Bears have long been a part of the culture of the area
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
The bear plays a special semi-magical role in Ute Culture and is considered the second bravest of all the animals, exceeded in courage only by the fierce mountain lion.
– “People of the Shining Mountains,” by Charles S. Marsh
In the Ute culture, bears hold a special place. Celebrated in dance and through art, the bear represents the connection of man to the earth and to all of earth’s creations. For the Utes, the bear provided food and shelter and made the Ute way of life, both materially and spiritually, possible.
For white settlers coming to the Roaring Fork Valley in the 1880s, the bear was a source of food. The animal’s size, strength and ferociousness prompted many a man to test his hunting skills to the fullest. Newspapers in towns throughout the valley printed announcements of hunters gathering their hounds, horses, gear and friends for an outing into the forests. Bravado permeated many of these articles. Triumphs in the form of pelts were displayed, and stories were printed about the exciting chase and events that led to the end of the hunt.
With bears shying away from towns, hunters had to go into the wilderness to see and to ultimately kill a bear. However, as farms and ranches encroached upon bear habitat, bear and human encounters became increasingly common.
In July 1889, an 11-year-old Dotsero boy shot a bear stealing lambs from his flock. Mauled by the wounded animal, he was saved only by his dogs. Glenwood Springs residents and visitors gathered a short distance north of town in October 1900 to watch guide Jake Borah bring down a treed black bear accused of killing chickens. The hunting party of George Winters killed a 400-pound black bear in October 1902 for eating the provisions of their hunting camp.
By the 1890s the hunting of bear began to serve a secondary purpose – as a source of recreation. Hunting guides became more prevalent as Glenwood Springs focused upon tourism. Men such as Henry Hubbard, John Goff, Jake Borah, Al Anderson and Steve Baxter guided many eastern tourists into the forests in search of bear. Perhaps the most famous of all visitors was President Theodore Roosevelt, who killed 17 bears during his April 1905 hunt near New Castle.
Live bear cubs taken during a hunt were frequently displayed in Glenwood Springs. In June 1898 a young cub was brought to town by a hunter and displayed to curious onlookers on River Front Street. F.C. Havermeyer, the son of a sugar baron, and two friends killed seven cinnamon bears near South Canyon in May 1903, but brought three live cubs to the Hotel Colorado lawn for safekeeping until they could be transported to New York. E.L Peisar included a live bear cub in his Strawberry Day nature display on Grand Avenue in 1905. Elmer Lucas, owner of the Hotel Colorado, displayed a live cub on his Strawberry Day float in 1915.
For man, each bear encounter, whether in the wild or in an urban area, evokes a sense of fear and awe. The bear is truly a spiritual creature.
Willa Kane is former archivist of and a current volunteer with the Frontier Historical Society and Museum. “Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Summer hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448. “Frontier Diary” appears the first Tuesday of every month.
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.