Early Dodge City was known for the Buffalo and later for its cattle drives, but did you know Dodge had its very own bear?
Paddy’s life in Dodge City was short. He was captured as a black bear cub in Indian Territory – what is now known as Oklahoma – and brought to Dodge City in 1880. He was given to Mayor, and restaurateur, James "Dog" Kelley.
Kelley was an avid hunter who had served under General Custer. In appreciation for his service, Custer had given Kelley a fine horse and about a dozen of his hunting dogs. Kelley’s love of dogs earned him the nickname "Dog." But his most famous pet was Paddy. Kelley confined him behind Beatty & Kelley’s Restaurant where he was taunted and harassed by drunken cowboys.
As sort of a "town pet," this animal was involved in many practical jokes in early Dodge City and often broke loose from his bonds. On one such occasion, during an early morning tormenting by the "boys" of Dodge City, Paddy sought solace from his persecutors by running into the Dodge House Hotel. It was a warm morning and a door was ajar. It just happened to lead into a room which was occupied by an unsuspecting railroader from the East. Paddy rushed in and found refuge under the unfortunate man’s bed. Eventually Paddy, no longer being pursued by his hecklers, began to stir moving the bed and its occupant. This woke the traveler who peered under the bed only to see a pair of fiery eyes staring back. Paddy, probably thinking his tormenters had found him, began to growl. The "victim" shot out of bed shrieking and yelling. Wearing only his nightshirt he ran the length of Front Street all the way to the depot. In the meantime a broom wielding maid "de-beared" the hotel by chasing Paddy out. Though a couple thoughtful Dodge Citians walked the railroad man back to the Hotel, he left Dodge City that very day.
During the evening, Paddy, still looking for some respite from the teasing, ran into the same hotel and hid under a different "victims" bed. Paddy’s movements woke the drunken salesman who hurled a glass under the bed which caused an equally terrified Paddy to rear up on his hind legs forming a towering presence over the salesman. Again, this caused panic for both bear and human. The man rushed into the hall and out into the hotel dining room wearing only his underwear. His state of undress and distress created quite a stir among guests who were merely trying to have a quiet evening meal.
Of course, Paddy grew larger as all bear cubs do; and as he grew he got meaner due to the frequent torture he had to endure from his tormentors. He became a danger to himself and those around him and had to be killed. Paddy’s last public appearance was Christmas dinner in 1883 when he was served as the main course.