Bears, Grey Howlers and the Women Who Faced Them

A “reprint” from October 3rd, old blog…All my life I’ve been afraid of mice. Little scurrying creatures that some people describe as cute, I fear them like nothing else. I am a little embarrassed about this, especially when I read about some of my past grandmothers who faced much larger creatures head on. On the 1st of January 1698/99 my Great9 Grandfather, Samuel Smith, wrote a letter to his son, my Great8 Grandfather, Ichabod Smith. In the letter he describes what life was like for him as a child and a young man.

After the Red Skins, the great terror of our lives at Weathersfield, and for many years after we had moved to Hadley to live, was the wolves. Catamounts were bad eno’ and so was the bears, but it was the wolves that was the worst. The noise of their howlings was eno’ to curdle the blood of the stoutest and I have never seen the man that did not shiver at the sound of a pack of them… My Mother and Sister did each of them kill more than one of the gray howlers and once my oldest sister shot a bear that came too near the house. He was a good fat one and kept us all in meat for a good while. I guess one of her daughters has got the skin.


Samuel never says that he, or any man in his family, killed a bear or a wolf or a catamount (mountain lion), only his sisters and his mother Dorothy (my Great10 Grandmother) are mentioned. In fact, throughout all of my family research I have no outstanding mention of man against beast.  Perhaps this was because it was a common occurance for men, but that certainly does not take away from the courage and strength these women must have possessed. The women cared for the home, and that included keeping the big bads away.

More recently, my Great3 Grandmother, Lydia Mosher Beyea (1827-1892), bravely faced a beast. She was described as a “miniature woman” who could stand erect beneath her husbands outstretched arms. Her husband, John Beyea, was 6’2″… I’m sure they made an interesting looking pair. According to the Beyea Genealogy, compiled by Maurice E. Peck:  On one occasion, shortly after their marriage, she [Lydia] chased a bear away from their sheep with a broom. Lydia and John were married on the 27th of December 1846.

So, if I share DNA with these women, if our blood is connected through time, then why am I afraid of mice? I’m sure Dorothy and Lydia and all my past grandmothers bravely faced many a mouse with indifference.

As a final note, in my life I have had one recurring dream. I have it about once a year. In it I face a bear.

A “reprint” from October 18th, old blog, (posted just after returning from NB)…

I should mention that Karl Beyea helped contribute to Maurice E. Peck’s Beyea Genealogy. He contributed the story of Lydia chasing the bear away from the family sheep that I commented about in my October 3rd blog. When Karl’s mother read through the book for the first time she told him he had made an error. Lydia wasn’t chasing the bear away from sheep, it was the family pigs she was protecting.





Published in: on 25 August 2007 at 8:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

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