Sweet was milking. When I got there, he said the largest grizzly bear that was ever seen by any of the old Spanish settlers, had killed eleven of my cows and one of Davis and a fine three-year old colt of Victor Castro. Mine were all choice cows worth one hundred dollars each. I told him he ought to have let me know sooner."

"There was a hunter named Bob Dykeman, known on the San Joaquin as Hunter Bob. I told Bob I would give him one hundred dollars if he would kill that bear. I got two hounds of Mr. Mendenhall, and one morning, after the bear had killed another fine colt of Victor Castro, I started with Bob and old Davis, a North Carolina hunter, who said no bear could ever scare him."

"The hounds soon found the bear in a tributary that runs into San Pablo Creek. As they were chasing him out of the bed, Davis went down to the creek to get a drink of water. The bear was above him about ten steps. Bob and I were on the opposite side of the creek from the bear, which stood in fair view, fighting the hounds. I told Bob to be careful and not shoot one of the hounds, and to aim for his heart. Bob took fair aim and shot him through the heart. He rolled down the into the creek and knocked old Davis down. The bear's dying groans could be heard a mile off. I called to Davis to run, but he said, "I can't get these damn old legs of mine to move." So the bear died at Davis' feet. Bob and I ran down with our guns and knives to save Davis, and when we got to him he was as white a looking man as I have ever seen. He had hold of his gun with both hands with the butt end on the ground, trying to get up on his feet, and was so frightened he could not move."

"Bob cut the bear's throat with his hunting knife, and told me that if I would give him that monster of a bear he would take him for the one hundred dollars. I let him have the bear, and he skinned him and sold the skin for thirty-five dollars, and then sold the meat in Oakland. It weighted fifteen hundred pounds. He got for the skin and meat one hundred and fifty dollars."


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