The Great River Road

About 30 miles north of Vicksburg along US-61, the hamlet of Onward has a historical plaque marking the birthplace of the teddy bear, originally inspired by a cub from the woods near Onward. Tied by a noose to a tree in the canebrakes, the cute fellow was found by President Teddy Roosevelt while hunting here in 1902. His refusal to shoot the defenseless animal, publicized in an editorial cartoon, garnered such popular approval that a New York firm requested the president’s permission to name a stuffed toy after him. The only rub is, T. R. didn’t actually refuse to shoot—because, in fact, he wasn’t there. But neither was the cub! According to members of the hunting party, the president’s guide, Holt Collier, an African American veteran of the Confederate cavalry, was challenged to prove he could lasso a bear. So he did, when one came along through the swamp—an old and rather weak one, as it turned out, that splashed around in a slough before they cut him loose. T. R., however, having tired of waiting for game, had returned to camp and missed the whole episode.