Thursday, February 5, 2015

Petition of the Inhabitants of Kentucky. 1777

Petition of the Inhabitants of Kentucky.

25 Nov 1777
edited by
James Duvall, M. A.

    Here is an early petition that shows the importance of salt and the salt licks to the early settlers.
To the Honourable House of Delegates for the Commonwealth of Virginia — The Petition of the Inhabitants of the county of Kentucky humbly sheweth, . . .       That your Petitioners are and have for some time past been almost destitute of the necessary Article Salt. That by reason of the Incursions of the different Nations of Indians this year past we have been prevented from making what Quantities would be necessary for ourselves and Families as we formerly did, for small Parites would be in great Danger of being cut off and larger ones could not be spared from the defence of the Families.       That as bountiful Nature hath plentifully furnished this Country with Salt Springs where at a small expence Salt might be made in abundance many of which are claimed by Persons resident in this State who have never been at any Pains of Expence to errect (sic) Manufactories at them which if done would be very Beneficial not only adjacent Settlers but also interior Inhabitants of this Commonwealth —       Now your Petitioners humbly pray that if the Claimants do not immediately erect Salt Manufactories at the different Springs claimed by them The honourable House would take it into their consideration and Order that the said Springs should be made publick Property and be Manufactored (sic) by Government by which Means Government would be profited & your Petitioners have speedy relief and your Petitioners in duty shall ever pray —
(Here follows an alphabetical list of the names.)
William Beckley
Thos. Brooks
James Brown
Jeremiah Brown
Samuel Brown
Wm. Bryan
Wm. Bush
Patrick Callaghan
Caleb Callaway
Charles Callaway
Chesley Calloway
James Callaway
Richard Calloway
Angus Cameron
Saml. Campbell
George Cave
Wm. Cradlebough
Henry Creamer
John Denton
Thos. Denton
Joseph Drake
James Duncan
Samuel Elliot
Benjamin Estill
Bartholemew Fenton
J. Gardiner
David Glen
William Glencock
Evander Gordon
Wm. Hays
Henry Henbine
Samuel Henderson
Iran Henson
Henry Higgins
Richard Hogan
William Hogan
John Holder
Samuel Ingram
David Jones
John Kennedy
Joseph Kennedy
Eran Kenton
David Kerr
Johathan Ketcham
Jno. King
Wm. Love
Thomas Luttrell
Nicholas Martzgar
John Matan
Jonas Menefee
William Menefee
Jos. Moore
Archibald McCarver
Hugh McGary
William McGee
Wilson McKinney
John Oliver
James Pardinez
Benj. Paulding
Benjamin Pettill
William Poage
Henry Prather
John Preston
Pemberton Rawlings
John Roberts
James Russell
Julius Sanders
Nicholas Schwartzmer
Bartlett Searcy
Reuben Searcy
Richard Searcy
Oswald Townsend
William Van Cleve
Samuel Van Hook
John Walker
James Waters
William Whitley
Daniel Wilkinson
Cornelius Yager

On Big Bone Lick and the Mammoth. Jefferson. Notes on the State of Virginia. 1781

Thomas Jefferson

Notes on the State of Virginia


On Big Bone Lick and the Mammoth

edited by

Avi Hathor

Our quadrupeds have been mostly described by Linnaeus and Mons. de Buffon. Of these the Mammoth, or big buffalo, as called by the Indians, must certainly have been the largest. Their tradition is, that he was carnivorous, and still exists in the northern parts of America. A delegation of warriors from the Delaware tribe having visited the governor of Virginia, during the present revolution, on matters of business, after these had been discussed and settled in council, the governor asked them some questions relative to their country, and, among others, what they knew or had heard of the animal whose bones were found at the Saltlicks, on the Ohio. Their chief speaker immediately put himself into an attitude of oratory, and with a pomp suited to what he conceived the elevation of his subject, informed him that it was a tradition handed down from their fathers, "That in antient times a herd of these tremendous animals came to the Big-bone licks, and began an universal destruction of the bear, deer, elks, buffaloes, and other animals, which had been created for the use of the Indians: that the Great Man above, looking down and seeing this, was so enraged that he seized his lightning, descended on the earth, seated himself on a neighbouring mountain, on a rock, of which his seat and the print of his feet are still to be seen, and hurled his bolts among them till the whole were slaughtered, except the big bull, who presenting his forehead to the shafts, shook them off as they fell; but missing one at length, it wounded him in the side; whereon, springing round, he bounded over the Ohio, over the Wabash, the Illinois, and finally over the great lakes, where he is living at this day."
It is well known that on the Ohio, and in many parts of America further north, tusks, grinders, and skeletons of unparalleled magnitude, are found in great numbers, some lying on the surface of the earth, and some a little below it. A Mr. Stanley, taken prisoner by the Indians near the mouth of the Tanissee, relates, that, after being transferred through several tribes, from one to another, he was at length carried over the mountains west of the Missouri to a river which runs westwardly; that these bones abounded there; and that the natives described to him the animal to which they belonged as still existing in the northern parts of their country; from which description he judged it to be an elephant. Bones of the same kind have been lately found, some feet below the surface of the earth, in salines opened on the North Holston, a branch of the Tanissee, about the latitude of 36 ½° North. From the accounts published in Europe, suppose it to be decided, that these are of the same kind with those found in Siberia. Instances are mentioned of like animal remains found in the more southern climates of both hemispheres; but they are either so loosely mentioned as to leave a doubt of the fact, so inaccurately described as not to authorize the classing them with the great northern bones, or so rare as to found a suspicion that they have been carried thither as curiosities from more northern regions. So that on the whole there seem to be no certain vestiges of the existence of this animal further south than the salines last mentioned. It is remarkable that the tusks and skeletons have been ascribed by the naturalists of Europe to the elephant, while the grinders have been given to the hippopotamus, or river-horse. Yet it is acknowledged, that the tusks and skeletons are much larger than those of the elephant, and the grinders many times greater than those of the hippopotamus, and essentially different in form. Wherever these grinders are found, there also we find the tusks and skeleton; but no skeleton of the hippopotamus nor grinders of the elephant. It will not be said that the hippopotamus and elephant came always to the same spot, the former to deposit his grinders, and the latter his tusks and skeleton. For what became of the parts not deposited there? We must agree then that these remains belong to each other, that they are of one and the same animal, that this was not a hippopotamus, because the hippopotamus had no tusks nor such a frame, and because the grinders differ in their size as well as in the number and form of their points. That it was not an elephant, I think ascertained by proofs equally decisive. I will not avail myself of the authority of the celebrated anatomist [Hunter], who, from an examination of the form and structure of the tusks, has declared they were essentially different from those of the elephant; because another anatomist [D'Aubenton], equally celebrated, has declared, on a like examination, that they are precisely the same. Between two such authorities I will suppose this circumstance equivocal. But, 1. The skeleton of the mammoth (for so the incognitum has been called) bespeaks an animal of five or six times the cubic volume of the elephant, as Mons. de Buffon has admitted. 2. The grinders are five times as large, are square, and the grinding surface studded with four or five rows of blunt points: whereas those of the elephant are broad and thin, and their grinding surface flat. 3. I have never heard an instance, and suppose there has been none, of the grinder of an elephant being found in America. 4. From the known temperature and constitution of the elephant he could never have existed in those regions where the remains of the mammoth have been found. The elephant is a native only of the torrid zone and its vicinities: if, with the assistance of warm apartments and warm clothing, he has been preserved in life in the temperate climates of Europe, it has only been for a small portion of what would have been his natural period, and no instance of his multiplication in them has ever been known. But no bones of the mammoth, as I have before observed, have been ever found further south than the salines of the Holston, and they have been found as far north as the Arctic circle. Those, therefore, who are of opinion that the elephant and mammoth are the same, must believe, 1. That the elephant known to us can exist and multiply in the frozen zone; or, 2. That an internal fire may once have warmed those regions, and since abandoned them, of which, however, the globe exhibits no unequivocal indications; or, 3. That the obliquity of the ecliptic, when these elephants lived, was so great as to include within the tropics all those regions in which the bones are found; the tropics being, as is before observed, the natural limits of habitation for the elephant. But if it be admitted that this obliquity has really decreased, and we adopt the highest rate of decrease yet pretended, that is, of one minute in a century, to transfer the northern tropic to the Arctic circle, would carry the existence of these supposed elephants 250,000 years back; a period far beyond our conception of the duration of animal bones left exposed to the open air, as these are in many instances. Besides, though these regions would then be supposed within the tropics, yet their winters would have been too severe for the sensibility of the elephant. They would have had too but one day and one night in the year, a circumstance to which we have no reason to suppose the nature of the elephant fitted. However, it has been demonstrated, that, if a variation of obliquity in the ecliptic takes place at all, it is vibratory, and never exceeds the limits of 9 degrees, which is not sufficient to bring these bones within the tropics. One of these hypotheses, or some other equally voluntary and inadmissible to cautious philosophy, must be adopted to support the opinion that these are the bones of the elephant. For my own part, I find it easier to believe that an animal may have existed, resembling the elephant in his tusks, and general anatomy, while his nature was in other respects extremely different. From the 30th degree of South latitude to the 30th of North, are nearly the limits which nature has fixed for the existence and multiplication of the elephant known to us. Proceeding thence northwardly to 36 ½ degrees, we enter those assigned to the mammoth. The further we advance North, the more their vestiges multiply as far as the earth has been explored in that direction; and it is as probable as otherwise, that this progression continues to the pole itself, if land extends so far. The center of the Frozen zone then may be the Achm√© of their vigour, as that of the Torrid is of the elephant. Thus nature seems to have drawn a belt of separation between these two tremendous animals, whose breadth indeed is not precisely known, though at present we may suppose it about 6 ½ degrees of latitude; to have assigned to the elephant the regions South of these confines, and those North to the mammoth, founding the constitution of the one in her extreme of heat, and that of the other in the extreme of cold. When the Creator has therefore separated their nature as far as the extent of the scale of animal life allowed to this planet would permit, it seems perverse to declare it the same, from a partial resemblance of their tusks and bones. But to whatever animal we ascribe these remains, it is certain such a one has existed in America, and that it has been the largest of all terrestrial beings. It should have sufficed to have rescued the earth it inhabited, and the atmosphere it breathed, from the imputation of impotence in the conception and nourishment of animal life on a large scale: to have stifled, in its birth, the opinion of a writer, the most learned too of all others in the science of animal history, that in the new world, La nature vivante est beaucoup moins agissante, beaucoup moins forte:' [Buffon. xviii. 122. ed. Paris. 1764.] that nature is less active, less energetic on one side of the globe than she is on the other. As if both sides were not warmed by the same genial sun; as if a soil of the same chemical composition, was less capable of elaboration into animal nutriment; as if the fruits and grains from that soil and sun, yielded a less rich chyle, gave less extension to the solids and fluids of the body, or produced sooner in the cartilages, membranes, and fibres, that rigidity which restrains all further extension, and terminates animal growth. The truth is, that a Pigmy and a Patagonian, a Mouse and a Mammoth, derive their dimensions from the same nutritive juices. The difference of increment depends on circumstances unsearchable to beings with our capacities. Every race of animals seems to have received from their Maker certain laws of extension at the time of their formation. Their elaborative organs were formed to produce this, while proper obstacles were opposed to its further progress. Below these limits they cannot fall, nor rise above them. What intermediate station they shall take may depend on soil, on climate, on food, on a careful choice of breeders. But all the manna of heaven would never raise the Mouse to the bulk of the Mammoth. The opinion advanced by the Count de Buffon, [Buffon, xviii. 100, 156.] is 1. That the animals common both to the old and new world, are smaller in the latter. 2. That those peculiar to the new, are on a smaller scale. 3. That those which have been domesticated in both, have degenerated in America: and 4. That on the whole it exhibits fewer species. And the reason he thinks is, that the heats of America are less; that more waters are spread over its surface by nature, and fewer of these drained off by the hand of man. In other words, that heat is friendly, and moisture adverse to the production and developement of large quadrupeds. I will not meet this hypothesis on its first doubtful ground, whether the climate of America be comparatively more humid? Because we are not furnished with observations sufficient to decide this question. And though, till it be decided, we are as free to deny, as others are to affirm the fact, yet for a moment let it be supposed. The hypothesis, after this supposition, proceeds to another; that moisture is unfriendly to animal growth. The truth of this is inscrutable to us by reasonings a priori. Nature has hidden from us her modus agendi. Our only appeal on such questions is to experience; and I think that experience is against the supposition. It is by the assistance of heat and moisture that vegetables are elaborated from the elements of earth, air, water, and fire. We accordingly see the more humid climates produce the greater quantity of vegetables. Vegetables are mediately or immediately the food of every animal: and in proportion to the quantity of food, we see animals not only multiplied in their numbers, but improved in their bulk, as far as the laws of their nature will admit. Of this opinion is the Count de Buffon himself in another part of his work: en general il paroit que les pays un peu froids conviennent mieux √† nos boeufs que les pays chauds, et qu'ils sont d'autant plus gros et plus grands que le climat est plus humide et plus abondans en paturages. Les boeufs de Danemarck, de la Podolie, de l'Ukraine et de la Tartarie qu'habitent les Calmouques sont les plus grands de tous. ["In general, it appears that rather cold countries are more suitable to our oxen than rather warm countries, and that they are all the larger and greater in proportion as the climate is damper and more abounding in pasturage. The oxen of Denmark, of Poland, of the Ukraine, and of Tartary that inhabit the Calmouques are the greatest of all." Buffon. viii. 134.] Here then a race of animals, and one of the largest too, has been increased in its dimensions by cold and moisture, in direct opposition to the hypothesis, which supposes that these two circumstances diminish animal bulk, and that it is their contraries heat and dryness which enlarge it. But when we appeal to experience, we are not to rest satisfied with a single fact. Let us therefore try our question on more general ground. Let us take two portions of the earth, Europe and America for instance, sufficiently extensive to give operation to general causes; let us consider the circumstances peculiar to each, and observe their effect on animal nature. America, running through the torrid as well as temperate zone, has more heat, collectively taken, than Europe. But Europe, according to our hypothesis, is the dryest. They are equally adapted then to animal productions; each being endowed with one of those causes which befriend animal growth, and with one which opposes it. If it be thought unequal to compare Europe with America, which is so much larger, I answer, not more so than to compare America with the whole world. Besides, the purpose of the comparison is to try an hypothesis, which makes the size of animals depend on the heat and moisture of climate. If therefore we take a region, so extensive as to comprehend a sensible distinction of climate, and so extensive too as that local accidents, or the intercourse of animals on its borders, may not materially affect the size of those in its interior parts, we shall comply with those conditions which the hypothesis may reasonably demand. The objection would be the weaker in the present case, because any intercourse of animals which may take place on the confines of Europe and Asia, is to the advantage of the former, Asia producing certainly larger animals than Europe. The bones of the Mammoth which have been found in America, are as large as those found in the old world. It may be asked, why I insert the Mammoth, as if it still existed? I ask in return, why I should omit it, as if it did not exist? Such is the oeconomy of nature, that no instance can be produced of her having permitted any one race of her animals to become extinct; of her having formed any link in her great work so weak as to be broken. To add to this, the traditionary testimony of the Indians, that this animal still exists in the northern and western parts of America, would be adding the light of a taper to that of the meridian sun. Those parts still remain in their aboriginal state, unexplored and undisturbed by us, or by others for us. He may as well exist there now, as he did formerly where we find his bones. If he be a carnivorous animal, as some Anatomists have conjectured, and the Indians affirm, his early retirement may be accounted for from the general destruction of the wild game by the Indians, which commences in the first instant of their connection with us, for the purpose of purchasing matchcoats, hatchets, and fire locks, with their skins.

John Filson On Big Bone Lick. Kentucke. 1784

John Filson On Big Bone Lick from Kentucke,

John Filson On Big Bone Lick
from Kentucke


edited by

Avi Hathor

At a salt spring, near Ohio river, very large bones are found, far surpassing the size of any species of animals now in America. The head appears to have been about three feet long, the ribs seven, and the thigh bones about four; one of which is reposited in the library in Philadelphia, and said to weigh seventy-eight pounds. The tusks are above a foot in length, the grinders about five inches square, and eight inches long. These bones have equally excited the amazement of the ignorant, and attracted the attention of the philosopher. Specimens of them have been sent both to France and England, where they have been examined with the greatest diligence, and found upon comparison to be remains of the same species of animals that produced those other fossil bones which have been discovered in Tartary, Chili, and several other places, both of the old and new continent. What animal this is, and by what means its ruins are found in regions so widely different, and where none such exists at present, is a question of more difficult decision. The ignorant and superstitious Tartars attribute them to a creature, whom they call Maimon, who, they say, usually resides at the bottom of the rivers, and of whom they relate many marvellous stories; but as this is an aslertion totally divested of proof, and even of probability, it has jusfly been rejected by the learned; and on the other hand it is certain, that no such amphibious quadruped exists in our American waters. The bones themselves bear a great resemblance to those of the elephant. There is no other terrestrial animal now known large enough to produce them. The tusks with which they are equally furnished, equally produce true ivory. These external resemblances have generally made superficial observers conclude, that they could belong to no other than that prince of quadrupeds; and when they first drew the attention of the world, philosophers seem to have subscribed to the same opinion. — But if so, whence is it that the whole species has disappeared from America? An animal so laborious and so docile, that the industry of the Peruvians, which reduced to servitude and subjected to education species so vaslly inferior in those qualities, as the Llama and the Paca, could never have overlooked the elephant, if he had been to be found in their country. Whence is it that these bones are found in climates where the elephant, a native of the torrid zone, cannot even subsist in his wild state, and in a state of servitude will not propagate? These are difficulties sufficient to stagger credulity itself; and at length produced the enquiries of Dr. Hunter. That celebrated anatomist, having procured specimens from the Ohio, examined them with that accuracy for which he is so much distinguished. He discovered a considerable difference between the shape and structure of the bones, and those of the elephant. He observed from the form of the teeth, that they must have belonged to a carnivorous animal; whereas the habits of the elephant are foreign to such sustenance, and his jaws totally unprovided with the teeth necessary for its use: And from the whole he concluded to the satisfaction of naturalists, that these bones belonged to a quadruped now unknown, and whose race is probably extinct, unless it may be be found. in the extensive continent of New Holland, whose recesses have not yet been pervaded by the curiosity or avidity of civilized man. Can then so great a link have perished from the chain of nature? Happy we that it has. How formidable an enemy to the human species, an animal as large as the elephant, the tyrant of the forests, perhaps the devourer of man! Nations, such as the Indians, must have been in perpetual alarm. The animosities among the various tribes must have been suspended till the common enemy, who threatened the very existence of all, should be extirpated. To this circumstance we are probably indebted for a fact, which is perhaps singular in its kind, the extination of a whole race of animals from the system of nature. Filson, Kentucke, p. 33-36.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dr. William Goforth to President Thomas Jefferson. On the Bones of Big Bone Lick. 1807

 Dr. William Goforth to President Thomas Jefferson. On the Bones of Big Bone Lick.  1807

Letter from Dr. William Goforth of Cincinnati
 President Thomas Jefferson

On the Bones of Big Bone Lick

 edited by
 James Duvall, M. A.

Note: This letter was written in 1807

Cincinnati, Ohio
Thomas Jefferson, Esq.
President of the United States.

Respected Sir,

      I received a letter from Caspar Wistar Jun. dated 1st of Dec. 1806, on behalf of the American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia requesting information concerning the head of the mammoth; the bones of a large animal with claws; an account of other unknown bones; and also my opinion of the probability of procuring more bones, and the method of attempting it — and I was desired to address my answer to you.

      The bones I collected were unfortunately intrusted to the care of a person who descended the Mississippi with them some months since; whether he proceeded to Europe with them, I am ignorant, as from accident or some other cause, I have received no account either of him or them. — My answer cannot therefore be expected to contain accurate or exact descriptions of the bones, but such a general description as I can give from memory, follows: The part of a head which was in my possession, and which I thought to be the head of the mammoth, appeared small. I only possessed the maxilla superior, and maxilla inferior with the teeth, — two on each side of the jaw,—the 2 nearest the jaw were molars, and had two points or cones on each side of the tooth, making double processes thickly enamelled on the cones or masticating surface.

      The maxilla inferior was in two parts naturally, teeth the same as in the maxilla superior, and from the appearance of both jaws, I concluded they had their full complement of teeth—(I judged the head to which these bones belonged was small, as I had teeth of the same kind more than 5 times the size of the largest of either jaw—each under-jaw with the teeth weighing 48 lbs.)

      I had a number of teeth ribbed transversely on the masticating surface, and enamelled, weighing from 1¼ to 12 lbs. each.

      Of the teeth of the mammoth kind furnished with double-coned or blunt-pointed processes on the masticating surface and thickly enamelled and generally 4 processes for insertion in the jaw, as many as a wagon and 4 horses could draw, weighing from 12 to 20 lbs. each.

      One small femoris, weight 31 lbs.; 4 ribs, weight and length not recollected—they appeared to be so connected with the vertebrae as to throw their edge outwards; one tusk weighing 100 lbs., 21 inches in circumference, and measuring 10 ft. 6 in. in length; its form thus — one horn 5 ft. long, weight 21 lbs.

      The bones of one paw nearly filled a flour barrel; it had 4 claws and then the bones were regularly placed together measured from the os calcis to the end of either middle claw 5 feet 2 inches.

      The bones of this paw were similar to those of a bear’s foot. Where I found these bones, I found large quantities of bears bones at the same time, and had an opportunity of arranging and comparing the bones together, and the Similarity was striking in everything particular except size.

      The vertebrae of the back and neck, when arranged in order with the os sacrum and coecygis, measured nearly 60 feet, allowing for cartilages. Though I am not confident the bones all belonged to one animal, and the
number of vertebrae I cannot recollect.

      I had some thigh bone of incognita of a monstrous size when compared with my other bones, which I much regret I neither weighed or measured, and a number of large bones so much impaired by time it was fruitless to conjecture to what part of any animal they belonged.

      As to the probability of obtaining some more bones, and the method of attempting it; the best answer I can give will be a relation how and where I procured the fore-mentioned: They were all procured at a place, called the Big Bone Lick, about 60 miles by river below this place and 3 from the Ohio. From my long residence in this country I had long cherished a desire to make researches at Big Bone Lick, but my circumstances (having a large family, and my practice as a physician, though extensive, is not profitable, owing to the poverty of the people) would not enable me to bear the necessary expenses. About 3 years ago, some persons understanding the avidity with which skeletons of this kind were sought after in Europe, and believing a complete skeleton of the mammoth might be procured, said that it would sell well in Europe. After several exertions to obtain what might be necessary to carry my object into execution, I accordingly proceeded to Big Bone Lick, and with a few hands, such as my trifling resources would permit, commenced my researches, when the agent of David Ross of Virginia (who owns the tract of land), forbid my proceeding further. Since which time I have endeavored, by every means which my contracted situation enables me, to procure liberty to prosecute my search.

      Big Bone Lick was formerly a salt marsh — Salt is made there at present — We generally dug through several layers of small bones, in a stiff blue clay, such as deer; elk; buffalo and bear bone, in great numbers, many of them much broken, below which was a strata of gravel and salt water, in which we found the large bones, some nearly 11 feet deep in the ground though they were found upon the surface.

      The large bones were not found regularly connected together as those of a carcase, which has been consumed by time without disturbance, and I was led to form strong suspicions, that the carcase of the large animals were preyed upon and the bones scattered here and there. —I am so firmly persuaded that large — nay, almost any quantity of teeth bones and tusks may be procured, — that I have long entertained a sanguine hope of bettering my circumstances by procuring skeletons, provided I could obtain permission to prosecute my search, perhaps it may be in the power of your learned body to procure me this permission, and if the society would wish collections of the bones of these non-descripts for their own use, I would undertake to superintend the collection and forward it to Philadelphia, or elsewhere, for such compensation as the Society should think proper to allow me for my trouble and quitting my business during the time of the work. I spent about 4 weeks in my former research, with 6 and sometimes 8 hands, and I think with 10 or 12 hands (who must be found, victuals, and liquor), I could completely search the whole Lick. The expense would be about $1.25 each man per day; we could take provisions from this town, or take a hunter to kill for us. I have now, respected sir, given all the information that suggests itself, and have mentioned the place where the collection is to be made, and the best method to pursue. With sincere wishes, that the Society may prosper, and that you may long continue your labors for the benefit of your country, I am,

With sincere respect, your friend,


Big Bone History








Thomas Jefferson to William Clark. 1807.

Thomas Jefferson to George Rogers Clark

Washington Dec. 19. 1807.
Dear General,

     As I think it probable your brother will have left you before the inclosed comes to hand, I have left it open,
and request you to read it, and do for me what it asks of him, and, what he will do should he still he with you,
that is to say to have the bones packed and forwarded for me to William Brown, Collector at N. Orleans, who
will send them on to me.
     I avail myself of this occasion of recalling myself to your memory, and of assuring you that time has not
lessened my friendship for you. We are both now grown old. You have been enjoying in retirement the recollection
of the services you have rendered your country, and I am about to retire, without an equal consciousness that I
have not occupied places in which others would have done more good. But in all places and times I shall wish
you every happiness, and salute you with great friendship & esteem.
Th: Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson to William Clark

Washington Dec. 19.07.
Dear Sir,
     I have duly received your two Favors of Sep. 20 and Nov. 10. and am greatly obliged indeed by the trouble
you have been so good as to take in procuring for me as thorough a supplement to the bones of the Mammoth as
can now be had. I expect daily to receive your bill for all the expences which shall be honoured with thanks. The
collection you have made is so considerable that it has suggested an idea I had not before, I see that after taking
out for the Philosophical society everything they shall desire there will remain such a collection of duplicates, as
will be a grateful offering from me to the National institute (sic) of France for whom I am bound to do
something. But in order to make it more considerable I find myself obliged to ask the addition of those which you
say you ‘have deposited with your brother at Clarkesville, such as ribs, back bones, leg bones, thigh, ham, hips,
shoulder blades, parts of the upper and under jaw, teeth of the Mammoth and elephant, and parts of the
Mammoth tusks, to he forwarded hereafter if necessary.’ I avail myself of these last words to ask that they may
be packed and forwarded to me, by the way of N. Orleans, as the others have been. I do this with the less
hesitation knowing these things can be of little value to yourself or brother, so much in the way of furnishing
yourselves if desired, and because I know they will be so acceptable to an institution to which, as a member, I
wish to be of some use. I salute you with great friendship & respect
Th: Jefferson

Big Bone History

Letter of Meriwether Lewis to President Thomas Jefferson, Big Bone Lick. 1803.

Letter of Meriwether Lewis to President Thomas Jefferson, 1803.

Big Bone Lick was visited by both Lewis and Clark

 edited by
James Duvall, M. A.

     Meriwether Lewis visited Big Bone Lick in 1803 and reported the visit to Thomas Jefferson, and sent him specimins. Jefferson was so interested in Big Bone Lick that he later hired William Clark to supervise an excavation there. In 1807, Clark came to Big Bone Lick and hired workmen; and obtained a number of specimens for Jefferson. Clark wrote an eleven page report to Jefferson Nov. 1807 (in the Library of Congress) discussing this operation. Jefferson wrote to Lacepede, 14 July 1808 a letter concerning this (also in Library of Congress). William Goforth, a Cincinnati physician, had written Gen. Thomas Proctor in Philadelphia, 18 June 1803, revealing his discovery of mammoth remains and inquiring whether he might exhibit the objects in the U.S. or Europe. He said he had "the upper part of the head and the under jaws of the large Animal I have a large number of teeth from 19 or 20 pounds weight down to 4 or 5. One thigh bone weighing 31 pounds some ribs intire [sic] some broken the whole of the back bones one horn weighing about 100 pounds about twenty one Inches in Circumference & one horn about 5 feet long weighing 21 pounds and one other about seven feet long" (In Library of Congress). Proctor reported this to Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), who had founded the Philadelphia Museum and was interested in the display of fossil remains. Peale wrote of the matter rather delicately to Jefferson (in a letter of 18 July 1803) explaining that he already had a mammoth on display in his own museum, and declining to comment on Goforth's potential success. "I marval what are the teeth which he says weighs 19 or 20 pounds, can they be grinders. The largest I have seen belongs to Doctr. Wistar, its weight 10 pounds." (Letter in Library of Congress)

Cincinnati, October 3rd 1803.
 Dear Sir,

     I reached this place on the 28th Ult.; it being necessary to take in a further supply of provisions here, and finding my men much fatiegued with the labour to which they have been subjected in descending the river, I determined to recruit them by giving them a short respite of a few days, having now obtained the distance of five hundred miles. On the evening of the 1st inst. I again dispatched my boat with orders to meet me at the Big Bone lick, to which place I shall pass by land, it being distant from hence only seventeen miles while by water it is fifty three, a distance that will require my boat in the present state of the water near three days to attain.

     The late reserches [sic] of Dr. William Goforth of this plase [sic] at that Lick has made it a place of more interesting enquiry than formerly, I shall therefore seize the present moment to visit it, and set out early tomorrow morning for that purpose.

     Dr. Goforth in the begining of May last with a view to obtain a complete skeleton of the Mammoth, sunk a pitt 30 feet square and eleven feet in debth [sic] in a moist part of the Big Bone Lick, from which he obtained a large number of specimens of the bones of this anamal, tho' generally in a very imperfect and mutilated state; he also obtained from the same pitt several grinders of the anamal [sic] generally supposed posed to be an Elephant from their affinity to the teeth of that an these last are very perfect: a part of this collection of bones the has in his possession at this place and has been so obliging as to favour me with an examinetion of them; the other part of the Dr.'s collection is yet at the Lick, these he informs me are much more perfect than those he shewed me, particularly the upper portion of a head, and some other specimens which had been obtained from a small pitt, sunk in a dryer part of the Lick by a young man to whom, in his absence he had confided the prosecution of his researches; among these specimens the Dr. also mentioned a tusk of an immence size, the dementions of which he could not furnish me with, not having yet seen it, but from the information of his assistant, states it's weight at 180 lbs.; this tusk is said to be in a good state of preservation.

The Dr, informed me that he had been interdicted by the Agent of Mr. David Ross of Virginia, (the proprietor of the Lick) from removing these bones, as he was also from the further prosecution of his researches; he is much chagrined at this occurrence, and seems very anxious that some measures should be taken by which to induce Mr. Ross to suffer him to prosecute his enquiries. The Doctr. presented me with two handsome specimens, the one a grinder of the Elaphant, the other, that of the Mammoth, the former weighs ten and 1/2 pounds, the latter I have not weighed, from the circumstance of it's roots being attatched to a lump of clay, without seperating from which, it's weight could not be accurately ascertained; I concluded it would be better to forward it in it's present state, as the clay will not only guard this part of the tooth from injury in transporting it, but will at the same time furnish a good specimen of the earth of which the lick is formed. Dr. Goforth was so good as to grant me his permission to take from those bones now at the Lick the large tusk before noticed, and any other bones that are to be found among his collection at that place: Capt. Findley who accompanys me to the Lick says he is well acquainted with the Agent of Mr. Ross, and thinks that he can obtain his permission also for the same purpose; should I succeed you may expect to recieve through Mr. Trist, this large tusk together with the two grinders before mentioned, and such other specimines as I may be enabled to procure, and which, I may think worthy your acceptance.

     All the bones, which I observed in the possession of Dr. Goforth appear to be those of the Mammoth, accept only the Elephant-like griners [grinders]; the most remarkable. among them was a portion of the lower or larger part of a tusk; measuring one foot ten inches in circumpherence and five feet eight inches in length, the Dr. informed when he first obtained it, it was upwards of six feet in length and weighed one hundred pounds; the greates circumpherence of the tusks of Mr. Peale's skeleton I believe is not more than one foot six 1/2 inches. As the anatomy of the Mammoth has already been so well ascertained by the skeleton in the possession of Mr. Peal (the upper portion of the head excepted) I confined my enquiries mearly to a search for this part of the skeleton, and for such specimens of the tusks as would enable me to deside a question which appears not yet fully to have been satisfyed (viz) Whether the flated or sythe-shaped tusks so frequently found in the same bed with the acknowledged tusks of the Mammoth, are the tusks of that anamal, or a different one? With regard to the fist [first] of these enquiries I was unsuccessfull, finding only one mutilated specimen of the upper portion of the head, the frontal bone of which had entirely decayed; I was therefore unable to form any just idea of it's shape; as to the second, I was more fortunate, obtaining many specimens of both the acknowledged Mammoth tusks, as well as those of the flat tusks, both in a sound and an imperfect state; these I compared with attention; but before I proceed to express an opinion with respect to the homogeniallogy of these tusks I will give a short description of those specimens, in order Sir, that you may from thence draw your own inferences, and make your own deduction.

     The tusks of the Mammoth were conical, much Curved, and also spiral or twisted; the fragments of whatever portion of the tusk were homologus to the same part of a complete tusk; when by decay the end of a section of any large part of the tusk was observed, the ends of the broken lateral stratas of the lamina, formed a number of circular rings, each imbracing and inclosing the other from the center to the circumpherence of the tusk, these rings however, were of unequal thickness; when perfet the lamina assumes a yellowish white or creem colour, in it's decayed state it resembles white chalk, both in colour and consistance (see No. 2. specn. inclosed); the surface of the tusk sometimes assumes partially a black colour, which from it's resembleance to the Buffaloe horn might on a slite examineation be taken for a similar substance, but on a more minute investigation it appears to be ivory, or the common lamina of the tusk, which, has acquired that colour from some cause, most probably, from the properties of the clay in which they had been so long deposited; this black Ivory (No. 2) is rarely more than two lines in thickness, gradually loosing it's hue inwards, untill it becomes the common colour of the tusk.

     The flat or sythe-like tusks assumed a great variety of figures, tho' uniformly curved; one was flat on both sides near the large end of the tusk, where it was connected with the head; this was rendered conspicuous from the conic concavity common to this part as well of the Mammoth, as these tusks at the larger end; and so much was it flated that this end of the tusk was left in a forked shape, while the smaller end assumed the curved, and connic shape, and was also spiral, as is that of the Mammoth: several were flated unequally on both sides near the small extremity of the tusk, the larger end being conical, curved, and spiral; while others were flat on one side only throughout the whole extent of the tusk: the lamina of these tusks whether perfect, decayed, or assuming the horn-like appearance, is the same substance precisely of the Mammoth tusk: in every instance where the tusk is flatened, the circular rings of lamina are perfect when the diameter of those rings do not exceed the thickness of the tusk, which last I found unequal in the different specimens; and when the rings of lamina exceed the thickness of the tusk they are broken, but still we find the corrisponding parts of these broken rings, attatched to either side of the perfect one, and succeeding each other throughout the whole width of the tusk; thus presenting the exact figure of the Mammoth's tusk reduced to a flat surface on both sides by being ground down. I also observed that several bones that were in a good state of preservation, appeared to have been woarn away in the same manner, or from the same cause which had flattened the tusks, particularly a large grinder of the Mammoth which struck my attention, it was unconnected with the jaw bone; one third of the volume of this tooth seemed to have been woarn away, as if reduced on one side by being grown down to a plane surface; the enamel of the fractured edge appeared to have given way equally with the bone of the tooth and presented a smooth surface; no part of this tooth shewed any sharp fracture which, might induce a belief that it was reduced to it's pesent [present] shape by a violent or sudden stroke.

     Finding that the upper part of a tusk was flattened, which shape it could not have acquired during the existence of the living anamal, it being that part of the tusk which by bone or cartilage must have been united with the head; that in every case where the same specimen united both the character of the Mammoth and fiat tusk, that portion resembleing the Mammoth tusk was in all respects it's prototipe; that the tusk of the Mammoth is well defined, and that it's characteristics strongly mark it; that the lamina of both the flat and the conic tusks, are invariably the same in similar states of preservation; and that in all instances where the tusk is flattened the lateral lamina shews evedent marks of violence; I can therefore have no remaining doubt these flat or sythe-like tusks being the tusks of the Mammoth; and the appearance of the flatten grinder of the Mammoth before noticed, I am strongly disposed to believe that these flat tusks of the Mammoth have acquired that shape in consequence of the sand and gravel passing over them for a great length of time caused by a runing stream or agitated water.

     The Elephants teeth which I saw in the possession of Dr. Goforth weigh from four to eleven pounds, and appear to me precisely to resemble a specimen of these teeth which, I saw in the possession of Dr. Wister of Philadelphia; and which if my recollection serves me Dr. Wister informed me was found in S. Carolina: the Dr. has since assured me, that from a comparison of this specimen with the plates representing the teeth of the Asiatic Elephat contained in the late Vols. of the British philosophical transactions, that he is perfectly convinced that it is the tooth of the Asiatic Elephant or an anamal very much resembleing it. Relative to these teeth it may not be unworthy of remark, that so far as I have been able to inform myself, they are never found adjacent to the bones of any anamal of their comparitive size, except those of the Mammoth; or such as from their affinity to the anatomy of that anamal, have always been admitted to be the bones of the Mammoth. These teeth are never found attatched to the bones of the jaw; and notwithstanding the high state of preservation in which those Elephant's teeth are found, that no other pat [part] of it's fraim should yet have been discovered in America. From the shape and termination of both extremities of these grinders they each appear to have completely filled it's respective jaw bone.

     Not any of the bones or tusks which I saw were petrifyed, either preserving their primitive states of bone or ivory; or when decayed, the former desolving into earth intermixed with scales of the header [harder] or more indissoluble parts of the bone, while the latter assumed the appearance of pure white chalk.

     I would thank you for forward me some of the Vaxcine matter, as I have reason to believe from several experiments made with what I have, that it has lost it's virtue.

     Conner, the interpretter I had calculated on engaging, has declined; however I do not feel much disappointment at this occurrence, being well assured that a suitable person of that discription can be procured at St. Louis.

     So soon Sir, as you deem it expedient to promulge the late treaty, between the United States and France I would be much obliged by your directing an official copy of it to be furnished me, as I think it probable that the present inhabitants of Louisiana, from such an evidence of their having become the Citizens of the United States, would feel it their interest and would more readily yeald any information of which, they may be possessed relative to the country than they would be disposed to do, while there is any doubt remaining on that subject.

     As this Session of Congress has commenced earlyer than usual, and as from a variety of incidental circumstances my progress has been unexpectedly delayed, and feeling as I do in the most anxious manner a wish to keep them in a good humour on the subject of the expedicion in which I am engaged, I have concluded to make a tour this winter on horseback of some hundred miles through the most interesting portion of the country adjoining my winter establishment; perhaps it may be up the Canceze River and towards Santafee, at all events it will bee on the South side of the Missouri. Should I find that Mr. Clark can with propiety also leave the party, I will prevail on him also to undertake a similar excurtion through some other portion of the country: by this means I hope and am pursuaded that by the middle of February or Ist of March I shall be enabled to procure and forward to you such information relative to that Country, which, if it dose not produce a conviction of the utility of this project, will at least procure the further toleration of the expedition.

     It will be better to forward all letters and papers for me in future to Cahokia.

     The water still continues lower in the Ohio than it was ever known. I am with every sentiment of gratitude and respect Your Obt. Servt.

Ist. U.S. Regt. Infty.

 Jefferson's endorsement is 25 Oct., but his index of letters says 26 Oct. 1803.

     The specimens went astray at Natchez and apparently were lost. Gideon Fitz sent a message to Jefferson that some of the bones were recoverable and that he would undertake to save them. Jefferson wrote to Fitz at Opelousas, Louisiana, 17 September 1804: "You will render me a very acceptable service if you will be so good as to do it, and send them to the care of Mr. Trist at New Orleans to be forwarded to me to the care of Jefferson & Gibson in Richmond as they are intended to be brought to this place" [i.e. Monticello]. Fitz acknowledged this from Washington, Mississippi Territory, 19 Oct. 1804, and said he would try to salvage them but doubted now if many could be recovered. There is no record of Fitz's search, but the fate of the specimens is mentioned by Thomas Rodney: "The bones Collected by Capt. Lewis came down the River to Natch the following Spring — 1804. and unhappily the boat that brought them sunk at the Landing, and I understood that Most of them were lost, but one being Saved, among them was a jaw bone and grinder of the wild Boar our Country — but there being no person to take care of these Curiosities box was thrown on the Shore, & broken open, by the Tennessee Militia, then at Natchez". [In a letter dated February 1806 to Peale] In an earlier draft of the letter, Rodney says that in 1803 he was going down the Mississippi, and he "walked out six miles to the Big Bone Lick but Captn. Lewis had been there a little before on his way to the Missouri, and had taken off most of the bones that had been found there".

Captain Charles Lemoyne de Longueil and Big Bone Lick.

The History of Big Bone

Captain Charles Lemoyne de Longueil
"Discovers" Big Bone Lick, 1729
 Willard Rouse Jillson

More than two hundred years ago — in 1729 to be exact — an intrepid French Canadian soldier and explorer,
then commanding at Fort Niagara, Captain Charles Lemoyne de Longueil,¹ descended the Ohio River from the
eastern Great Lakes and discovered Big Bone Lick in Northern Kentucky. His was the military entourage that
accompanied and protected the famous French engineer, M. Chaussegros de Lery,² whose compass surveys at this
time gave basis for the first reconnaissance charting of the meandering course of the Ohio River. Though records
do not so state, we may assume without fear of error that he was taken to this locality by the Indian guides who
accompanied him, for this lick in southwestern Boone County was widely known among the aboriginal tribes that
inhabited the Ohio Valley.

¹ Later the Governor of Montreal and Interim Governor or New France; born 1687, died 1759. commanded Fort
Niagara, 1726-1733.
² Remarques sur le Carte de l'Amerique Septentrionale by Jacques Nicolas Bellin, pp. 120-121, Paris, France,

from Jillson, Big Bone Lick, 1936, p. 3.