President Roosevelt & The Teddy Bear

In 1902, President Teddy Roosevelt accepted an invitation from the governor of Mississippi to go bear hunting in the Delta National Forest. A number of dignitaries and powerful businessmen joined in the hunt and split into several groups, each going their own way. After 3 days, all had found and shot a bear, all except President Roosevelt. With the president's reputation as a world-class hunter at stake, the governor ordered that something be done about it.

The Delta National Forest Ranger Station - complete
with Smokey The Bear statue.
That evening, one of the guides, Holt Collier, born a slave who later became an admired and much in demand hunting guide, managed to corner and capture an old black bear with the help of his dogs. While the bear was fighting with the dogs, Holt managed to stun the beast with a hard blow to the head with the butt of his rifle. The wounded bear was then securely tied to a willow tree to wait for the president.

Leading Roosevelt to the tree the next morning, the men in the party urged him to shoot the helpless beast, but the president, saying doing so would be extremely unsportsmanlike, refused and ordered the bear set free. News of this was picked up by the newspapers and articles about the president who refused to shoot a defenseless bear quickly spread across the country. 

The cartoon which inspired the
Teddy Bear industry
A political cartoonist heard of it and decided to humorously lampoon the president of the United States' refusal to shoot a bear. His cartoon appeared in the Washington Post on November 16, 1902. A Brooklyn, New York candy shop owner, Morris Michtom, saw the cartoon and was hit with an idea of how to capitalize on the popular story. Morris and his wife Rose also made stuffed animals and sold them in their store. Morris asked his wife to make two stuffed bears which he put in his store's front window. He dedicated them to President Roosevelt and called them "Teddy's bears." 

Soon, Morris and Rose could not meet the demand for Teddy's bears. After receiving Roosevelt's permission to use his name, they founded the Ideal Toy Company and began mass producing Teddy Bears. Now more than 100 years later, the Teddy Bear is still wildly popular around the world and it can all be traced back to that hunting trip in the Delta National Forest.

Today, the Delta National Forest contains over 60,000 acres and is the only remaining bottom-land hardwood national forest in America. From this forest each year, the Forest Service harvests over 3 million board feet of timber, maintains 87 campsites and over 50 miles of all-terrain vehicle trails. The Service also plants over 100 acres of wildlife food plots for wintering, migrating and resident birds annually. It is one of the most popular area's in Mississippi for outdoor enthusiasts.

While on a road trip to the Delta Forest, about 2 miles from the site of the famous hunt and seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Youngest-daughter and I came upon an interesting little store in the small unincorporated community of Onward, Mississippi. In 1913, the Onward Store was opened to meet the basic necessity needs of the locals and hunters who came to the Delta National Forest. Since then, the store has become a staple for the community as well as travelers on historic Highway 61 (nicknamed "The Great River Road" and "Blues Highway"). With creaking floorboards and shelves filled with all manner of old fashioned goods and various food items, the store is considered an important historical structure. Entering the front door is like stepping back in time.

The Onward Store
After a fairly recent renovation by the new owner, Molly VanDevender (a former Miss Mississippi), the Onward Store now serves breakfast and lunch in 2 small dining rooms whose walls are adorned with old photos, animal heads and memorabilia. The food is rather eclectic to say the least, but it is very good and sold at a reasonable price. With choices from quail and filet mignon, to "Mr. Ben's chicken and biscuits" and a "Half-pound Big Bear Burger" with Hoop Cheese and bacon, every selection is pretty tempting. I usually just go for a burger, but this time I got adventurous and ordered the pulled-pork sandwich with fries. The sandwich was good, especially the bun. The pulled-pork wasn't of sufficient quality to write home about, but perfectly acceptable. The fries were pretty good too. I wouldn't hesitate to stop there for lunch again. I still want to try that Big Bear Burger with Hoop Cheese.

After perusing the store shelves, taking a few pictures and buying a couple of cold Dr. Peppers for the road, I turned the nose of the pickup north and set out to cover more interesting miles on The Great River Road.

Souvenir Teddy Bears just $4.99!

Of course there's a lot of bear-
themed items for sale.
Youngest-daughter didn't like this old bear. Don't
really blame her as it is a bit spooky.

Big friendly bear on the front 
porch standing by the front door
to greet you.