Dinosaur Bones

From "The Tracks We Followed" by Norma Gene Young.

Bones of prehistoric dinosaurs were discovered in 1931 about eight miles east of Kenton which included an almost complete skeleton of a brontosaurus, thought to be the largest specimen of its kind in existence. It was 80 feet long, 40 feet tall and weighed 40 tons.

J.R. "Pard" Collins of Kenton, employed on a road maintenance crew, made the discovery when the blade of his grader unearthed a large piece of bone while he was patrolling U.S. Highway 64 which was at that time routed through Kenton. The find was reported to Dr. J. Willis Stovall, paleontologist of Stovall Museum on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, Norman. In June of 1931, Dr. Stovall, accompanied by two of his OU students and four Kenton men, Truman and Fred Tucker, Wesley Collins and Crompton Tate, began working on excavating the cast of perfectly fossilized material. They led a WPA crew of workmen who had received four months of training under a government program.

Over the next few years the specimens were removed to Norman, Oklahoma, where they stayed packed in old newspapers, unanalyzed, until they were "rediscovered" during the 1980's. Early in 1991, officials of the Oklahoma Museum of Natural History at Norman were attempting to document the creatures which once roamed Oklahoma's prairies and fully catalog the bones. Richard L. Cifelli, assistant curator of the museum, contacted Jack McIntosh, a researcher with Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, one of the world's foremost experts on sauropids, a family of dinosaurs that includes the brontosaurus. McIntosh said the bones are larger than any brontosaurus bones he has seen on skeletal exhibits in New York City, Chicago, Pittsburgh, New Haven and elsewhere. "This is a very large, very nice collection", according to McIntosh.

After the original discovery of the bones, a report of work at the quarry east of Kenton was given in October 1935, and revealed that 918 bones and teeth had been removed from the pit in the previous four months. By that time more than 3,600 perfect specimens had been catalogued and some 3.000 others which, because of being incomplete or too small for much consideration, had not been catalogued.

Included in the collection was the "prize fossil bone of the Southwest", according to Crompton Tate. It was a femur of a brontosaurus, measuring 5 feet , 11-3/4 inches in length, 24 inches across the larger end, and 21 inches across the smaller end. Its weight was approximately 425 pounds. In addition to this important find was evidence that five distinct species of dinosaurs had died in that quarry. Eighteen tons of bones were eventually moved to the University, where another crew was employed cleaning the specimens. The brontosaurus skeleton was thought at that time to be 85 percent complete.

A concrete replica of the femur bone of the brontosaurus now stands on a pedestal above the quarry east of Kenton, adjacent to State Highway 325. It is much the worse for treatment over the years by vandals, but it is visited by hundreds of tourists every year.

When these giant beasts roamed these hills and plains, estimated to have been 140 million year ago, this area was a tropical swamp, draining northwest in a arm of the Pacific Ocean known as the Logan Sea. This was before the Rocky Mountains were formed in gigantic upheavals of the earth's crust.

Morrison Shales of the Jurassic period were then the mudflats over which the 'terrible lizards" roamed and died. The heavily mineralized water eventually replaced the natural elements in the bones and in turn the muck and mud assumed a certain hardness, completely encasing and entombing these new fossils.

During the excavation Dr. Stovall made numerous trips to the quarry and was superintendent of the project. Since there now seems to be renewed interest in the bones, perhaps they will at last be assembled and displayed at the museum in Norman, as was originally planned.