Lola and her Grizzly Bear

Bancroft Library

In this contemporary picture of Lola’s cottage on Mill Street in Grass Valley, you can see a bear and a lady on the right. Lola Montez was fond of animals and kept a grizzly bear cubs in her yard. You can see that the bear is on a chain.

Lola met with an accident with her pet while feeding him sugar cubes from her hand. A report from Grass Valley published in the Sacramento Daily Union stated:

The event of most general interest in town today is the attack on Madame Lola Montez by her pet grizzly bear. While feeding him with sugar from her hand, he caught her hand in his mouth, and wounded it badly; he struck at her with his paw, but fortunately did not reach her. A man standing near caught a club, and by a stroke across bruin’s head, caused him to let go his hold, and thereby probably saved the life of the Countess. (9 February 1854)

The story was widely reported. Frank Soule, journalist and editor of the California Chronicle, responded in verse

Lola and Her Pet

One day when the season was drizzly,
  And outside amusement were wet,
Fair Lola paid court to her grizzly,
  And undertook petting her pet.

But ah, it was not the Bavarian,
  Who softened so under her hand,
No ermined kind octogenarian,
  But Bruin, coarse cub of the land.

So all her caresses combatting,
  He crushed her white slender hand flat,
Refusing his love to her patting,
  As she refused hers to Pat.

On, had her pet been him whose glory
  And title were won on the field,
Less bloodless hap ended this story,
  More easy her hand had been Heald!

But since she was bitten by Bruin,
  The question is anxiously plied;
Not if 'tis the Countess's ruin,
  But whether the poor bear has died?

(“Pat” refers to her third husband, Patrick Hull. “Heald” (George Heald) was her second husband, whose name she continued to use after she kicked out Pat Hull.)

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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