These chainsaw carved bears were created by North Lincoln County pioneer, Niilo Hill (sometimes spelled Nielo, but his daughter confirmed that it is Niilo). Niilo worked as a logger for decades before he discovered his talent for carving bears. When Niilo’s daughter was a child, she would have nightmares of bears attacking her. Niilo decided to carve a happy wooden bear to show her that they weren’t that scary. He used his skills as a longtime logger to create a bear with his chainsaw and a piece of wood. The nightmares subsided and it turned out that he had a knack for this craft and began carving many wooden bears. His bears wound up giving him national recognition and he did television and radio interviews.
Niilo still carving in the ca. 1980s:
Niilo in the 1940s:
Here are a few articles about Niilo when he won Pioneer of the Year in 2001:
These bears represent a father trying to sooth his daughter and a pioneer’s creativity and adaptation to a changing environment. Niilo passed away in 2002, and we remember him by proudly displaying these bears at the entrance of the museum!