Hickory County Missouri Mastodons

Part 2

[articles on this page donated by Harold John]

The Index, 20 Feb 1958.


    By Mrs. Nannie Jinkens, Pres.

   Hickory Co. Historical Society


   "Bone Spring" has been much talked of as a historical site by the people a generation or so ago. It is seldom mentioned now.

   The spring is located east of Avery about one half mile on the old Henry Breshears farm in Breshears valley on the Hickory County side. It can be reached by taking Highway B north from Wheatland for about 11 miles. One should take the right hand road in sight of Avery going from Wheatland or take the left hand road about one fourth mile south of Avery. Follow the winding road until the second house is reached. It is about one fourth mile north across the field. It is located in Township 36 north, Range 22, Section 9.

   There is no accessible road to the spot. In dry weather it could be reached by car. The field is very woody—dry dead weeds, scratches with every step.

   "Bone Spring" was brought to the attention of the Hickory County Historical Society some seven or eight years ago, but no inquiry was made until recently when some information was gathered.

   The hole is approximately 120 feet long and about 60 feet wide. It has two banks of dirt that seems to be firmly settled and well seeded to grass.

   The explorer who discovered this phenomena was a German scientist, who spent the latter part of a summer and a winter making preparations for the excavations, getting crews ready, etc. He had come up a tributary of the Osage and made the discovery. It was about the year 1833.

   They worked the following summer and fall and into the winter. Winter came early. The water became frozen slush and collected so rapidly that they were unable to pump it out. The pumps were wooden and home made by a native of Breshears Valley, Henry Butler, assisted by Joe Crates and Amos Paxton.

   The spring mentioned in this article furnished water for some families later. A box frame was built around the main part of the spring. A walk was built out to the frame, where they walked out to get the water. As the water pulsated, they dipped the water in their bucket and went their way. The water was good to drink and no one was ever sick who drank from it. A stream of water flowed out from the "hole" for many years and it is still marshy in the bottom. The stream never froze.

* * *

   Following is a copy of a letter from the Museum in London concerning the skeleton:

   "British Museum (Natural History) Cromwell Road, London, S. W. 7 — Dear Sir:  I am sorry that your letter of December 12 has had to wait so long for an answer. I have, however, just returned from the United States where I was for several months and my correspon-dence has accumulated.

   Your part of Missouri is later than the dinosaur period but it is well known for some of the fossil elephants and bison. This museum bought in 1844 the skeleton of a mastodon Americanus (a mammal very near to the elephant) from Benton County.

   This is a fine specimen and is exhibited here. Its age is nothing like that of dinosaurs which run into millions of years and is probably some tens of thousands instead.

   I understood that mammoth remains were scarce in Missouri but mastodons like ours, have been found in every county.

   I hope your new society will prosper. You will find a great deal of valuable information in "The Geology of Missouri" by E. B. Branon—published in 1944 by the University of Missouri, Columbia.

   Let me hear if I can help in any way.  Yours sincerely, W. E. Swinton"

   (The post mark on the envelope was South Kensington, S. W. 7 13 Feb 1950, addressed to Mr. E. T. Sechler, Wheatland, Missouri, Hickory County U.S.A.)

Older Than Previous Finds

Remains of Mammoth and Muskox Found at TroIinger Bog Digging Site
Anthropologist-Archaeologists have returned to the digging site at Trolinger Bog for another summer’s work in an attempt to salvage as much of the important archaeological and paleoecological information as possible before the prehistoric records are covered when the Kaysinger Bluff Dam is completed about 1971.

Important finds this summer include a mammoth’s tooth found outside the bog, the age of the tooth has not been determined, but is much older than the objects found in the bog.

A musk ox has also been uncovered along with another musk ox tusk.

The bog exploration is under the direction of Dr. Raymond W. Wood, UMC director of river basin archaeology. Bruce McMillin heads the diggings at Rodger’s Shelter.

Last summer they uncovered evidence of an Indian culture that lived thousands of years before the time of Christ.
This season they expect to fill out a 25,000 year climatic sequence, seeking information on plants and climate that influenced human and animal life there.
They have found Indian skeletons dating to about 8000 B.C. and mastodon bones radio-carbon dated as some 25,000 years old.
One of the oldest dog burials, 5000 to 6100 B. C., recorded for North America, and muskox remains have been found.
Fossil pollen of conifers, spruce and larch indicate that the post glacial climate of the area 25,000 year ago was much colder. The climate and vegetation were probably like that of northern Minnesota or southern Canada today.
Frequent rains have caused various problems with the work, as the mud is slick and difficult to work with. A cave-in also hindered work.
All the dirt is carefully sieved and analyzed for findings, and recordings made in relation to depth, location and age.
Thirteen students working with the project represent the University of Colorado, Northwestern University, University of Kansas, University of Tennessee, University of Nebraska, a student from Armenia (part of Palestine) studying at the University of Missouri, Grand Rapids
, Michigan, Mississippi State University, Prescott College, Arizona, Lorma McKinzie-Pollock from Scotland. Some are college graduates, some just out of high school and others are still in high school.

[undated clipping]




The Index, Vol. 82, No. 17, August 24, 1967



Prehistoric Mastodon Bones Found At Avery Archeological Diggings

Breshears Valley, which is known for its deep spring bogs, has yielded the skeleton of another prehistoric animal The bones of a mastodon have been found at the Avery Archaeological digging site in the Valley. The mastodon was an animal simi1ar to, but much larger than the elephant.



    The skeleton was found in a bog on the Ivan Trollinger farm near route B along the Hickory-Benton County line. Dan Besser uncovered the skeleton with his dozer on Monday, August 14, while digging a trench for the University of Missouri archaeologists-anthropologists working at the site.

     The bog had been too wet for digging until the time of the Alaskan earthquake, when it suddenly dried up.
     Jesse Kauffman has been working at the site the first of this week to dig a ditch around the skeleton. The skeleton is lying on a foot of sand. Archaeolo-gist Dr. W. Raymond Wood, the principal investi-gator for the research program, and Director of River Basin Archaeology at the University of Missouri, says he hopes to cut a ditch lower than the sand to allow the remainder of the water to seep through to provide a drier working place.
     Samples of the bones will be radio-carbon tested to determine their age and tell the approximate date of the mastodon’s inhabitation of this area. Dr. Wood says he hopes to find projectile points with the bones to date early man’s life in this area.

     The mastodons of America once roamed the land which is now the Midwestern and Eastern states. They reached America about 12,000,000 years ago and were still living here when the first Indians arrived.
     Twelve students from MU, UCLA and the University of Nebraska are currently at work uncovering the skeleton. Dr. C. Vance Haynes, Jr., a geologist from the University of Arizona, is working on a preliminary investigation of the area. Dr. Peter Mehringer, a University of Arizona palynologist, is studying the organic matter from
the bog to determine the climate and plant life of the area at the time of the mastodons.
     The skeleton will not be reassembled, because it would take an expert two or three years and several thousand dollars to reconstruct the skeleton Dr. Wood said.
     Several people have been visiting the area, and Dr. Wood asks that all sightseers park on the county road and walk to the scene of the digging.

     A complete report of the Avery project is on page 7 of this issue.



[Photo at Left: College students from four universities are cooperating in an effort to unearth the skeleton of a mastodon, or mastodons, in Trolinger bog near Avery. The three workers pictured are treating the bones with a diluted epoxy resin preservative. In the foreground Dean Breshears of Warsaw, a student the University of Missouri at Columbia, works on the teeth while Olin Barjenbruch of the University of Nebraska uncovers more of the skeleton. In the background Jim Stoutamire of Colorado University unearths two extra tusks that have not yet been accounted for.]



Undated article from Harold John scrapbook [could be page 7 article referred to above]. No photos.

Recent Archaeology Investigations at Rodgers Shelter Near Avery

     The following information was written by W. Raymond Wood and R. Bruce McMillan and is reprinted from ARCHAEOLOGY, January 1967.
     Representatives of four American Universities and museums are now jointly investigating the archaeology and palaeoecology of the Western Ozark Highlands. The research is being carried out under the stimulus of the construction of the Kaysinger Bluff Dam, which is scheduled to inundate much of the drainages of the Osage and Pomme de Terre rivers in south western Missouri by 1971. This inter-disciplinary program involves the cooperation of archaeologists, geologists, palynologists, zoologists and physical anthropologists from Missouri, Kansas, Illinois and Arizona. During the course of the work, data on the geology, the climate, the flora and the fauna of the western Ozarks will be accumulated for the period of (and perhaps prior to) its aboriginal occupation, through the excavation, correlation and analysis of selected sites along the Pomme de Terre River.

     The focus of the investigation is a series of sites in and near an old cut-off of the Pomme de Terre River locally known as Breshears’ Valley, situated several miles south of Warsaw in Benton County, Missouri, not far from the Lake of the Ozarks. Most of the research carried out thus far has been in Rodgers Shelter, a large rock overhang on the right bank of the Pomme de Terre River. Field parties from the University of Missouri have been excavating here each year since 1963, when the site was first tested and its importance was recognized. For the first three years the work was carried out as a salvage program under contract with the National Park Service—one of several projects in Missouri sponsored by this agency to salvage archaeological data at sites threatened by federal construction activities. This basically salvage program was expanded and the research design elaborated during the past field season, when the work was supported by a National Science Foundation grant.

     Rodgers Shelter and most of the other archaeological sites in Breshears’ Valley— including a number of important spring bogs—will be inundated when the Kaysinger Bluff Reservoir is completed, and whatever information has not been recovered by that time will be permanently lost. This loss would be particularly tragic for not only does Rodgers Shelter contain the longest single cultural sequence in southwestern Missouri, but the bogs in and near Breshears’ Valley have yielded at least two mastodon skeletons, one of them possibly having been contemporaneous with man. Consequently, this locality provides the finest possible opportunity to reconstruct the environmental history of the western Ozarks from the time the area was inhabited by mastodons to about A.D. 1200.
     Since 1964 work at the shelter has consisted of expanding the initial exploratory excavations. During 1966 efforts were directed toward enlarging earlier test pits and exposing deposits near the base of the shelter in order to determine the age and contents of the various strata and to obtain pollen and other samples from them. The results of this work have been gratifying.

     Excavations have now reached bedrock in part of the shelter and the water table in other parts, and the stratigraphic situation is now reasonably clear. The shelter fill consists largely of a river terrace which formed under a rock overhang of Ordovician Dolomite, in addition to stones and debris fallen from the brow and roof of the shelter. The terrace has been responsible for the great depth of the deposits, now known to be at least twenty-eight feet deep. This unusual depth, in addition to the fact that the deposits are differentiated into four major and well defined strata, is largely responsible for the importance of the shelter. In most other Ozark rock shelters a comparable cultural sequence is compressed into an undifferentiated, usually mixed stratigraphic column about five feet in depth. The occupational and other debris at Rodgers, by contrast, is spread through a column sufficiently thick for a rather fine separation of cultural complexes to be realized.
     The four major strata in the shelter all contain evidence of human habitation. The earliest deposit with clear-cut evidence of occupation, Stratum 1, overlies a water-bearing gravel deposit. Stratum 1 consists of nearly seventeen feet of clay and gravel lenses containing Palaeo-Indian through early archaic material. Finds in the basal parts of Stratum 1 include a projectile point base identified as a Plainview point, which suggests that this part of Stratum 1 was laid down about 7000 B.C. In the deposits above are zones containing Dalton points, fireplaces and numerous chipped stone tools and detritus (also indicative of a date of about 7000 B.C.), some of which are contained in a living surface at a depth of twenty-one feet. The basal deposits indicate that this is the longest cultural sequence yet known from a single site in the western Ozarks, spanning the period from at least 700 B.C. to ca. A.D. 1200. The possibility exists that older materials also are present, for artifacts of non-diagnostic nature occur in the lowest levels of stratum 1.

     A leaf-shaped biface was recovered two feet below the Plainview point and only a few inches above bedrock, as was also chert detritus and some animal bone. The rarity of artifacts from the deepest zone is due in part to inadequate sampling, since only five five-foot squares have been completed to bedrock. The natures of these deposits, however, indicates that the fill resting on bedrock probably does not date before about 10,000 B.C.

      Stratum 2, about four feet thick, contains a variety of lanceolate and stemmed projectile points of Early through Middle Archaic complexes. Two significant finds of the 1966 season were made in the lowermost levels or stratum 2. Parts of a human burial which appeared to have been disturbed at a later time, may be one of the earliest burials in the Ozark Highlands. A suggested date, based on associated Early Archaic projectile points, is about 7000-5000 B.C. Nearby, but somewhat higher in the fill, was a canid burial which had been placed beneath a small stone cairn. No artifacts were directly associated with the cairn, but its occurrence in one of the low-est levels of Stratum 2 prompts the speculation that this burial may be one of the earlier instances of canid domestication in North America.
     Stratum 3 is a nearly sterile gravelly deposit which effectively separates the Late Archaic through Late Woodlands occupations in Stratum 4 from the preceding ones. The effective terminal date for any major occupation of the shelter, A.D. 1200, is suggested by the virtual lack of any material of Mississippian affiliation. Even were Stratum 1 entirely absent, the cultural sequence from the upper three strata alone would suffice to secure for this shelter an important place in Midwestern American prehistory.
     The term “shelter” is perhaps inappropriate for the site, for not only is there material from under and near the overhang itself but from the entire terrace which fronts the bluff from the shelter. One of the most significant finds at the site demands further investigation. Near the edge of the terrace, at the base of Stratum 2 and in Early Archaic context, was a dark stained area about eight fee in diameter containing four centrally located hearths. These features may represent the remains of a house, although no postmolds could be detected within or around the stained area. If further work in this area can demonstrate that a house is represented, it would provide the first Early Archaic houses yet found in the Ozark Highlands. These finds could not be adequately explored in 1966 because of lack of time, but they hint that the terrace fronting the shelter may yield Early Archaic houses and other structures, in addition to the camp site debris beneath the overhang. The Rodgers Site might be a more accurate term.
     In addition to the work done in the shelter itself, cores were extracted from a bog near Breshears’ Valley in 1966 by Peter Mehringer, Jr., of the University of Arizona. Two other bogs in the vicinity of the shelter have yielded mastodons in the past. The first of these was unearthed by Albert Koch in 1839 and was later obtamed by the British Museum. Samples from the bog tested and from the other
bogs should provide means for determining the environmental history of the area through its changing vegetation.

     The geological research is under the direction of C. Vance Haynes, Jr., of the University of Arizona, whose preliminary investigations of the shelter and its locality are not yet complete. Paul W. Parmalee, of the Illinois State Museum, is currently studying the animal bones from the shelter, and William M. Bass III, of the University of Kansas, is analyzing the human remains from the site. Two late Archaic  burials have been exposed so far, in addition to the disturbed Early Archaic burial.
     The data from the investigations carried out thus far are still in the process of being analyzed. The shelter is an exceptionally rich one, and it will require careful interpretation before the archaeological,
geological and palynological data from it as well as from other sites can be correlated and properly assessed. It is hoped that work will continue until the area is inundated and the resources of this unique locality are beyond recovery.

Article dated 8/12/71; 1 large captioned photo above article

Scientists Probe Pomme’s ‘Natural Time Capsules’

     Like natural time capsules, Pomme de Terre valley bogs are revealing information about prehistoric Missouri and the midwest as natural history enthusiasts and geoscience professors and students rush to probe the miry bogs that will soon be inundated by the Truman Reservoir.
     The current center of activity is Boney Spring located northwest of the Avery Bridge. First sampled in 1968, Boney Spring has yielded several large bones that have attracted the interest of natural scientists. And like the finds of Trolinger bog in 1967 and 1968, the Boney Spring discoveries are numerous.

     Mastodon skeletons make up the majority of bones in the bonebed which is approximately mately three feet thick and twenty-five feet in diameter.
     Other skeletal remains have been identified as ground sloth, a bear-size animal that weighed up to 1500 pounds; deer; tapir; and large carnivore, similar to a large skunk. Bones lie at aIl angles, one on top of another, for the full three feet depth.
     Several mastodon tusks of six feet in length or more and up to a foot in diameter have been unearthed, as well as jaw-bones, pelvis bones and many others.
     A recent National Science Foundation research grant awarded to R. Bruce McMillan of the University of Arizona department of geosciences has made a further excavation possible in the bogs.

The project employs a group of scientists from the universities of Arizona, Missouri, II-
linois, Utah and Texas.
     One of the major researchers in the project is Jeffrey Saunders who is working toward a Ph. D. in vertebrate palaeontology at the University of Arizona. Saunders records data about each bone as it is uncovered. Sketches are made of the location and type of bone, and all this along with a scientific documentation and extensive explanation will be used for his doctoral dissertation.
     To open the bone bed, wells were drilled near the bog so that pumps could keep the
spring’s water level below the bone level. Jess Kauffman was employed to remove the top 15 feet of earth with his backhoe.

     The low oxygen content and the acids that inhibit the decay of microorganisms have kept the bones and pollen grains from decaying completely. As a bone is uncovered, a preservative is applied to keep it from becoming dry and brittle. A plaster and burlap cast is applied to each bone to protect it from being cracked.    

     Dr. Lindsay says that the bones will be taken to the University of Arizona for a course of study and then given to the Illinois State Museum. Some will be fit together to make sections of skeletons. He explained that there is a possibility of some bones being given to historical societies or similar groups in this area in return for a guarantee that they would be cared for.
     The digging began the first of July and is expected to continue until the end of this month. The second phase of the project will then begin which involves the famous Koch bog.



Articles dated 8/21/75


Lions and camels once roamed the Pomme de Terre River valley according to archaeologists who have been exploring bogs in the Breshears Valley north of Wheatland.
     Jones Spring, an ice age spring near the Benton County line, has yielded a quantity of skeletal remains from an amazing variety of animals this summer.
     A tooth of an extinct variety of lion, Felis Atrox has been unearthed. Remains of this beast have been found elsewhere in North America, mostly in Florida. It is not immediately known whether they’ve been found previously in Missouri. In any event, they have not been found before in the Pomme de Terre-Avery area, considered one of the world’s most productive archaeological localities. The tooth is 5 inches long and one inch at the base and is straight. A lion of this type was large—possibly 50 per cent bigger than today’s African lion.
     The tooth of a camel, the second one found in Missouri and the first found in any of the five historically known ice age springs of the Pomme do Terre-Avery vicinity, has been discovered.
     At least four mastodons were found. More mastodons have been found in this area than anywhere on earth. One pleistocene spring, Boney Spring, produced 30 a few years ago. This was a record for a single site and established Boney Spring as on par with the famed LeBrea tar pits of Southern California.
     For the first time in the area, a complete mammoth was uncovered. Even more unusual is the finding of mammoths and mastodons in the same site together. Dr. James King, in charge of the archaeological project said it was possible the powerful action of the artesian-type spring might have worked them into the same level, but he was of the opinion at this point that they were of the same time span. The mammoth was a more slender member of the elephant line than the mastodon. Mammoths generally roamed the plains to the west and were a grazing animal. The mastodons were more blocky forest beasts and foragers. Both had hairy coats.
     King said a mammoth tooth had been found in a dig several years ago at Trollinger Spring, but that the tooth was in side dirt and unrelated to the spring, probably having washed there from someplace else.
     The workers also found six prehistoric horses of two types. Six or more giant Bison of an extinct type, and turtles similar to those found in the other Pomme de Terre Valley springs.

*     *     *

     Working with King on the dig were Dr. Vance Haynes of the University of Arizona; Dr. Jeff Saunders of the Illinois State Museum, and Dr. William Allen of the Missouri Geological Survey,  Rolla. The work crew was comprised of University of Arizona and Illinos State Museum students.
     Jones Spring is the center of a line of three pleistocene springs. Kirby Spring is nearest to the old Avery road, then comes Jones and finally Trollinger. They are possibly two hundred yards or so apart.

*     *     *

     Also nearby is the famed Koch Hole, named for Dr. Albert Koch, a German immigrant who came into the area in 1840 to excavate the spring which today bears his name. Koch came up with the second mastodon found in the United States. (The first by a man arned Peele in New York State.) Koch pieced together the bones of several extinct beasts including a giant ground sloth, and
billed his creation as the Missouri Leviathon. After exhibiting it at a fair in Chicago and in Europe he sold it to the British Museum at London for $10,000. It is still there today.
     Koch may also have dug in Kirby Spring, King said. In any event, when King dug into Kirby a few years ago he found it had been cleaned out of all but bone scraps.
     Dr. Allen installed 12 wells powered by electric pumps to keep the excavation dry. The old spring, freed of its clay cap, poured out some 100 gallons of water a minute.
     King said keeping the spring dry so it could be excavated was made more difficult because they’d run into two water systems.
     King said the dig had come across two beds of prehistoric bones. In addition, lots of wood was found, reflecting the ages in the spring’s 50,000 to 100,000 year life. The area some 60,000 years ago was a pine parkiand. Later, and until around 11,000 years ago, it became a spruce forest with a climate much like today’s in Northern Canada. The familiar oaks and hickories replaced the spruce.
     King said carbon dating done so far indicated a dating of 40,000 plus from some of the deposits.
     King said the Pomme de Terre-Avery Valley is rich in archaeological history. As an example, Koch not only excavated the second mastodon found in the U. S., he also was the first person to seriously propose that man and these extinct animals lived contemporaneously. Koch reported that he’d found an arrow or spear point along with mastodon bones in his dig.
     Prodded by Truman Reservoir, scientists have made what has been described as one of the most complete examinations of the valley of any place on earth. They’ve reconstructed the valley from ancient times when it was scrubbed to the bedrock by a mighty torrent of water; examined the terraces of earth formed as the water receded, and of course, Rodgers Shelter and the pleistocene springs, which were untouched by the crushing ice sheet which stopped generally around the present bed of the Missouri River.

*     *     *

     The crew finished the excavation project last week, and it is the last one for which funds have been allocated before the waters of Truman Reservoir send the valley back into time again, a time when the Pomme de Terre reached from bluff to bluff and was a mile or more wide.


Return to Hickory County Photo Album