State unveiling of commemorative stamp draws 100 to Onward

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 19, 2002

Mae Wilson of Onward Store, above, addresses about 100 people who showed up Saturday for the unveiling of the U.S. Postal Service’s four teddy bear stamps. (The Vicksburg Post/C. Todd Sherman)

[08/18/02]ONWARD Although the bear that former President Theodore Roosevelt spared in 1902 is surely not living today, the memory of that day will last forever.

On Saturday, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled the “Teddy Bear” stamp commemorating the 1902 bear hunt from which the stuffed animal was given its name.

The unveiling was at the Onward Store on U.S. 61, about 35 miles north of Vicksburg.

“It all began right here in Onward,” Rolling Fork postmaster Susan Stevens told about 100 people outside the store for the state unveiling of the stamp. “There is no better place than here for the unveiling.”

The first stamp had been introduced in Atlantic City on Thursday.

In 1902, Roosevelt traveled through the Mississippi Delta to the Smedes Plantation, which is near Onward, to hunt for a black bear.

Roosevelt’s guide, Holt Collier, boasted he would find the president a bear even if he had to tie one up and bring it to him.

As the hunt went on, one of Collier’s favorite dogs hit on a bear’s trail. The bear grabbed the dog, and Collier reportedly struck the bear with the end of his gun and knocked the bear unconscious.

Collier tied the bear to a tree and summoned the president. The president refused to shoot the defenseless bear.

Cartoonist Clifford Berryman sketched a character of the event entitled, “Drawing the Line in Mississippi.”

And the legendary story and an American icon, the “teddy bear,” were born.

It is a legacy that author Minor Ferris Buchanan, who wrote “Holt Collier,” a story on Collier’s life, said Collier is responsible for creating.

“Without Holt there would be no Teddy Bear,” Buchanan said Saturday. “Holt is the Mississippi connection.”

The stamp, which was designed by Margaret Bauer of Washington, D.C., depicts four teddy bears, the Ideal bear, the Bruin bear, the Gund bear and the Stick bear.

U.S. postal officials were on hand at the unveiling to cancel stamps for collectors.

Mississippi District Manager of Retail Sarah Dafe said she was happy to celebrate love for the teddy bear, which she said “brings security and comfort to so many people.”

Onward store owner Mae Wilson said she never imagined any of this would happen, but she is happy Mississippians are being made aware of the history of the bear hunt.

As part of the celebration of the stamp and the commemoration of the hunt, the city of Rolling Fork, about 20 miles from Onward, will host the “Great Delta Bear Affair” Oct. 19.

The event will include a 5k run/walk, a trail ride, a bicycle race, a birding tour and archaeological tours of Native American sites. The event will also include music, food, crafts and a five-day black bear hunt.

The last recorded sighting of a black bear near Sharkey County was last year.