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home : columnists : columnists March 26, 2017


1/20/2017
A mammoth discovery at Clare

By Paula Dunn
From Time to Thyme


Believe it or not, I've got another Clare story!

A few weeks ago when I was at the library, Indiana Room clerk Sherri Bonham tipped me off to the tale of Clare's diplodocus.

If, at this point, you're wondering what a "diplodocus" is, don't worry. I had to look it up, too. (You're on your own with the pronunciation, though. "Dip-LOD-er-cus" seems the most common version, but I've found at least three others so far.)

A diplodocus was a dinosaur with an extremely long neck and even longer tail, similar to what is popularly known as a Brontosaurus. You know - the beast Fred Flintstone slides off when the whistle blows at his rock quarry.

In 1929, the remains of what was believed to be a diplodocus were uncovered by a dredging machine on the C. H. Scearce farm at Clare.

The bones were found about four feet underground, resting on blue clay beneath a large pile of decayed vegetation. The low area in which they were discovered had originally been a swamp and was thought to have once been a part of the riverbed.

This was big news at the time. The June 17 Noblesville Daily Ledger ventured the opinion that "Hamilton County, Indiana, will be known, within a few hours or days, to the far corners of the world."

The reason this was such a big deal was that a single complete diplodocus skeleton had never been found. Only a few partial ones existed, all of which had been unearthed in the western United States. There had never been one discovered in Indiana.

The most nearly complete skeleton belonged to the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, thanks to wealthy philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

Carnegie turned diplodocuses into celebrities by having plaster casts made of his specimen and then donating the casts to a number of museums around the world, from Berlin to Argentina. (The London Natural History Museum's "Dippy" was just taken off display a few weeks ago after 112 years.)

After the first bones were uncovered on the Scearce farm, Dr. Earl Brooks, chairman of the Forest Park Board, and Professor E. V. Rutherford, Noblesville High School's principal and "a recognized authority on pre-historic animal life," led a team of Forest Park employees who continued to dig for several days, hoping to find the rest of the dinosaur.

Forest Park was involved because Scearce had promised the skeleton would go to the Forest Park Museum. This museum was apparently in the planning stages at that point and the diplodocus was to have been the foundation of the collection.

I haven't run across any mention of such a museum at Forest Park before this and as far as I know, there never was one, but there may be a good explanation for that.

First, after a few days of all that publicity, Mr. and Mrs. Scearce had second thoughts about donating the bones to the park and had contacted several large museums to see if they could sell them instead.

The real deal-breaker, however, was the fact that about ten days after the first bones were unearthed, some teeth were found and the sad truth was learned - the exotic diplodocus was, in reality, a common old mammoth.

I'm not sure what ultimately became of the mammoth bones. The last article indicates the Scearces had them in storage, still hoping someone would buy them, while the Forest Park board hoped they'd change their minds and donate them to the park.

Notable Nineties Update: Rosemary Harger has added her husband, Billie Jo Harger, and Nancy Gilpin added her uncle, Bernard Roudebush. Congratulations!

Paula Dunn's From Time to Thyme column appears each Friday in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com







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