Marking History
Marking History

Man receives headstone 141 years after death at claws of grizzly bear

PROVIDENCE 77 Nearly every Cache Valley resident has heard the tale of Old Ephraim, the resilient grizzly bear that lived in Logan Canyon.

Saturday the descendants of a man killed by another grizzly bear in Cache Valley in 1863 gathered to hear another story: The story of Charles Henry Gates, or Charles Henry, as the family calls him.

About 25 members of the Gates bloodline met at the Providence Cemetery to view the unveiling of Charles Henry/s headstone. He had never had one until now.

According to a history of Charles Henry compiled by his great granddaughter Carole Gates Sorensen, the story began in 1850 when Gates emigrated to Utah.

In 1863, Gates and his wife Elizabeth Ann were living in Cache Valley 77 then known as Willow Valley 77 in a settlement with three children: William Henry, Sarah Ann and Hyrum.

At the time, grizzly bears were wreaking havoc at the settlements, destroying gardens, killing livestock and at times, threatening the settlers.

Sorensen told what happened in the history paper she compiled.

"The men of the village decided to trap the bear. So they took a large trap and attached it to a large log up near Ballard Springs in Blacksmith Fork Canyon. When they decided to check the trap, they found both the trap and the toggle (log) gone."

Sorensen said the group of men, which included Charles Henry, followed the trail and found the bear on the banks of the Logan River near a sugar factory that used to sit near 600 West in Logan, by what is now the Logan River Golf Course.

On the first day of the struggle between man and bear, William Dees, a member of the hunting party was hit on the head by the bear/s paw. Sorensen said Dees was severely injured, but was rescued. The party retreated to the village to decide how to "get the bear."

Sorensen said the group returned the next day. To avoid getting attacked, some of the men 77 including Charles Henry 77 sat in a tree in case the bear charged.

The plan went wrong, Sorensen said, when a brave young man named Alpheus Harmon misfired his gun. The bear charged after Harmon and began mauling him.

"Another hunter attempted to aid Harmon, but his gun also misfired," Sorensen recalled, "He then began beating the bear about the head with his gun but could not induce the grizzly to release Harmon."

It was then that Charles Henry dropped to the ground and rushed toward the bear.

"He ran up to the bear and shot him from his double-barreled shotgun," Sorensen said. "The shot hit the infuriated bear in the teeth, loosening some of them."

The bear dropped Harmon and turned to Gates.

"The bear grabbed Henry about the waist and shook him like a little kitten," Sorensen said. "He then pounced on Henry first to the head and then to the feet. Henry jammed the stock of his gun into the bear/s mouth in an attempt to protect his face. The other hunters stood frozen with fear."

It/s at this part of the story that history becomes fuzzy, Sorensen said.

One version of the story states that William Dees, the man who was hit in the head by the bear the day before, shot the grizzly in the head, killing it.

Sorensen said she didn/t think that version of the story was plausible, as Dees had been "frightfully wounded" the day before. Another version, Sorensen said, has a man named David Campbell that was working in his field coming to the rescue of Gates.

"He ran from his field toward the direction of the screams, carrying his gun with him," Sorensen said. "It was he who climbed upon the back of the bear and placed his muzzle on the side of the bear/s head and pulled the trigger resulting in the bear/s death."

The bear dead, Gates was carried by the men back to his home on a stretcher made of willows. Sorensen said Gates was in very bad shape, with his intestines protruding out of his side and one foot having 16 tooth holes through it.

"He lived in agony for another six days and then expired on the 30th day of August 1863," Sorensen said.

Gates was buried in the old Pioneer Cemetery in Providence, and his remains were later exhumed and moved to the new cemetery in River Heights.

A headstone honoring Gates is now in place, 141 years following his death. The monument is marked with a quote from the Bible/s John 15:13 77 a quote fitting of Gates, who saved the life of Alpheus Harmon.

"Greater love has no man than this, that a man law down his life for his friends."