The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

In a few cases the brave and noble women of the pioneer days of the Ozarks have been known to kill bear. Though not going out on the chase or on a camp hunt like the men, nor entering into caves with torchlight and rifle and shooting Bruin as he lay on his winter bed asleep, but when one of these animals put itself in the way, there were a few women that were not afraid to tackle it with a gun. Such a case is reported to have occurred in Taney County, Mo., in the bygone days, which is told by Mrs. Lucy Vance., wife of Calvin Vance. Mrs. Vance is a daughter of J. S. and Martha (Noe) Huddlestone and is a sister of Jim Huddlestone who sold goods at Forsyth before the Civil War. She was born near the old James River Bridge, Green County, Mo., in 1840. Calvin Vance, husband of Mrs. Lucy Vance, was born in Sullivan County, Tennessee, February 8, 1828. He is a brother of John P. Vance, who was one of Forsyth’s first merchants and was a man of much influence. Calvin Vance come from Tenn. to Forsyth in 1853.

"Well, you want to know about the women killing the bear, said Mrs. Vance. "My recollection is that I was 12 years old and I remember the circumstance as told by a number of people soon after its occurrence and they all said it was true. A man of the name of Hiram Collier lived on a small stream called Bear Creek which runs into Bull Creek. Collier lived near 10 miles north of Forsyth. It was said that Mrs. Collier, his wife, was not afraid of anything in the shape of wild beast. The thought of wild animals attacking the house never bothered her mind in the least for she knew how to protect herself and children as well as her man did.

One day while her husband was absent, she and her daughter, Ellen, who was nearly grown, went into the cornfield to see if stock had broke in and damaged the crop. In the middle of the field was a log house with log joist with a few four feet boards lying on them. The building had been occupied by a family but was vacant at the time I speak of. Mr. Collier used it to store fodder in, but at that time the house was empty. Finding no stock in the field they turned and started back home and went by the house in the field and for the sake of curiosity they both stopped and went in. There was a door shutter but it was standing open. When they stepped into the building they heard a noise up on a joist. Looking up to see the cause of it their eyes met the gaze of a bear which was sitting on its haunches on a joist and boards. The sudden appearance of the women did not seem to disturb it one bit. He was a large fellow and docile and in a splendid humor. Though it was reported that Mrs. Collier did not fear a bear or other wild beast, but when her and her daughter saw his bearship had possession of the house they got out of the building faster than they went in.. They were aware that numbers of bears infested the hills, but they did not expect to meet one in the cabin. Neither one of the women swooned or screamed but set about to devise a plan to slay him. Mr. Collier had left his gun at home when he started on his trip that morning, and Mrs. Collier says, "Ellen, we can shoot him, and you go to the house and bring the gun and shot pouch and I will stay and guard the bear to prevent him from leaving the house." Ellen done as she was bid and run nearly all the way to the house and back and when she brought the gun it was empty. Mrs. Collier was an expert at loading a rifle and soon had it charged heavily with powder and ball. In the meantime the bear appeared to be careless of his safety and made no move to get out, but composed himself very quietly. He did not suspect danger from a woman and did not permit the sight of one to break his rest. Mrs. Collier looked carefully to the priming of the gun, then stepped into the house and without the least nervousness, took deliberate aim at the burr of the ear and pulled the trigger. A flash, a report and a dull thud on the puncheon floor, the bear lay broadside in a quiver, then he was quiet and dead."

Mrs. Vance did not say so, but the writer presumes that the women finished the work by removing the hide and caring for the meat, and had it all carried to the house, and some of the meat cooking in the dinner pot when Collier returned and acknowledged his wife and daughter’s prowess as skilled hunters.

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