Hakaliah Bailey, a distant relative to James Bailey who founded the famous Bailey Circus, brought one of the first elephants to the U.S. in the early 1800s, named Old Bet. An elephant was a big draw (as you would expect) and angered religious zealots for taking attention away from church and religious studies. One of these zealots shot and killed Old Bet in 1816, it’s thought by some for daring to walk across his property on a Sunday.
Bailey replaced Old Bet with Little Bet. Known as Betty the Fabulous Learned Elephant, she traveled towns from the Carolinas to Maine. It was on a second trip to Chepachet, Rhode Island that Little Bet met the same fate as Old Bet. On May 25, 1826, Little Bet was gunned down while crossing the bridge over the Chepachet River.
For 150 years, the town of Chepachet remained quiet about the infamous deed committed in their city, until it was revealed that she had been gunned down by a band of men from the local order of Masons. May 25, 1976 was declared “Elephant Day,” and the town placed a plaque on the bridge where Little Bet was killed. The town has held a commemorative event on that day ever since.
Know Before You Go
The plaque is on the bridge where route 44 crosses the Chepachet River, just south of the Old Post Office Antiques, 1178 Putnam Pike, Chepachet, RI 02814