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Ellis Brice "Bearcat" Bearden

Birth Date: December 13, 1913
Death Date: June 10, 1993
Age at Death: 79

Burial Details

Cemetery Name: Rosebud Cemetery
Cemetery Location: Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Mortuary Name: Farnum Holt, Glenwood Springs


Eagle Valley Enterprise page 13 - June 17, 1993
Ellis B. BEARDEN 1913-1993. Ellis B. BEARDEN, 79, died June 10, at the Colorado State Veterans Nursing Home in Rifle.
Born Dec. 13, 1913 in Cash, Okla., to Roland and Maude (LeWRIGHT) BEARDEN, he moved with his family to Colorado when he was three years old. He spent the rest of his life on the family's Squaw Creek homestead in Edwards.
He also served in the U.S. Army during World War II and was a member of the American Legion Post in Gypsum.
He is survived by his two brothers--Raymond, of Gypsum, and Elton, of El Jebel. Several nieces and nephews as well as numerous grand-nieces and grand nephews survive.
Rev. Bruce DUNSDON officiated at funeral services which were held Tuesday, June 15, at the Farnum-Holt Funeral Home in Glenwood SPrings. The American Legion Post in Gypsum and the Glenwood Springs' V.F.W. bestowed veterans' honors. Burial was at Rosebud Cemetery in Glenwood Springs.
As ground above it is groomed for Cordillera's golf course, a cabin on Squaw Creek sits silent and empty--its sole occupant won't be coming home.
Ellis Brice BEARDEN, "Bearcat," to friends and family, lived there. Although he hadn't been home for some time, he was the last of his family to remain on Squaw Creek. Last week he died at age 79.
Bearcat literally made a name for himself as a young boxer. In the 1930s, he took on a variety of opponents in the ring within Eagle County and beyond. The bouts were a popular form of entertainment at the time.
He once sparred with the likes of Dutch FENNER, the "Red Mountain Buckaroo," in Minturn in 1939. Heralded as the "fighting Bearcat of Squaw Creek," BEARDEN was the fans' favorite. FENNER, however, won the bout in the fifth round when he laid a straight left on Bearcat. The Enterprise reported that "FENNER, by the way, carries a mean punch in both mitts."
Ellis took his boxing career on the road--even fighting an impromptu match by the light of a car's headlights. His boxing career eventually paid off--BEARDEN was able to make enough money to buy his own homestead on Squaw Creek.
This week, while searching for an old photograph, his niece Edith LEDERHAUSE picked up a small basketball hoop with suction cups to attach to a wall and said she had bought it at a yard sale for a quarter. "I was going to take this down for him" she said, putting the hoop down. Bearcat's last days were spent at the Colorado Veterans Nursing home in Rifle.
The BEARDENs came from Oklahoma, decades before the Dust Bowl sent a migration wave westward from the plains. Roland Joshewa BEARDEN, Bearcat's dad, was a jockey at Fort Sill army camp. In 1902, Roland came to Colorado to work in the mines at Cripple Creek and Creede. He knew a rancher named Charlie FRASER, who had a place on the Piney Creek that's now the Perry OLSEN Ranch. FRASER convinced Roland to move to Eagle County.
The family moved to the mountains in 1915 via the railroad. Roland came first, the family followed. Bearcat was three years old.
As soon as Bearcat was old enough, Roland took him on horseback to Wolcott, where the boy caught the train to Eagle to attend school. On one of these trips, Roland delivered Bearcat safe and sound to the train but on his way back home along the seven-mile journey, Roland's horse fell on some ice. The elder BEARDEN was laid up for weeks with a broken leg at the Glenwood Springs hospital.
Sequestered in the narrow Squaw Cr5eek valley, Mrs. BEARDEN caught up on her correspondence while her husband was in the hospital. Bearcat's mother wrote to her sister-in-law in March 1928, and noted the hospital was charging $6 a day for Roland's stay.
"It's so lonesome around here, now--just Raymond, Elton and I," wrote Mrs. BEARDEN. Raymond, the oldest boy, had just graduated from high school and Elton, the youngest, was two years old.
The family raised potatoes, lettuce and dairy cows. Mrs. BEARDEN was concerned about getting the 300 to 400 sacks of potatoes to market with only Raymond and herself to do the work.
In 1933, Mrs. BEARDEN died of cancer. Roland and the boys "batched it" for six years before he remarried in 1939.
Throughout the years growing up on Squaw Creek, Bearcat became an accomplished saddle bronc rider and could perform tricks on horseback.
World War II took Bearcat overseas. He drove heavy equipment at such places as Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe. He was in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. After spending almost two years in combat, Bearcat was discharged Dec. 6, 1945, within one week of returning to the U.S.
The U.S. Army bestowed upon him the American Service Medal, the European, African, Middle Eastern Service Medal, the World War II Victory Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.
At 5-foot, 7 1/2 inches and weighing 160 lbs., Bearcat came home to Squaw Creek.
The war had created a good market for ranch products, and Bearcat spent most of the 1950s buying additional land on his homestead and expanding his cattle operation.
Brush Creek area resident Ken NORMAN first met Bearcat while hunting in the mid-50s. "Later I came to know him as a good friend and neighbor."
Both men were members of the Salt Creek Grazing Pool, an organization of cattlemen formed by early day ranchers who grazed their cattle as one large herd on U.S. Forest Service allotments. The ranchers, NORMAN recalled, would assess themselves a fee for each head of cattle in order to pay a range rider who watched the herd all summer.
The rider would check on salt purchased by the Pool, check water holes and make the best use of grazing before returning the herd to its owners in the fall. The BEARDEN grazing permit, said NORMAN, remained in the same family for many years.
Bearcat's "gruff attitude never failed to get a stranger's attention," said NORMAN. "But underneath that he was quite mellow."
NORMAN's youngest son and daughter, he said, especially enjoyed helping Bearcat with his livestock and listening to his stories of the old days.
Besides ranching, Bearcat in his younger years helped with the Highway 24 bridge construction over the Eagle River at Red Cliff. He worked again on the highways in the 1960s lending a hand to build I-70 through the Eagle Valley.
His yellow pick-up became a familiar site at the Eagle Valley Texaco station in Edwards and at the post office.
Tuesday he was buried at Rosebud Cemetery in Glenwood Springs in the family plot.
Vail Trail page 8 - June 18, 1993
Long-Time Local Leaves Imprint on Valley History, by Kathy Heicher.