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Geology of Vermont

"...the elephant from Mt. Holly"

Text taken from page 176 of the Report on the Geology of Vermont: Descriptive, Theoretical, Economical, and Scenographical; Vol. I by E. Hitchcock, LL.D., A.D. Hager, A.M., E. Hitchcock, Jr., M.D., and C. H. Hitchcock, A.M., 1861.


"REMAINS OF TERRESTRIAL MAMMALIA IN ALLUVIUM"

"The most important mammalian fossil of this kind is the elephant from Mt. Holly. We give Professor Thompson's description of it:

"Elephas primogenius, Blumenbach. It is a remarkable fact, that in making the Rutland and Burlington Railroad, which extends from Burlington to Bellows Falls, two of the most interesting fossils ever found in New England were brought to light. These were the remains of an elephant and a whale. The former were found in Mt. Holly, in 1848, and the latter in Charlotte, in 1849.

"The Rutland and Burlington Railroad crosses the Green Mountains in the township of Mt. Holly, at an elevation of 1415 feet above the level of the ocean, and the bones of the fossil elephant were found at that height. It is in a peat bed east of the summit station that these bones are found. The basin in which the peat is situated appears to have been originally filled with water, and to have been a favorite resort for beaver, a large proportion of the materials which formed the lower part of the peat consisting of billets of wood, about eighteen inches long, which had been cut off at both ends, drawn into the water and divested of the bark by the beaver, for food. The peat was fifteen feet deep before the excavation was made for the railroad.

"In making this excavation, the workmen found at the bottom of the bed, resting upon gravel which separated it from the rock below, a huge tooth. The depth of the peat at that place was eleven feet. Soon afterwards one of the tusks was found, about eighty feet from the place of the tooth mentioned above, which was a grinder. Subsequently the other tusk and several of the bones of the animal were found near the same place. These bones and teeth were submitted to the inspection of Professor Agassiz, who pronounced them to be extinct species of elephant. The directors of the R.& B.R.R. to whom they belong, placed them in the museum of the University of Vermont, for preservation, and for the illustration of our fossil geology.

"The grinder is in an excellent state of preservation, and weighed eight pounds, and the length of its grinding surface is about eight inches. The tusks are somewhat decayed, and one of them badly broken. The cord, drawn in a straight line from the base to the point of the most perfect tuck , measures sixty inches, and the longest perpendicular, let fall from that to the inner curve of the tusk, measures nineteen inches. The length of the tusk, measured along the curve on the outer surface, is eighty inches, and its greatest circumference twelve inches. The circumference has diminshed very much, since the tusk was taken from the peat bed, on account of shrinkage in drying, and several longitudinal cracks have been found in it, extending its whole length, and it was found necessary to wind it with wire to prevent it from splitting to pieces."

In 1858 remains of another elephant were found in Richmond, which are now in the Cabinet of Vermont University.

The fossil ham of some ruminant has been found in Hartford; and the ham of a deer in the alluvium of Grand Isle; the latter specimen is in the Cabinet of Vermont University.

Other fossils are found in a cave at Chittenden,- the bones of small animals, such as are now alive."

For more descriptions of the Mt. Holly mammoth and the Charlotte Whale, please visit Zadock Thompson
For information about Pleistocene (1.8 million to 11,000 years ago) mammals, visit Museum of Paleontology at Berkeley

 

 

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