2008 Hall of Fame Inductee
2008 Hall of Fame Inductee - (Posthumous)
Born in 1846 to the Mississippi slave family of Harrison and Daphne Collier, Holt was one of probably 11 children. The Colliers were house servants to the prominent and influential Howell Hinds family of Hinds County. At a very early age, Holt demonstrated his marksmanship with the rifle. He hunted with a 12-guage shotgun, became an excellent marksman and could shoot equally well from either shoulder. While still just 10, Holt shot his first bear. At the outbreak of the War for Southern Independence (Civil War), Holt’s master and son left for the war after giving him his freedom papers and being told he was too young to fight. He stowed away on a riverboat and joined Company I of the Ninth Texas Calvary. At Green River Bridge in Tennessee, Collier went from being camp servant to a soldier, was involved in frequent action and served successfully as a military spy. Collier served in the Confederacy until the war ended in 1865.
After the war, Holt became a Texas Cowboy for about a year on the ranch of his former commander, Sullivan Ross, future Governor of Texas, after which Collier returned to Greenville, Mississippi. As the years passed, Holt became well known for his bear-hunting ability and is credited with killing over 3,000 bears – more than the number taken by Daniel Boone and Davy Crocket put together. He began providing wild game for meat to loggers, railroaders and levee construction crews. Being an expert shot, he was able to support himself by the game he provided to these different workers in the area.
It was the pursuit of black bear that brought President Theodore Roosevelt to Mississippi in 1902 and teamed him together with the then 56-year-old Holt Collier. Holt’s unsurpassed expertise made the hunt a success and led to Collier’s greatest claim to fame.
From that now famous hunt began the saga of the Teddy Bear. Holt became nationally known in 1903 as the guide for the Teddy Roosevelt Bear Hunt of that year. This hunt gave rise to the “Teddy Bear” when Teddy refused to shoot a bear captured single-handedly by Holt and tied to a tree. The incident was nationally publicized in editorial cartoons on the front page of the Washington Post, and an enterprising New York store owner, Morris Michtom, saw the cartoon and created a stuffed toy he called “Teddy’s bear.” He served again as Roosevelt’s tracker during a Louisiana bear hunt of 1907.
Holt Collier died on August 1, 1936, at 90 years of age. The Holt Collier National Wildlife Refuge in Mississippi is named in Collier’s honor. On February 28, 2004, after years of diligent research by author Minor Buchanan, tribute was paid to one of Mississippi’s famous sons. Holt Collier was finally recognized with the placement of a Confederate headstone honoring Collier’s service to the Confederacy. Collier is buried at Live Oak Cemetery, which is located on the old Plumridge Plantation near the area where he grew-up and hunted black bear in Greenville, Mississippi.
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