The retired neurosurgeon was answering a question about reconciling Republican distaste for social welfare programs with "traditional Christian values." Essentially, Carson argued that the government shouldn't be responsible for social welfare programs, and that American communities should be responsible for helping their citizens – and has a history of doing just that. But, he said, that American tradition changed in the 1920s (although he was probably referencing Depression-era programs like Social Security and public works projects that were introduced in the 1930s).
Carson has a habit of using somewhat off-the-wall (and not always real) anecdotes to make his point, often leading to a collective, "What did he just say?" from the media. Was there a time in which bear attacks were prevalent, and communities came together to care for victims' families? Probably not (although if any readers of The Fix have reliable bear attack statistics from before the 1930s, we're all ears). But Carson's vision of a changed America -- one in which government has grown too big -- is likely to resonate with GOP primary voters all the same.