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Dayton Memories > Black Bear at Clifton gorge
Black Bear at Clifton gorge
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1 post
Jul 08, 2014
2:43 PM
Does anyone remember a black bear at Clifton gorge? I was about 3 - 4 in the 60s. I remember vague details about it and would love for someone to fill in the gaps for me. I remember he was in a cage and that he liked to drink soda. I would like to know more about it. Like what was his name and how did it happen that he was there, what really happened to him?
27 posts
Jul 08, 2014
5:44 PM
My mom lived in a small cottage outside John Bryan State Park down the road from the gorge in the late 70's. She has mentioned this story before. I always thought maybe it was just an urban legend. I will ask her again and let you know what she says.
658 posts
Jul 08, 2014
9:42 PM
There was a black bear, it wasn't running loose, it was kept near the gorge, but I forget where. I can remember a car trip up there to see the bear and when we got there we were told that the bear had escaped during the night, become panicked and fallen into the gorge and was killed. Supposedly you could buy a coke and give it to him and he would stand up and hold the bottle in his front paws and drink it just like a human. I remember being sad and very disappointed that I didn't get to see the bear. I know the bear existed because I heard too many stories from people who used to go visit it.

Last Edited by RIVERDALE RAT on Jul 08, 2014 9:43 PM
206 posts
Jul 09, 2014
9:16 AM
There was a bear in a cage along side the road for quite a few years back in the mid to late 60's.It was sad to see and I believe it died.I thought it was a terrible thing to do to any animal and I hated to see the poor thing!The cage was small and there was no protection from the weather or from evil people who poked at him and gave him all kinds of junk to eat!
I don't like the memory at all.........

I edited my post from earlier after talking with someone who informed me the bear was gone before 1970.I was in my teens the last time I saw the bear.

Last Edited by cilla46 on Jul 12, 2014 12:51 PM
660 posts
Jul 10, 2014
5:12 PM
Must have been a different bear if it was there in the 70s. The bear I remember everyone talking about and the one we was going up to see was named Muggins and she escaped and fell over the cliff in 67-68. It wasn't exactly a young bear by then and I am thinking maybe her eyesight was failing or she was scared when she fell because if I remember correctly, people were saying that she used to run loose in the Gorge before it became a State Park.

Last Edited by RIVERDALE RAT on Jul 10, 2014 6:10 PM
661 posts
Jul 10, 2014
6:35 PM
Speaking of black bears, there used to also be a black bear cub, and I mean a cub it wasn't as big as a good sized dog (fatter of course) but it was also kept in a cage at the tool/trailer rental place that sat on the point/NE corner of Brown and Wyoming street. There is a Laundromat there now. I cant remember what the name of the guy was that owned the place, he also owned a contract uniform security guard service that he ran out of a small office in there. The bear was there about 65-66 and if memory serves it wasn't around very long, maybe a year or less. I think he ran afoul of the City for not having a permit and keeping it in the city limits. Everyone loved the bear and he was really tame and friendly. I have no idea what happened to him or where they took him.
maxed out
430 posts
Jul 11, 2014
3:00 AM
Here are the facts....I worked in the summers at John Bryan Park as a maintenance worker in the late 60's before I went into the military. On State Rd 343 between Yellow Springs and Clifton there was a little grocery store on the edge of the gorge. The store later became one of the rangers residences. Yes, there was a black bear in a cage. People would go into the grocery and buy soft drinks and snacks and feed them to the bear. The bear's favorite was orange pop. He would hold the bottle and swig it down in one big gulp.
One night someone gave the bear a bottle of whiskey then cut the chain to his cage. The bear got drunk and eventually fell off a cliff and fell to the bottom of the gorge.... Myself, and a few others found the bear a day or so later.Sadly the bear had died

Last Edited by maxed out on Jul 11, 2014 3:03 AM
662 posts
Jul 11, 2014
9:43 AM
maxed out... looks like the Dayton Museum of Natural History has the skull. I'm not sure what ever became of the controversy, but it seems that there were many people claiming that Muggins was 40+ years old and the oldest bear of that type on record to date was 27 years. Muggins owner claimed to have bought the bear at age 2 years in 1930. If the stories are true that would put Muggins well above the age of any previously recorded for that breed.
2 posts
Jul 12, 2014
6:57 AM
maxed out - I was born in 65 and my grandparents took me camping at john Bryan state park, in the late 60s we moved to California. I ask about the bear once on a visit and grandma told me a story about it going over the cliff and that it had died, but she was unsure what had happened . I remember as a small child that bear was one of the high lights of my trip. I am glad you said his favorite drink was orange , I thought I remembered that but was unsure. With your help my memories have became very clear. I had remembered the small cage and the store I didn't remember where at and I am happy to know what really happened to him. I always thought it was a little strange the bear jut fell off the cliff, I understand now. I have since moved back to Ohio an was telling a friend about this story but felt I was not recalling it accurately and told her I would google it. I got no hits. You have the story, thank you ! Did he have a name and do you know how he came to be there? I want to also thank you for your service to our country.
To everyone else thank you for your post they have been fun to read.

Last Edited by Sassyann on Jul 12, 2014 7:08 AM
1 post
Jul 12, 2014
8:00 AM
Maxed/Riverdale, do you happen to have a photo of the Bear or an approximate date when it happened that he was killed? We used to make trips over there from Xenia to see the Bear, my father was a friend of the man who owned him, but I cant recall the mans name. I thought I remembered the Bear being killed in the mid 1960s. Glad I found this thread and this site it sure has some good memories.
665 posts
Jul 12, 2014
8:37 AM
Joanofthe60s…Yes I have a picture of Muggins in her cage and a copy of a clip from the June 13, 1968 - Piqua Daily Call reporting her death. The owner of Muggins was a man by the name of George Grindle, I am told that he was once a caretaker of the gorge before it became a State Park, (perhaps Maxed out would know more than I on that topic) I made some calls and done a bit of research after the discrepancy was raised on the date of Muggins demise. I didn’t waste a lot of time, but this is what I was able to verify. If you will send me an email address I will be happy to send you the photo of Muggins and the newspaper article. I also have some information where the Museum has a file on Muggins and is doing research to try and determine her age at the time of death.

If you will click on my screen name, it will take you to my email address, there you can send me your email if you are uncomfortable with posting it publically.

Last Edited by RIVERDALE RAT on Jul 12, 2014 9:24 AM
2 posts
Jul 13, 2014
9:47 AM
thanks so much for the photo of muggins. that's the exact way I remember him in happier days and thanks to sassyann for starting this topic and allowing me to connect with this old memory that led to me having a picture to show my Grandchildren and to remember him-her by.
673 posts
Jul 13, 2014
3:10 PM
joanofthe60s.. you are welcome, check your email I sent you another article that I ran across. That picture was taken in the 50s I believe. Glad I could help..take care.
1 post
Oct 27, 2014
9:00 AM
I remember the bear. I was very young we were taken there to buy the bear a soda and watch him drink it. I will verify that he had more than one technique. Rolling on his back was my favorite. I have been looking to validate this memory for years and I am so sad of the bad out come for Muggins. I went to Fairborn YMCA day camp at John Bryan for a couple of years and it was some of the happiest memories I have. I learned how to swim and loved exploring the Little Miami. Sure wish I could go back to that time!!
5 posts
Oct 28, 2014
11:24 AM
I remember seeing the bear when I went to day camp at John Bryan Park circa 1965...I was eight years old.
I had a lot of fun at camp but it is rather sad hearing the history of that poor bear!
1 post
Dec 23, 2014
4:38 AM
if you have any photos or good memories to share, please share on the facebook page for Muggins, The Bear here:
101 posts
May 06, 2015
2:08 PM
I heard that black bear have been spotted in Greene County. Two in fact.
41 posts
May 10, 2015
6:31 PM
There is a Facebook page, a source Kimberly has already referenced. It has quite a few news articles and letters. It looks like the bear weighed 400-450 lbs. One source says the the bear was three months old in 1933, but another source said it was born in 1927. Another source says that black bears only live to be 25 years old, so who knows.
The bear was missing after a Thursday night. There is a news photo of people trying to move the dead bear on a Tuesday. It could not be moved. Rock surrounded the bear, so there was no way to bury it. It was just burned. The head was removed and examined.
I am guessing that there is a lot of legend regarding the bear. The photo of people moving the bear does not look like it fell, but it's too hard to tell. I would not be surprised if the people releasing the bear also beat it, since the bear's skull was cracked. If they're cutting the lock, then I wouldn't be surprised if they had baseball bats. Wouldn't be surprised if the bear roamed around until it died from its wounds.
On the other hand, maybe somebody just released the bear because they did not like it caged and eating junk. I suppose it's possible that the bear fell to it's death, but wouldn't be surprised it that was some romanticized story just because it's a gorge. Bears are not even supposed to eat all of the garbage it was fed. I suppose some of that is excusable, since people don't even know that ducks should not even be eating crap like bread.
Anyhow the Facebook page is a good source. RIP to Muggins.

Last Edited by jamesjohnson1970 on May 10, 2015 6:32 PM

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