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Historic Delta store reopens after renovations

ONWARD — The Onward Store is keeping alive the story of Teddy Roosevelt’s famous 1902 bear hunt as it has done for generations.

The store, first opened in 1913, was closed in the spring to undergo renovation, according to the Vicksburg Post. It reopened over the weekend.

A new addition is a back porch that overlooks cotton fields. A restaurant will open later.

The store features a variety of Mississippi-made crafts, antiques and art.

Its most famous product is the hand-sewn Teddy Roosevelt bears, which are dressed to resemble the president.

In 1902, Roosevelt traveled through the Mississippi Delta to the Smedes Plantation, which is near Onward, to hunt for black bear.

Roosevelt’s guide, Holt Collier, boasted he would find the president a bear. Collier found a bear and tied it to a tree for Roosevelt, an avid outdoorsman, to kill, but Roosevelt refused to shoot the defenseless bear.

Some reports after indicated Collier had tied up a cub.

Political cartoonist Clifford Berryman depicted Roosevelt’s humane act, and toy bears became known worldwide as teddy bears.

The teddy bear became Mississippi’s official state toy in 2002.

Replicas of the guns used by Collier and Roosevelt hang in the dining room of the restaurant.

Store manager Tiffany Lewallen said the dining room of the store has been refinished with wood from the iconic Red Barn in Rolling Fork that collapsed in 2011. The dining room also features artwork and photos depicting Roosevelt’s bear hunt.

The shelves of the store are stocked with basic necessities, as well as handmade relics and teddy bears. A full-service deli is inside and live gas pumps outside will offer gasoline at the store for the first time in decades, Lewallen said.

“It’s just a little bit of everything,” she said.

Onward is at the crossroads of Mississippi 1 and U.S. 61 North, about 31 miles north of Vicksburg.


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