Back to Main Page
HISTORY OF ST.FRANCIS COUNTY
The Bear Hunt by Mr.Scott Bond-Found by Mrs.Brenda Huntley-Her ancestor is involved, Mr.John Patterson, renowned bear hunter of early St.Francis County.
Created February 19,2008
Mr. Scott Bond tells this excellent "Bear Story" in his book.
"A year after the foregoing incident I had a new experience. I had never seen a wild bear. My corn was planted on black, sandy loam land. It was being destroyed and torn down by something, I did not know what. The ground was so loose I could not tell from the footprints whether it was horse, mule, cow or what, that was doing the damage. The land was very rich. There were several stumps standing about. I thought it was coons that were destroying my corn. One moonlit night I took my gun and seated myself on the fence alongside the field. There was a slight breeze stirring the blades of corn. I thought I heard a coon that had climbed up on a stalk of corn and broke it down. I slipped off the fence, cocked my gun and stooped, looking beneath the blades of corn I saw one of these stumps within fifty feet of me I squatted, looking for the coon, and all at once what I thought was a black stump dropped down and I never heard such running and threshing in my life. When I realized it was a bear, I was really so weak I could hardly lower the hammer of my gun. I straightened up and I heard another bear running. When they reached the fence on the far side of the field they tore down the
Whole side of the fence getting out of the field. From this I learned that it was Mr. Bear that was devouring my corn. The next day I saddled my horse and went across the river about seven miles to the home of Mr. John Patterson, the great bear hunter, who had a fine pack of hounds. Mr. Patterson said it would be two or three days before the bear would return to my field, and that he would be over to my place in a day or so, and stay over-night; and strike the bear's trail before day.
According to his promise he came. About two hours before day, the bear-hunter asked me if I knew the exact place where the bears crossed the slough. I told him I did. He sent another man with me, telling us to get down next to the water and he would take his dogs into the field, and when the bear came to the water we could shoot him as he swam across. We started in a skiff, but got hung on a snag. When we got to the appointed place the bear was already in the lake. We made three shots at him without apparent effect. The hounds followed the bear across and in a few minutes there was as sweet music as I ever heard, from a chorus of dogs. They chased the bear three and a half miles to the St. Francis River and across it. They overhauled the bruin about ten o'clock and captured him about seven miles from my field. Mr. Patterson said the bear would tip the scales at 500 pounds. I did not have the pleasure of helping to capture the bear, but I certainly had my fill of him at the dinner table. I learned the excellency of bear meat and that one could not possibly eat enough to hurt himself. Mr. Patterson was broadly known as the "bear chaser" of the St. Francis bottoms, not only took pleasure in bear hunting, but also made plenty of money. He usually killed from fifty to seventy-five every winter. The whole St. Francis basin was at that time full of all kinds of game. Wild pigeons were so numerous that they would darken the sky when they passed. No oak or walnut had been cut, hence mast would be found washed up in enormous piles along the streams.
The Timber Story by Mr.Scott Bond-Found by Mrs.Brenda Huntley
It is hard to realize that although a few years ago countless millions. At a certain time there came another overflow. This again aroused my ambition for the timber business. I remarked to Capt. Stearns, to whom I had been selling my timber, that I was going to buy the north half of section 12 and then I would not pay any one 15 cents to insure me $15,000. That there was over 2,000,000 feet of the finest cypress I ever saw in that brake. Captain Stearns asked me who owned the land. I felt that it was no secret, so I told him, thoughtlessly the very things that Mr. Patterson the great bear hunter, asked me to reveal to no one. Mr. Patterson, being well acquainted with the swamp and the overflows and knowing the drift of the currents, when the entire bottoms were flooded, said to me: "Come and go with me and I will show you just where and how to cut your float roads. I have been here for forty years. I have never given to any living man the information I am giving you, and would not like to have you reveal it to any one." I thoughtlessly told Capt. Stearns where I intended to cut my float roads. He asked me to let him go in partnership with me. I looked and thought at once, now it is worth something to be in partnership with Captain Stearns and I told him all O. K. I told Capt. Stearns who owned the land and what it could be bought for. The next summer, after my crop was laid by, I was very busy molding and setting brick to burn a brick kiln. A young man, I do not now recall his name, came to me and asked to hire my wagon and team," I told him I would like to accommodate him but I was using my wagons and team every day hauling wood to burn a brick kiln. He said he had to have a wagon and team. Somewhere, he wanted to move his camping outfit up on section 12, that he had contracted with Captain Stearns to cut out a float road through the south half of section 12 and through the north half of the same section. Then and there I remarked to the young man: "Sir I own the south half of section 12 and told Captain Stearns that I was going to buy the north half of section 12. Now I want to know who sent you to me for a team." He pleasantly replied: "Captain Stearns told me to come to you." I asked him how he knew that Captain Stearns had bought the north half of section 12. He replied: "Because he told me he had." Then I thought of what Mr. Patterson, the great bear hunter had told me. Then it occurred to me that Captain Stearns wanted me to know that he had bought this property. The next day, something, I do not remember what caused me to be at Madison. I was standing on the front porch of a store house. It was a bright beautiful day. It happened that Captain Stearns walked right up to where I was standing. He seemed to have on his face as usual, one of his pleasing smiles. I looked him in the face and tried to return about the same pleasant smile, and said: "Good morning Captain Stearns." "Why good morning Uncle Scott." I looked him straight in the face giving him about the best smile I knew how. He said: "Well I saw that you had gone into the brick kiln> business and had also agreed to go into the gin business, I came to the conclusion that you would not need the north half of section 12, so I went the other day and bought it and have the deed for it." "I said: "You did? Captain Stearns you are one of those smooth slick Yankees. Now I don't believe there is a southern born Democrat in all of Eastern Arkansas that would stoop so low as to take advantage of a Negros ignorance as you have mine." He saw that I was pretty well keyed up, and remarked: "That is all right. We will still be partners, you own the south half
And I own the north half and we will both work together as partners." This of course pacified me. I had up to that time never known anything of Captain Stearns but a perfect gentleman and he had run for County Clerk on the Republican ticket and being a Negro of course I was a Republican, supported him during the campaign, worked and voted for him and had always thought that he and I were all O. K., as we had gone hand in hand through the campaign, so I felt good over the matter at last. A few years later came another overflow. I prepared my logging and camping outfit. About the time I was ready to start, I met Captain Stearns. He said: "Well, I see you are going to cut more timber." I said, "Yes, sir, my aim is to make a killing this time." He said, "Now when you get through cutting the timber on the south half of section 12 before you begin cutting on the north half, let me> know." I said: "All right." This put me to thinking. I finally figured it out that that was only a matter of business and everything would work out O. K. So I called up my timber crew and lit out for the brake and went to work cutting and> floating out timber. I cut and floated out about 145,000 feet which was> about all the first class timber I had left on that section. After giving my boys instruction what to do I got into my boat and had to go about 18 miles>before getting to Capt. Stearns. I landed at my home about 10 o'clock in the night. Capt. Stearns lived about 300 yards from where I lived. I remained all night with my family. My wife had me a warm breakfast on the table by 4 o'clock. Then it looked like it was raining down pitchforks and it was as dark as dark could be. That did not deter me from my journey. I was at Capt.Stearns' house about three hours before daylight aroused him up, struck a match and said: "Captain Stearns I have cut all the timber that had been left on the south half of section 12 and I came to bring you the information you required of me."
He said: "Did you ever see it rain as hard as it is now." "Yes, sir, this is a pretty good rain. But Captain I am after results. It never gets too dark nor rains too hard when I am after that. What information can you give me?" "Well I will have to go with you." I said: "It is a long ways to the camp and we will have to go up stream so we had better start now." I finally got him to agree to turn out; and off we went. We arrived at the camp about 10 o'clock. Upon our arrival I said to Captain Stearns, "As you have not had any breakfast, I will have the cook prepare you something to eat." He said: "No, I am very much obliged. I will run up to Hull and White's camp," which was about one-half mile from my camp. I had never been to that camp, but I heard them felling trees ever since my camp had been located on the south half of 12. My boys had finished all the work I had left for them to do and were sitting on the raft laughing and talking, waiting for Captain Stearns to return from the other camp. In a little while he made his appearance. He said: "Uncle Scott, Hull and White refuse to let you cut any timber on 12, so get your boats, crews and camping outfit and I will carry you over here on lost swamp and there I will let you cut all the timber you want to cut." I dropped my head and began thinking within myself. What a nice thing I once had and had revealed all my business to Captain Stearns regarding the timber, and saw how nicely and pleasantly he had wound me up in his little web, as the spider did the fly. I realized the fact that I knew nothing at all about lost swamp, and there had been no float roads cut through it. I decided that was a lame job. I realized the fact that Capt. Stearns had done me a great injustice, not only taking advantage of my ignorance in buying the north half of section 12, but had even trespassed on my property without my consent by cutting the float road through it. It appeared to me that if Captains Hull and White were cutting timber above me for Capt. Stearns, they were compelled to come through my premises to get to the river, which was the only way to get out with the timber. I still had my head hung down and I saw pretty clearly that I could master the situation. So I raised my bead and looked at Capt. Stearns and said: "Captain Stearns lost swamp the devil. I know nothing about lost swamp and I am not going anywhere you will never run a log through my float road unless I am dead.' This aroused all the boys at my camp. They were up instantly and ready for a big row. I said to them: "Quiet boys I will master the situation. You are out of your place." This seemed to somewhat shock Capt. Stearns. He finally raised his head and said, "Uncle Scott wait until I come back." "All right, sir,." In about an hour, he returned with Capt. White, and Mr. Hull. Both of these men were perfect gentlemen and both were neighbors of mine. They came up and said: "Hello Uncle Scott," "I am not doing much Captain." They both had on their faces the smile of southern born, aristocratic gentlemen. They said to me: "We learn from Capt. Stearns that you are going to prevent us running our timber through this float read." "Gentlemen, that is true. I suppose that is Captain Stearns' timber you are cutting?" He said: "In part that is right. But Uncle Scott we have a contract with Captain Stearns as long as this paddle I hold in my hand, and we are in the hole about $1500 with Capt. Stearns. We have about 250,000 feet of timber already cut and ready to float out, and in case we can't pass through your float road it will be a total loss. If you will allow us to go through and run our timber this will put us something like $2,000 to the good."
Capt. Hull, you and Mr. White are my friends and I have the highest regard for you both, but in this case I am compelled to shoot through you both in order to get to Capt. Stearns. He has taken advantage of my ignorance, by me telling who owned the land and what it could be bought> for and also explained to him about the float road. In my absence, he went and bought the land and later I met him and he agreed with me that we would still be partners. Now here it is, I have my entire crew here and had let him cut timber on my brake for two years. Now he winds up by telling me I can go in lost swamp, and I told him lost swamp the devil, I was not going anywhere. So you can see I certainly regret very much that I have to punish you gentlemen to get to Capt. Stearns. They and Capt. Stearns had a hearty laugh. Capt. Hull said: "We see Uncle Scott that you are in a position to master the situation.["] He being an old aristocratic gentleman, said: "Let's all be friends and make money. There is more timber here in this swamp than we can get out on this rise, so you can take your men and go to cutting and when we put our timber in the float road we will not allow it to stop until we get to the river. And when you start to running your timber do likewise." This gave me great relief. When I could see that my neighbors were making money and I was making some myself. This gave me great comfort. So in a few minutes the axes were ringing and the saws were singing. In the next few days we had another 140,000 feet of timber cut, cribbed and toggled ready for floating. Sometimes our crib of timber would be in front and sometimes Captain Hull and White's timber would be in front. This was rather a new line of work for myself and my boys and when we could get the white in front of us we would watch the skill with which they handled their timber. We were benefited by their skill and art in floating timber in the float road. So Messrs. Hull, White and myself worked together, hand in hand and we all came out well and made nice money.
First, a link to Theo Bond's book on his brother, Scott Bond. Here is the Webpage where it is available at the University of North Carolina. There are many pictures from that time period, and more stories of the life of the slave turned millionaire!
Scott Bond Book Online
Or View it here in this inline document!