EXHIBITS

Old Ephraim: The Legendary Grizzly of the Bear River Range: The Stories

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The Stories

"True Bear Story as told by Frank Clark, Malad, Idaho," Undated
“True Bear Story as told by Frank Clark, Malad, Idaho” [click to enlarge; click again to browse all pages]
(USU Special Collections & Archives, Old Ephraim file, General Book collection, 979.2524 Ep38, Folder A, Item A-11 – A-13)

The legend of Old Ephraim began with Frank Clark’s own account:

“And now for the greatest thrill of my life, Ephraim raised up on his hind legs with his back to me and a 14 foot log chain wound around his arm as carefully as a man would have done it and a 23 pound bear trap on his foot and standing 9 feet 11 inches high. He could have gone that way and have gotten away but he turned around and I saw the most magnificent sight that any man could ever see. I was paralyzed with fear and couldn’t raise my gun and he was coming, still on his hind legs, holding that cussed trap above his head. He had a four foot bank to surmount before he could reach me. I was rooted to the earth and let him come within six feet of me before I stuck the gun out and pulled the trigger. He fell back but came again and received five of the remaining six bullets. He had now reached the trail, still on his hind legs. I only had one cartridge left in the gun and still that bear wouldn’t go down so I started for Logan, 20 miles down hill. I went about 20 yards and turned, Eph was coming, still standing up, but my dog was snapping at his heels so he turned on the dog. I, then, turned back and as I got close he turned again on me, waddling along on his hind legs. I could see that he was badly hurt as at each breath the blood would spout out from his nostrils so I gave him the last bullet in the brain. I think I felt sorry I had to do it.”

—from “True Bear Story” by Frank Clark

Marianna L. Israelsen drawing of Old Ephraim, 1959
An illustration of Old Ephraim by Marianna L. Israelsen, 1959. The bear trap and chain are depicted on the bear’s right paw. 
(USU Special Collections & Archives, General Book collection, 979.2524 C882)

Besides Clark’s accounts, there are more than a dozen other versions of the Old Ephraim legend as it was told and retold over the decades. The general themes in the stories are very similar: Old Ephraim was a smart bear because he was able to evade Clark’s traps for almost ten years, and Clark was indeed the one who killed him. However, the details of each account can vary considerably. Here are some of the facts on which the stories disagree:

  • Old Ephraim’s name: Some versions say he was named after a bear from a story written by P. T. Barnum while others say that he was named after Ephraim from the Bible.[1]

  • Old Ephraim’s height: Some accounts say that he was 9 feet, 11 inches tall while other stories say that he was 13 feet tall.[2]

  • The year Old Ephraim died: Early evidence suggests the bear was killed in 1922, but most versions of the story, including Clark’s own, indicate he was killed in 1923.

  • Old Ephraim’s missing toes: Some stories explain that he lost two toes in a bear trap while others say that he was simply born that way.[3]

  • The size of the bear trap: Many of the accounts disagree on the size of the trap. Some say it was 80 pounds, some say it was 50, and others say it was 23.[4]

Frank Clark’s Correspondence Concerning the Old Ephraim Story

Listen to an Old Ephraim Story

Read the Stories

[1] Nora Dunne Slauson, “Old Ephraim, The Last Grizzly Bear in Logan Canyon,” MSS 236, Box 7, Folder 29, Page 4, The Jensen Historical Farm Research Collection, 1961–1993, Utah State University Special Collections & Archives, Logan, UT, http://digital.lib.usu.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/Ephraim/id/132/rec/36Man Meets Grizzly: Encounters in the Wild from Lewis and Clark to Modern Times, comp. F. M. Young, ed. Coralie Beyers (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1980), 292, 979.2524 Ep38, Old Ephraim File, General Book Collection, USU Special Collections & Archives, Logan, UT.
[2] Frank Clark, “By Request of the Forest Service,” 979.2524 Ep38 A-5 – A-7, Old Ephraim File, General Book Collection, Utah State University Special Collections & Archives, Logan, UT, accessed July 12, 2019, http://digital.lib.usu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/Ephraim/id/81/rec/4
[3] Malley Heslop, “Story ‘Old Ephraim,’ ” FOLK COLL 8a, Group 7, Box 14.2, Folder 29, L3.12.1.1.1.5, USU Student Folklore Genre Collection, Utah State University Special Collections & Archives, Logan, UT; Frank Clark, “True Bear Story as Told by Frank Clark, Malad, Idaho,” 979.2524 Ep38 A-11 – A-13, Old Ephraim File, General Book Collection, Utah State University Special Collections & Archives, Logan, UT, accessed July 12, 2019, http://digital.lib.usu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/Ephraim/id/101/rec/55.
[4] Clark, “By Request of Forest Service.”; “The Song ‘Old Ephraim,’ from the journal of George R. Hill Jr.” 979.2524 Ep38 FdD-009-011, Old Ephraim File, General Book Collection, USU Special Collections & Archives, Logan, UT, http://digital.lib.usu.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/Ephraim/id/109/rec/47; Orson Ryan, “The Story of Old Ephraim,” transcript, 979.2524 Ep38, Old Ephraim File, General Book Collection, Utah State University Special Collections & Archives, Logan, UT.