Mary Rodger and the Bear

The newspaper of the time - the Sheffield Register reported the tragedy in the following terms: -

"A circumstance not less dreadful in its consequence, than disgraceful to a civilised nation, happened at High Green, a few miles from hence, on Saturday morning last. A bear kept there by one Cooper for the amusement of the country people at their wakes, got loose - pinched its food - and entered the dwelling of a person named Rogers. The unfortunate wife of the man was sitting with one child on her lap and another beside her, when the creature seized her with all the savage ferocity of its nature, and tore her in a manner too shocking to particularize. The cries of the poor unfortunate, and of the children reached Rogers and the Bearward, who almost at the same moment entered the house, and beheld a sight sufficient to appall the most callous mind - what then must have been the feelings of the husband? - He flew to the animal, but was unable to wrench its jaws from the object of its fury. Cooper then struck it on the head with a hammer, but the haft flying off, the blow was powerless; it however turned the bent of its rage on him, and it pursued until he was nearly exhausted with fatigue, and he must have fallen a victim, had not the neighbours, alarmed at the outcries, come up with him, and, at a second shot, laid it dead. The woman expired in dreadful agony on Monday. We hope and trust this dreadful and unparalleled  accident will finally abolish, in these parts, that unchristian, barbarous species of diversion - bear-baiting."

This tragedy is a part of our own family history. Francis Rodger, the  husband, was the eldest of eight children born to Richard and Mary Rodger of Wadsley, near Sheffield. Another of the children, Samuel, born in March, 1762, was my 4 x great-grandfather.

[with many thanks to Lyn Howsam, whose article Bear loose at High Green, Family Tree Magazine; July 2000; p 16, provided the inspiration for this web-page]