Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Marie's Grizz Encounter:

This story is told by Thomas James about one of his companions in the spring of 1810 while working for the St. Louis Missouri Fur Company while in the headwaters region of the Missouri River.  (Reference)

"Soon after this time, Marie and St. John, my two Canadian companions on the route from my winter quarters on the Missouri to the Big Horn, came to the Fort at the Forks. Marie's right eye was out and he carried the yet fresh marks of a horrible wound on his head and under his jaw. After I had left them at the Big Horn to come to the Forks, they came on to the Twenty-five Yard river, the most western branch of the Yellow Stone, for the purpose of trapping. One morning after setting his traps, Marie strolled out into the prairie for game, and soon perceived a large White Bear rolling on the ground in the shade of a tree. Marie fired at and missed him. The bear snuffed around him without rising, and did not see the hunter until he had re-loaded, fired again and wounded him. His majesty instantly, with ears set back, flew towards his enemy like an arrow, who ran for life, reached a beaver dam across the river, and seeing no escape by land, plunged into the water above the dam. The Bear followed and soon proved himself as much superior to his adversary in swimming as in running. Marie dove and swam under the water as long as he could, when he rose to the surface near the Bear. He saved himself by diving and swimming in this manner several times, but his enemy followed close upon him and watched his motions with the sagacity which distinguishes these animals. At last he came up from under the water, directly beneath the jaws of the monster, which seized him by the head, the tusks piercing the scalp and neck under the right jaw and crushing the ball of his right eye. In this situation with his head in the Bear's mouth and he swimming with him ashore, St. John  having heard his two shots in quick succession, came running to his rescue.  St. John levelled his rifle and shot the Bear in the head, and then dragged out Marie from the water more dead than alive. I saw him six days afterwards, with a swelling on his head an inch thick, and his food and drink gushed through the opening under his jaw, made by the teeth of his terrible enemy.     

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