Discovering ancient bones

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By Ned Lodwick

In the year of 1869, Mr. W. H. Dunn, owner of a sandbank on the south side of Red Oak Creek, some 300 yards from its mouth, found sunken in its bank some fifteen feet below the surface, what proved to be a Mastodon tusk.

The Mastodon and the Mammoth are often confused but are of two completely different species. They both resembled elephants and stood from ten to twelve feet tall. Mastodons appeared first but both became extinct around 11,000 BC.

Mr. Dunn’s tooth was unfortunately broken in three pieces during its removal from the bank. It measured at its thickest point seven inches and was undoubtedly fourteen feet long. On being exposed to the air it became soft and crumbly.

Dunn had correspondence with the great showman P. T. Barnum, who was known to have once said, “There is a sucker born every minute,” and made a bargain for the tooth’s shipment to him in New York. Mr. Dunn received the $50 and shipped the tusk to Barnum. During the travel the tusk turned into dust. This was one of the times when Barnum was the sucker.

Mr. Benjamin Sidwell, who lived about three miles from Ripley in the 1870’s, had in his possession a molar tooth. He found it in the Eagle Creek bottoms. It measured ten inches long, four inches thick, and nine inches wide. When it was found it weighed twelve and one-half pounds and was probably the molar of the ponderous jaw of a Mastodon.

There was also found in the 1870’s, at what was the old ford over Red Oak Creek. That area is now the east end of Third Street at Main Street. The find was a scapula or shoulder blade that once belonged to one of the monsters, a Mastodon.

This and other valuable relics were collected by Mrs. Elizabeth Allen, of Ripley, and kept as a museum at the corner of Second and Market Street for number of years. When she died in the 1870’s these curiosities, some very rare and valuable, were distributed here in there. Doubtless the great number have been destroyed or lost. Many of the most valuable were presented by Mrs. Allen to her son, Lieutenant L. C. Allen. He in turn presented them to the Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio.

In August of 1884 a Mr. A. Neal brought to the Brown County News office, in Georgetown, a tooth which was a real curiosity. The tooth was enormous in size. Dr. Thomas Winslow Gordon examined the tooth and identified it as a molar of a Mastodon.

The upper portion of the tooth was considerably worn off attesting to the use of it by its’ former owner. The tooth was well preserved, being petrified into a hard, solid stone, with all the original formation of the tooth.

Mr. Neal brought the tooth in to town to show our people this rare find. It was dug it up by Mr. Aquilla Thompson from the bed of Eagle Creek in Byrd Township about a half a mile above the Neal store. The Neal store was where Route 763 crosses Eagle Creek.

The tooth weighs twelve and one-half pounds and is some sixteen inches in length. Just imagine the enormous size and strength of an animal with a tooth that weighs over twelve pounds and you may form some idea of the animals that inhabited Brown County tens of thousands of years ago.

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