Monadnock Moments No. 27: Eleazer Wilcox and The Bear
Eleazer Wilcox was an early settler of Gilsum, New Hampshire, residing there in the 1770s. One day he met up with a bear in what has become one of the most famous wild animal encounters in the history of the region.
The encounter occurred one early summer day in the year 1776 as Wilcox was on his way to his pasture near the southern border of Gilsum. Along the way he discovered a large bear which he shot and wounded. The bear escaped, however, and Wilcox went to Joshua Osgood of Sullivan, who owned a hunting dog, for help in tracking down the wounded animal.
Wilcox and Osgood tracked the bear for three miles before separating to have a better chance for a shot. The wounded bear suddenly charged Wilcox from behind a tree. Wilcox raised his gun, but it misfired. The bear raised up on its back legs, knocked the gun away and took hold of Wilcox. Wilcox seized the bear’s tongue and held on with all his strength. The hunting dog continually attacked the bear from the rear and Wilcox, a large and powerful man, was able to remain on his feet as the bear pressed down upon him. Osgood soon arrived on the scene, carefully took aim and shot the bear, whereupon it released its hold and ran into the woods where it was found dead the next day.
Wilcox was carried home on a litter and was found to have no less than forty-two wounds upon his body. Amazingly, he recovered and lived for 47 more years to the age of 74. He was never completely well, however, and was occasionally subject to illnesses that he called his “bear fits.”
The encounter with the bear was a favorite family story for many years. The gun that Wilcox had with him that day is still marked with the deep gouges made by the attacking bear. This trusted firearm has been passed down from generation to generation, and was undoubtedly used as evidence to convert nonbelievers of the tale of Eleazer Wilcox and the bear.