May 25th is solemnly recognized as “Elephant Day” in Chepachet, for it was on May 25, 1826 that Betty, The Learned Elephant, was shot and killed in the village.
Betty’s first appearance in Chepachet was July 31, 1822 and she won the hearts of amazed onlookers with her intelligence and size. People here, as well as those up and down the eastern seaboard, were seeing the elephant from Calcutta, India for the very first time. Betty, or Little Bett as she was affectionately called by her owner, was only the second elephant to walk on the North American continent.
The first Indian elephant was Big Bett, who arrived aboard Jacob Crowninshield’s ship, the America, at New York Harbor during 1796. Soon she was purchased by Hakaliah Bailey, the predecessor of the Bailey of the famous Barnum & Bailey Circus, which was yet to be created many years later. In those early days, Big Bett was displayed in coastal cities and towns by a keeper who might lease her for the season, then return her to Hakaliah Bailey at his home in Somers, New York to winter over in the shelter of his enormous barn.