Utah State University Digital History Collections


Old Ephraim Digital Collection


Document Type

Digital Collection


Merrill-Cazier Library


One bear was very well known to all of the local sheepherders of Cache Valley in Utah. At first they called him Old Three Toe and then later Old Ephraim. He had a deformed foot with only three toes which made it very easy for the sheepherders to know when Old Ephraim attacked their sheep, and to track him.

In the early 1900’s the raising of sheep was an important part of Cache Valley’s agricultural industry. Every spring herders would drive their sheep into the hills where they would graze until the fall. At that time bears still roamed the hills and mountains of Cache National Forest. Since bears like to eat sheep, problems between the sheepherders and the bears were common. Frank Clark, a sheepherder, and part-owner of the Ward Clark Sheep Company, counted over 154 adult sheep killed the summer of 1911.

By 1913 Frank Clark was determined to catch and kill Old Ephraim. But at nine feet and eleven inches tall, Old Ephraim was a very large bear, and he was clever. Catching him did not turn out to be easy. Over the next ten years Clark tried everything he could think of to catch Old Ephraim but nothing worked.

Then, on the night of August 21, 1923, Clark was awakened by a loud roaring. Stopping just long enough to put on his shoes and grab his gun, he ran out of his tent to investigate the noise. In the darkness Clark didn't know that it was Old Ephraim roaring until he went past him. Then Clark knew that he was in a dangerous situation. So he decided to go further up the hill and wait until morning rather than try to get back to camp. In the morning Old Ephraim was still there hiding in some willows. Clark threw sticks at him hoping to scare him out. Instead, Old Ephraim ran to some willows by Clark's tent. Clark crept down close to the tent and shot at the bear. Injured by the shot, Old Ephraim stood up to his full height, and attacked. It was then that Clark saw that Old Ephraim's right front paw was stuck in a trap and that the chain attached to it was neatly wrapped around his right arm. Clark froze for just a moment and then shot again. It took seven shots to finally bring the bear down.

Clark then found another sheepherder who helped him skin and bury Old Ephraim. Later, a Logan Boy Scout troop went to the grave and dug up Old Ephraim's remains. Members of the troop took his massive jawbone and some of his vertebrae to use as kerchief slides for their scout uniforms. His jawbone went to the Smithsonian for a period of time, and then in 1978 was returned to Utah State University.

The jawbone is now on display in the Special Collections and Archives area of the Merrill-Cazier library along with other interesting items from the Old Ephraim collection which are available for public examination.