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home : blogsold : verde heritage April 29, 2016

Verde Heritage
By Glenda Farley, Cottonwood, AZ
Local historian Glenda Farley guides us on a journey back in time to discover fascinating moments that make up our Verde heritage and history.
Saturday, June 8, 2013

1885: OAK CREEK; Richard Wilson Killed by a Bear.

Verde Heritage

"Murray McInnernay, the mail carrier between Jerome and Prescott, last evening brought to town information of the discovery of the body of a dead man in Oak Creek. When found the body was badly decomposed and lying partly in the creek. It is supposed that the decomposed is one Wilson, a young man who has been reported missing in that section for several days." (The Weekly Arizona Miner; Prescott; June 12, 1885; page 3.)

"KILLED BY A BEAR: A few days since a man named Wilson, employed on the Thompson ranch, Oak Creek, and well known in Flagstaff, was killed by a bear, being literally torn to pieces. He was going toward the ranch, and seeing the bear, he fired, wounding her. He then followed the bear up, firing at intervals, until they both got into a small box canyon. Wilson, thinking the bear was about to drop from the wounds received, advanced too close and she sprang upon him. Her cubs were found near where Wilson was killed." (The Arizona Champion; June 13, 1885; page 3.)


"The coroner's jury investigating the causes of the death of Mr. Wilson, of Indian Wells, the finding of whose body on Ash Creek was announced in the MINER a few days ago, rendered a verdict that the deceased came to his death from injuries inflicted by a bear."

"The spot where the body was found presented the appearance of having been the scene of a fierce struggle, the underbrush being beaten down in every direction, while the tracks left by the two combatants left but little doubt that, after discharging two cartridges at bruin --- the metallic shells of which were found --- without doing him any serious harm, Mr. Wilson had endeavored to climb a tree, but was caught by the right foot by the bruin who in pulling the unfortunate man to the ground munched the foot almost to jelly. Besides this wound, the right side of Mr. Wilson's head was mashed in with a blow of a force sufficient to crush the skull, while his right arm and hand were also badly mangled and torn."

"The direction taken by the bear in leaving could be easily traced by a trail of the blood, the result of wounds inflicted by Mr. Wilson during the fight, and, as the knife of the deceased could not be found after a diligent search, it is presumed that bruin carried it with him as a memento of the occurrence."

"At the time of encountering his death, Mr. Wilson was hunting bear, and his only companion being a dog --- who remained beside the body of his master guarding it, until it was discovered nearly a week after his death. The faithful brute, although nearly dead from lack of sustenance, refusing to leave it until it was fettered, and he by force taken away from the grave."

(The Weekly Arizona Miner; Prescott; June 12, 1885; page 3.)

Richard Wilson's badly decomposed body was wrapped in blankets and he was buried in a shallow grave. Big rocks were piled on top of the grave at the base of a cliff. The initials "R W" were cut into the rock. A few years later, the friends of Richard Wilson from Jerome dug up the bones, took the remains to Indian Gardens, and reburied them at the Thompson ranch.

Richard "Bear" Wilson was an Arkansas bear hunter. He came to Arizona Territory, arriving in Tucson in 1864. Later, he came to Oak Creek. John J. Thompson had taken squatters rights, claiming land later called Indian Gardens. About 1884, "Bear" Wilson was helping him on the farm. "Bear" Wilson and Jim Woolsy built a log cabin there.

See: THOSE EARLY DAYS; "A Bear Hunter Who Lost;" by Albert E. Thompson; pages 132-135.

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