Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tracy and the Bear

A feww postings ago, I promised a story about Alanson Tracy when we found his name in the 1800 Federal census for Scipio. We found him, so here's the story:


One of the great stories about early Scipio is about Captain Alanson Tracy. It can be found in “Early History of Scipio” as well as in Storke’s “History of Cayuga County” and in the “Biographical Review.” It is widely accepted as a true story, although the details are a little murky.
Alanson came to Scipio from Massachusetts about 1793, making him one of our early settlers. About 23 years old, he settled near Sherwood and eventually married a Patty Howe.
The Sherwood of 1793 was much different than the Sherwood of today. The road to Aurora was little more than a dirt path through a forest. Wild animals such as bear and wolves roamed freely as did deer, turkey and other wild game. Imagine working in your garden or cornfield and seeing a bear appear in the clearing, intent on sharing the fruit of your labors! It was common for a bounty to be placed upon wolves or other wild animals that threatened the populizing of an area. Scipio was no exception, but that is a story for another day.
Alanson and other settlers were a hardy breed, needing to be creative and cope with situations we can only imagine in order that they and their family could survive.
The story of Alanson Tracy and the bear varies somewhat in the details, but the basic tale, most likely true, is the same.

Alanson Tracy was with another man, out working in the field. Unexpectedly, they saw a bear emerge from the woods and it attacked Alanson’s companion. Some accounts say the companion was injured quite severely.
Neither one had any weapons with them. In defense of his very life, Alanson Tracy jumped upon the back of this bear and grabbed hold of its ears, hollering for help.
The bear took off at a run. Hollering for help all the while, Tracy held on for dear life; he knew that loosening his grip would lead to the furious bear turning on him. For over a mile, Tracy rode bear back (I know, it really is a dreadful pun but I could not resist), hanging on to its ears, until the bear became exhausted. The bear could not shake him loose.
The bear became so exhausted that when he stumbled upon a small stream, Tracy was able to hold his head underwater until he breathed no more, according to one version of this story. Another version has someone responding to the cries for help and clubbing the bear to death.
At any rate, Alanson Tracy lived to tell the tale of his precarious bear ride for another 50 or so years, dying in 1852 at the ripe old age of 81.

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