When I was in 4th grade I, like most every other 3rd to 5th grader in Indiana was introduced to and told to read The Bears of Blue River by author, lawyer and politician Charles Major. The website Yesterday’s Classics shares a concise summary of the book: “Balsar, a pioneer lad, enters manhood at the age of 13 when he encounters a great bear while fishing on the river and proves his mettle. This book, full of harrowing adventures, great danger, and many acts of valor, tells of Balsar’s subsequent encounters with bears, wolves, Indians and the legendary one-eared ‘demon’ bear, offering a dynamic portrait of the daily life in Indiana during the 1820s.”
Charles Major lived most of his life in Shelbyville, and his influence has been most appreciated in the community for years. Major’s first book was published in 1898, When Knighthood Was In Flower which was very successful, having been adopted into both theater and film. He published The Bears Of Blue River in 1901.
The statue of Balsar holding his pet bear cubs Tom and Jerry was placed in front of an elementary school named for the author. After the school was demolished in the sixties, the statue remained in storage until it was placed on the town square years ago. Once the new downtown project to redo the square was designed, the statue of Balsar and the cubs was restored and placed in the center of the structure housing the fountain and nice seating.
Back when Sher and I were in elementary school, reading The Bears of Blue River was a requirement. I so remember being totally absorbed while reading the book. What a series of adventures Balsar enjoyed. I’ll always remember the excitement and danger of the stories. (Wait ’til you read about the Fire Bear!) I’d suggest if you have family in the 7 to 10 year old range, get them a copy of The Bears of Blue River. Heck, get one for yourself. You might enjoy an exciting trip back to Indiana in the 1820’s.