Bear Hunting

Did a bear killing make news this fall? Writing in 1922 brought forth the story of a bear hunter of that time. It was triggered by this event.

A claim was made against the D & H Company by John Harris, a farmer who lived near the Kinner Bridge. Six of his cows had been killed on the track and another was badly injured. He claimed the cattle had been driven from his field by a bear that had been near the bridge for some time. Through their fear of the animal they had taken refuge on the track and were killed by the locomotives. Other farmers had had cattle scared by bruin at various times.

Engineer Doug Merrill had seen the bear in the fields and said he would be happy to have a try at it. It seems Doug was called the “Leather Stocking” of Clinton County. His father had been a pioneer farmer of that county near Sciota. The first calf increase on his farm had been killed by a bear. Doug swore vengeance on any of its relatives. He roamed the hills and woods and it was related that it was nothing for him to kill ten or twelve during a vacation in the North Country. He kept a diary of his killings with notches on his gun stock.

Over the years he had watched the number in the wild decreased. About eleven years ago he had been out looking for a cougar when he discovered the fresh track of a bear. Searching the area he came upon a bear that had just come out of hibernation and of course killed it. The pelt was a beautiful one and well haired. It made the 99th kill, if he took the one down by Kinner’s bridge he would mark up his 100

The score on the gun tallied eleven grizzlies, fifty-three blacks, twenty brown, and fifteen cubs. Besides being a hunter, Doug was also a good fisherman. He was a most popular and well liked engine driver.

A toy fad right now is the brown bear which comes in all sizes, and even some dressed to represent actual people. I wonder if the unpleasant grunt of the bear or the scratchy squeal of the cubs has been duplicated.

Doris B. Morton, Town Historian – The Whitehall Independent – Wednesday, December 4, 1985