Betty the Learned Elephant Memorial

Good morning, dahlings,

There are some things in life that are just too random to be made up.

Meanwhile, upon first glance, there appears to be little significance to this bridge.

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You’ll understand in a moment when I tell you the story behind the BETTY THE LEARNED ELEPHANT MEMORIAL- 1179 Putnam Pike, Glocester, RI.

The first elephant ever on the mainland of the United States (that we know of) was brought over from India by a man named¬†Hachaliah Bailey, a man who used the elephant to form Bailey’s Circus (not Barnum & Bailey, mind you, but it’s possible he was related). This elephant was named Old Bet. Because people were skipping church to go see the elephant, a religious fanatic finally shot Old Bet one day. Undaunted, Bailey brought over the second elephant ever in the United States and named this one Betty, or Little Bett for short. This elephant was labeled the Learned Elephant because of her intelligence (though I cannot find what she did that was so intelligent). One night, May 25 of 1826 to be exact, Bailey and Little Bett were crossing a bridge in Glocester (sometimes known as Chepachet), Rhode Island after a show.

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Several “hooligans” (that is the only description I can find anywhere) shot her dead. One account says she was skinned the next day, but that is not confirmed. Nor is it confirmed the reason why this happened.¬†Apparently, calling them “hooligans” is explanation enough.

The men were tried, and two of them were dropped from the Masonic Order (that was apparently a big deal and considered legal punishment). 150 years later, the town decide to claim responsibility for this tragedy and declared May 25th, 1976 “Elephant Day.” In celebration, the town put up a plaque on the bridge on which she was shot.

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Meanwhile, for reasons unknown to apparently everyone because my research came up with very little, the state of Rhode Island had several various-themed giant Mr. or Mrs. Potato Heads erected throughout the state. One was put up in Glocester. Its name and theme? You guessed it, Betty the Learned Elephant.

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This girl has been moved around town and seen better days, clearly, but she is still standing. A few blocks away from the bridge is the town hall, behind which is the Evans one-room schoolhouse, in the yard of which is Betty.

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The Learned Elephant… a schoolhouse… cute, right?

There are few other towns in this blessed country with such a colorful past and such repercussions in its current life. Go see it. Glocester is a cute town in its own right, anyway.

Until next time, dahlings…

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