About Marlene Hitt
From the history of Sunland -Tujunga comes this story:
The Last Grizzly of the Tujunga Hills, 1916
There were footprints big as elephant's
in the streambed, in the mud.
Prints that made the children fear.
And the smell of old dry blood.
It's bear! Said Pop Cornelius,
his heart was dull with dread.
Fear would linger on and on
until that bear was dead.
"It's a giant," the men agreed,
they said they'd watch their stock.
Cornelius thought of children
on their way to school, the walk.
Afraid that fish and berries
would not be filling for a bear,
he got his 30-30 out
saddled up his mare,
went out to set a great big trap
with a log attached to hold it.
Next day he checked. The log was gone
and the trap. That's how he told it.
He followed the trail of footprints
and bushes torn and shredded,
feared at every twist and fork.
This hunt was one he dreaded,
then saw the bear-chewed carcass
of a horse that'd sickened and died,
the mess that was made of the beehives.
The orchard fruit had been tried.
Cornelius didn't give it up,
he tired the bear and shot it.
The last old grizzly in the hills!
Neighbors trudged and brought it
down to the park beneath the oaks
skinned the beast and cleaned it,
cooked the meat on an open fire
for all to taste who'd seen it.
People slapped Cornelius on the back.
"Well done, old friend," they told him.
One rogue bear is gone from here,
safe now our crops, our children.
Those were the days when men and boys
held guns and knives at the ready
to fight for every inch they owned,
men who were tough and steady.
© 2003, Marlene Hitt
About Marlene Hitt:
I'm no longer a cowgirl because we sold our horses a few years ago but we still live in "horse country." Shadow Hills and Lake View Terrace are two of the last horsekeeping and rural areas of Los Angeles and we struggle to keep it that way.
I am archivist at the Bolton Hall Museum in Tujunga and in my work I have discovered some wonderful stories. I am so enamored of local history that I wrote a book, published by Arcadia Publishing Co. called Sunland-Tujunga from Village to City" (Shadow Hills is part of Sunland).
One of those stories, part of our local folklore, is that of the shooting of the last grizzly in the area by Cornelius Johnson in 1916. There is quite a lot to the story...It seems that Johnson, a very early settler, was depending on his orchard crop to carry him through the year. Not only was he concerned about his crop, but also about his young daughter who had to walk a long way to school.
One day, when clearing out the water pipe from his reservoir to his home, the family discovered "footprints big as elephants." Recognizing bear prints, and later discovering the remains of a dead horse having been picked apart, Cornelius set out, of course concerned about safety for his child as well as his orchard. He trapped the bear but it pulled the trap a long way into the mountains. He finally tracked it down and shot it, bringing the meat to the park for a barbecue.
It was later conjectured that the bear was an escapee from the L.A. Zoo. It is a true story and there are clippings and photos in the museum archives.
We asked Marlene to tell us how folks could get her book and she told us it is available for: $24.99, postage $2.50. Orders can come to me or to Bolton Hall Museum:
10738 Plateau Dr.
Sunland, CA 91040-1726
Bolton Hall Museum
Tujunga, CA 91043
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