Did you know that there was once a bear that lived on Appledore Island?
Our intern, Garrett Hastings, tells the story:
This is my fourth time out to the Shoals, and along the way I have read many a detail about the history and culture of these beautiful isles. I came across one story that stood out in particular in Celia Thaxter’s Stories and Poems for Children from 1895: the brown bear. I don’t know what it is exactly that’s so striking; perhaps it’s the fact that having a bear at a supposedly relaxing resort, one which is aimed at making the guests feel at peace with nature, is out of character. So I dove further into the subject to learn more about it, and the video before you is what I learned.
As a short synopsis of the video: in 1873, a relative of Celia Thaxter gifted her a brown bear cub from Georgia. It then lived on the island for a summer before breaking free during a storm in September. After Celia came across it briefly, it disappeared for about seven months before getting caught disappearing over the wall to the Appledore House. They managed to catch it, and it had some peace before the summer months, but it disappeared before the season started. It hid away during the summer, and they caught it again when it emerged the following spring. Celia then sold the bear to a man on Londoner’s Island and forgot about it for the summer. She found it again when she was out wandering on Londoner’s. It was a wild and crazed beast that the family was paying five cents to see. In September of 1875, they took it back, but it escaped again. After it scared two women and ate a stockpile of food, they decided it was too dangerous and killed the bear. I hope you enjoy the video!
Here’s the script —
TRIP: Good morrow, and welcome to Trip Tips! (Trip Tips intro plays.) Hey, guess what? We’re back to the Shoals, and you know what that means. Lots of… (VALENTINE flies and hits Trip.) Ah! (Trip falls, sits up, and sees Valentine landing on the couch.) Please don’t hurt me, Mr. Gull.
VALENTINE: Get up Trip. And, it’s Valentine to you. (Valentine flies back to sit higher on the couch, and Trip sits back up.)
TRIP: What do you want?
VALENTINE: I see what you’re doing here: capturing these poor souls and forcing them to learn. Well, I say I’m in charge now, and you will do exactly as I say. The Shoals are my territory.
TRIP: Then, what do you want me to talk about?
VALENTINE: (Evil laugh.) Yes, it shall be truly terrifying. (Bigger laugh.) Yes! Right from 1873!
TRIP: Wait. I already covered the axe murders.
VALENTINE: No, you fool! (Valentine slaps Trip.) The bear!
TRIP: The bear! Oh, that’s not scary. (A beat.)
TRIP: So, today’s topic is: There was a bear on Appledore Island?
VALENTINE: Stop wasting time, puppet.
TRIP: Before the summer season on Appledore Island, and after the tragedy on Smuttynose in 1873, the Appledore House on, well, Appledore Island received a gift from one of Celia Thaxter’s relatives. Now, this wasn’t a puppy, or a kitten, or a lifetime supply of chocolate. It was a brown bear cub all the way from the wilds of Georgia. Because that’s what every child-friendly, relaxing resort needs. However, life was surely less relaxing for the bear then the guests, as it spent its existence tethered to a pole on the front lawn. On top of that, the children would harass it and poke it with sticks, only some showing it kindness. The bear was tormented until September 8, 1873 when a storm hit that shattered windows and ripped shingles off of roofs. The next morning, the bear was gone. In fear, it had found the strength to break its bonds and run to freedom. Celia Thaxter managed to find it by accidentally kicking rocks on its head from a cliff above. By the time she returned with sweets for the bear, it was gone once more. The bear then disappeared for nearly seven months, and everyone, except for Celia, thought it was dead. But, one evening in April 1874, the bear was spotted escaping over the wall. The men gave chase to find its lair littered with bird bones and feathers. After dragging the bear back the next morning, the bear had some peace before the summer season. Celia took it on walks to make it feel better, but it had tasted real freedom and despised captivity once more. Just before the summer, he broke free again and disappeared into the night. By day, he hid. By night, he gorged. This terrified the mothers, and they kept their children under close watch. The bear managed to evade the people of the Appledore House until 1875 when it emerged in the spring. With some difficulty, they dragged it out and struck a deal with the man living on Londoner’s Island (now Lunging) to care for it since the people of Appledore believed it had gotten too wild for them. By August, Celia and the others somehow forgot about their gracious gift, and Celia found the bear chained on Londoner’s, a wild and crazed beast, that the family was charging five cents to see. In September, for whatever reason, Celia took the bear back. Maybe the bear was too much or gave the man on Londoner’s nightmares. Either way, the bear was back on Appledore, and you’ll never guess what. Yeah, it broke free and ran away. Again, it looked for food at night, climaxing one evening in the store room below two terrified women. While the women were trying not to have a heart attack, the bear might have had one with the fat it was swimming in. It devoured beef, pork, lard, and molasses, half eating it, half bathing in it. It then carried off a barrel of pork to continue dining. By morning, it was decided that the bear was too dangerous. It was hunted and shot, unaware of its hunter’s malicious intents. That was the first and only time a poor bear was brought to the Shoals.
VALENTINE: Haha! Good. Good.
TRIP: You know, I recognize you somehow.
VALENTINE: I’m a gull, you fool. Now, I think I’ll give you a more controversial character next time.
TRIP: Oh great. (Valentine throws his head back and laughs heartily.) Thanks for joining me on Trip Tips. Good e’en. (Roll Credits.)