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The Uintah Basin 

In 1908, Sarah and her husband Charles Zimmerman loaded up all their belongings, five young children, a host of farm animals, and moved from southeast Colorado to the Uintah Basin in northern Utah 

The Uintah Basin ranges from about 4,500 to about 8,000 feet in elevation.  It averages between 5 and 7 inches of annual precipitation.  During the relatively short summers the sky’s are typically blue with hardly a cloud to be seen. Humidity levels are often in the single digits most any time of year. The natural landscape is relatively barren with more of a badlands or high mountain desert look but it is flanked on the north by the east west trending Uintah Mountain Range.  Valley’s along the south trending drainage’s from the mountains aren’t necessarily green as we might imagine but today they are green because of dams, water tunnels, canals and irrigation water.  There isn’t a huge variety of farm crops and an orchard is rare.  The types of crops are limited for two reasons; the growing season is short and the desert soils are not that good for farming. Typical crops are hay and other grains grown for cattle or horse feed.  Winters can be long.  After snow arrives in the winter, an “air inversion effect” often takes place. The heavier cold air gets trapped in the basin with no way out and it can stay below freezing for weeks at a time. I have a feel for the area as JoAnn and I lived in Vernal from 1980 to 1985. 

The cover image is from a historic barn located on the site where the Zimmerman’s built a log cabin just east of Roosevelt Utah a few years after arriving. The cabin sat on a bluff overlooking the city in the heart of the basin. 

The pictures below was taken in the fall of 2016 when JoAnn and I were in the area researching the story of Charles, Sarah, and the family. The view below is looking north toward the Uintah Mountains from the Vernal area where the Zimmerman’s lived for a time when they first arrived.  

Roosevelt (named for Teddy)

The Zimmerman’s moved onto land east or north of Roosevelt, then later lived in Vernal for about 2 1/2 years after arriving in the Uintah Basin in 1908. They subsequently moved onto their own homestead a few miles west of Roosevelt and finally moved into Roosevelt itself where Charles and Sarah lived for for most their remaining years. The homestead location below looking north is west of Roosevelt and a few miles north of the small town of Myton.  It shows nearby irrigated valley’s today along with non irrigated lands and the Uintah Mountains in the distance.  At the time they were here, it was probably mostly barren with some canal and ditch work going on. 

After the family left the homestead, they moved onto undeveloped land owned by the city of Roosevelt. This land was later developed into the city park shown below. Charles, Sarah, and the family moved onto this site before later moving to a location where they built a log cabin just west of Roosevelt. 

During the trip we had a chance to connect with Mrs. Joan Crozier, a direct descendant of Charles and Sarah.  She and her husband Ferrell live in a newer home on the exact site where Charles and Sarah built the log cabin in Roosevelt Utah. The original cabin is now gone but there was an old barn to the right of the house with older tools and equipment and is likely something that Charles, Sarah, and the young ones built and used. A close up of the barn is the cover picture for the chapter. 

Indigenous People 

Brigham Young sent out an exploration party in 1861 to see what the potential was for Mormon pioneer farmers in the Uintah basin. The party came back describing the area as; entirely unsuitable for farming purposes…it was one vast ‘contiguity of waste’ and measurably valueless excepting for nomadic purposes, hunting grounds for the Indians and to hold the world together.”(Kendrick et al. 1989)

Its no wonder that beginning in the 1850’s native American’s from other parts of Utah started getting pushed into the Uintah Basin. They found themselves in the way and their lifestyle incompatible with ours. In 1861, a federal Indian agent requested President Lincoln set aside much of the Uintah Basin as a reservation.  Although Lincoln was completely preoccupied with the war he wrote the words on an envelope that established a very large reservation in the Uintah Basin.  Over time more and more native Americans were pushed onto the reservation, most notably in 1879 when White River and Uncompahgre Ute’s from Western Colorado were forcibly moved there.  By 1881 all the Utes in Colorado had been pushed out.  Two books discussing the sad story include; “The Utes must go! American expansion and the removal of a people”  by Peter R. Decker (Decker, 2004) and “The Ute Indians of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico” by Virginia McConnell Simmons (Simmons, 2001).

Ute Indians in Canon City

 Sarah and the Felch family grew up around Ute Indians in the Canon City area.  This band of Utes were relocated about the same time as the White River and Uncompahgre bands who were pushed into the Uintah Basin. These Utes were pushed onto a reservation in southwest Colorado near the town of Cortez. 

 Loretta Bailey has written an informative “now and then” blog about the local Utes and how they were viewed by white settlers when they arrived in the Canon City area.


The images below are from a Ute memorial site located just east of Roosevelt Utah celebrating the Ute culture.  Some of those Utes later fought and died as soldiers for our nation in various wars, something commemerated at the site. 

The Dawes Act

The Ute Indians arrived onto what early explorers considered waste land with no suitable purpose.  Although  not surprising when we look into our treatment of native American’s, this was far from end of the tragedies the Utes would incur.

The General Allotment Act of 1887 (commonly known as the Dawes Act) was set up to break up reservations that were owned collectively and redistribute the land to individual native American tribal members living within the reservation.  They would be “awarded” parcels up to 160 acres in size. The concept behind the law was to assimilate native or indigenous Americans into our culture. 

Two issues emerged in the Uintah Basin with this concept.

By the early 1900’s a significant percentage of the native American population had died off after their arrival on the reservation. If the Dawes Act provided the maximum amount of land to this population (160 acres per owner), the amount of land that would be redistributed to the Utes would be a small fraction of the original reservation boundaries.

The Dawes Act was designed to create parcels that could sustain an American style family farm back east but was totally insufficient to sustain a family in a high mountain desert. Even if irrigation water was made available in the Uintah Basin, the short growing season and poor desert soils would not support a family on the same amount of acreage. 

The bottom line is that the individual parcels of arid land were far too small to sustain a family and additionally they had little interest in mimicking the way we live. 

On the other hand, if irrigation water was developed, there was a lot of land that potentially could be sold off to white settlers and Presidential Proclamation 581 was the tool that made it happen. 

Proclamation Number 581

The redistribution process of reservation lands (as envisioned in the Dawes Act) moved forward in somewhat awkward steps. The Utes fought back but couldn’t stop the breakup and “land grab” of the reservation lands. In 1905 presidential proclamation number 581 was signed in law by Teddy Roosevelt. It set up the specific steps to redistribute a large amount of the original reservation lands.

A relatively small amount of land was retained as reservation land with an equally small amount of land transferred to individual Utes. The remaining majority of reservation lands were then set aside for various purposes including over a million acres of land as National Forest and another million acres of reservation land was made available to white settlers. The Mormon Church strongly encouraged young farmers to consider moving into the basin.

In order to implement proclamation 581, a lottery process was developed and a land rush ensued. What little land the Ute Indians had been previously been forced to live on would be largely gone by the end of 1905.  

The arid climate, short growing seasons, and poorly developed soils limited the potential for development but with the mountains to the north and a lot of creeks and streams flowing south, irrigation could be developed. Multiple irrigation companies developed reservoirs, canals, and ditches to enable  the transition to a farming area. When JoAnn and I arrived in the basin water projects were still continuing at full steam.  

Worthwhile source of information are the books;  “Beyond the Wasatch: the history of irrigation in the Uinta Basin and Upper Provo River Area of Utah” (Kendrick, et al, 1989) and “The Reluctant Suzerainty: the Uintah and Ouray reservation” (O’Neil, 1971).

Sarah and Charles were not a part of the lottery nor the initial land rush. The land that Charles and Sarah Zimmerman acquired northeast of Myton Utah took place in 1911 or 1912. Its likely they purchased property from an owner who had acquired it through the lottery process. The land came with the assumption that water was going to be delivered or it was “irrigable” as listed in the ad on the left. Water developers had relatively good intentions for white settlers, they were just not fully aware of how difficult and time consuming the process would be.  Water did not arrive in a timely manner for the Zimmerman’s to start a farm.  

Ned and Sarapeta 

Charles and Sarah had four children at the time of Marshall’s death in early 1902. Anna was six going on seven, John was almost five, Rosezella had just turned three, and Irene was a little over a year old. In the summer of 1903 Ned was born followed by Sarapeta in April of 1905  Ned died when he was six months old and Sarapeta died when she was a year and a half old. Francis was the last child born in Colorado in the fall of 1906. 

The Zimmerman family had a professional photograph taken above.  Francis appears to be less than a year old which would place the picture sometime in early 1907 when they would have been living in the Ordway area of southeast Colorado. 

From left to right are: Rosezella (Rose), Charles, Emma (at the top), Irene Amanda (at the bottom), Sarah Ellen, Francis Moroni (baby), Anna Magdalene, and John Colburn.  Missing are Ned and Sarapeta who passed away as infants.  

Emma was not one of Charles and Sarah’s offspring. She was an orphan born in 1888 in Chicago then transferred to a Denver orphanage in 1892. She was later adopted by Charles and Sarah in 1897 about the time little John was born. Like the flood of orphans coming west in those days, Emma probably joined the family and worked as a nanny or in another capacity. (Montierth 2017).

Their final child Charles Othniel was born a few years later in Utah. 


Looking for Answers 

Two young Mormon missionaries or elders arrived at the farm home of Charles and Sarah in the lower Arkansas Valley of Colorado in 1906. One of them was very ill.  Possibly they stopped at the Zimmerman home because they heard of Sarah’s nursing skills and medical training.

Sarah was a Presbyterian. She openly expressed to the missionaries that she had no interest in their religion but at this point in her life she must have been seeking answers about life and death, particularly with the recent loss of her two young babies and a question and answer session took place over the next couple of days.    

Within the next few weeks Sarah converted to Mormonism.  Charles, a Lutheran, soon followed and they were both baptized in the Mormon faith in August 1906.  Francis who was born in October of 1906 was named Francis Moroni Zimmerman in honor of the angel Moroni from the Book of Mormon.(Rasmussen 2018) (Zimmerman 1991)

When the Mormon leadership became aware of the opportunities to acquire land in the Uintah Basin (particularly in 1905) they encouraged young church members to pursue opportunities to acquire land and help establish Mormon communities within the basin and the newly formed state of Utah. 

Its doubtful that Charles and Sarah would have ever heard about land opportunities in the Uintah Basin without such encouragement directed toward potential Mormon settlers.  They probably would have remained in the lower Arkansas River valley the remainder of their lives where today there are many multi-generational families. 

Much of their story that follows is told through the family history written by Francis Zimmerman and oral interviews with Rosezella Rasmussen later in her life. 

The Wedding Vows

According the Francis, Sarah had questions for the missionaries about her wedding vows (Zimmerman, 1991). 

One of the most questions pertaining to wedding vows rotate around the phrase “till death do us part”. 

The official Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint Website states:  “Unlike marriages that last only “’til death do you part,” temple sealings ensure that death cannot separate loved ones… For marriage relationships to continue after death, those marriages must be sealed in the right place and with the right authority. The right place is the temple and the right authority is the priesthood of God” 

Assuming discussions of life and death continued between Sarah and Mormon missionary, it’s logical that questions pertaining to the death of Ned, Sarapeta, Marshall, Amanda, Emerson, little Willie also came up. 

The website continues discussing eternal family relationships;  “the divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave…and for families to be united eternally… The sealing power also extends from parents to children, across all generations from the beginning of the world.” 

Not One More

One thing for sure. Sarah was not going to lose another child.  She was going to take every step possible to make sure of this. 

Francis;  “In the summer of 1907 I developed a disease called SUMMER COMPLAINT(this is a severe case of diarrhea). Inasmuch as Father and Mother had lost the two children who were born to them just before me, they were fearful of losing me also. Mother took me into the mountains near Colorado Springs. High in the Rocky Mountains I became well. (Zimmerman, 1991).

Rose; “My mother recalls having to take Francis into the mountains because he had very poor health and my mother had lost her last two babies. It just made her panic and so she had taken Irene and my brother Francis and the gone up into Canon City and they was there for the whole summer”. (Rasmussen, 1989)

Lets Not Have That

While Sarah was away for the summer, financial times were tough and her husband Charles took action to shore up family finances until the fall crops came in. This became known to Sarah when she returned with Francis that fall.

Rose; “Well, my father borrowed some money and he put up a real good stallion for collateral and my mother when she came home and found that he’d put up that stallion,  Mother said; well, I’m going to the bank’.  Father then said;  ‘well we could pay it off at this fall so let’s not have that’ and so she went to the bank with her coat on and with a [illegible, possibly a leather band] wrapped around her arm and she told that banker if he didn’t give her that note, that he’d get the licking of his life, and she unwrapped that [illegible] and I think he knew that she meant what she was talking about so he gave her [the note] and mother said”; ‘you can come and you can look at the cattle. You can look at anything and you can take it if you want some collateral but you’re not taking my stallion’ and she just figured that that was hers. She had raised it and Charlie didn’t have anything to do with it.   The banker said something about putting Charlie in jail and she said” go ahead.‘ 

My mother was a strong determined woman and when she made up her mind she was going to do something she did it…” (Rasmussen, 1989)

Surviving the First Winter

In the spring of 1908, the family loaded up everything they owned including horses, cattle, and other stock, loaded it up into one or more box cars and road the train with some transfers to Price Utah. 

There was no train that went into the Uintah Basin so they unloaded everything probably into one or more wagons they brought with them and continued the journey from Price to Roosevelt Utah. 

They moved onto a piece of property either just east or north of Roosevelt and attempted to pick up where they left off in Colorado.

They never owned their own farm and they did not pick up where they left off.  They lost pretty much everything they brought along and were forced to make many adjustments to survive as is told by Rose below. 

Without some strong gritty determination they would have given up and moved on.  

Where Did they Live?

Its sketchy on exactly where the family lived when they first arrived.  In the family history there is a reference to land just east of Roosevelt. 

A separate search of general land office records shows that there was a 40 acre parcel located a few miles north of Roosevelt that Sarah received title to in 1924.  The land was purchased from a Joe Emily Quitchapoo who initially acquired it most likely as an Indian Allotment on August 9, 1905. It is possible that Charles and Sarah moved onto this piece of land without full title when they arrived in 1908.  They may have held onto some rights associated with the land and eventually obtained a title to the land in 1924.

Regardless, wherever they arrived to in the Roosevelt area, it initially did not work out and they were forced to move to the Vernal area where for a few years, they worked intensely to get back on their feet.  

One in the Morning, Two at Night

Rose tells the story of their first year after they arrived in the Uintah basin and the question of how they were going to survive their first winter;  

Rose; “We came to the Unitah Basin on the 28th of March in 1908. My father had a land grant from and he had taken up some land which proved to be just just nothing but sand and my parents made a real big mistake when they brought high-bred horses and cattle into into the Uintah Basin because they just about lost everything. Oh, yes, they couldn’t live because they was used to Silo feed. They was used to green and things and they just died.

My mother just wondered what she would do for fruit in that coming winter weather and she received a letter from an elder Mendenhall told her that if she could come she could have all the fruit that she could put up and I can remember her arguing with father and father said ‘No, you better not try to do that’ … As your mother went out he gave her a mule and old Kitty, a faithful horse, and she took my sister Magdalene with her and the youngest boy Francis and they they went out went to Springfield [about 130 miles, just south of Provo on the shortest route today].

Now, that’s a long ways when you travel by mule and a horse and a sheep wagon… they was out there and dried apples and peaches and bottled them and when they was time to go and she had all this and they was going up Nine Mile Canyon … and the Jack mule decided not to go … He just would not go and just shook his head and when you go and mother said, well, there’s only one other thing we can do. We’ve got to kneel down and pray. I’ll pray first and then you pray and she they knelt down and prayed and my mother’s could say the most beautiful prayers and then she said now you pray and my sister said I don’t have to there’s a man looking in. And he said anything wrong in there and my mother said we have a stubborn mule and he said ‘well, we’ll fix that’ and my mother [put on a brake to keep the wagon from rolling backwards] and the man put his rope through this particular place where the brake was and he wrapped it around the horn of the cow and he laid that across the mules back and mother said he said the most horrible swear words, and she said that mule just about pulled that wagon of the hill by itself.” (Rasmussen 1989)

Rose continued with the story of the man and his wife helping. They provided food and shelter during a severe rainstorm and then helped them get on their way home. Magdalene and Francis recalled having an apple, the first they had seen in two years. They also came away with a lot of additional dried apples. When they arrived home everyone, including Charles, cried. 

Rose; “I was so grateful to see her and my mother knew just every bit of that fruit that was in those bottles. You could have two peaches in the morning and one at night. Or you could have one in the morning and two at night and that took care of the family”. (Rasmussen 1989)

The Baby Brother you Prayed For

The family spent the next two and a half years living in the Vernal area. Francis recalled returning to Vernal following a trip to Salt Lake City in the fall of 1910. 

Francis;  “The first thing I remember, of importance, after returning home is the birth of my little brother, Charles Othniel. He was born Feb. 20, 1911. I had prayed for a baby brother for so long that it seemed impossible now that he had arrived. There was always lots of babies around our home and when mother showed him to me, I did not realize that he was ours. Then mother said to me, ‘This is the little baby brother you have been praying for.’ I then became very excited. We enjoyed Charley as a little baby but it seemed to me such a long time before he got big enough for me to play with.”

Francis also recalled that his brother John and sister Magdalene went to an academy in Vernal in 1911.  

Charles Othniel Marsh Zimmerman

Charles Othniel was named in honor of Charles Othniel Marsh, the great paleontologist. Marsh led a paleontology expedition from Yale College to the Uintah basin in 1870 and met with Brigham Young in 1873.

Sarah knew Professor Marsh personally. She met him on four occasions, three in Canon City, and one “Royal Visit” at the Yale Peabody Museum. 

One of the more prominent peaks in the Uintah Mountains is Marsh Peak, named in his honor.   

Two (or Three) in the Folding Bed

Francis; “At the age of five years, when we moved from Vernal, Utah to Lake Fork until I was about fourteen years old, we lived in two tents. A large tent about 15 feet wide and 30 feet long and a smaller tent about 9 feet by 12 feet. The two tents faced each other. A door was in each end of the tents that faced each other. Each tent was placed on a board frame about 3 feet high built around the base of the tent. This made the tents higher than they would have been. The small tent was used for a kitchen. It contained a large wood stove upon which the meals were prepared. There were cupboards built around the tent where supplies and utensils and dishes were kept. There were also built in tables or work benches used for those to work on who were preparing the meals.

All of the food was prepared in the kitchen or the small tent. The meals were all served in the big tent. As one went into the big tent, to the right was a folding bed. In front of the folding bed was a round table upon which the meals were served and where the family sat to eat.  At night when it was time for bed the table had to be moved back far enough for the folding bed to come down for sleeping. In the middle of the tent was a large oak stove. The stove pipe went up through the middle top of the tent. The stove burned wood or coal. We used wood almost exclusively. The stove was used only in cold weather.

Circling the tent were various beds, cots etc. for sleeping. Drawers, or chests of various sizes were placed in between the beds. In the back was a window to provide for more light. By this big window was a large bed where mother and father slept. The children would sleep in the smaller beds around the tent. ‘Two or three could sleep in the folding bed. We lived in these tents for about eight or nine years.

Life as I remember it was pleasurable and interesting. It never seemed like any kind of a hardship. Now that I am grown and have had the experience of raising a family, I’m sure it must have seemed very difficult for mother and father and perhaps some of the older children.

Both tents were on the ground. The dirt floor would have been a problem with lots of dust etc. However in the big tent mother took cold water and a small amount of fresh cow manure and mixed them together to dampen the floor. This created a hard crust which would last a long time. It could be swept, all dust would disappear and we would lay rag rugs around the room. The process would have to be repeated about as often as we would normally scrub and clean our present day kitchen floors. Each time the crust of the floor would be a little thicker and harder. The rag rugs would be taken out and hung on the clothes line and also cleaned each time we would rework the floors. It would take about three hours for the floor to dry. The floor was so nice that it was amazing to many people who would come into our tent to visit and would see how nice mother had this hard dirt floor made. It seemed to me that it was a frequent topic of conversation.”  (Zimmerman, 1991)

A Hay Rack

Francis; “It became apparent that the promised water was not going to come on the Lake Fork claim. Because it was time for the children to go to school, my parents with the children moved from Lake Fork to  Roosevelt, Utah.

The big tent was left in tact and placed upon a large hay rack on the wagon. The small tent was disassembled and placed in the larger tent along with all of our earthly belongings. The total distance of 16 miles was made at a very slow pace. We arrived in Roosevelt about nine o’clock in the morning. Not too far from the school house our parents found a place to locate the tents. The place where we located was on a lot owned by the City of Roosevelt, Utah. This lot later became the City Park.

During the summer of 1913, my parents bought an acre of land just a mile west of Roosevelt. The acre of land was upon a bench about a hundred or perhaps two hundred feet high… The tents were moved once more from the downtown city lot up on the bench to our new home. This was a permanent home for as long as we lived in Roosevelt.”  (Zimmerman 1991)


Francis; “In the early days while living in Vernal, Utah, he [father] was one of the freighters who hauled supplies into the Uintah Basin from Price, Utah.

Late Summer and early Fall I would go with my Father or my brother, John up into the Uintah Mountains to the saw mill for lumber. These trips were more of an outing than work. Each trip took three days and two nights. I always enjoyed camping out in the mountains.

During the Summer months I would spend a lot of time working on the farm with my Father. Planting the crops, irrigating the ground, mowing the hay, raking it into bunches, hauling it from the field into the barn yard hay stack, and harvesting potatoes, oats, corn, etc. There was always a lot of work connected with these activities and a lot of fun also.

During the Winter when we could no longer work the land, my Father would resume the lumber hauling for the sawmill to the town lumber company.”   (Zimmerman 1991)

I Regained Consciousness 

Francis; “One interesting experience I had while hauling hay from the field into the barnyard. My Father would pitch the hay from the field upon the hay rack. My job was to place the hay equally level on the rack and stomp it down solid. It should then ride safely from the field into the barnyard. One load of hay was completed and I drove the team toward the barnyard. As I approached the haystack, I pulled on the reins of the team to stop right in front of the haystack. The bunch of hay I was sitting on slid off the load of hay behind the horses. My pitchfork was beside me on the bunch of hay that slid off. It jabbed the horse on my right. I was directly behind the horse on the left. The horse on the right lunged forward pulling the horse I was behind, crushing me between the horse and the hay rack. The accident excited the team into a runaway condition and the team started off.

I fell to the ground unconscious and the wagon ran over me. It was lucky for me the wheels did not hit me. The team ran away with the load of hay back into the field. My Father was walking not far behind following me into the barnyard. He did not know what had happened. He only saw the runaway team. He found me passed out on the ground and took me over to a near by creek. He bathed my face in the cold water with an attempt to bring me to my senses. When he failed, he left me there and started for the team and wagon. He got them and placed me on the hay rack and started for home which was about a mile and a half away. It was while we were on our way home that I regained consciousness.

I was hurting in so many places I could not tell where it was the worst. At home my Mother quickly took over. She called the Elders first and then the Doctor. He said I had some internal injuries and would be a week or ten days in getting well…in two or three days I was as good as new. 

Caught his Foot in the Cogs

Francis’s older brother John wasn’t as lucky as Francis was.  He was working around a long gasoline powered machine that was apparently separating cream.  This may have been one of many unique pieces of industrial farm equipment being developed in those days and often modified by the farmers themselves.  

Rose; “John caught his foot in the cogs of this gasoline engine.  My father went in and he was trying to see what was stopping it and John said ‘why can’t you see me’.   My father then had to carry him into the house, his foot was all bleeding, and it was mixed with leather and stalking and everything. 

My mother had to send many miles to a doctor and the doctor had to get on a train and come and my father had to pick him up and by the time he got here he had to amputate his leg because gangrene set in… I can remember the awful look on my mother’s face when the doctor said it had to be amputated.

This was a real trial to my mother and I’m sure it was to my father too. But my father was quiet consuming man and my mother had a lot of emotions… And it seemed that all our lives we’re either saving money to get an artificial limb for my brother, or sending it back to have it lengthened.” (Rasmussen, 1989)

No doubt that Sarah grew up hearing the stories from both of her parents about amputations in the Civil War. She probably saw veterans growing up in Canon City or traveling back east with missing arms and legs. Worst of all, she saw her brother Emerson die from a terrible farming accident.  She probably wondered if John would even survive.  

Five Mothers and Five Babies

Francis:  “Father secured a permit to cut trees and would bring a few big logs each time he came from the mountains. We stacked these on our place for the purpose of building a log house. In time we acquired logs and other materials and some money and started to build the House. It was a large house with five large rooms downstairs and a large attic up stairs which we used for storage. We could have had more bedrooms upstairs but we never did.

For many years in this house my Mother ran a maternity home. It was the family home also. Many little babies were born in this home.  One summer during this period we had five mothers and five babies in the home at one time. 

We also had a large cellar adjacent to the house where we kept our canned foods, and bottles fruits, potatoes, carrots, and many other items of food for our winter supply. We kept anything that needed to be kept warm in the winter and cool in the summer in this large celler. Our large home was built except for the roof, plastering on the inside and putting in the floor.”  (Zimmerman, 1991)

The Nurse, the Undertaker, and the Dentist

Francis; My mother, Sarah Ellen Felch Zimmerman, and wife of Charles, was a trained nurse. Mother was known where ever she lived for her nursing ability. Especially was this true in the Uintah Basin when Doctors and Hospitals were scarce.  She did much in those early days in the Uintah Basin caring for the sick.  She was very handy in laying out the dead.  She was also the town dentist. 

Her family remembers one busy day when she delivered two babies, laid out a dead man, and arrived home to find a man that had ridden five miles on horseback to to have teeth pulled by her.  In the town of Roosevelt, she was the nurse, the undertaker, and the dentist. During the Flu epidemic in 1918 and 1919, she nursed many people back to health.  Mother developed a remedy of her own mustard plasters which she made and placed on the back and chest of the patient.  She never lost one patient with the flu. 

Rose; “I always remember this one girl that had been real jealous of her husband because he had danced too many times with this one woman … and when she got home she took a dose of strychnine and died… she had vomited so much it run out of her chin and I thought oh, I wonder how mother is ever going to fix her. And … of course she did and you never know anything about it. I remember a lady said we have one of the best undertaker’s in the whole country.” (Rasmussen, 1989)

Two – Fifty Pound Bags

Rose: “My mother, Sarah Ellen Felch was born in Denver where the Union Pacific Depot now stands…her father because he was a doctor and a dentist and they they went many places and a lot of the things that they found went to the Peabody Museum in Connecticut…my mother went …to a military school… I know she was able to go because of the affiliation of her father and her mother both being in the Civil War… she got her degree as a nurse in this Academy… she came home and she helped her father in his doctors work and until he decided to retire…my mother could break any horse on the place and she had her horses. So trained that when she put the reigns down they stopped when she picked them up they started.  She was a very strong woman physically because my mother could hold hold two fifty pound bags of flour, one in each hand … there was nothing she couldn’t do. I remember she could run and jump over any fence on the place…she was a mother of eight children, six she raised, two have died in infancy…

Mother was a very strong-willed person and she gently went out and got her way. My father was a peaceful man, and he wanted peace, and he just give in to my mother. (Rasmussen 1989)

Nurse’s Training

Sarah is well documented at attending the Colorado Collegiate Military Academy in Canon City. It was not a nursing school she would have received a far superior education than would have been available to students in any standard school at the time.  There is no record of Sarah obtaining training in Boston but, it is possible that additional training in nursing was obtained when she traveled to New England in 1889. In a letter Marshall wrote to Professor Marsh in 1991 he mentioned that Sarah was going to school in Kansas which very well could have been a reference to additional training in nursing.   

Sarah refers to her father as a doctor and dentist which probably applied to the knowledge Marshall acquired working as a hospital steward in the Civil War which would have put him in charge of the pharmacy. Like many a good pharmacist, Marshall could probably diagnose most common illnesses and any skills he had would have been shared with Sarah. 

Not One Lazy Hair

Rose;  “I can see rows and rows and rows and rows of pies, great big crocks of donuts and many loaves of bread, our table was beautifully decorated on one end of it was a great big turkey and on the other end was a suckling pig with a great big red apple in its mouth… I can see all these elders and I can remember when she gave him a piece of mincemeat pie. My mother was used to using rum and oh things that made it real nice and I can remember seeing the elders wink hit each other and they ate it and they really relished it.

I can remember even standing on a stool before we got our cream separator that I used to have to watch Croc that they’d strain the milk in and to have the cream raised and my mother who had not one little lazy hair in her head. She had 45 butter customers and she delivered all these to her customers.  She’d wash the buggy and horses and my mother would lay down the reins and they’d stayed till she come back and she pick them up and they start going. 

I can remember one time. She just went to the store with me and she bought me a cute little red velvet hat and a coat to match and I remember how jealous I was when I outgrew that and my sister Irene stepped into it.(Rasmussen 1989) 

Earl Douglass

Charles and Sarah were living in the Vernal area in early 1908 not long after they arrived in the Uintah Basin.  During their time in Vernal, the paleontologist Earl Douglass discovered eight the tailbones of a Brontosaurus. This was the beginning of one of the greatest dinosaur quarries of all time and why we have a Dinosaur National Monument today.  During the years of 1909 to 1923, Douglass and his team supplied over 700,000 tons of Jurassic dinosaur bones to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh helping establish it as one of the greatest natural history museums in the world. All of this was something that would have been a regular topic of conversation in the community in Vernal and something Vernal is well known for today. 

Horses in America

Earl Douglass was not the first paleontologist in the Uintah Basin.  In 1870, the first of the famous Yale Paleontology expeditions under the leadership of Professor O.C. Marsh came south from Fort Bridger Wyoming through the Uintah Basin where they found an abundance of mammal and other fossils.

Marsh’s fossil collection grew very large to say the least following three additional western expeditions in the early 1870’s and this enabled many paleontology discoveries including his ability to assemble the story of horse evolution over a fifty million period in North America.  His research did not go unnoticed.

Brigham Young invited Professor Marsh to a meeting in Salt Lake City in the fall of 1873. Brigham Young was concerned because critics challenged the assertion in the Book of Mormon that horses existed at the time of the Mormon biblical stories here in America.  The critics pointed out that the horses in America were not present when explorers first arrived and that they were introduced by the Spaniards. Marsh and substantial additional research since has demonstrated that there was a rich diversity of large “mega fauna”  living in North America fairly recently and horses only recently went extinct until sometime in the 8,000 to 12,000 year time period. 

The biblical stories in the book of Mormon take place from about 4,000 years ago to around 1,500 years ago so the but at the time Marsh was conducting his research, such a precise date of horse extinction did not exist. During the meeting between Young and Marsh, Marsh could simply confirm that horses had been here for a very long time up to a few thousand years ago.

Brigham Young embraced paleontology and the universities in Utah today have strong programs. Sarah may have felt a sense of hiding the story but with Brigham Young’s interest she could proudly tell her fathers paleontology story and that she was a part of that. It also meant that she should hold onto those letters Professor Marsh had mailed to her father. 

The Letters

When Sarah and Charles found themselves living in a tent in the Uintah Basin there must have been some incentive to hang on to the letters many Marsh had mailed to her father in the 1880’s.  It would also not have been possible not to be aware of the work of Earl Douglass.  With the interest of the church, Sarah probably felt comfortable telling the stories of her father’s work digging up dinosaurs.  When the tent blew open one night during a severe windstorm, Sarah went out searching and recovered all she could find and then held onto them for many more years.   

After the bulk of excavation work had been completed at the great dinosaur quarry, Earl Douglass moved to Salt Lake City and went to work at the University of Utah in the 1920’s.   Sarah’s daughter Irene Amanda was grown and living in Salt Lake City on October 5, 1925 and Sarah arranged for a meeting with Earl Douglass that took place at Irene’s house.  A year later Sarah met Douglass at his laboratory on the college campus on July 21, 1926.  Earl Douglass took notes of both of these meetings. (Douglass, Earl 1926)

The meetings were timely, Sarah would pass away in 1928 and Earl Douglass passed away in 1931.

The recognition of the importance of her fathers work is most remarkable considering everything she dealt with in her life in the Uintah Basin.

Ned Weld Felch

Ned Weld Felch was the second child of Marshall and Amanda.  He was born in February of 1869 at the ranch. Unlike his older sister Sarah, we don’t know very much about him. When the military academy was opened, Marshall and Amanda worked to get Sarah in. Maybe Ned didn’t show the promise she did. There was nothing to indicate that he was anything other than a thoughtful young man who helped Marshall with his work, collected fossils, and seemed ready to lend a helpful hand. 

Ned stayed with Marshall doing what he could until that fateful day in 1902.  Marshall left Ned a farewell note at the time of his suicide.  Maybe the note expressed some of Marshall’s love for Ned, possibly something he had not adequately done in life.   

A few years after Marshall died, Ned sold the ranch and moved on. In 1910 he was reported in census data to be in Rawhide Nevada, a mining boom town with reportedly more shenanigans than ore, a major fire, and a flood. The town went bust not long after Ned was there.  In 1920 Ned was reported in census data to be in Arbuckle in the great farming valley in central California.  

Sometime in the early 1920’s Ned contracted tuberculosis; “By the beginning of the 19th century, tuberculosis, or “consumption,” had killed one in seven of all people that had ever lived. Victims suffered from hacking, bloody coughs, debilitating pain in their lungs, and fatigue.(“TB in America: 1895-1954 | American Experience | PBS” 2015.)

Ned probably could no longer survive without help and naturally headed for Utah to be with his sister Sarah and her family. They received him and Francis helped bathe and care for him at the end of his life.   Before he passed away in 1924 he gave title to Francis Zimmerman to a piece of property in Fallon Nevada.  Ned also gave Francis his ford automobile which the family sold and used the money to buy a piano and a washing machine. The piano seems a little bit odd but it fits in perfectly with the family where music was a part of family life, so in that sense it was something that made their cabin more fun than ever. (Zimmerman, 1991)

Ned died on January 28, 1924 and is buried in the Roosevelt Cemetery.  His sister Sarah passed away four years later. 

They All Had Been Helped

Like her mother Amanda, Sarah worked her whole life and like her mother she passed away not long after reaching the age at the age of 60. She died on Sunday, July 29, 1928, in the L.D.S. Hospital at Salt Lake City, one day after her birthday. 

One of the largest funerals ever held in Roosevelt was that of Mrs. Sarah F. Zimmerman held at the Roosevelt hall. The hall was crowded with many friends and relatives.

Eight little grandchildren and two of their friends dressed in white walked before the casket when it was brought into the hall. They each carried a beautiful spray of flowers. The program included musical selections by a quartet and a soloist.  The invocation highlighted the great service which Mrs. Zimmerman had rendered in the community.

Many of her friends gave testimony of her life of service and how they all had been helped by her in some way. The Bishop spoke of her value to the community both in helping sickness and in council to all who came to her for help.

Sarah was survived by her husband Charles who would live another 18 years.  In attendance was Charles, their five children and their spouses, and eight grandchildren.  (paraphrased from the Roosevelt Standard)

The picture to the right, courtesy of John Rasmussen, was taken in June of 1928 about one month before Sarah passed away.   On the left is Sarah’s daughter Magdalene whom Sarah had a wonderful life long relationship with. 


Decker, Peter R. 2004. “The Utes Must Go!”: American Expansion and the Removal of a People. Golden, Colo: Fulcrum Pub.

Kendrick, Gregory D, Craig W. Fuller, Robert W. Righter, and Charles S. Peterson. 1989. Beyond the Wasatch: The History of Irrigation in the Uinta Basin and Upper Provo River Area of Utah. Washington, D.C.: U.S. G.P.O.

Montierth, Phyllis. 2017. “Emma Gertrude Naylor Damron Black.” Personal records. Memories – Family Search. 

O’Neil, Floyd A. 1971. The Reluctant Suzerainty: The Uintah and Ouray Reservation. Salt Lake City, Utah: Utah State Historical Society.

Oral History about Sarah Ellen Zimmerman. 1989.  Sarah Ellen Felch Zimmerman.

Simmon, Virgina McConnell. 2001. The Ute Indians of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. University Press of Colorado.

Zimmerman, Ruby Christensen. 1991. Life Story of F.M. and Ruby Zimmerman. F.M. Zimmerman.

 Introduction to the Epilogue 

The epilogue will wrap up the story of Marshall, Amanda, and Sarah and bring out the significant and unexpected aspects of their lives. Most importantly it will show how their lives had a more far reaching impact than any of them understood during their lives.   

At the beginning, the story was initiated simply to gain a better understanding of how Marshall completed remarkable (and historically early) excavation work of Jurassic dinosaur skeletons. Along the way we discovered a more interesting and unusual man in ways that were not expected. 

Amanda Felch was well known well before Marshall. The story of her remarkable legacy as a battlefield nurse in the Civil War had been published in 1895, but we knew little about life before or after the war. In the voyage to uncover her story we’ll learn how her life impacted the lives of women in an unexpected way. 

Sarah carries on the legacy of her parents in ways that are remarkable and significant.  We would not be able to fully tell their story if it were not for her. 

Like any good story, this one is built on a series of questions. The answers did not always lead to the conclusions we expected (nor necessarily wanted) but it is those inconsistencies that make the story rich. 

Capt. Felch

Sarah and her brothers Emerson and Ned grew up hearing the story of Dead Man’s Cañon, an amazing story of her father Marshall, the heroic Capt. Felch in the story.  As a mother, she in turn told it to her and Charles’s children; Anna, John (Jack), Rose, Irene, Francis and Charles.   

It clearly was a special moment when years later Francis received a published a version of the story “Canyon of Ghosts” in Fate magazine that dealt with paranormal phenomena.   Although the title was different, the plot and characters were the same, including his grandfather Capt. Felch.  (Zimmerman, 1991)  

My Grand Father, Captain Marshall P. Felch

Francis;  I have heard my mother [Sarah] tell the story many times about my grand father [Marshall]  and his experience in ‘Dead Man’s Gulch’.  My mother had a clipping from the Cañon City, Colorado news paper also including this story.

Several years after Mother’s death my brother in law, Carl A Rasmussen purchased a little magazine in Pocatello, Idaho with this same story included in it. The title of the article was changed just a little. It is entitled ‘Canyon of Ghosts’. I knew it is the same story because it is almost identical to the the article mother had. In the page here and those that follow is the article as it appeared in the Fate magazine.

Not only is the story interesting but it is a true story. It also brings out some of the characteristics of my Grand Father, Captain Marshall P. Felch. My mother had some of the characteristics and I have a few of them as well. This story, I am sure, will be interesting to the posterity of this outstanding man.” (Zimmerman 1991)

 Discovery of the Original Ghost Story

JoAnn and I were doing Marshall and Amanda research at the Western Archives within the main Denver Public Library in September of 2014. We were investigating various leads in the library when JoAnn came up with something that looked interesting. She found a reference about the ghost story Francis Zimmerman enthusiastically wrote about. I had read “Canyon of Ghosts” as it had been copied into Francis Zimermans book but we had never seen another version of it. 

JoAnn shared this with one one of the library staff members and was told that that it was hand typed and kept in the locked Mullen Manuscript Room. JoAnn was also told that that we needed access permission to get in, something generally secured well in advance.  JoAnn with some of those “Amanda characteristics”, obtained the “advance notification” required in about one minute and we were in.  Like all good archival locations we put everything into a locker before we entered and brought in nothing but a pencil and some note paper.   

We were led to the original typed version of the ghost story.  This had been donated to the library by a Miss Clara Martin in 1933 and the story included additional background material about how the story came about, what I’m now calling notations. The staff copied everything for us to take and that was later transcribed.  

Two of the reference notations are; “A long account of this was written in George’s Weekly Dec. 31, 1904 [possibly the Golden Transcript] and; Reprinted from the Old Denver Tribune.”  andCopied in Dawson Scrapbooks: Vol. 54…Vol. 1 Literature (Colorado) page 257″. 

Three additional notations at the front and back of the ghost story that will be shared shortly provide important clues on the origins of the story and details about how Marshall, Fitz-Mac, and others felt about the story.   

A Shrewd New Englander

This story was first published in 1884 and republished many times.  The comment below appears to have been attached to a publication released around 1900.  The comment is included here to verify the ghost story is about Marshall Felch.  Its origin will be explained later in the chapter. 

“ … it will assist the understanding of the reader if I explain that Captain Felch, a shrewd New Englander, has been for several years engaged by the United states Government in excavating fossilized saurian remains from the upper Jurassic formation in the Canon of Oil Creek about eight miles from Canon City.  The point is one of great scientific interest, and is frequently visited by distinguished scholars from all parts of this country and Europe.  The work is conducted under the direction of Professor O.C. Marsh of Yale College, in the interest of the United States Geological Survey and the Smithsonian Institute.”


The story was first published by the journalist with the pen name Fitz-Mac, a pen name for James Phillip MacCarthy, a well known writer and publisher from Colorado in the late 1800’s.  In addition to hundreds of journal and newspaper articles, he wrote three books;  “The Newspaper Worker”, “The rise of Dennis Hathnaught”, and “Political Portraits”.

Fitz-Mac is the same person whose house Amanda was in when she was came down with pneumonia and died on New Year’s Eve, 1893.  


The Scrapbooks

The librarian was enjoying participating in our discovery and enthusiastically turned us onto a second source source in the archives related to Fitz-Mac. Fitz-Mac had assembled two massive  scrapbooks of all his work.  Clippings were pasted into the scrapbook in order they were published. If the ghost story was first published in 1884 it would seem logical that we started looking for clues about a possible relationship with Marshall and Amanda in the 1883 and 1884 time period. We lucked out and found two key undated and relatively brief articles showing that Fitz-Mac was indeed in the Cañon City area then.

Fitz-Mac and Marshall and Amanda

The first clipping was located with other articles that were  in the 1883-84 time period.  The clipping included this sentence;  “Mr. James MacCarthy arrived at Canon Wednesday and went to the ‘Bone Yard’ Thursday.” The only bone yard at the time would have been the Marsh Felch Dinosaur Quarry and the only person who would have spoken about it would have been Marshall. 

One other clipping in the scrapbook from the same time period stated;

“Mr. James MacCarthy, the “Fitz-Mac”of the Denver Tribune and Opinion, who has been detained at Canon City several days by the abandonment of trains west, came down yesterday with a party of seven from that place in a wagon. Mr. MacCarthy has been troubled considerably with his throat for several days past, but is somewhat better now.  His many Pueblo friends trust his health may soon be completely restored.  He will go to Denver today.”

Apparently, Marshall and Amanda knew Fitz-Mac and spent time together in Garden Park in the 1883/84 time period.  The logical scenario was Fitz-Mac got wind about the dinosaur excavations underway and came looking to do a story on it.  Marshall was sworn to secrecy and could not share anything about the dinosaur work but a good reporter is always fishing for a story and Marshall apparently told him the ghost story.

They must have developed a lasting relationship because when when Amanda came down with pneumonia that fateful Christmas of 1893, she, Sadie, and Ned arrived at his residence for a place to stay. Maybe Amanda provided some nursing assistance for his sore throat in the 1884 time period?    

Here is Marshall P. Felch’s original account of the harrowing experiences as told in a letter to Mr. Fitz Mac dated March 20, 1884.  

Dead Man’s Cañon



            “I enlisted in the Fourth Regiment of Vermont Volunteers in July, 1861, for three years.  A young man named Oliver Kimball enlisted in the same company with me.  We never became what you could call friends, yet I knew him and liked him.  His disposition was marked by great kindness and gentleness, but he was gloomy and cared little for the harum scarum society of camp life.

I knew in an indefinite sort of way that he was in love with a young lady at home, beautiful and good, but much above him in social position.  He was a poor young man and her father was rich.  We among the boys who knew him in camp, attributed his gloom to unrequited affections.  I shared this opinion with the rest until the battle of Antietam, where Kimball was wounded in the shoulder.  I was detailed to carry him to the rear, and finding he had fainted when I laid him down behind a barn, out of range of the bullets, I hastily tore open his shirt, and ripped off his sleeves with my knife, to see if his hurt was fatal.  Imagine my surprise to find on his arm, above the elbow, one of those think broad bands of gold formerly fashionable as bracelets, on which were graven the words, “in life and death – yours – Gertrude.”

The wound proved not to be serious and he soon revived. When most of us took advantages of the high bounty and the commutation of time to re-enlist in January 1864, he declined to join, served his time out, went home in July to marry his faithful Gertrude, as all supposed, though he took none of us into his confidence on that point.  We heard a little later that he had not married his sweetheart, but had gone away to Colorado to go into the mines after remaining at home a few days.


In 1866 I came to Colorado after the close of the war myself, and leaving my family in Denver embarked in the business of freighting.  This took me all over the territory and especially over all the routes leading from Denver, Colorado City, and Cañon City in what was known as the Southern Mines, which meant the districts about Leadville, (then California Gulch) and Fairplay.

I think it was the following spring, in June perhaps, that my wife in Denver received a letter from Miss Gertrude Osborn, in Vermont, whom we had known distantly, making inquiries after Kimball. My wife forwarded the letter to me at Georgetown, where I was then starting with a pack train over the range for the Blue River placer camps.

Miss Osborn stated that she had last heard from Kimball some eight or nine months before at California Gulch,, that she had waited long, and having exhausted every other means to hear from him, begged me to undertake at her expense, any measures that might be necessary to discover his whereabouts or his fate. Her father, she said, had recently died and she had now free control of ample means, and would I please communicate this fact to Mr. Kimball- the fact of her father’s death.

How swiftly that delicate hint revealed to me the suppressed tragedy of these two fond hearts.  The rich and proud old man had stood between the faithful girl and her lover!

Yes I would inquire after Kimball with all my heart, and communicate the joyful tidings that nothing stood between him and his heart’s desire.


When I reach California Gulch with my pack train I made a diligent search after the lost lover, but in vain, I went around from sluice to sluice among the washers, but nobody knew him.  It was indeed like searching for a needle in a hay mow to look for a stranger in a placer camp, unless you happened to know more than his name.

“Say boys,” remarked one of the washers, “I wonder if ‘taint Dave Griffin’s pardner, up at the hydraulic, that this feller’s lookin’ for.  I’ll bet a dollar ‘tis.  Lemme see, what the blazes was it they called him — all the boys has got a nickname here, mister, and if you jest knowed your chap’s nick name, you could find him in a minute, but I’ll bet its the feller they calle Yankee Maje up at the hydraulic that you’re lookin’ for – did he have a dawg?  This feller had a big dawg that was always with him, a kind of a big smooth shepherd dawg. He’d been in the army and that’s why they called him Maje, though I don’t reckon he eve was a major.  “if its him you’re after, you won’t find him, for he’s made his raise and pulled stakes long ago.  Him and Dave Griffin was together, but at the big clean up last fall, he told Dave he’d made his home-stake and was going to pull for the East.

He went from there to Cañon City, I know that ‘cause Griffin was awful worked up about his pardner’s goin’ home, and he bought out his claim and went down as far as Canon with him to see him off, and didn’t come back for a couple of weeks.”


Finding this to be the condition of affairs I dropped the matter, thinking that Kimball had probably got around to Vermont by that time and announced himself.

I learned that he had left Cañon on horseback, followed by a dog, and it occurred to me the man might have taken a fancy for riding thus all the way back and surprising his sweetheart.

After hearing of the dog I called to mind that Kimball had a singular capacity for attaching animals to himself.  The dog was a sagacious collie that he found one day at a deserted house near Fredericksburg, Virginia, and which had followed him all through the army till his time was out and then was taken home with him.  It was not dogs only, but the whole brute creation, that he inspired with this affection for himself.

Griffin told me that he had gone as far as Cañon City with his partner and seen him off.   Kimball had luck in the mines, and carried away with him over $10,000 in gold and bank notes. He rode a fine horse that he had kept about a year, intending to go to Omaha by way of Denver and the North Platte route. 


Having learned this much I communicated it to my wife, who in turn communicated it to Miss Osborn.  The correspondence thus opened was kept up between them for a year, my wife sympathizing in the the young lady’s belief that her lover had been foully dealt with, while I indulged the suspicion that he had fallen in with somebody that he loved better and deserted her.   But my life was very busy and in fact I paid little attention to the matter after first inquiries.

I was at Cañon in 1867- sometime in September I think – with all my pack train loaded for Fairplay, when I received a letter from my wife saying that Miss Osborn was at our house in Denver, and desired to see me most urgently, and “would I come up at once, for the poor girl was heart broken.

Gracious! Just in the rush of business to take a horseback journey of 125 miles all for sentiment- for a girl foolish enough to break her heart for any lubber.   Still I went.  I admired her devotion while it annoyed me.  To cross two thirds of a continent, a large part of the way by stage, cost something both in money and courage in those days of Indian massacres.

Perhaps Miss Osborn’s devotion called to my mind the devotion of somebody else I will not name.   At any rate I went.


It was mid-morning when I left Cañon.  I must reach Colorado City by bed time, get up the next morning, take another horse and be in Denver that night.

My horse was fresh.  I took the road down the Arkansas on the north bank.  I flew past Six Mile Creek, past Eight Mile Creek, struck out from the river, hugging the foot hills, past Beaver Creek – sixteen miles made and only noon – on to the Red Canyon, and away for Steele’s ranch on Turkey Creek.

Half my days journey was done!

There I fed and rested for two hours, and again sprung into my saddle at a little before five.  With the cool of the day before me I could easily make the remaining twenty-four miles by nine o’clock.  But hail storms frequent along the base of the mountains came down and drove me back to shelter.

I was detained more than one hour.

While waiting under the shed, something prompted me to take out my wife’s letter and read it again. I found there was a half sheet that had escaped my notice.  It was not, however, important, and merely mentioned that Miss Osborn had come to the conviction that her lover had been murdered.  It had been borne in upon her mind that if she would come to Colorado, she would discover his body and be able to bring his murderer to justice.  Since arriving in Denver she had had several nights in succession most horrifying dreams, in which she seemed to see him in his death struggle with an enemy who was stabbing and slashing him with a knife.  The dreams had completely prostrated her, but she saw so distinctly the scene and its surroundings that she felt sure she could make anyone as familiar with the country as I, recognize it from the description. The minutest details of far and wide were graven on her brain, but a singular thing connected with all her dreams was the impression after every dream that a soon as the place of her lover’s burial was discovered she would die.

My wife feeling that in the young Lady’s delicate condition, such a result might indeed ensue from sheer effect of imagination, cautioned me not to humor her in the supposition that I recognized the spot from her description even if I were able to do so, which she, being skeptical of such occult influences, thought unlikely.

It was after six when the storm abated and I was able to start onward.


From Steele’s ranch to the crossing of the Little Fountain, commonly called “Uncle George’s Ranch” by the freighters, was ten miles, and that distance I thought could make by dark, when the roughest of my road would be passed, and but fourteen miles would remain.

Now from Steele’s Ranch to Colorado City there are two routes, “the old trail,” and the “new road,”. The former was considerably shorter, but hugged the base of Cheyenne Mountain, going up and down over the foothills, and crossing the many rough gulches or canons that extend from the main range.  The new road though longer, was smoother and leveler, as it kept out from the foothills.  This road was taken of late years altogether by the great trains for freight teams passing between Denver and Cañon City.

Finding after setting out that the adobe ground was too slippery for my horse to go out of a walk, I turned in on the old trail, hoping to find it dryer, but there was  little difference and I was obliged to creep along.  The sky had been overcast since the storm, and as I was under the shadow of Cheyenne Mountain, the darkness came on fast.  If the worst came to the worst I knew of a little deserted cabin about five miles on, in one of the gorges called Dead Man’s Cañon — the canon mentioned when relating this story to you last Fall.  But with this thought came a memory- a recollection of some stories passed along, as such stories would be, by freighters and teamsters..  It was soberly related that on several occasions within the last couple of years, travelers had come from the northward to Steele’s ranch in the night and reported that they had been pursued, followed or accompanied from some distance along the mouth of Dead Man’s Cañon by a spectral horse and a dog.


Men only laughed at these stories– in the daytime.  The women, I found commonly believed them, and there is little doubt but that they influenced the choice of routes to some extent by those who traveled after dark.  There was no doubt that the travelers who had seen these spectres had all been greatly horrified, and ran away as fast as their beasts could carry them.  One had even fallen from his horse in a dead faint at Mr. Steele’s door.

These stories came back to me, but not, I think, unpleasantly as I rode along. I was conscious only of being out on a wet and slippery road, and the probability of not being able to get on to my journey’s end before the hotel should be closed for the night. There was also the chance, too that the streams might be swollen and dangerous in the dark.  The more I reflected, the more advisable it seemed to me to consider the propriety of occupying the cabin in the gulch, if I did not find the condition of the road improving.

I do not intend to convey the impression that I gave no credence to the ghostly stories of Dead Man’s Cañon.  I distinctly assert on the contrary, that I had always thought there might be something worth investigating about the affair, only the chances seemed strongly against the optical data being furnished to anybody capable of looking into its cause.

If I felt no fear in approaching the place so dreadful to many, it is not because I do not believe in the possibility of ghosts, but precisely because I do.

I agree with you — that there can be no such thing as an isolated fact — a causeless event — but the bent of my mind is not and never has been, to regard an apparition as a thing supernatural.

It has always been my belief that the world is progressing gradually to higher and calmer spiritual planes, and that we shall sometime understand the rationale of these things that now only occasion us horror and fright.



The darkness had fallen early and was not yet dense; indeed, the occasional gleam of the new moon in the zenith through the clouds gave promise of a bright night for my journey, if the storm cleared away.

I was five or six miles from Steel’s ranch, and near the mouth of the canon in which stood the deserted cabin (I think this spot is clearly discernible from the Antler’s Hotel in Colorado Springs) when I began to perceive a peculiar odor, faint and inconstant, on the fresh air  It was vague, and I think I should not have noticed it only that my horse began to sniff and prick up his ears, and shake his head, as you may observe a horse will when approaching a dead carcass.

Now there is as much character in smells as in colors.  This was faint, too faint indeed to be distinct, but it seemed to me to possess a trace of that peculiar, sickening smell of the human cadaver.

Do not imagine that this occasioned me any nervousness. I had too lately been in the army and slept among the dead to feel any timidity.  Indeed so far from making me think of the spook stories, it caused me to forget them, in thinking if any person could be lying dead around there, or any grave exposed by the coyotes.

My horse became more and more demonstrative, and at last nearly threw me from the saddle by suddenly shying.  When I came to look I saw that a strange horse had just passed us, and was making on at a long steady, even stride toward the mouth of the cañon.  At the first glance I merely supposed it to be one of the numerous horses on the range that had strayed into the road, but the next view showed that is word a saddle and bridle. Swiftly concluding that the horse had either cast its rider back a distance or broken from its hitching, I spurred my own animal to overtake and stop it.  But my horse refused to approach it, and I noticed for the first time that my poor beast was trembling with terror.

The spook stories had not occurred to me in connection with this little episode.  If I had thought of it at all, I should have expected to see a spook taking on a white and ghastly aspect, instead of which this horse had (as far as might be perceived in the dim twilight) the common bay color.

Unable to urge my animal forward to overtake the other, I sprang to the ground, took the lariat from the horn of my saddle, and hastily staking my own beast by the roadside, ran forward to stop the other  I undertook to get ahead of him, lest he should take to his heels and run away, but as I approached I perceived for the first time a large dog was trudging wearily along at his heels.  Even this suggested nothing to my mind of the hobgoblin stories.

Understand I had been almost constantly for several years through scenes that rendered this incident, so far, very natural to my experience  But the next instant the whole affair was changed  As I passed the animal the light shone out a little from the clouds, and looking toward the horse I saw the bushes beyond him — saw straight through his body, understand?  “My God” I said to myself, putting my hands on my eyes, “It is the phantom horse!”

For one instant I was overcome, not with fright (at least I think not) but with amazement.  That I was much moved, I will not deny; I even felt my hair lifting my hat; but after the first instant my coolness returned.

The horse and the dog strode on, stopping when they came to the mouth of the canon as if undecided, and then turning up the trail that led to the deserted cabin.  I could see the horse’s heels through the dog’s body.

One was as much a phantom as the other.


What prompted me to follow them I do not know, yet I think I was impelled by an influence I could not have resisted.

Another singular phenomenon became gradually perceptible. I saw a leg in the stirrup next to me.  It was only a dim outline. I followed on until we reached the cabin. It was situated in a little bottom that had once been cleared for a garden  The door was off its hinges;  the roof had partly fallen in, and the chimney was a ruin.  The horse drew up at the door as if someone were dismounting, and the phantom dog followed its master within the building.

In another moment the dog re-appeared; I saw the phantom leg in the stirrup again, and the horse started down the trail out of the cañon,.  Gradually the figure in the saddle became more and more visible.  At last I saw it plainly, dressed in a common suit of miner’s clothes, with the broad-brimmed, leather-belted hat, universal in the west. As it proceeded down the trail it became more and more distinct till it seemed to be the very substance of a man, but there was all the while about it a shadowy whiteness.

I followed on at a little distance.

They came no to where the trail was crowded in against the precipice by the deep wash of the little stream that gurgled down the canon. Just where the trail narrowed to a mere bridle path, a huge mass of detached rock had fallen.  As they were passing this, the horse suddenly shied and fell over the bank, a distance of some four or five feet.  The rider had been cast off, but with one foot in the stirrup he was dragged after the horse.  The dog had made a spring, as if at the throat of some invisible foe. The next instant he rolled over dead.

The impression of the reality of the scene was so vivid on my mind that I ran forward to help the fallen man.   What follows passed in an instant.  He was unable to disengage his foot from the stirrup, but I saw him rise on his knee and struggle for a moment as if beating off some foe, make an effort while holding off his assailant with one hand to draw his revolver with the other, and then sink back upon his horse with a huge dirk sticking in his breast.

I saw blood gush out, and sprang over the bank to lift him, but the whole thing vanished.

I found myself now trembling from head to foot, but whether with excitement or fear I shall not undertake to determine.  The impression of reality had overpowered me.  I was standing in the brook and the water was gurgling about my feet, but I was so weak that I had to sit down for a moment on a boulder in the stream.

The next moment I saw the horse and dog on the trail again, making up the canon, I rose and followed.  We had gone but a few rods when the dog took into the bushes by the wall of the cañon, scratched the earth for an instant, and then with a whine, a real to my senses as any sound I ever heard, vanished as if he sank into the ground.

The horse proceeded up the trail past the cabin and into the pinion timber  He was a little distance ahead of me, and perhaps  ten or fifteen rods from the trail, when he suddenly dropped to his knees, as if shot, and with a groan rolled over and vanished.


To describe my sensations at this moment would be to epitomize the history of terror.  I am simply unable to do it.  I remember a great prickly sensation all over my body, and I remember scarcely anything else.

Another thing, however, of equal interest, psychologically speaking, was the momentary belief, or rather  fear, that I had lost my senses and was a maniac;  and that this vision had only been conjured up in my disordered brain.  I covered my face with my hands and gradually regained composure.  Fear is a sensation subordinate to the will.  Terror is not.  Probably for that moment I had experienced a panic of horror.

When I found myself calm, I went forward to the spot where I had seen the horse fall,and to my further astonishment found a carcass and scattered bones lying there.  The flesh had been torn away by wolves and coyotes, but enough of the carcass remained to show me that it was the body of a horse.


Now sir, I have related all the story you requested me to write, which I conceive to possess any real scientific interest — any period mentioned, contain the history (divested of spirituality) of the finding of the body of a murdered man in that canon, by myself and Mr.  Steele’s sons the next morning, and its identification by means of a bracelet on the arm as that of Oliver Kimball, a miner from California Gulch.  We dug where the dog had disappeared, and found the body with the dirk still sticking in the breast.  On the blade of that dirk were two letters, D.G.


When I reached Denver my wife met me at the door in tears, saying:  You’re too late.  Oh, why didn’t you come sooner?  The poor girl is dead.  She had been so well and cheerful since I wrote for you, but the night before last, about half past seven o’clock she fell into a nervous spasm and at 9 o’clock she was a corpse. She kept repeating over and over, ‘He is found at last–oh my darling.  I am coming to you.  I am setting off directly.  My work is done.  You will be avenged’

From half past seven until nine was the very time I had been following the phantom of the horse and the dog.


I consider the connection between these two events worthy of your closest attention.  I think that the source of the obscure connection between the two, though not without many parallels in the data of psychology, has never been intelligently explained.


One last word,  On my next visit to California Gulch, I carried with me the dagger found in Kimball’s breast.  Calling on Griffin one day about noon, when he was at his cabin, I related all the circumstances of that night in Dead Man’s Cañon.  We were seated on a bench outside.  He listened with lips drawn and blanched, but with a sardonic gleam in his eyes.  As last I drew the dagger from my pocket and pointed to the initials. 

“Are you the only person who knows of this?” he asked, with a swift sinister glance in his eyes.

“no, at least a dozen are as familiar with it as myself,” I answered

“Excuse me an instant,” he said rising and going into the cabin.

I heard a sharp report of a revolver, and for just an instant I thought the villain had shot me.  When I got to the door he had fallen, but he coolly raised the weapon to his head and fired again.

The papers said it was financial difficulties. I had my reasons then for keeping silent, and this is the first time the whole truth of the matter has been told.  Yours truly

                                                                                                            M.P. Felch

The Historic Context of the Story

Historic context to the story of “Dead Man’s Canyon” is based on a review of Marshall and Amanda’s story in this book, the ghost story itself, and additional research into the characters in the story

Marshall Felch enlisted for three years with the 4th regiment in July of 1861, reenlisted in early 1864, served out the war with the regiment until it was over,  and mustered out in July of 1865. During his service, he served in a hospital role eventually working his way up to a hospital steward, the highest-ranking position other than a surgeon in the field hospital system. He served throughout the war with the Vermont Forth regiment including Antietam where a lot of soldiers from the Vermont 4th regiment were wounded or killed. In battlefield situations everyone stepped forward and Marshall would have provided medical assistance to wounded soldiers at Antietam and every other battle. What can’t be substantiated is that an Oliver Kimball, or anyone with a similar name in the fourth infantry regiment or any other of the Vermont regiments existed.  

Amanda served throughout the war primarily as a regimental nurse with the Vermont Third and later on in more official nursing positions with 6th and 9th Corps.

Although Marshall was not a Captain in the Civil War it would not have been unusual for him to have received the honorary title of Capt. or even Captain after the war. Titles like this were a sign of respect and admiration for many Civil War veterans.

Marshall married Amanda Farnham after the war in Boston and then they migrated west. Marshall became a freighter and traveled all through the southern Colorado mountains and along the front range. He would have spent time in places like the Blue River Placers (Summit County), California Gulch (Leadville), Georgetown, and Fairplay that are all places mentioned in the story. 

The Griffin family were well known local pioneers with detailed family records who lived in the Cañon City area. Some of the Griffin men worked in California Gulch in the 1860’s but there is no record of a Dave Griffin or of anyone in the family that died in California Gulch.  

An undeveloped ranch and farm in an arid landscape had little chance of providing an income right away but it  was a major stepping off point for mountain mining camps in the mountains and it was also connected by trails to Denver.  Marshall rode a horse much of his life and like many in those days grew up riding a horse. It ran in the family as Sarah won awards for her horse riding skills. A rider on a horse can cover in an emergency up to 50 miles in a day although it would be more reasonable to assume a top end of about 30 miles per day.  An estimated distance of around 110 to 120 miles for Marshall would seem to be more along the lines of about 3 to 4 days of travel unless Marshall changed horses along the way which is unlikely for his route but not out of the realm of possibilities.

Early on, Denver would have had many more employment opportunities for Amanda and was a good fit for the first two years after arriving in Colorado.  Gertrude Osborn was reported to have arrived at the home of Amanda in Denver but to date no record of an Gertrude Osborn has been located in Colorado or in Vermont who would match anything like the lady in the story. 

Places along the front range that Marshall would have traveled between Canon City and Denver included; Six Mile Creek, Eight Mile Creek, Beaver Creek, Red Canyon, Turkey Creek, little Fountain Creek, Cheyenne Mountain, and Colorado City. These are all places mentioned in the story and they all clearly exist. Marshall may have ridden a horse along this route more than once. 

Dead Man’s Canyon is an informal and seldom used name today for an abandoned early historic route into Colorado Springs near Red Canyon, south of Colorado Springs. Dead Man’s Canyon is the place where Henry Harkins was murdered by the Espinoza Brothers in the spring of 1863. Harkins is buried along state highway 115 near the site where he was murdered. Marshall stated that there were ghost stories about the canyon when he went into it and he did this alone and after a rainstorm when it was getting dark.  

Although murders, shootings, and stabbings were not as common as depicted in many fictionalized westerns, they were also not uncommon. A murder using a knife or a dirk (dagger) would have a little unusual but not unheard of.  In Marshall’s travels in the mountains of Colorado he probably heard every mining camp murder story imaginable and war stories would have been even more common. Telling stories after a meal or around a campfire was a powerful way to share something about the people who served in the war, made the journey out west, or had a fascinating experience after they arrived. 

After the Civil War there was some intense psychological analysis of spiritual encounters.  Marshall, Fitz-Mac, and many others were part of the group of people who were studying the phenomena. 

Fitz-Mac to Marshall 

A letter from Fitz-Mac to Marshall was one of the attachments to the original story

“…I regard the singular story you related to me as one of unusual scientific interest.  There is a growing belief among the best informed minds that the day is not far distant when the laws governing this whole field of spiritual phenomena will be completely understood, and things now regarded as supernatural because of the obscurity of the causes which produce them will be brought within the compass of rational thought.

The science of psychology, which deals with such spiritual phenomena, has lately made rapid progress, and already enables us to account for what is commonly called a ghost, without making it either a fraud, a delusion or a miracle.

In this case your own character disposes of the question of fraud without a word.   Such a thing as a miracle we know never was and never can be:

The question of delusion is broader;  Man cannot trust absolutely the soberest impressions of his own senses, and in fact never does trust them till they have been verified by repeater experience either in himself or others, and even then nobody but the fool trusts them absolutely.   If this be true of common impressions, how very probably it is that the mind should distort and exaggerate (without any intention of fraud or deception) such phenomena as come under its view in moments of excitement.

The remarkable coolness, my dear Captain, with which you passed through that experience which would be perfectly horrifying to most people — gives great scientific value to your impressions, and I hope therefore, you will give them in their minutes details.

Marshall to Fitz-Mac

Another inclusion attached to the original story was Marshall’s response to Fitz-Mac.  This is the strongest evidence of Marshall’s belief in the ghosts in the story. 

Now are not the facts plainly these, that we make the first mistake in supposing there is anything spiritual (that is, of the soul) about these appearances at all.

Most people are narrow enough mentally to continue to associate these phenomena in some indefinite way with religious liberalism, but they are manifestly, purely physical (otherwise we must face the question of soul in animals) and have no more to do with religion than any question in chemistry or optics. They belong I firmly believe to a subjective phase of nature which might, for convenience be provisionally termed the phenomena of the sympathies. 


Just a Matter of Time

Marshall clearly believed that the experiences he described in the story were true and it was just a matter of time before they were understood. Interestingly, he wasn’t alone in these thoughts. This notation appears as a P.S. at the end of the story. It appears to have been written by someone at the Colorado Springs Gazette where the story was later published. 

“This remarkable story of the pioneer days of Colorado was regarded by so competent a judge as the late Benjamin W. Steele, the scholarly founder and editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette, as one of the best ghost stories ever written. It is a striking example of psychological analysis and has been the subject of correspondence between the writer and the Society of Psychological Research.  It is hardly necessary to inform most of our readers that Dead Man’s Canon lies just to the south of Cheyenne Mountain, near Colorado Springs.  The ruins of the old cabin mentioned in the story are still to be seen in the canon.  The story was turned in as “copy” when Fitz Mac was associated with the gifted Eugene Field and Mr. Rothacker in the editorship of the once famous and powerful Denver Tribune, afterwards consolidated with the Republican.”

Something Worth Investigating

If you recall, Marshall expressed already how he felt about ghosts in the story; 

“I do not intend to convey the impression that I gave no credence to the ghostly stories of Dead Man’s Cañon. I distinctly assert on the contrary, that I had always thought there might be something worth investigating about the affair, only the chances seemed strongly against the optical data being furnished to anybody capable of looking into its cause.

If I felt no fear in approaching the place so dreadful to many, it is not because I do not believe in the possibility of ghosts, but precisely because I do.

I agree with you — that there can be no such thing as an isolated fact — a causeless event — but the bent of my mind is not and never has been, to regard an apparition as a thing supernatural.

It has always been my belief that the world is progressing gradually to higher and calmer spiritual planes, and that we shall sometime understand the rationale of these things that now only occasion us horror and fright.”

Marshall further supports his beliefs as an attachment following the story.  Here he delved deeper into his beliefs on what exactly ghosts were. N.B. is an abbreviation for the Latin nota bene that means “note well” and the note below came just after the end of the original story. 

This commentary by Marshall was probably never published and seems to have remained relatively obscure until rediscovery of the original story.  

“N.B.  On reading over this paper I find I have failed to cover what I regard as the most important point (scientifically viewed) in it, namely: The apparition of the horse and the dog.  The horror which the greater part of humanity has of an apparition is undoubtedly due almost entirely to the supposition that it represents a troubled and sinful spirit doomed to wander upon the earth in expiation of some grievous sin.

But the ghosts of the dog and the horse how can these be accounted for on such a supposition?

Now are not the facts plainly these, that we make the first mistake in supposing there is anything spiritual (that is, of the soul) about these appearances at all.

Most people are narrow enough mentally to continue to associate these phenomena in some indefinite way with religious liberalism, but they are manifestly, purely physical (otherwise we must face the question of soul in animals) and have no more to do with religion than any question in chemistry or optics. They belong I firmly believe to a subjective phase of nature which might, for convenience be provisionally termed the phenomena of the sympathies. 

                                                                                                            M.P. Felch

Studying Deep Literature

Marshall may have had wonderful audience reactions to the story but when he strayed from the story to explaining his concept of the apparitions, the reaction might have become muted. What if someone made fun of the story and his role in it and got a laugh in front of a group of people?  What if the story was indirectly a source of the friction in their marriage?  

When the story was challenged Marshall probably felt more compelled than ever to find scientific evidence the ghosts were real.  No such evidence would ever be found and this had to adversely affect his state of mind.  He must have been a troubled soul when he took his own life.  

The Elbert County Banner reported on Marshall’s suicide February 21, 1902;  “the taking of his own life had been a hobby with Mr. Felch for more than a year”

The Canon City Record reported on Marshall’s death on February 13, 1902;  “an eccentric character…a note addressed to the coroner from the deceased contained several strange requests.. spent a great amount of time studying deep literature“,

William Utterback wrote to John Bell Hatcher on July 20, 1901 “old Felch is crazy half the time and is causing me a great deal of trouble with my mail”

The Canon City Clipper reported on February 11, 1902 that; “Mr. Felch was found about 5 o’clock Sunday evening in a tent adjoining the house, dead from the effects of a gun wound. He had placed the gun across a back-less chair with the muzzle of the gun close to the left eye and with a crotched stick pulled the trigger.”  


The Canon City Times reported on February 13, 1902; “Mrs. Sadie Felch Zimmerman arrived in the city Monday from La Junta in response to the news of the death of her father, Marshall P. Felch.

This had to be horrible unimaginable moment for Sadie. She probably heard from the coroner about the strange requests Marshall made and worse yet the details of his death.  Sadie was likely thrust into a role of speaking for the family; addressing the death of her father, a burial, and what to do with the ranch. One of the newspaper reports stated that Marshall had left a goodbye note for Ned which implies he was nearby when the gun shot went off.  Its not clear where Ned was at this moment but what little we know about him implies that Sadie would need to help her brother move on to the next phase of his life. 

At the time of her fathers death, Sadie was married to Charles Zimmerman and together they had four children; Anna 6, John 4, Rose 3, and Irene 1.  The turmoil her father was going through and the gut wrenching way he died must have played through her mind over and over for many years.  How she would describe their grandfather Marshall Felch to the children some day.  What was he like?  What did he do? 

A Very Good Writer

The story Marshall told and wrote may have been an albatross around his neck but on the other side Marshall Felch was a good story teller and writer. 

His writing skills were also revealed in the hundreds of letters he sent to Professor Marsh. Marshall wrote and illustrated hundreds of quality paleontology reports.  On occasion he drifted into more creative writing such as the time he compared excavating a dinosaur to fighting a Civil War battle. 

Marshall’s description of Amanda’s service in the Civil War was interesting and colorful and it is the pretty much word for word what Mary Holland included about Amanda in her book on Civil War Nurses. (Holland, 1895)

The story of Capt. Felch was a classic ghost story that was published and republished again and again although his name seldom appeared as the author. In a somewhat ironic sense, maybe he was a ghost writer for a very popular ghost story. 

Honesty, Moral Fortitude, Bravery, and Empathy

Francis stated in his introduction to the story how he felt about the story; “It also brings out some of the characteristics of my Grand Father, Captain Marshall P. Felch. My mother had some of the characteristics and I have a few of them as well”.

Maybe the crux of this chapter itself isn’t the story of Capt. Felch or even Marshall’s writing skills.  Maybe its strength is that it conveys an aspect about his character that is inspirational.  His story of honesty, moral fortitude, bravery, and empathy was a source of strength not only for Charles and Sadie’s children but to anyone that reads it.

The following is a passage from the story of Capt. Felch’s ghostly adventure.  

“Miss Osborn stated that she had last heard from Kimball some eight or nine months before at California Gulch,, that she had waited long, and having exhausted every other means to hear from him, begged me to undertake at her expense, any measures that might be necessary to discover his whereabouts or his fate. Her father, she said, had recently died and she had now free control of ample means, and would I please communicate this fact to Mr. Kimball – the fact of her father’s death.

How swiftly that delicate hint revealed to me the suppressed tragedy of these two fond hearts. The rich and proud old man had stood between the faithful girl and her lover!

Yes I would inquire after Kimball with all my heart, and communicate the joyful tidings that nothing stood between him and his heart’s desire.”   

Captain Felch, Vermont 4th Infantry, Sixth Corps, Grand Army of the Republic

The Picture Below is of Marshall late in life with his war medal on his shirt.  Images from left to right include; an old Vermont Brigade flag, hospital steward uniform stripes, a Vermont Brigade cross, and a Grand Army of the Republic medal. 

Sarah’s Descendants

First off, we will call Sadie her official name starting in this chapter because that is what her family and descendants did. 

In 2006 the hundred year anniversary of the Antiquities Act of 1906 was planned in Canon City and the focus on Marshall and Amanda. June Hines was working at the Dinosaur Depot Museum and conducting genealogical research into Marshall and Amanda during the preparation phase of the event.  Up to this point no offspring of Marshall and Amanda were known about.  June discovered that there was a number of offspring all originating from Sadie (Felch) Zimmerman and her husband Charles.  Not only did they exist but three direct descendants; Ila Clayton, Joan Crozier,  Chalyn Federick, and their families agreed to come to the event in early June. A very special ceremony was held at the grave site of Marshall and Amanda in the Greenwood Pioneer Cemetery. Civil War Reenactors  conducted a formal military ceremony in honor of Marshall and Amanda and presented the family with American flags. 

A few years ago when I was doing a presentation about Marshall and Amanda out at the Greenwood Pioneer Cemetery, Chalyn Federick called me aside and presented me with a copy of a family history book by Francis Zimmerman, one of Sadie and Charles Zimmermans children. (Zimmerman 1991).  About a year later Jimmie Zimmerman presented me with the same document but a computerized (pdf) version.  I read through it a few times finding many interesting stories but was initially somewhat unimpressed because of some errors but over time I realized  the reasons for those errors and when I read closer it became clear that the stories of Marshall, Amanda, and Sarah were outstanding.  I was also introduced to audio oral histories about Sarah and dictated by her daughter Rosezella.  These audio recording were recorded before 1989 and then recently uploaded to family search.   During the preparation of this and the final chapter I transcribed some of these and some special “Sadie” moments appear here and again in the final chapter. 

Charles Zimmerman

Sadie’s future husband Charles spoke German and was pure Swiss.  His grandfather Johannes (John) Zimmerman was born in 1802 in Bern Switzerland area where he grew up marrying Elizabeth Wenger in 1823. The started a family and their first child, John Zimmerman was born in 1823 followed by five other children also born in Switzerland.  In May of 1832, they migrated to America following other Swiss families into east central Ohio and settling in the Ragersville area. (Zimmerman 1991) Today Ragersville is located just a few miles south of Sugarcreek, a modern day Swiss village with heritage celebrations every year at the end of September. 

Once settled in, Charles’s grandfather Johannes started a successful cheese factory which should come as no surprise.  Swiss emigrants continued to arrive into the area.  One of those families not only originated in the Bern Switzerland area, they also had same last name of Zimmerman and they had a daughter named Magdalena.  John and Magdalena met and married in 1848 remaining in the same area. They then had a family of their own, eight in total but four passed away before the age of one.  Number six was Charles who was born in 1862, five years earlier than Sadie. 

A few years after the end of the Civil War John, Magdalene, and the family migrated to Hiawatha Kansas and established a new homestead. (Zimmerman 1991) Hiawatha is in farm country in northeast Kansas along the old Pony Express and Oregon trail Route west of St. Joseph Missouri, a place Marshall and Amanda would have gone through in 1866. 

Cripple Creek

Cripple Creek is located about thirty miles directly north of Canon City. From a mining standpoint it is a bit of an enigma because although prospectors had combed every inch of the state, what would become one of the worlds greatest gold deposits it had been prospected many times. The hidden gold was just not obvious. Bob Womack was the first to study the land and the geology and he began touting that a great but elusive deposit was there.  He would hand someone a rock that assayed for gold but they could not see it as in appearance it was a dull grey rock called sylvanite.  It would take some time and careful analysis to not only verify that the gold was there, just not visible. The difficulty was how to separate the gold from another mineral called tellurium.  Once metallurgists figured it out, production was underway at mines and mills in quick order. 

This latest major discovery was economically fortunate for Colorado as with the repeal of the federal Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 its silver mining industry took a nose dive in 1893. The demand for silver plummeted and miners across the state were suddenly out of work.  From all across the state and beyond people began pouring into the Cripple Creek area on the promise of work the possibility of great wealth. By the early 1900’s, the area had become one of the greatest gold deposits ever discovered. 

In 1891, the town of Cripple Creek didn’t exist. Two years later there was; “twenty-six saloons and gambling houses, four dance halls, twenty-four grocery stores, ten meat markets, nine hotels, nine laundries, three large bathhouses, eleven clothing stores, ten barber shops, nine assay offices, seven bakeries, six bookstores, forty-four lawyers offices, eight stenography offices, thirty six mining stock and real estate offices, eleven parlor houses and twenty six one-girl cribs.  There were also five fraternal lodges and a dozen or more literary and social clubs.” (Sprague 2016)

Getting to Cripple Creek

“From the south, a second route into the Cripple Creek District was via Shelf Road, a precarious and dangerous trail that wound around steep canyon walls with cliff-hanging drop offs.  Then miles outside of Cripple Creek, the road branched in several directions, but the Shelf Road served as the main trail for many years. Originally used by Native Americans and later by fur trappers, Shelf Road was the quickest way to the Cripple Creek District from Canon City. 

The Canon City & Cripple Creek Toll Road was established along Shelf Road in 1891.  The road was so named after Canon City business leaders attempted to improve the old trail by blasting literal trails out of the canyon walls in 1892. 

Despite its precarious curves, the improved road could accommodate the first stage lines of David Wood and John Montgomery Kuykendall…. Two stage stops, Marigold and Eldred, provided fresh horses, food, and supplies… From 1892 to 1897, Gideon Thomas and his two sons established a freight route via the Shelf Road and other trails.” (MacKell 2003)

Francis;  When Charles was about 30 years old [1892] he went to Colorado to work in the Russian Camps.  Because of his Swiss parentage, he understood the German language.  He soon understood the Russian language sufficient to communicate with them and therefore was made a foreman.  (Zimmerman 1991)

Francis’s older sister Rose will later confirm Charles had arrived in Cripple Creek.

It seems almost a natural thing for a young unmarried man to be interested in heading into the mountains of Colorado where a great new gold discovery had taken place.  By 1892 Hiawatha Kansas was probably only a day’s train ride away.  Perhaps he could have loaded up one of his favorite mules in a box car used to carry stock and was ready to ride when he got off. 

The route from Canon City to Cripple Creek went directly past the Felch Ranch. In 1892 and 1893 Amanda was alive and well. The ranch house was always open for business from borders or someone looking for a meal and that would have included Charles.  Twenty five year old Sarah was strong, healthy, and attractive, intelligent and well educated, a great rider and had a love for horses and she was there at the ranch to give her mother assistance. 

Cripple Creek?

Charles Zimmerman took a job as a foreman for Russian miners at Cripple Creek most likely in 1892.  The introduction to a Colorado Boom town must have been unimaginable to a farm boy from Kansas.  His integration into such a place when an   event would present something he could hardly even imagine. 

A labor strike was well underway the day Charles and Sarah were married on April 4, 1894. Between the time they first met and when they were married  Cripple Creek must have been at the forefront of conversations. 

Maybe they could etch out a good living up there but in their minds must have the thought of living in that debauchery. 

Charles might have been a maybe, but Sadie must have been a definite no. It was more than Sarah was willing to do and they would find another path.   

The Battle of Bull Run Hill 

The Silver Crash in Colorado had put a whole lot of miners out of work in 1893. From all across the state they began heading to Cripple Creek. Like all good capitalists, the mine owners took the opportunity to lower their wages.  Miners began to organize, a labor union was formed, and the miners went on strike on February 7, 1894.  This would culminate in a massive strike that came to a head on May 25, 1894 when striking miners established a camp on Bull Run hill and took control of the Strong Mine, a major producer.

On the morning of May 25 the sheriff deputized a force of 125 ex Denver police officers who arrived at the base of Bull Run Hill on that day. The miners responded by blowing up the shaft house hurling the structure 300 feet into the air and then dynamited the steam boiler showering the deputies with timber, iron, and cable.  The deputies fled and not long afterward the sheriff deputized 1,200 more with the money supplied by the mine owners and the strike would not be settled for a couple more months. Related events spilled  over into Colorado Springs. 

This is a complex story that is impossible to tell or even adequately summarize in a paragraph or two. It is well told in Sprague’s book “Money mountain: the Story of Cripple Creek Gold” (Sprague, 1979).   If you ever travel to Cripple Creek where mining continues at a magnitude no one could have imagined in the 1890’s, there are entire book cases full of books about the history of the Cripple Creek area for sale.  

The Courtship

Francis: “He heard of Sarah Ellen Felch, because she was a noted horse woman and an outstanding horseback rider.  She had won several prizes at the Colorado State Fair.  He determined to take her horseback riding. Those who knew Miss Felch, said to Charles, ‘you’ll never make it’ but he did. They were united in marriage April 4, 1894.” (Zimmerman 1991)

Rose; “when you live in a mining camp and there at a time in Cripple Creek my father said that he ‘wanted to get a cook’ and he said ‘Sarah Ellen Felch’, and they all laughed at him, yet he had a week off and he went and he married my mother

…my mother married my father because she knew he was a clean man, and he wasn’t messing around with lots of women where a lot of the other men in this camp and the mining town did.  She knew that my father was a virtuous clean man.” (Rasmussen 2018) 

A conversation piece that may have touched off the relationship was a common interest in horses and, apparently also mules.  Sarah loved horses and Francis would later write; “In his late teen years he [Charles]  owned a very spirited team of sorrel [light reddish brown] mules and a fancy surrey”.  (Zimmerman 1991)  We can guess that mules wouldn’t measure up to a horse in Sarah’s mind, but for sure it would spark a lively and fun debate. 

The Wedding

Sarah was married to Charles Zimmerman on April 4, 1894 at Garden Park Colorado. (Roosevelt-Standard 1928)  The official wedding certificate shows their marriage date to be April 4, 1898 but this is a mistake.  Among other confirmations of the correct date is at the bottom of their wedding picture where if you look closely, the date April 4, 1894 is present.  Charles was not as tall as Sarah which is most likely why he is standing in the picture and she is seated. 

Where Do We Go from Here? 

The first time I saw that picture above of the two of them beautifully dressed at their wedding with their rather forlorn or serious expressions I thought;  “What’s up with that…who pulled out the life out of the wedding party”  

Considering all the things that were happening in Cripple Creek, it was a mess and must have felt like a bad option.  The logical alternative choice in those days was farming but availability of good farm land at a reasonable price must have seemed daunting especially when considering that Marshall and Amanda had barely scraped out a livelihood on their ranch.  You couldn’t pay a lot for a farm or you would undoubtedly go under financially. 

The Lower Arkansas River Valley

In Colorado the lower Arkansas River Valley is commonly thought of as the Arkansas River after it leaves the mountains and before it arrives at the Kansas border.  This was one ribbon of green that early settlers trailed along west during the dramatic transformation of the Great Plains.  In Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas the ribbon of green crosses an arid land that settlers were interested in but it needed a water source that they could count on for farming. The historic story of the Lower Arkansas River Valley is largely told through the development of Irrigation Ditches. 

“Only that portion of the lands in Colorado lying contiguous to, and on each side of the streams, designated as valleys, can, on account of the extreme aridity of the climate, be cultivated. It is practically impossible to put water upon the great plains proper, so far as present experience goes, on account of their elevation, not taking into consideration the want of a sufficient supply in the streams for such a purpose.” (Van Hook 1933)

About the time Charles and Sarah were getting married, there was a dramatic increase in the number of canals going from eight to twenty three in the 1884 to 1893 period. The amount of water being carried was twenty times the amount than was available in 1884.  The first major canal or ditch was the Rocky Ford followed by the Fort Lyon and a number of others.  (Van Hook 1933)

The Colorado Canal Company

In 1888, T.C. Henry envisioned building a canal to transport irrigation water from the Arkansas River near Boone to the Kansas line and irrigate a million acres of land north of the Arkansas River. Mr. Henry started building the canal with his own money, but quickly sold it to the Bradbury family, who in turn sold it to the Colorado Canal Company. By 1891 the first water was released into the canal, but the original goal of irrigating a million acres was in reality irrigating 57,000 acres and the canal stopped in Crowley County. This irrigation system brought a burst of growth in the population of the area, and the dry prairie flourished.(Barber 2019)


The Zimmermans

Charles and Sarah migrated down to the lower Arkansas River Valley shortly after being married and there they settled.  Very little is known of what they did but all the indicators point to farming or farming related work.  They appear to have lived primarily in the Ordway area which experienced a mini boom of activity after the opening of the Colorado Canal that opened up some dry prairie to farming.  

They had seven children back then but two passed away. The first three children were born in Olney Springs near Ordway, the second three in La Junta and the last one was born in Ordway.  All towns are within 15 miles of each other in the lower Arkansas River Valley. Their eighth and last child Charles Othniel was born in Utah.   Francis, the writer of the family history was the last child born in Colorado, Francis Moroni and his name indicates another transformation in the family story.  

  • Anna Magdalene born March 1, 1895
  • John Colburn (Johnny) born March 12, 1897
  • Rosezella Samena born February 22, 1899
  • Irene Amanda born November 30, 1900
  • Ned Avard Zimmerman born June 16, 1903 (passed away six months later)
  • Sarapeta Zimmerman born April 18,1905 (passed away in January of 1907
  • Francis Moroni Zimmerman born October 4, 1906 in Ordway Colorado

The family portrait above appears to have been taken in 1907. The youngest baby Francis Moroni was born on October 6, 1906.  He looks to be about a year old or so in the picture.Standing in the back is Emma who was adopted.  From left to right is Rosezella, Charles, Irene Amanda, Sarah Ellen, Francis Moroni, Anna Magdaline, and John Colburn. Photo courtesy of Family Search. 

The Hatcher Utterback Excavations 

On May 9, 1900, John Bell Hatcher lead paleontologist and one of the most well-known dinosaur excavators was working for the Carnegie Natural History Museum in Pittsburgh wrote to his supervisor Dr. Holland notifying him that he had secured an agreement with Marshall Felch to excavate dinosaurs at the old quarry, writing;

 “I enclose you herewith copy of an agreement I made with Mr. Felch relative to working the old bone quarry on his place near Cañon City, Colo. This is the place where Marsh got all his skulls of Jurassic Dinosaurs & the best of his Jurassic mammals. The bones Mr. Felch had out, he shipped to Marsh shortly before the latter’s death… paying $25 per month for the privilege” 

At this point in his life John Bell Hatcher was the most well-known fossil collector in America and in the 1900 and 1901 period in addition to everything else he was involved in was organizing and managing three separate excavating projects, one in Nebraska, one in Wyoming, and this one at the old quarry.  Hatcher assigned lead excavators at each location and the one assigned to Canon City was W.H. Utterback.  Utterback would be the man Marshall would be in contact with when the project started.

On October 28, 1900 Marshall wrote one of the last letters he ever wrote to Hatcher in response to a letter Hatcher had written to him; Marshall wrote;

On My dear Mr. Hatcher

Yours of the 22″ inst. came in due season. I will do all that I can in shewing Mr. Wetterback where to work to the best advantage in opening up the old quarry again.

I had hoped that you would come in person, for a stranger unless he fully understands field work, and especially the expense and difficulty of getting out fossil specimens from sand rock may think the undertaking too much. However a trial will shew whether he can make a success of it or not.

With kind regards I am

Truly yours

M.P. Felch

Marshall’s spelling was not good on this letter, which is unusual for Marshall, but his honesty is still intact. Marshall’s intent was to show Utterback the general area where he had in the old quarry when the major work ended 1887.  Marshall was clearly sharing the probable difficulty of the work and indicated that a trial excavation would demonstrate whether or not the quarry had any remaining fossils.

Utterback wrote a few days later to Hatcher on November 2, 1900;

“I have no place to board as you were mistaken in the young man being married. That was a woman there temporary. The old man is in very poor health and keeps his bed the greater portion of the time. Since the women left, they have been trying to do their work themselves. Of all the dirty filthy places I ever struck that lays over all. No man can live as they are doing and have health. I shall put up my tent and get a stove and board myself.”

Ten days later on November 12 Utterback again commented on Marshall’s health writing; “My heaviest expense will be in fitting up a place to live. Mr. Felch is sick all the time and it is impossible for me to stop at his place.”

This letter reveals the continued decline of Marshall’s health over the years. The last time Marshall wrote about it was to Professor Marsh almost ten years earlier on February 10, 1891;

“I was taken very bad with my old complaint – heart trouble – on the way there and had to be carried to my friends room – which I did not leave for ten days and then to come directly home – and for the next two months was in a very critical condition a good deal of the time, and the only time I went to town up to the 5’ of July last I had to have a bed made in the wagon to ride on”

After the death of Amanda at the end of 1893, Sarah married Charles and moved down to the Orway area. Marshall no longer had someone to pick up the slack. The young man that was living with Marshall is his son Ned who from Utterback’s letter was apparently not able to handle domestic duties particularly well.  Ned lived with Marshall most of the time up when Marshall seemed to be almost continually bedridden.  

On the November 17 Utterback wrote;

“Mr Felch told me when I first arrived here that the bone area was confined to a strip 30 or 40 feet wide in the centre of the old quarry. There is a depression or as Mr Felch calls it the bed of an old stream about 40 feet from the west end that he says all of the bones were found in. Mr Smith was down and put in a half a day with me at the quarry the past week and he gave me considerable information. He says that it will be a waste of labor and money to strip off the west or east ends as there has never been anything found but fragments in either place. I have commenced on the east side and am running a cut about 20 feet wide to the north line of the 25 feet. He says 40 feet in width will more than cover the ground in which they worked before…. I think you were badly deceived regarding the length of time it would require to strip it. Every foot of the ground has to be blasted with the exception of a foot or so on the surface that is air slacked.”

It is clear that Marshall gave Utterback very clear and honest directions on what to expect and what he had found.  Additionally, one of Marshall’s old collectors Smith was still around and according to Utterback provided “considerable information” about the quarry.    Utterback’s comment “I think you [Hatcher] have been badly deceived” is a theme that Utterback will repeat again and again over the next few. 

There is no doubt that Marshall is at the end of his life. Augmenting the problem may have been that he was possibly taking pain medications. Certainly he was at times incoherent.   On July 20, 1901 Utterback wrote;  “Hatcher please address me as below as old Felch is crazy half the time and is causing me a great deal of trouble with my mail.”

The complaints culminated when John Bell Hatcher arrived and Utterback convinced him that Marshall not only deceived them about the probability and ease of finding fossils but that he had deceived them about ownership of the land.  Hatcher wrote to his supervisor at the Carnegie on August 12, 1901;

“I arrived here a few days ago & found things in rather a bad way… Mr. Felch was trying to play us false, but fortunately I was on the ground in time & have nipped the whole thing in the bud so that I feel sure all will be well now. To do this I had to go into the real estate business here taking you in as a partner knowing you to be loyal to the museum. I have filed on 4 claims under the names of W.J. Holland & J.B. Hatcher & I feel sure we have here the key to the development of the Sauropoda & I propose to corral everything in sight.”

This move implies that Marshall had leased the property the quarry sat on to the Carnegie for $25 a month but that Marshall did not own the property.  In other words he was leasing them something that the government owned, like selling the Brooklyn Bridge.  Hatcher took the unneeded step of locating mining claims on the land to obtain what he thought legal right to be on the property.  

Marshall was forced to utilize his homestead patent rights in 1885 so he applied for a homestead patent of 160 acres of land under the Homestead Act of 1862. That parcel of land included  the old quarry and patent number 2572 was signed by President Benjamin Harrison on March 4, 1891 giving full title.  Marshall and Amanda clearly owned the property he was leasing to Hatcher and did not deceive anyone. On the other hand, it is probable that Marshall was depressed and mentally unstable at the time so he obviously did a poor job of describing what he had. The misunderstanding was no fault of Hatchers ,but rather Utterback who seemed to have a lot of complaints about a lot of people.  

Hatcher separately had hired another collector by the name of Axtell to work at the old Cope Lucas Quarries about this same time.   The excavation history of both quarries and what was found is nicely told by Lowell Dingus in the book;  “King of the dinosaur hunters: the life of John Bell Hatcher and the discoveries that shaped paleontology” (Dingus 2018) 

Overall the work at the old quarry had limited success and Utterback left the area at the very end of 1901. Less than six weeks after Utterback left the area Marshall Felch took his own life.

The Suicide of Marshall Felch

News of Marshall Felch’s death was reported in the Canon City Clipper on February 11, 1902; 

Coroner Little and Deputy Sheriff Hawkins went out yesterday morning and returned in the afternoon. They ascertained that there were living at the ranch Ned Felch, a hired man and housekeeper.  Mr. Felch was found about five clock Sunday evening in a tent adjoining the house, dead from the effects of a gun wound. 

The cause is supposed to be melancholia arising from chronic illness.  He was 67 years of age.  He was a great student and possessed a very superior mind.  For many years he was engaged by Prof Marsh, of Yale college, in exhuming the bones of extinct saurians, which were found in an excellent condition.  He took an active part in the civil war.

He left a note of farewell to his son, Ned giving directions for the disposition of his body.  He also left a note for the coroner and bequeathed to him a stack of pamphlets on paleontology.

He was survived by one son Ned, and a daughter, Mrs. Zimmermann, residing at La Junta.”

On the 13th of February the Canon City Record reported;   

“A note addressed to the coroner from the deceased contained several strange requests.  He also bequeathed a number of pamphlets in paleontology which showed he was quite a student of antiquities. The deceased had been in poor health for several months and at the time of his death had been suffering from melancholy.  He spent a great amount of time studying deep literature.”

About a week later the Elbert County Banner reported on  February 21, 1902;  

“Marshall P. Felch, one of the oldest and best know residents in that section of the state, committed suicide at his home in Garden Park, eight miles north of Canon City, at a late hour Sunday. 

The Canon City Times reported on February 13, 1902; 

“Mrs. Sadie Felch Zimmerman arrived in the city Monday from La Junta in response to the news of the death of her father, Marshall P. Felch.”

Marshall’s story could have ended here but it doesn’t, there is one big surprise left.  It turns out that Marshall Felch was a much more interesting and complicated man than we have previously realized. We will tell the ghostly tale of Capt. Felch, an honest, brave and heroic Civil War veteran who solves a most unlikely murder mystery in the next chapter. 


Barber, Annette. 2019. “History of Crowley County.”. June 15, 2019.

Dingus, Lowell. 2018. King of the Dinosaur Hunters: The Life of John Bell Hatcher and the Discoveries That Shaped Paleontology. 1st ed. new york: Pegasus Books.

MacKell, Jan. 2003. Cripple Creek District: last of Colorado’s gold booms. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub.

Oral History about Sarah Ellen Zimmerman. 1989. MP4. Sarah Ellen Felch Zimmerman. A9814973-D4C0-4D07-90C8-37ADEDE132EF.m4a.

Sprague, Marshall. 1979. Money Mountain: The Story of Cripple Creek Gold. University of Nebraska Press.

Van Hook, Joseph O. 1933. “Development of Irrigation in the Arkansas Valley.” Colorado Magazine, 1, 10 (January).

Zimmerman, Ruby Christensen. 1991. Life Story of F.M. and Ruby Zimmerman. F.M. Zimmerman.

Next Chapter:  In Life and Death – Yours, Gertrude

Marshall Felch’s remarkable dinosaur excavation will be his legacy, but after the Civil War, he was better-known Capt. Felch, the Civil War veteran and mountain freighter who bravely encountered spirits from the afterlife that in turn helped him in solve a heinous murder in the minefields of Colorado.   This ghostly tale is not only good reading, it reveals a layer of Marshall’s persona we would never have known otherwise.

The Women’s Relief Corps and the Grand Army of the Republic 

Marshall’s legacy as an important dinosaur excavator is a story that we can tell because of the paleontology work he did for Othniel Marsh also for  Charles Gilmore who took Marshall’s work and elevated an appreciation of it. Amanda’s story is different.  It may have never been told at all if it were not for a series of rather remarkable and timely coincidences that are the focus of this chapter. 

If we could single out one thing that enabled recognition of Amanda’s Civil War service was development of the Women’s Relief Corps (WRC). This background is about the WRC and it’s parent organization, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR).  In addition to recognition of Amanda’s story by the WRC, the work of both GAR and WRC enabled an expanded appreciation of Amanda’s work beyond those organizations.   On a more practical level it enabled Marshall and Amanda receive relatively small but highly significant pensions near the end of their lives and with some of that money will visit their Vermont homes, family, and friends late in life. 

The Grand Army of the Republic image above is modified from an image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

 The Grand Army of the Republic

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was the fraternal organization composed of Union soldiers who had served honorably during the Civil war.  It was founded by Dr. Benjamin F. Stephenson in Springfield, Illinois on April 6, 1866 based on the principles of “Fraternity, Charity and Loyalty,” Initially GAR provided a path for Union veterans to maintain connection and camaraderie with their fellow soldiers while recognizing the common cause they all still believed in. Early on they began to encourage a broader respect by the public for the cause many union veterans died for. On May 5, 1868 the head of GAR General John A. Logan declared May 30 to be Memorial Day. GAR felt it was a way to recognize war casualties, missing-in-action, and deceased veterans. The organization evolved over time to become more of an overall advocacy group supporting aging Union veterans and one of their chief causes was obtaining pensions for disabled veterans in need.  

By 1880 there were local GAR posts in almost every community across the country and about 250,000 members in 1880 growing to 490,000 dedicated and committed members by 1890.  In 1888 GAR was at the peak of its political influence when it helped elect presidential candidate Benjamin Harrison (a Civil War veteran and advocate of pensions for veterans) to the presidency over Grover Cleveland who had vetoed pension benefits in 1887.

On June 27, 1890, the Dependent and Disability Pension Act was signed into law after Harrison’s victory. There had been some limited existing pension legislation for disabled veterans as early as 1866 but it was something Marshall along with many other veterans never pursued.  Within three years of passage of this legislation several hundred thousand aging and disabled veterans sought and received assistance through this much more comprehensive legislation.    

The Women’s Relief Corps

Before GAR took off in the 1880’s, it was struggling financially and therefore having difficulty providing aid to many veterans in need. In 1878 and 1879 women’s organizations also interested in Civil War veterans began to develop in Massachusetts and Ohio and over the next couple of years more local women’s groups began coming together.  Simultaneously J.F. Lovering, the GAR “Chaplain-in-Chief” began traveling to various GAR posts and including their 1881, 14th annual encampment. Lovering understood that it was women that could help GAR more than anything else achieve its goals so he took the opportunity to call attention to the importance of an officially recognized women’s auxiliary and GAR responded passing a resolution to encourage formation of a National Women’s Relief Corps (WRC).   Women from several states came together in Denver Colorado on July 25 and 26 1883 and formally adopted GAR’s resolution. A national organization was formed and GAR warmly welcomed the WRC as an official auxiliary organization. The National Convention in Denver also signified that Colorado had a strong contingent of women who supported the cause. 

The mission of the WRC became two-fold.  First, it was there to assist GAR by aiding needy veterans. Secondly, the WRC was aware that there was a few thousand women who valiantly served in nursing type rolls during the Civil War but many were now indigent and in need of assistance and talk began about WRC supporting pension legislation. When word spread that WRC was pushing for pensions for nurses, they were inundated with hundreds of letters from army nurses requesting support. At the time the WRC had less than a hundred dollars for this type of need and as expected were no such position to do so. (Metheny 2013)

The WRC began pushing forward the idea of a federal Army Nurse Pension Act to assist nurses in need. They also recognized that it would take time to achieve this goal and they also understood that the first priority of GAR was the hundreds of thousands of disabled male veterans. In the meantime, there were women in need and the WRC was looking to establish legislative precedents and “special act pensions” came into fashion. (Metheny 2013)

The Women’s Relief Corps (WRC)  informally began looking for women who were deserving based on their service records, paragons of Victorian womanhood, and ministering angels.  Claimants would need to prove their case to a Congressional Pension Committee which would in turn present the case before Congress if they felt the nurse had provided valuable and faithful service, and had an inability to provide for herself due to disability or old age.

These special acts of Congress for Civil War nurses proved to be a crucial stepping stone for the Army Nurses Pension Act which ultimately passed on August 5, 1892. Attention to duty, good behavior and manners, modest demeanor, and what was termed “Christian character” along with an inability to provide for oneself due to disability or old age were the key ingredients and it all counted toward the nurse’s ability to receive a special pension.  (Metheny 2013)

Over the next four years a relatively small number of women veterans applied for a pension using this process.  Ultimately it would be determined that about 6,000 nurses were eligible for a pension but only about 2,500 would apply for a pension under either a special act or later on the Army Nurse Pension Act. (Schultz, Jane E. 2004)

The image of the medal to the right is courtesy of the Women’s Relief Corps.  FCL refers to fraternity, charity, and loyalty as it also does on GAR medals. 1883 signifies the year the organization was formed. 

A Broader Mission

The Women’s Relief Corps (WRC) had an initial focus was to improve the lives of both Union veterans and their families and army nurses but like their parent organization GAR, the scope of their mission grew to include preservation and protection of the cause the Civil War veterans fought for.  The WRC members were devoted to the principles and values the Civil War was fought for and believed in patriotism and loyalty, obedience to law and order, responsibility and discipline of self, honesty, sobriety, and industry, elevating character and morals.  They fought for civics education in our schools so students would understand and support the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and our system of government. They didn’t just focus on young students they also helped new immigrants assimilate into our country. They worked to honor the Union soldiers and nurses who served the nation in the Civil War and memorialize their victory. They instilled a reverence for symbols of the American nation such as the U.S. flag and Constitution. Memorial Day is just one example of this, something started by GAR but carried forward by WRC. Over time they even fought for child labor legislation, mandatory education for children, pensions for mothers, policies to improve maternal and infant health, and even humane policies for animals. (Kennedy, 2017)

The WRC became a powerful and far reaching women’s activist organization but they were hamstrung because they did not have the right to vote. Their ability to effectuate positive legislative changes was severely hampered because of it. They were therefore strongly supportive of the suffrage movement which became a particularly powerful movement in Colorado in the late 1880’s and early 1890’s about the time Amanda will file a pension application. 

Is About Petered Out

In early 1887 Marshall was as ready as possible to begin excavating dinosaur bones but question marks about availability of funding were once again prevalent. Marsh was still wanting missing parts and was convinced they were hidden somewhere in the quarry walls so he would find some funding one way or another.  Marshall needed to know if Marsh wanted just certain parts such as a particular skull or if he wanted the more careful approach and much slower approach Marshall had become accustomed to. On April 10, 1887 Marshall wrote; I wish to know is – whether I shall continue on as we have for the past two seasons….in this way is terribly slow and tedious… or push on ‘till we find some continuous skeleton like No. 4 or 11 – throwing all else aside and working out that of most value?”

Marsh wrote back encouraging the slow and tedious methodology but, as always, he would be pushing hard for key parts; in other words he wanted it both ways.  Marshall went back to work that spring  and found a number of foot bones of a sauropod, well defined claws of a theropod, a number of other bones, but no Stegosaurus. Marshall wrote on June 19, 1887; “There were 14 (boxes) in all – three wagon loads – between 4 and 5 thousand pounds – somewhat more than I expected before packing”

On September 14,1887  Marshall wrote that they had found; “bones here belonging to the carnivorous beast and to some of the larger sauropod”. Earlier on September 4, he wrote; “some remains of an animal of immense size” referring to the same larger sauropod.

Marshall had seen a lot of dinosaur bones by now and although there was some promise he could tell that the old quarry by the end of September was at the end of its life. His honesty and integrity would not allow him to deceive Professor Marsh and on October 16 he wrote;  “appearances indicate and work proves that in one direction at least the good bones are worked out – and that we are off from the “pay streak”.  Earlier on the 1st of October he wrote that he had; “come to the conclusion that our old quarry, that has produced so many of good – bad & indifferent specimens – is about ‘petered out’”.

Quarry Number Two

By the end of 1887 it was clear that the old quarry had produced as much as could be done unless some extensive removal of overlying rock took place in the northwest corner of the quarry. It was so deeply buried that Marshall didn’t have the capability to do it but he also believed that it wouldn’t be successful because he felt that they were working outside of the stream channel which contained the main bone bed. 

Marshall wanted to continue though and thought back and remembered that in 1883 Fred Brown had worked across the gully at a completely different site.  What Marshall also noticed was that if he projected the line of the river channel he had been excavating, it seemed to connect with where Brown had been working. He took a close look and observed that there was only about 6 or 7 feet of overlying rock from where the bones would be buried and so it might be possible to open up a new quarry with limited removal of overlying rock. He also felt that with the experience he had gathered over the last few years he would be able to more effectively work the quarry.

On June 17, 1888 Marshall wrote; “if you wish I will start in there and make one more trial… My plan would be however as stated in my last – to put in force enough for two months or so in Quarry No. 2 to make a thorough development there – and see if better results could not be obtained than for last year’s work – and should it not turn out to our expectations – go back on to the old quarry – or elsewhere, or throw it up altogether.”

Marsh somewhat reluctantly agreed and once work began, Marshall worked it for about 2 months. The overall results were disappointing though. The bones were both more scattered and highly fractured. Marsh was also coming to the realization that the old quarry had provided most all it was going to and he was not feeling as compelled to push Marshall hard for results. 

Marshall was not making any outstanding discoveries at the new quarry and so Marshal did not send in these bones right away to Marsh.  These bones would in fact never arrive at Yale because of an incident Marshall confessed to Marsh two and a half years later.  

Sadie’s Trip to New England

Sadie came away from the military academy with a quality education and a natural curiosity about the world around her. In 1888 she made a trip to New England to visit her parents families and touch the place she had only heard about.  On December 5, 1888 Marshall wrote to Professor Marsh; “She left home on the last of May last – has visited in Prov. Boston – Lowell – Manchester– Montreal – and some dozen other places including the White Mtns. and other localities in N. H. & Vr with her relatives – and with the exception of some 30 or 40 dollars has paid the entire expenses of the trip herself – from moneys she had earned and saved at one time and another – a fact that I am somewhat proud of myself – when so few young people can be found that are self-reliant.”  Marshall continued; “my daughter is still east – and may stay through the winter – with a married daughter of mine and her half sister.” Marshall’s daughter from his first marriage was Carrie and therefore Sadie’s half sister. Carrie was seven years older than Sadie and was married now to John Colby and they had one little girl of their own. 

On Christmas day 1888 Marshall wrote to Professor Marsh asking Marsh to provide money somewhat on an emergency basis get Sadie home as quickly as possible; “I write to ask if you can let my daughter have some money on my act. to come home with – as I am growing steadily worse and with little if any prospect of getting around again. I wrote to her some little time since telling her that I was having one of my attacks = heart failure = and she then wanted to come home but I told her to stay and complete her visit – and then enter a training school if she wished to – but as I am getting worse all the time – I would like to have her come back and see me once more. We got a letter from her yesterday saying that she was going to New Haven as soon as you returned – about the 10” of Jan. and I thought if she had to wait from that time until you could send the money to me – and then to have it sent back again it would make it too late – and that the best way if you were willing to do so would be to send her a check for 100 dollars on my account…I only take this method to hasten up matters = as it will make from 10 days to 2 weeks difference about getting home.”

Professor Marsh responded on January 10,1889; Your daughter arrived here today from Providence, in good health, and will remain till Saturday when she will start, [the next day from] New York for Chicago, where she expects to arrive Monday morning.

Sadie did safely arrive back home and on February 3, 1889 Sadie, not Marshall, wrote to Marsh; “Since I came home, we have been unable to do any work in the “Bone Yard”, owing to the snowy and stormy weather we have had. Papa is not able to do any work at present, but is better than when I came home. What work remains to be done I think that Ned and I can easily finish, as soon as the weather will allow.”

A Painful Confession

Marshall wrote to Marsh on February 3, 1891 that he had not sent in the specimens from Quarry 2 right away because they didn’t seem to amount to much compared to past work; “it seemed to me that compared with the work of some former years the lot was of but little account – there being nothing new or of much interest, although we had gone over a good deal of ground and worked hard to get it. Marshall continued that over the winter of 1889; “I had not been able to do anything – and the bones still on hand = all snug and safe as we supposed – nothing ever having been meddled with up to that time – the packages all inside a tent made of new wagon sheet – pegged down tight –and fastened securely.” 

Marshall then shared that when he and Amanda made a trip to Denver in the late fall of 1890 that all the bones had been vandalized; “our tent, some picks and other tools were stolen – the packages cut open – scattered – mixed and strewn around so that everything was ruined.”  Marshall wrote that the vandalism was committed by; “a fellow named Geo. Bronson – a roving – wood and tie chopper and hunter – at work here at the time for a company that were boring for oil. I never had a dozen words with the scamp but he and Ned had some trifling dispute and he took that way to get even – and also to steal a good tent to take with him”  Marshall described a young fellow’s knowledge of Bronson; “After he had left here for parts unknown a young fellow that came with Bronson from the mountains in the fall … told us who done and why it was done  … that Bronson was a desperate character – and he feared him – and that if we had attempted to prosecute him –he would have tried to do us still worse damage – but if I had of known it at the time – I would have got after him and took all the chances.”

Marshall then confessed to Marsh why he had not said anything; “Taking this in connection with my long sickness and the expenses attending it – debts accumulating – poor crops on the farm – no chance to sell anything at any price – completely disheartened me – and I gave up and didn’t care much how things went –knew I should write you and tell the truth about matters – but I didn’t have the nerve and courage to do it…Now that I have made a full statement and confession – I wish to know what I can do for you to make up for my neglect and omission of duty in the past.” 

Marshall then expressed sincere appreciation to Marsh for all he has done: “our family are well and desired to be remembered to you – though Sadie is at present attending a school out in Kansas. Thanking you again for your great kindness and consideration in the past… I am… Very Respectfully Yours”. 

Financial Woes 

Marshall shared his misgivings about the potential for new discoveries at the old quarry but he was willing to continue work because they were struggling financially as a family during 1887 and 1888.

On May 12, 1887 Marshall wrote; “have about run out of money – though I had some 150 dollars come in for hay and other produce sold – besides what you sent.”

Professor Marsh was notoriously late in paying everyone and on September 14, 1887 Marshall wrote; “It seems you have forgotten what I wrote in regard to the vouchers and back accounts”. In the same letter Marshall wrote; “cloud bursts – hail storms were almost of daily occurrence – our crops suffered more than ever before – our lands were many times overflowed – and in come cases entirely carried away along the creek – I having during one night lost nearly an acre of my best bottom land

On November 7,1887 Marshall wrote that he thought Marsh’s check was so late that he thought it had been lost. He was relieved it arrived but it was insufficient to cover Marshall’s duty to pay off a quarry worker who was getting ready to leave.  Marshall then shared with Marsh that he was deeply in debt sharing; “I have got so far behind in some of my payments”.

Marshall wrote on the 7th of September, 1888; I was compelled for the first time since you made me a loan to borrow money from the bank”

On the November 11, 1888 Marshal wrote; “it has been a bad year for me, for besides the bad luck on the quarry – our crops have been a partial failure, a total loss of 5 acres of potatoes, and only about half a hay crop, owing to the lack of water for irrigation – as the summer has been with us the driest we ever had.”

  I.C. Russel: The Photographs

About the time Marshall was getting ready to start work at Quarry 2 and Sadie was in New England, a geologist and photographer with the U.S. Geological Survey named Israel C. Russel spent time in the area collecting invertebrate fossils and photographing geological sites, including the old quarry.

On July 9, 1888 Marshall wrote; “Mr. Russel has been here and gone – I spent the most of two days with him – showing everything of interest and in making measures of the different stratas in the Jurassic. He expresses himself as highly pleased and well satisfied with his visit here – and astonished at finding such a great variety of fossils – especially the mollusks – a box of which we packed up to send to the National Museum. He had his photographic apparatus along and took several views of the strata along the creek – and some of our quarry – which he will finish up on his return to Washington –and will send you some copies.”

Russel took two photographs of the old quarry with Marshall in both pictures. They represent the moment in time when, according to Marshal, the old quarry was “petered out”. 

 I.C. Russel took the photo above looking north across the gully at the quarry. Marshall Felch is visible on the left side of the picture. The new quarry (no. 2) that Marshall was planning to work was to the left (west) of where I.C. Russel was standing when he took this photo. Courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey and the Yale Peabody Museum.  

The left image above looks west toward the Old Quarry and Marshall Felch can be seen in the foreground overlooking the gully. The image above right is an enhanced close up version of Marshall. Photograph courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey and the Yale Peabody Museum.   

Russel also photographed Marshall and Amanda when he was here in front of their their farm house above left. The photo above right is a close up and enhanced version of the photograph.  It is probable that from left to right; Ned (standing), possibly William Shepherd (sitting), Marshall (standing), and Amanda (sitting). Photo is courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey and the Yale Peabody Museum. 

Loretta Bailey began a research effort to figure out who the man sitting was and came to the conclusion that it was William Shepherd. 

Shepherd was a minister who arrived early to the area, preaching at an early shared church located in an abandoned army barracks in Cañon City.  He was also a blacksmith in those early days in the late 1860’s when Marshall and Amanda established a foothold in Garden Park when there were only a couple of hundred residents in the whole area so it seems unlikely they would have not met. The Felch family and his family also had a number of mutual acquaintances. In fact, one of William daughters married one of the Lucas’s. Two factors that point to the man being William Shepherd are:  1) Loretta found a picture of  Williams son (William Jr) that almost identical to the man sitting in the chair and 2) William Shepherd attended the first meeting of a Territorial Women’s Suffrage Society at Unity Church in Denver on January 10, 1876 with a Ms. Sheetz as representatives from Canon City. (Loretta Bailey, personal communication, 6/27/2019)

In 1888 Amanda was in the process of making her application for a pension application and that process was conducted in conjunction with work underway by the Women’s Relief Corps. It would be likely William was up at the ranch that day on a visit with Amanda if he had both an interest in the women’s suffrage issue and he already knew the Felch’s. The connection between Amanda and the suffrage movement will be explained in detail in this chapter.    

Amanda’s Pension Application

About the time I.C. Russel was taking pictures of Amanda and Marshall in front of their ranch house, an active Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) post along with a supporting Women’s Relief Corps (WRC) organization in Canon City were in place.  Across the country, the Women’s Relief Corps (WRC) was was very active and one of their missions was looking for “ministering angels”, that is nurses who served in the Civil War with exceptional moral standards. A nurse who had worked for the Sanitary Commission or even better worked for Dorothy Dix would only have been selected if they had extremely high moral standards so by the fact that Amanda worked for Dorothea Dix answered any question related to moral standards. 

The second question was more difficult.  Amanda had served on the front lines as a regimental nurse with her own medical wagon beginning in 1862 but she was not paid that year nor the next. Nothing could be more difficult for anyone to do than tend dead, dying and severely injured soldiers crying out for help but many of the relatively few women who served in these roles were not paid and therefore they were not in the official regimental records. Twenty years later many of these aging women were in need of assistance but in order to get it they would have to work much harder to establish their record of service.

Although Amanda considered work away from the battle front as less significant and less noble, it was fortunate in early 1864 that General Grant ordered all woman off the front lines in anticipation of the battlefield carnage that was about to happen. When Amanda arrived in Washington D.C. she met with and went to work for Dorothea Dix. Other than about two weeks in Fredericksburg following the Battle of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Amanda went to work at the White House on the Pamunkey River,  City Point near the Petersburg siege lines, and a short stint in the Shenandoah Valley campaign where she was on official duty for the remainder of the war.  The advantage of this work was that in 1887 and 1888 when she was getting ready to apply for a pension, she could provide official documentation of her service in 1864 and 1865. 

The wheels of congress were as slow then as they are today and pension legislation for nurses was still on the horizon.  In the meantime, the WRC began pushing forward hand picked pension applications, or test cases, in order to shed light on what worked and what didn’t in order to ultimately pass pension legislation on behalf of Civil War Nurses.

It didn’t take much of a leap of faith for local WRC and GAR members to recognize that Amanda had exceptional battle front experience and that she was also someone who had served under Dorothea Dix.  Amanda was a natural fit and so she was encouraged to make an application  realizing that she would need to document her service record in 1862 and 1863 through the testimony of Army soldiers who knew her.

My Dear Comrade

Marshall and Amanda did the work and on December 19, 1888 Marshall Felch wrote to a Capt. M.M. Montgomery on behalf of Amanda’s nine page pension application;

My dear Comrade,

Please find enclosed my wife’s statement of her service while in the army—drawn up at the insistence of Judge Symes, M.C. from Colo. As a first step toward preparing a special bill in regard to her pension which he will try to get in at the present session if possible.

Judge Symes is very enthusiastic in the matter, is well acquainted with Gen. Grout and says that between them both there will be no trouble he thinks in prosecuting the claim to a successful termination.

He would like to hear as many as can who knew my wife in the army to sign it—stating their rank—and any of them who feel like adding anything over their respective names if ever so brief—as Maj. And Pro. Mar. A.W. Brazee has already done it will be gratefully appreciated.

We send the document to you first—thinking you may have authority – from the action taken in the matter at your re-union in Oct – to sign it in their behalf—and then have it presented to others to sign individually.

Judge Symes spoke of Col. S. E. Pingree as one well known to him by reputation—and one whose endorsement would be a great help.

We know that we are asking you to take a great deal of trouble—but know of no one “ (end of page one, page two is missing)

The Missing Second Page

Page two of this letter has never been located but from it we can deduce that Marshall and Amanda prepared a statement of her service under the guidance and direction of the WRC and GAR. Once it was ready it could be shepherded through congress under the direction of Colorado Congressman Symes and Vermont Congressman Grout, a congressman in the second district in Vermont who grew up in the St. Johnsbury area, attended the Orleans Liberal Institute in Glover for several years, became a brigadier general in the Civil War, and was a congressman at the time of Amanda’s application. 

The letter implies that Marshall and Amanda knew Capt. Montgomery and that he was present in October of 1888 when a commitment was made to pursue a special pension request for Amanda. It also seems that Marshall was asking Capt. Montgomery to obtain signatures on Amanda’s pension application which would entail either hand delivering them or sending the same letter around to each person while ensuring the signature page was not lost.    Captain Montgomery was successful in gaining eight signatures of army soldiers who served in the War documenting her service. 

The Signers of Amanda’s Application

Sometime in early 1889 eight former members of the sixth Army Corps signed Amanda’s application stating;

“We hereby certify that we personally knew Mrs. Farnham, now Mrs. M.P. Felch of Canon City, Colorado and believe the foregoing statement she has made in regard to her services while in the army are true and further that she should have some reward for her arduous and faithful duties with the sick and wounded, for whom she devoted nearly four years of her life with but little compensation.”

The eight men who signed Amanda’s application included; 

Andrew W. Brazee:  Initially a Major in the 49th New York Volunteers and later on the Provost Marshall where he was in charge of the second Division of the 6th Corps military police.

George W. Bonnett:  Bonnet was an enlisted soldier with the Vermont 3rd Regiment.  On the morning of April 2, 1865 Bonnet was awarded a medal for gallantry during the Vermont troops breakthrough of Confederate lines paving the way for the collapse of Confederate lines that had held firm for nine months.  One week after the breakthrough, General Lee surrendered at Appomattox.  

Carlton Felch: A Sergeant with company G of the 3rd Vermont Regiment.  Felch had longest record of service for a Vermont volunteer.  No known relationship to Marshall Felch.

William Hubbard:  Enlisted as a private at the beginning of the war with the Vermont 3rd infantry. At the end of the war he was a major.

Marshall Montgomery:  Began as an soldier in the Vermont 3rd infantry. Promoted to captain during the war and led company D of the 10th Colored Infantry. 

Samuel Everett Pingree: Enlisted as a private at the beginning of the war and was quickly promoted to Captain and later to Major for  meritorious conduct. He was severely wounded at the Battle of Lee’s Mills but returned with 2 1/2 months. By 1864 he was a lieutenant colonel and helped repulse General Early’s attack on Washington.  He went on to become Lieutenant Governor and later Governor of Vermont. 

Nathaniel G. Reed: An infantry solider who honorably served with the Vermont 3rd. 

Thomas Orville Seaver;  Was chosen to be Captain of Company F of the Vermont Third by the other soldiers at the beginning of the war.  Over time he was promoted to Major, then Lieutenant Colonel and later Colonel.  He received the Medal of Honor for leadership during the Battle of Spotsylvania where; Colonel Seaver advanced, and under a most galling fire, occupied the rebel works while the other regiments of the attacking column fell back and some of the regiment that didn’t hear the order to retreat remained in the works obstinately holding them against all attacks of the enemy until late in the evening, refusing to fall back until they received positive orders to do so.” (Welch 2019)

A Pension for a War Nurse

On June 3rd 1890 the Congressional Committee on Invalid Persons stated; “There is no question that the service was rendered as stated and that the claimant is entitled to a pension….”  This was recorded as US Congressional Serial Set Issue 2813 to accompany HR 8388. 

This positive recommendation was picked up the Colorado Chieftain who reported on June 15, 1890; “A Pension for a War Nurse: The house committee on invalid pensions has ordered a favorable report on the bill granting a pension to Mrs. Amanda P. Felch of Canon City, Colo., who was a nurse during the war. but amends the bill so as to give her $12 a month instead of S25.” 

Lowering the amount to $12 a month was not a personal slight to Amanda, a decision had been made that in order to eventually pass the Army Nurse Pension Act, all nurses would receive $12 a month for their service.   

On March 3, 1891 a special act pension was given to Amanda Felch;  “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of American in Congress assembled, That the Secretary of the Interior be, and he hereby is, authorized and directed to place upon the pension-rolls the name of Mrs. M.P. Felch, at the rate of twelve dollars per month, for services rendered during the late war as a hospital nurse, subject to the provisions and limitations of pension laws.”  The law was then signed by President Benjamin Harrison.     

Local and regional GAR/WRC representatives along with close friends must have been ecstatic that Amanda had been thanked by the federal government for her service as a Civil War Nurse, twenty six years after the war was over. It is through the process and completion of Amanda’s pension that constitutes the first official recognition of her work in the Civil War. 

Annie Wittenmyer

It would be impossible to talk about Army nurses receiving a pension without recognition of Annie Wittenmyer. About the time Amanda’s application was being considered by congress, Annie was pushing legislation forward. In December, 1889, the Army Nurse Pension Act (ANPA) had made it through the Senate, and was now waiting to come before the House. Wittenmyer issued a Circular Letter asking for WRC Corps and Departments to sign petitions supporting the bill, and to return them in two weeks’ time. Annies plea to the WRC members to use any and all political connections to bring pressure to bear on Congress had not gone unheard as in two weeks, the WRC collected over 160,000 signatures.(Metheny 2013)

The bill still languished in the halls of congress for another two years so in 1892 Wittenmyer spent five weeks in Washington, living in a third-story backroom in order to economize so she could spend her days lobbying congress. Just days before the summer recess, the Senate agreed to a compromise bill, and the ANPA finally passed on July 27, 1892. The only sign of celebration was the relieved headline in the GAR’s and WRC’s newspaper, the National Tribune, “The Bill Which Finally Passed.”(Metheny 2013)

Memorializing Amanda’s Service

Mary Holland

Mary Gardner Holland became a nurse for the Union Cause in 1864 when she served fourteen months in hospitals around the Washington, D.C., area. Later in life she decided to write a book about nurses who served in the Civil War.  Her reasoning for telling this story is made clear in the introduction of her book; 

“… only desiring to serve where duty called, without pay or hope of reward. Many died of exposure and disease contracted in the service. Many returned with health impaired; and some, be it said with shame and sorrow, died in poverty. Until within a few years no official recognition has ever been given them by the Government which they served so well. Some three years since a pension bill was passed, giving them twelve dollars a month, but the record of their service is so imperfect that it is almost impossible to prove a claim, and a large proportion go to their graves unrecognized and unrewarded; yet while their names are written on no army roll, and but few books have been published telling the story of their services, their memory will ever live in the hearts of the veterans they nursed with such tender care, and they will never grow weary of telling to their children and children’s children the story of the loving, tender, and Christian ministrations of those “angels of mercy.” (Holland, 1895)

The Select Few

The Women’s Relief Corps (WRC) and the Army Nurses Association (ANA) were bringing the pension issue for Civil War Nurses to the forefront and by 1890 the war department went through countless war records and documented over 22,000 women had served as nurses, hospital matrons, laundresses, or cooks and of these 6,284 were nurses. Over time, both before and after the Army Nurse Pension Act passed, 2,448 veteran nurses applied for pensions.  One of them was Amanda.

These pension applications, particularly those applications written for special act legislation, had already been screened by the WRC and therefore would have been a gold mine of information for Mary Holland. Of these, she would select approximately 100 women to write about and, as we might expect it included Amanda.

Amanda was in good company as four well known women were also selected for the book; Clara Barton, Mary Livermore, Dorothea Dix, and “Mother” Bickerdyke.

‘Once Holland decided who among these women were so special that they were going to be included in her book she; “undertook the arduous work of securing the addresses of all I could locate, and have received letters and photographs of more than can be contained in this book.”  (Holland, 1895)

Mary Holland logically would have contacted selected nurses by letter well before the book was published in 1895, so probably in the 1890 to 1894 time period. The story of each nurse in Holland’s Book is typically signed at the end by the nurse themselves, but in a few cases, including Amanda’s, someone wrote on behalf of the nurse and signed the letter. Amanda’s Letter is signed; “M.P. Felch – (For his wife Amanda, deceased)”. This almost certainly confirms that that the letter was submitted in 1894 and in another light that Marshall deeply appreciated Amanda.

Its the string of coincidences that makes Hollands discovery of Amanda interesting. If a pension application had not been submitted for Amanda and then Hollands discovery of it, followed by Marshall’s letter outlining many more details of Amanda’s service, it’s extremely unlikely that Amanda’s story would have been memorialized. Holland’s book is actually just the stepping off point of readily accessible information about Amanda although subsequent books and website information all seem to be based almost exclusively upon her book.

It is this shared knowledge and appreciation of her bravery, fortitude, and compassion during the Civil War that is considered her second recognition.

A Disability Pension for Marshall

One of the major achievements of the  Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) organization was passage of the Dependent and Disability Pension Act on the 27th of June, 1890. This legislation was designed to assist aging, disabled, and sometimes indigent Union veterans.  This pension act was signed into law almost entirely because of GAR’s strong support of Benjamin Harrison and his election as President in 1889.  By 1893 about 400,000 Union Civil War veterans applied for assistance after passage of the pension law. 

Marshall learned about passage of the act from a friend in Denver. With his friends assistance, he and Amanda began the application process.  The process began the fall of 1890 after the act was passed and Amanda provided the testimony;  “On this 6 day of November, 1890, at Canon City, County of Fremont, State of Colorado, before me, Rodney Chipp, a Special Examiner of the Pension Office, personally appeared Amanda M. Felch, who, being by me first duly sworn to answer truly all interrogatories propounded to her during this Special Examination of aforesaid pension claim, deposes and says: ‘I am 57 years of age, am the wife of this claimant’…” 

Marshall was present at this testimony but too ill to speak.  At the end of the testimony Marshall acknowledged that everything Amanda had said was true. This testimony is a primary source of information used throughout this book about Marshall’s health. 

Marshall wrote to Professor Marsh on February 10, 1891 stating; “the result of our trip to Denver last winter began to crop out – Gov. Cooper through Proctor got my claim made special – and the result was last week I got my first money – with back pay enough to pay up the debts, and then have three or four hundred dollars for my wife and I to go back and make our old home and relatives in New England a good visit.”  Proctor is most likely Redfield Proctor, the well known governor and senator from Vermont who had served with the Vermont 3rd regiment in the Civil War. 

On March 3, 1891 a special act pension was finally presented to Amanda Felch and therefore her money would have arrived probably in the late spring of 1891. Marshall received his pension money around the first of February of 1891 even though his application was submitted two full years after Amanda’s. Either way, early 1891 was a time when some very needed funding assistance arrived for both of these worthy Civil War veterans.

Marshall and maybe Amanda Visit New England

It is assumed that Amanda came with Marshall on this trip but there is no specific confirmation of it. From what is reported here, it would not make a significant difference one way or another so for argument sake we will assume that she was there

On February 10,1891 Marshall wrote to Marsh; I got my first money – with back pay enough to pay up the debts, and then have three or four hundred dollars for my wife and I to go back and make our old home and relatives in New England a good visit…and I did say once that I would never return to New England unless I could go in some kind of shape – but am getting over that and think it my duty to visit my old father and mother in any kind of style I can get there in… If I go back home I want to visit you at New Haven – and feel free and all right to do so –for next to making a visit to the old homestead I think I should enjoy that as much or more than anywhere else.” The old homestead was the hill farm east of Piermont New Hampshire.

Professor Marsh wrote on the 18th of February; If you come East, I hope you will visit New Haven and see all my fossil treasures, both those you have sent me and the later monsters from the Cretaceous. I shall be glad to see you at any time, but, as I am away from home a great deal, please let me know beforehand about when you expect to come”.

On June 9,1891 Marshall and Amanda had indeed arrived in New England and Marshall wrote; “I arrived here some three weeks since – am enjoying my visit first rate – and feeling better in health every day of my stay. I go from here to Post Mills, Vermont tomorrow where I shall make a visit of a week or ten days and then to Providence R. I. unless the weather gets too warm – in which case I may go up to Montreal until the extreme hot weather is over. Before returning from Providence or before going there I thought if you were to be at home for a few days that I would go to New Haven – go there direct from Post Mills in ten days or so – or go to Providence first and from there to New Haven and then home to this place. If nothing happens to prevent may stay here until October or later.”

Professor Marsh responded the moment the letter from Marshall arrived; “Your note of yesterday reached me this morning, and I am very glad indeed to know that you are in the East and in such good health. I hope you will certainly visit New Haven, and I trust that we can arrange it so that I shall be here when you come. I think, on the whole, it would be better for you to come after your Providence visit, as I should have more time to show you around the museum after our commencement racket is over. Please let me know whether you decide to go to Montreal, before going to Providence, and we can arrange a date for your visit here. When you do come, you will find the Tontine Hotel a quiet place near the museum, and I shall expect you to be my guest during your stay there.

Unfortunately, Marshall did not receive this warm and welcoming letter until some time in October because Marsh had mistakenly mailed it to Marshall in Canon City. Marshall responded to Marsh on October 27; “I have just received a letter from home and they tell me there has been a letter waiting for me from you for some little time. I had intended to go home before this – but it has been so pleasant and I have been feeling so well here that I have prolonged my stay”

On December 31, 1891 Marshall wrote to Marsh; “If not asking too much I wish you would let some of your young men that I saw there show him [a friend of Marshall’s] over the museum and any little attentions I will greatly appreciate.” This last letter confirms that Marshall did see the results of his work at the Yale Peabody Museum although because Marsh was not there when he arrived most likely it was not as interesting or full-filling an experience as Marshall probably hoped for.  

Visiting Family and Friends

With pension money arriving for both of these Civil War veterans in early 1891, a trip back home to visit friends and family was plausible. In mid May 1891 they went east by train all the way; the first time going west in 1866 they traveled by wagon from St. Joseph to Denver.  Very little is written by Marshall and nothing by Amanda on what they did or who they saw.

Genealogy records show that Marshall’s mother Hannah, his father Parker, and his sister Ida were still alive and living in Piermont New Hampshire near the old homestead.  His strongest connection may have been to his daughter Carrie who was from his first marriage. Carrie was all grown up now and married to John Colby. They had an eight year old daughter Grace Ethyl and were living in the Post Mills area of Vermont. Marshall’s brother Charles who helped discover dinosaur bones  was now living in Montreal and his younger brother William and his family were in Michigan. Marshall wrote to Marsh that he planned to visit both locations. 

Amanda’s father Ira was still alive but two of her sisters had passed away but Eliza was still alive and may have been in the Barton area. Her half-sisters Eliza, Elizabeth, Lovila, Emma, Lydia and Clara were alive and Amanda may have had the chance to see them and their families.

Based on the letters between Marshall and Professor Marsh it appears that they stayed in New England until mid-November. 

Emma Ghent Curtis

The suffrage movement officially began nationally in Seneca New York in 1848. After the Civil war, women were continuing to make small strides toward equal citizenship but the right to vote for all women would not happen until 1919 with the passage of the 19th amendment. Women first pushed for the right to vote in Colorado in 1877, a year after Colorado became the Centennial State in 1876.  They didn’t get the vote that year but they didn’t give up because whether or not it was easy for men to admit that they were doing poorly in many aspects of governance and they needed the help.  By the late 1880’s the right to vote was growing in greater intensity under the leadership of Albina L. Washington from Fort Collins.  

The spark plug encouraging equal suffrage in Canon City was Mrs. Emma Ghent Curtis, an author who wrote short stories and poems for different periodicals, and two insightful books dealing with issues including suffrage and other issues that  women were dealing with in those times. These books were; “The Fate of a Fool” (Curtis, 1888) and “The Administratrix” (Curtis, 1889). Emma was strongly supportive of the suffrage movement and together with Albina Washington helped start the populist reform-oriented Peoples Party in Colorado.

Emma’s husband Jim was sympathetic to the cause and together they helped start up the Royal Gorge Review. This was a weekly populist publication that ran for four years in the early 1890’s.  It was published during the time when the right to vote for women was heading to the ballot box. Emma was very persuasive and went into mining camps in the area with miners who didn’t speak English but it wasn’t long before they agreed to vote for women’s rights to vote. Nationally suffrage was being pushed forward across the country and Emma also acted as a delegate for the populists who were advocating for equal suffrage in other states. 

Women across Colorado were pushing hard for the right to vote and that right was on the November 7, 1893 ballot.  Colorado women won the right to vote on that day, the first state in our nation to do so.  This is really amazing considering not a single woman was allowed to vote in that election. It was a testament to women fighting for the right to vote and achieve full citizenship. 

Emma and Amanda

There is no evidence that they knew each other and its likely that they didn’t, after all Emma was busy locally, regionally, and nationally while Amanda was a wife and mother living on a ranch north of the city.  On the other hand it would have been difficult for Emma not to be aware of Amanda’s Civil War legacy especially considering Congress had just awarded her a pension through a special act about the same time she was pushing forward populist causes and women’s issues in the Royal Gorge Review. 

Amanda fought an uphill battle throughout the Civil War trying to do nothing other than help her boys in the Vermont Third Regiment. Her greatest obstacle in getting things done were a few men in key positions of authority that apparently didn’t care for women operating independently of a husband or other male figure.  On the other hand Amanda and Emma both encountered men who were sympathetic to their cause and they recognized and appreciated their support.  They understood it was not an “us against them” situation but rather “us working together” position that made things work. 

Emma is symbolic for helping lead the way for the women’s movement in the Canon City area while gaining traction from a broad range of groups including the Women’s Relief Corps.  Amanda is symbolic as beacon of light in the Civil War, demonstrating what a determined woman can get done against all odds. Both women become symbolic in future generations for their work

Amanda’s Obituary

Amanda passed away on New Years Day, the last day of the year 1893.  

Her Obituary read; Mrs. Amanda Felch, an aged Army Nurse, was taken suddenly ill of pneumonia while passing through Denver, Colo., and died Sunday, Dec. 31. 1893.

Knowing “Fitz Mac,” she applied to him for aid, and the warm-hearted man kindly gave up his room. Then the Department Relief Committee, W.R.C., through Annie Winn Phillips, of Denver, provided her a nurse, and otherwise assisted and visited her. Many Relief Corps members visited her also, and extended to her their sympathy, which was much appreciated by the old lady and her son and daughter, who were with her to the last. Meade, Washington, and Veteran Corps, of Denver, donated beautiful everlasting and cut flowers to adorn the casket, the breast so full of patriotism, and the hands whoso beauty was duty done. The remains were taken to Canyon City for burial.

Mrs. Felch served through the war as a Nurse, most of the time in the field hospitals of the Army of the Potomac, and since the passage of the law granting pension to Nurses has been in receipt of a pension.

?Three questions?

  • Why was she traveling through Denver in the winter of 1893?
  • Who was “Fitz Mac”?
  • Who were Annie Winn Phillips, Meade, and Washington?

The easiest question pertains Fitz Mac? Fitz Mac is a pen name for James Phillip McCarthy a relatively well-known writer and publisher in Denver.  He had a colorful career with an extensive bibliography who also happened to publish a very popular ghost story in the 1880’s entitled “Dead Man’s Canyon” featuring Captain Marshall P. Felch. The story is clearly based on Marshall and Amanda and it will be touched on in the next chapter.

The next question is why was Amanda traveling with Ned and Sadie “through” Denver in the winter of 1893?  Initial thoughts might lead to speculation that something was going terribly wrong.  The answer comes from the final question; Who were Annie Winn Phillips, Meade, and Washington? The answer will be explained in the next section entitled “The Women’s Jubilate”.

One additional question without any possibility of an answer is; “why did Amanda die before Marshall did considering he was almost perpetually ill?”  Everything feels as though he was ready and she wasn’t. 

Fort Collins Courier, December 21, 1893

The Women Jubilate

The equal suffrage ratification, last Wednesday evening, at the opera house, was a grand success. The speakers, singers and orchestra were at their best, and the large audience evidently appreciated their efforts.

After the opening anthem and prayer Rev. Coffman expressed the congratulations of the clergy and spoke of woman’s work in the churches and missions. He was followed by Mr. Working, who gave the only franchise speech of the campaign in Timnath, where on Election Day equal suffrage was approved more than 12 to 1.

A song by a double quartet, composed of Misses Currie Moore, Guertha Lown, Lena Wills , Miss Slockett and Messrs. Abbott, Handy, Cameron and Golding-Dwyre , with Miss Slockett at the piano, followed.

Mrs.  Kenyon read a short paper or memorial on “Our Promoted Comrades”, Lucy Stone, Mrs. Wallace and Mrs. C. H. D. Thomson, who were intensely interested in the work and did so much toward the victory we celebrate. They were called to their reward before the final triumph to which they had so largely contributed. Mrs. Thompson’s funeral being one week and Mrs. Stone’s three weeks before.

Mrs. Mclntyre expressed the thanks of the association to their campaign speakers and to all who in any way contributed to the success of the meetings, especially the seven young men of the college whose time is so precious and so closely occupied.

Mr. Bailey spoke of the campaigns of 77 and 93 and the intelligence and progressiveness of the people in the counties where equal suffrage was approved and their lack where defeated.

After a selection by the orchestra, Dr. Brown spoke of the status of women forty years ago; of the ridicule and persecution of the pioneers in the reform which the voters of Colorado have now so decidedly approved.

After giving the congratulations of the public school teachers, Miss Meade spoke of the present status of women, showing their great progress since given the same opportunities for education as their brothers; of the recent franchise victories in England and New Zealand, and of the interest and pleasure expressed in telegrams and letters from all over the country and beyond the seas in our Colorado triumph.

After giving the congratulations of the literary society of the college, Miss Southworth spoke of the condition and needs of the masses and of women’s new responsibilities and opportunities in connection therewith.

After the singing of the Equal Eights Banner, Mr. C. C. Emigh spoke of women in the teacher’s profession, and Carrie Moore gave a recitation in her own inimitable style which brought down the house.

Mr. Seckner, commander of the GAR , spoke for his organization and the relief corps [Women’s Relief Corps] and told of women’s work for the soldiers in a feeling , appreciative manner.

Harlan Thomas did the honors for the Sons and Daughters of Veterans, and also for the Colombian literary society of the college.

The singing of “Giving the Ballot to the Mothers” was greeted with the Chautauqua salute by the ladies. Mr. Walsh gave a humorous speech and Prof. Carpenter a brief, interesting one.

Judge McAnelly commended the manner of conducting the campaign and said the next thing is to register. Notwithstanding the proverbial reluctance of women to tell their ages it must be done.

The orchestra closed the exercises with a fine selection.

All the exercises were brief and appropriate and most of them spicy and humorous, each having its own distinctive line of thought and different from the others, making a delightful variety.

Amanda, Will you stand and be recognized?

The Women’s Relief Corps was involved in every aspect of Amanda’s life after she caught pneumonia.  They helped her in every way they could while she was still alive and when she was lost; “Meade, Washington, and the WRC donated beautiful everlasting and cut flowers to adorn the casket, the breast so full of patriotism, and the hands whoso beauty was duty done. Ms. Meade was one of the speakers at the Women’s Jubilation.  

The Women’s Jubilation was a celebration of the election victory of November 7, 1893 in Fort Collins located about 60 miles north of Denver.  One of the main speakers at the event held on the 20th of December, 1893 was Mr. Seckner, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) who spoke for both GAR and the Women’s Relief Corps (WRC) and he told of women’s work for the soldiers in a feeling, appreciative manner. 

Amanda was memorialized in Mary Hollands book; “Our Army Nurses. Interesting sketches, addresses, and photographs of nearly one hundred of the noble women who served in hospitals and on battlefields during our civil war” but Amanda never lived to see this book.

Why were Amanda, Sadie, and Ned traveling through Denver when it is typically very cold and often snowy near the end of December?  Its difficult to imagine that Mr. Seckner, commander of GAR and representing the WRC, would not have invited the one woman in Colorado well known to both the organizations he was representing and the woman most representative of the topic of his talk; “women’s work for the soldiers”

A formal recognition of Amanda is the only logical reason Ned, Amanda, and Sadie would have traveled through Denver this time of year. What if the newspaper account of Mr. Seckner’s talk ended this way? 

Following Mr. Seckner’s talk on women working in the war for the soldiers, he talked about Civil War career and some of the stories about a nurse from Vermont who served on the battlefield throughout the Civil War, taking care of her boys, the Vermont 3rd regiment.  He then asked Amanda Felch who was that nurse being talked about to stand up and be recognized.  A roomful of kind and caring men and women celebrating the recent election stood and applauded Mrs. Felch whose work was inspirational to everyone present and her two grown children, Ned and Sadie, were there to witness it.    

And… what if Marshall was too ill to attend but was aware in advance of what was planned and took it upon himself to make sure that Amanda went with her two children at her side? 

 I believe that it happened this way.  I like to think about everything that happened to her in her life and visualize this moment. 


Curtis, Emma Ghent. 1888. The Fate of a Fool. New York: J.A. Berry.
———. 1889. The Administratrix,. New York: J.B. Alden.

Holland, Mary A. Gardner. 1895. Our Army Nurses. Interesting Sketches, Addresses, and Photographs of Nearly One Hundred of the Noble Women Who Served in Hospitals and on Battlefields during Our Civil War. Boston, Mass., B. Wilkins & co.

Kennedy, John C. 2017. “A PERFECT UNION: THE WOMAN’S RELIEF CORPS AND WOMEN’S ORGANIZATIONAL ACTIVISM, 1861-1930.” PhD dissertation, Department of History West Lafayette, Indiana: Pudue.

Metheny, Hannah. 2013. “‘For A Woman’: The Fight for Pensions for Civil War Army Nurses.” College of William and Mary.

Schultz, Jane E. 2004. Women at the Front: Hospital Workers in Civil War America. Vol. 110. Chapel Hill; University of North Carolina.

Welch, Linda M. 2019. “Thomas O. Seaver, Colonel, 3rd Vermont Infantry.” Nonprofit, noncommercial. Vermont Civil War, Lest We Forget. June 3, 2019.

Next Chapter: Sarah

After the death of her mother Amanda, Sadie marries a Swede named Charles Zimmerman who is working in the mines at the goldfield of Cripple Creek. They marry and move to the lower Arkansas Valley to start a life farming.

They have four children who will come to know their mothers name as Sarah.

In early 1902, Sarah comes home when she learns that her father Marshall has taken his own life.

The image above by Dr. Kenneth Carpenter is a scientific view of what the Marsh Felch Dinosaur Quarry looked like about 152 million years ago. It is shown in comparison to what it looks like today.      

The quarry site today represents layers of inter-bedded sandstones, thin limestones, and shales that record the history of river channels, ponds, and floodplains over a period of time. For reasons not entirely understood, a prolifically large number of dinosaurs and other animals died there and were then buried and fossilized. They were then carefully excavated by Marshall Felch in the 1880’s.    

A primary reference for this general description is the 1998 publication by Kenneth Carpenter and Emmet Evanoff’s where the stream channel systems in the immediate vicinity of the channels that Marshall excavated and removed are described in detail. Secondly, they utilized detailed descriptions of the river channels and rock layers in Marshall’s letters (Evanoff and Carpenter 1998).

A second general resource about life in the late Jurassic period is found in the book Jurassic West, the Dinosaurs of the Morrison Formation and Their World by John Foster (Foster 2007). These two resources provide the primary references used here for a simple summary of the ancient ecosystem Marshall was uncovering with some emphasis on the Stegosaurus.

Marshall lived and breathed every aspect of the quarry for over five years and over time grew more and more curious about what the place was like where the dinosaurs lived.  He most certainly would have appreciated seeing Carpenter’s depiction of the quarry long ago and hearing a description of the plants and animals that lived there. 

Meandering Rivers

The simplified drawing above is used in various educational sites. It depicts the core concepts of a meandering river.  The river pushes outward on the bend leaving behind sandy material along the inside of the curve (lateral accretion deposits). Occasionally the banks fail and the river spills out onto the surrounding floodplain leaving behind a deposition feature called a crevasse splay.  How the river moved and shifted over time has much to do with what Marshall discovered and excavated. 

Relatively rapid changes in a river course take place in a natural system which seems to be the case when reading Marshall’s descriptions of what he was excavating. Although we don’t know for certain,  it seems that the dinosaurs he was excavating didn’t die all at once, but rather over a few days, weeks, or even months. Paleontologists today don’t just look at the dinosaur being excavated but clues all around in the surrounding rock layers that can provide insights in the place the dinosaur died. The goal is to obtain a clearer picture of the ecosystem the dinosaurs lived in. 

An excavation today would be much slower and more thorough but Marshall was being pressed hard to excavate as thoroughly and yet quickly as possible. The 1870’s and 80’s were the beginning years of major dinosaur discoveries in the American West and Professor Marsh’s emphasis was to present new genus and species of animals (especially dinosaurs) to the world.  Marshall was seldom asked by Marsh about the old river channel but his notes, drawings, and maps demonstrate he had a good deal of understanding of it. On June 23, 1886 Marshall wrote; “The animal here lay on its left side and up against the bank of our old river bed-bringing left hip the highest the right hip and some leg bones having slid downhill toward the bottom of the bed.”

If the excavation were done today more emphasis would be placed on the details of this river system. Fortunately we now have a rich spectrum of knowledge regarding the world in the late Jurassic period, not just here in Western North America, but around the world.  Perhaps some additional work could be done along the edges of the old workings in the future to expose the old river channel that Marshall was working in. It might be enlightening to gain a clearer picture of the events leading to such a mass assemblage of animals buried in a relatively small area.   

The Marsh Felch Dinosaur Quarry 152 million years ago

Deposition of sand, silt, clay, and other materials were deposited in and around streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes over a seven million year period recording that story.  The layers of rock where both Marshall Felch and the Lucas Brothers were working are known today across the American West as the Morrison Formation.  Here in the Garden Park National Natural Landmark, the formation is about 350 feet thick. The latter part of the Jurassic period was obviously a much different place in western North America than today. Maybe it was even stranger than what our initial assumptions are.

The streams and rivers began their journeys a few hundred miles to the west in an Andean type volcanic mountain range. They meandered from west to east across a vast relatively flat green landscape in western North America as it was then, between 155 and 148 million years ago. A few hundred years ago, if we were flying over the Great Plains it would have been a remarkable grassland ecosystem with ribbons of forested areas along the rivers and a host of animals including vast herds of bison. From up high in an airplane the Morrison ecosystem would have looked eerily similar but up close these Jurassic meadows, rivers, ponds, and lakes would have supported an ecosystem far different than we can easily imagine. 

The climate was semi-arid with wet and dry seasons. Overall it was quite warm and rarely did it ever freeze. Surprisingly there was not enough rainfall to grow the mass of vegetation needed to support a whole host of very large and hungry dinosaurs but yet, the vegetation was there. Scientists today have determined that the water the plants needed was the result of high ground water tables that existed, particular in this part of the continent at the time.

Between the different rivers there were vast meadows that were covered with ground ferns and short herbaceous cycad like plants. These fern meadows supported grazers like Stegosaurs, herds of slender long-necked and very long tailed Diplodocus, various sizes of bipedal dinosaurs moving around in groups, little long-legged running dry-land crocodiles, and occasionally big theropods, like an uninvited Allosaurus, crashed the party. 

The riparian areas along the streams and rivers were forested with a rich variety of tree ferns. Conifer trees similar to modern redwoods, Norfolk pines, and giant kauri tree of New Zealand, and Ginkgo trees similar to those with us today were plentiful. Below the tree cover was an under-story of various ground ferns and low growing palm-like cycad plants somewhat like we might see in the meadows but different species. Along the edge of the river were horsetails and in the river were a few smaller fish darting about while larger lung fish hid here and there. Within this riverside environment were; turtles, crocodiles, lizards, frogs, burrowing and tree climbing mammals all no bigger than a squirrel, and a whole host of buzzing and biting insects. Bipedal plant eating dinosaurs of various sizes were common, while a variety of larger long necked and long tailed dinosaurs such as Brontosaurus (Apatosaurus), Diplodocus, Haplocanthosaurus, and Brachiosaurus each had their own favorite niche (dinner plans).  Complimenting this crew was the odd-looking colorful Stegosaurs with plates on their back.  For some small, injured, or careless animals, the last thing they saw was a Ceratosaurus with very large teeth heading their way.  

Such a large concentration of dinosaur skeletons at Marshall’s dinosaur quarry wasn’t terribly complicated. It was simply the result of the normal movement of meandering rivers but here it seems a combination of severe, and possibly a prolonged drought was underway. Maybe there was just enough water remaining in a low spot in the old channel to attract thirsty dinosaurs and other animals. One of these animals could have included a Stegosaurus driven to exhaustion from the heat and the lack of food and water. The Stegosaurus took its last breath, laid down on its left side on the river bar and died. Our drought mortality victim was not alone, nearby was an Allosaurus and a Ceratosaurus. Normally these predators would have scavenged the Stegosaurus carcass but they too must have simply died from lack of food and water in the same general time frame. Limited rainfall over a few days, weeks, or months brought in just enough sediment so that our Stegosaurus was gently covered over preventing any major scavenging. Maybe think of it like pulling a blanket over a loved one who has passed away.

The drought must have been severe because Marshall found skeletons both above and all around the Stegosaurus. The difference was that most of these animals were exposed just long enough that their bodies were at least partially scavenged. Skeletons being pulled apart and somewhat scattered is not an unusual thing for mass mortality river type sites like this. 

Once initially buried, deposition from rivers, lakes, and ponds continued to pile up onto our Stegosaurus for another four million years. Geologic conditions then changed and no deposition of any kind took place in this part of the world, therefore there is a thirty million gap in the geologic record for this part of the world. Around 110 million years ago deep seated tectonic forces began to cause subsidence of the land and before long the place where Stegosaurus and the other the dinosaurs had lived dropped well below sea level. A whole new underwater story then took place. Above the deeply buried dinosaurs was a great sea with giant swimming reptiles, ammonites, and clams. A completely different type of rock record stretching over thirty million years was the result. Like the dinosaur story this story would also come to an end.

Beginning about 65 million years ago the first of several mountain building episodes that created the Rocky Mountains was underway. These uplifts continued intermittently with the most recent uplifts taking place in the last few million years. The geologic story over the last 65 million years is its own fascinating and complex geologic story.  One benefit for paleontologists is that these mountain uplifts lifted up long buried sedimentary rock layers thousands of feet back well above sea level. Some of these layers included the Morrison Formation and although it still remains at great depth some places it was lifted up so high than in others much of it eroded away.  In our special place we call the Garden Park-National Natural Landmark and more specifically the Marsh Felch Dinosaur Quarry were not only raised up just the right amount. Even then though Mother Nature took its toll as large slump (landslide) blocks are common in the Garden Park National Natural Landmark. 

In 1877, a curious little ten-year-old girl named Sadie noticed bones buried in the rock near the edge of a cliff. These turned out to be the bones of a very strange animal with a very long neck and even longer tail that lived 152,000,000 years earlier. That same year Professor Mudge, Sam Williston, and Marshall excavated a Diplodocus. Marshall was an experienced excavator and now Marshall was getting ready to do some of his finest work beginning in 1883. In 1885 he will come across a Stegosaurus.   

“Such Success is Most Remarkable”

Almost 30 years after Marshall excavated the Stegosaurus, Charles Gilmore described the acquisition by the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) of this material.

The description included the drawing to the left (Gilmore, 1914).

“When the Marsh collection was received at the National Museum in 1898 and 1899 a very small part of the Stegosaurian material was in condition for study. The preparation of this material was begun m 1906 and has continued, barring some interruptions, up to the close of the year 1913…The material at hand includes the remains of several individuals, each of which represents a considerable part of the skeleton; also a vast number of separate bones. Of the associated skeletons the type of Stegosaurus stenops Marsh is worthy of especial mention, since it represents the most perfect specimen of the genus yet discovered and the only one known that gives positive evidence as to the arrangement of the dermal armor…The extensive collection of Stegosaurian remains in the National Museum has, with few exceptions, been obtained from two important, though widely separated, fossil deposits. These are Quarry 13, located in Albany County, Wyoming, and Quarry No. 1, in Fremont County, Colorado. The former, I may say without fear of contradiction, was the source of the greatest accumulation of Stegosaurian remains ever discovered, and from the latter has been obtained the wonderfully complete skeleton of Stegosaurus stenops (No. 4934, United States National Museum), in addition to many other valuable specimens.” (Gilmore 1914)


“The fossil bones lay buried in a thick stratum of heavily bedded sandstone. Not only was the stone extremely hard, but it was also considerably fractured, both vertically and horizontally, in such manner as to greatly increase the difficulties encountered in properly taking up the bones.

Mr. Felch, however, overcame these difficulties in a most commendable manner. The specimens were quarried out in large blocks of stone, the contained fossils thus being retained in their original relative positions. Each articulated or partially articulated skeleton was given a number (for example, the type of Stegosaurus stenops was designated by the field number “Sk. 11 “). The skeleton was divided into irregular-sized groups, each group being indicated by a number, as Gr. 1, Gr. 2, etc. The pieces of stone comprising the different groups were lettered, each group beginning with A and continuing alphabetically. (Gilmore, 1914)

The picture below shows the Stegosaurus during the preparation phase This picture appears to be the bottom side of the Stegosaurus. Both sides were prepared and the initial exhibit include mirrors to enable visitors to see key parts of the underside of the Stegosaurus. Picture courtesy of the National Museum of Natural History. 

The skeleton, group, and block designations were painted on the stone, so that, aided by the rough sketch diagrams made and properly marked at the same time, the work of assembling the blocks in the laboratory was reduced to a minimum. Considering the early date of this work, which was before the development of modern field methods, the painstaking care and ingenuity displayed by Mr. Felch in collecting this difficult material with such success is most remarkable.”  (Gilmore, 1914)

The image above of Stegosaurus as it looked near the end of its preparation phase around 1912. Images of Stegosaurus in preparation are courtesy of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. This particular specimen became lovingly known at the National Museum of Natural History as the “Roadkill”.  The term has since been used for dinosaur skeletons so perfect (and so rare) that they have the appearance of being hit by a bus and falling over. 

Ranching and Farming From March through July?

About the time Marshall was finishing up shipping Stegosaurus bones from work in 1885 to Professor Marsh, he was having serious reservations about continuing to excavate dinosaurs in the spring and early summer. This was the time period when the ranch needed the most attention. When Marshall was geared up to start excavating at the beginning of 1885 Marsh had unexpectedly pulled the rug out from under him stating he suddenly had no funding until July. This caused Marshall and certainly Amanda great consternation on a number of fronts. On the other hand Marshall noticed was that he had time to get the ranch and farm in order when it needed the most attention and over the last few months he thought about this a lot. Perhaps he would have thought about this a lot less if Professor Marsh put in some effort publicly recognizing Marshall’s work or paid him enough to make this all worthwhile but neither of these avenues were going to happen.  

Marshall suggested to Professor Marsh that for 1866 he could dig dinosaurs before April and after July.  He described the dilemma to Marsh on January 24, 1886; 

when help here is always scarce – crops need the most careful and constant attention… I have to drop my farm work, to go to work in the quarry – start out to get help for that work – also to work on the ranch.  I find all good hands, or men that are of much account either went to the mines in the spring or hired out March 1” for the full seasons work, and so am compelled to depend on some floating, transient help – for which in order to get at all I must pay the very highest price, as the labor market is in their hands Suppose, even I am fortunate enough to get a first class hand to work my ranch, he is a stranger to the peculiar lay of the ground (an item of no small importance in farming by irrigation) and work as hard and faithful as he may will be unable to accomplish little more than half that I would with far less hard labor, besides more or less of my time must to some extent be given daily in planning and directing him and where the work may be applied to the best advantage that any good results may be had.

Marshall may have been encouraged by Amanda to stand up and to quit letting Professor Marsh take advantage of his good nature.  Marshall not only stated the case, he laid out the terms of what he needed; 

“After my experience of last year in doing business this way I cannot take the same chances again… What I wish to do with my ranch is, either to let it to some good man – or hire a good man to carry it on from the first of March when I can stand a better chance of getting good men – and in either case, I must, if I go to work in the quarry at all, begin by the first of April in order to meet expenses and not get behind.” 

Marshall pointed out that the previous year he had been in a bind because of Weld’s preemption land claim and to protect the quarry (that was in the interest of Professor Marsh) he not only didn’t receive adequate pay he ended up in his debt.  He stated that he had been protecting the claim from other collectors and Marsh had done little to recognize this effort.  He made it known that he needed to know by the 1st of March what the Professor was willing to do so he could plan accordingly.  

Professor Marsh knew clearly that this quarry was providing some outstanding results. He could also tell that Marshall had evolved into a great collector.  He had a lot going on at the Peabody and other collecting localities so he pleaded poverty on the 12th of February but agreed to give Marshall $10 more per month, additional money to pay for a man to work at the ranch for three months, and $50 for some of the improvements Marshall had paid out of his own pocket. This arrangement seemed fair to Marshall and full time work at the quarry for 1886 was underway.  

Marshall’s Masterpiece: The Stegosaurus

It Wasn’t the First

The Stegosaurus that is the focus of this chapter was not the first Stegosaurus found at this quarry.  The first Stegosaurus at this quarry was found in 1884 by Marshall’s crew in the western part of the quarry. This dinosaur was identified as Stegosaurus armatus but later on the species name armatus was discarded.  

The Stegosaurus that is the focus of this chapter was first mentioned in early August of 1885.  Little bits of bones were embedded in the the lower part of 20 feet high cliff wall. The location was very close to where Ceratosaurus had been excavated in the fall of 1883 and these bits of Stegosaurus bone were sitting about the same level as the Ceratosaurus.  Marshall had seen enough Stegosaurus bones by now that he was pretty sure about these bones. He even speculated where the majority of the skeleton would be found. 

Marshall made a quarry drawing shown to the right in his August 10,1885 letter showing where he was seeing Stegosaurus bones. The little o’s along the edge of the cliff wall and the letter F was where he suspected the Stegosaurus might be.  

Plates and Ossicles

Marshall Felch wrote to Marsh on the 27th of October, 1885 stating that the bones he was finding definitely belonged to Stegosaurus.  He described; “great numbers of dermal plates…one large spine…strong curved…and also the little clusters of small bonesin reading up the papers on Stegosaurus – I could find no mention of this particular feature – and did not know but what they might have been missed, or overlooked in collecting, as they would be hard to find in anything but hard firm rock like ours”. 

Charles Gilmore analyzed where these bony scutes (ossicles) were found;  “they covered the sides of the neck from the base of the erect plates downward, scattering, if at all, on the ventral (underside) areas”  Gilmore also commented on the large dermal plates noting;  “ This feature has been the subject of considerable speculation and discussion among vertebrate paleontologists..this specimen (no. 4934) the plates of opposite sides are not arranged in pairs but those of one side alternate with the other”. (Gilmore 1914)

Ossicles discovered by Marshall  shown on plate 22 to the left (Gilmore 1914)

12,308 Pounds of Stegosaurus

Marshall and his crew proceeded judiciously excavating the Stegosaurus. He wrote to Professor Marsh on December 9, 1885; “We have 29 boxes in town, and shall have 6 or 7 more when all are packed. The work is now complete up to where all the rest ahead, appears to be in much better and firmer rock than where we have done the most of our work this season.”  

On Christmas day 1885, Marshall wrote; “I shall expect to receive orders from Maj Belcher by tomorrow or next day to ship the boxes, 35 in all, and then I will go to work writing up on their contents.”  Two days later he wrote; “The total weight of the 35 boxes is 12,308 pounds.”  

Marshall elaborated On February 11, 1886 about the Stegosaurus stating; “Skeleton No. 11 the last Stegosaurus found – lay mostly on the marl bed – under Sk. 9 and the other bones.”  Sk 9 will be repeatably be referred to over the next two years, apparently a large unidentified sauropod that may have been Haplocanthosaurus or Brontosaurus (Apatosaurus). 

On March 17, 1886, Professor Marsh wrote; “You have made us all happy by sending in Group Z(?), Sk 11, complete skull (or nearly so) of Stegosaurus, what we have been hoping and praying for, for years. It comes just in time to be of the most use, as we are just starting in on a restoration. Although badly broken, nearly all the pieces are here, with lower jaw in position.”

Never fully satisfied Marsh went on; “Now get us a hind foot to go with it and we will let up on Stegosaurus. I hope we shall find one with this skeleton, – also something to tell us how the plates and spines go.”

Stegosaurus stenops skull by Charles Gilmore on the right. (Gilmore 1914)

Marshall responded to Marsh’s compliment on March 25, 1886; “I am glad to know that you have found the long hoped for Skull of Stegosaurus – and that it is in as good condition as it is… It is a wonder, any of this skeleton has turned out as well as it has – for in our work in ’83 when … we worked clear up, and on to this skeleton in several places – and only left off – within a foot or so of this group that had the skull.” 

Cutaway view of Stegosaurus skull on the left, plate 8 (Gilmore,1914)

Under the Nose of Ceratosaurus


Four months later on June 17, 1886 Marshall wrote; “In regard to the other fore leg – I don’t believe it is here – for I took out and sent the humerus in 1883 – as will be seen by looking on the quarry map of that year. It lay almost directly under the nose of Ceratosaurus and but a few feet from where we now are – and must have belonged with Sk. 11 as no other bones of Stegosaurus but Sk. 11 have been found in this division of the quarry.  

“An Armor Plated Vessel”

On March 25, 1886 Marsh described how the plates may have been connected to the Stegosaurus; “It was the position of this plate that gave me the idea – that the top of the plate rested on the top…Plates laid on over such a frame work – supported by those strong curved ribs would make a good design for an armor plated vessel.”

Its logical Marshall could have thought this because of Charles Gilmore’s description of the plates in 1914 as the skeleton was being prepared;  “The dermal plates, which in life stood erect along the back, are present to a point back of the pelvis and are retained in the rock in their mutual relations. The eleven plates forming the armor of the anterior part of the animal are turned back in under the body and neck, forming a continuous sheet of bone upon which the anterior parts of the skeleton lay.” Gilmore didn’t suspect this was the position of the plates when the dinosaur was alive, simply that is how they were initially found by Marshall.  The major anatomical question was were they in pairs or did they alternate. 

Plate 14 below showing plates that Marshall excavated. (Gilmore, 1914)

Marsh: “With Some Impatience” 

Marsh wrote on the 18th of May; “don’t uncover the vertebrae very much and especially don’t disturb the plates. I rather not know than to have the blocks marred or cut so that any bone would be injured or its connection lost with those around it.”  In a second letter that same day Marsh wrote; “It is very important to follow on from this point, and get all the rest of the skeleton.”  

On the 11th of June Marsh wrote; “We find that one fore leg and foot of Sk 11, is nearly entire, (left) and you must have the other (right) in the quarry.”   Marsh can’t help but point out a problem though;  “This one (left) has only 4 toes, the thumb being lost.”   

Two weeks later Marsh wrote; “We have found the other fore foot of Sk 11 curled under the first one, but with the toes scattered.”   Marsh continues pressuring Marshall to work harder;  “Don’t let anything prevent our securing all the rest of Sk 11 in full as good order as the part we have. It is our last chance as the plates of the volume are nearly finished.” 

Marsh wrote again on the 11th of July;  “we are waiting for the rest with some impatience. Please do not try to uncover any part that you can send in the rock, and keep the connection. We can cut every bone out here.”

Marshall: “The Only Safe Way”

Marshall explained in great detail the quarry location of the Stegosaurus along with their work plan on the 18th of April, 1886:  “there is but one way to go on – the same as for the past two years – to work with the natural seams – take all along clean across the face of the quarry – good bad or indifferent, old and new as we come to it – any other method is liable to work ruin to many specimens as in the first seasons work. … I know this method is terribly slow and tedious – and half of our work has to be spent on bones that will probably be of no use whatever – but it is the only safe way.   

About a month later on the 16th of May Marshall wrote what his assistants were doing; “they have a lot of broken bones that they are hardening and pasting to make it ‘hard as a marble slab'”.

On the 30th of July, Marshall wrote;  “We have done no extra work with chisels – none whatever – except in getting points of separation – or where it was necessary in trimming off waste rock.” 

It must have been painfully frustrating to explain their work procedures and receive what felt like unwarranted scrutiny. 

Quarry Drawings and Maps

Marshal had developed an ingenious method for excavating the Stegosaurus so that it could be relatively easily laid out as it had died and prepared at the Peabody Museum. The methodology was relatively simple.

As the block was being removed,  he would make markings on the block so that it could later on be placed back exactly as it was found.  A group of fossils such as ribs or a section of vertebrate that might be in three blocks were also labeled to assist preparators back at the Yale Peabody Museum, for example block 3, group 4. Marshall documented his work and prepared detailed descriptions including drawings and maps in letters. Marshall also made special markings near particular bones or fragments where he wanted to point out something specific.  

Once a block was removed, he laid it out on the low table under the shade cover in the way the block was found. When he was ready to do a shipment he would identify which blocks or groups went into which boxes and then carefully label the boxes and identify what was what in his letters.   

This system was an outstanding one but Professor Marsh and his team had difficulty with it. Marshall could not understand the problem until he received a letter from Professor Marsh on the 19th of January in 1887; “We are working on Sk 11, but as we have only room to lay out one point at a time we find some trouble”. 

Marshall responded on the 2nd of February;  “If only you had room to spread out and keep matched up one or two groups ahead of the work there would not be much trouble-but as it is the next best thing in order is a careful study of the diagrams-not only separately but collectively.” 

The Peabody Museum had been opened in 1876 but by 1886 it was overflowing with stacked boxes of specimens crowded into every spare inch.  There was not room at the Peabody to lay out a skeleton in order to work on it so the preparation team did the best they could given the limitations in work space.  This was not an issue when the specimen was moved to the National Museum of Natural History and Charles Gilmore and his assistants had plenty of room work. 

The Letters

In the chapter entitled “Rejoicing in Four or Five Languages” the introduction included a description of the letters written by Marshall Felch that had been found at the Yale Peabody Museum along with the letters Professor Marsh wrote that were found at the University of Utah. There is a total of about three hundred or so. Surprisingly there were ten letters written by Marshall Felch that had been removed from the Yale Peabody Museum. These were specific letters written in 1886 and 1887 that included all the detailed notes, maps, and diagrams on the excavation of key dinosaurs, most notably the Stegosaurus. 

 The crew at the NMNH obviously looked through all the letters written by Marshall Felch and decided to take specific ones that they felt would be most advantageous in working on the fossils they had received, most notably the Stegosaurus.  

Excavating a Stegosaurus: A simple guide

Remove about 15 feet of overlying hard rock down to the bone beds. Use dynamite as needed. 

Do this no sooner than a month or two before you are planning to excavate to minimize weathering within the bone beds. 

The exposed bone bearing bench contains two main bone bearing layers. The Stegosaurus layer will be in the lower bed and it will also contain other types of dinosaur bones.

Professionally remove the upper layer a little at a time doing all the same things as you would with the Stegosaurus layer.  

Generally work your way across the bench from left to right (a run) removing blocks and taking advantage of natural north south. Natural seams (joints) in the rock provide a ready made “backcut”. 

Your goal is identify as much as you possibly can but the bones in the rock are only faintly visible. With training and practice you can learn to identify logical groups of bones (i.e. leg bones).  Use glues and/or paste to solidify any exposed bone. 

A block is something that can be lifted by two people and moved, but in a few places where there is a conglomeration of bones where you may need to take out larger blocks to prevent destroying the skeleton.

Label each block noting how it connects to adjacent blocks and any other markings such as particular bones you want to note. 

Move the block over to the low table and place in the same order as it came out of the quarry.

Take notes and prepare drawings, diagrams, and sketches as needed to assist with eventual preparation of the skeleton at the museum. 

Build custom shipping boxes. Provide clear instructions on what blocks are in what boxes in letters and include any diagrams or other materials to assist preparators in the letters and in the boxes. 

Periodically drag boxes by sled down to the two track road optionally using a horse, load onto a wagon and haul to the train station until you have a full shipment ready to go. 

These directions are a complete oversimplification of what you will actually encounter.  Don’t forget that while you are working the sun will be intense and gnats will be in your eyes and ears and after your shipment arrives at Yale you will receive lots of complaints from a college professor. 

The excavation of the Stegosaurus was just getting underway at the time the map below was prepared. Marshall included the quarry map with one of early 1886 letters.  This map was constructed largely from memory as pretty much everything Marshall produced was sent off to Marsh. 

The Pelvis

The pelvic area is mentioned at various times in Marshall’s letters.  On the 27th of March 1886 Marshall wrote; “If the sacrum is in position with the center of the pubis and illium – it would be somewhere from two feet to thirty inches from the first dorsal in the face of the wall up to the sacrum.”  On June 8, 1886 Marshall wrote: “you will find when you get the rest, that all around the pelvis the bones are massed in more closely even, than they were in group 5 of this skeleton,”

On July 4, 1886 Marshall reiterated the complexity of the bones in the pelvic area; “we find a mass of bones as badly crowded as in the layer above. This last section comes directly under where the sacrum – pelvic – leg bones – and the first of the anterior caudals lay – and we find more leg bones, plates, spines, and some foot bones.” 

On the 30th of July Marshall discusses two large blocks containing pelvic material that will be prepared for shipment;  “Two blocks in 11 will weigh several hundred pounds each – and I had to use 2 inch plank to make the boxes strong enough to hold them.”  

Almost thirty years later Charles Gilmore wrote; “The pelvic bones are all present, though slightly disarranged; the ilia, however, remain firmly ossified with the sacral vertebrae and show plainly the great breadth of the hips.” (Gilmore, 1914)

Articulated left fore foot of Stegosaurus stenops shown as found by Marshall Felch.  Drawing by Charles Gilmore (Gilmore, 1914)

Professor Marsh Pays His Last Visit

In the latter part of September and early October of 1886, Marshall continued to describe bones from multiple skeletons that were mixed up together as he was excavating. Although Marshall understood much more clearly what was going on at the quarry than anyone anywhere by this time, it was probably of some assistance that Professor Marsh stopped by and paid a brief visit sometime in mid September.  It was the last time the Professor would ever visit the old quarry and the last time he and Marshall would ever meet. Marsh and Sadie Felch would meet one additional time. 

Marshall wrote on the 26th of September; “bones of another skeleton mixed up with the spines of No. 11 – and on the left side what appears to be as good a foot as Allosaurus – the bones…showing up at every break = from the largest metatarsal to the smallest bones – and at one point a claw”

On the 26th of October Marshall wrote; “we shall take in the last of this lot with Sk. 11 – 26 boxes in all – tomorrow… This makes all of Sk. 11 that we have out.”   The majority of Sk. 11 (Stegosaurus stenops) was removed by this time although some additional bones would be uncovered over the next year

Professor Marsh wanted a complete skeleton from tip of the skull to the tip of the tail but he was not satisfied. In all likelihood, Marshall found most if not all of the skeletal material that was there to be found.  There were enough animals ranging from crocodiles to small dinosaur predators around 152 millions ago that when the Stegosaurus died some scavenging of the tail and back legs was probable. 

Articulated cervical vertebrae of Stegosaurus stenops excavated by Marshall, fig. 16 by Gilmore below.  “The vertebral column is largely intact and to a great extent articulated—at least it is so little disturbed that the axial skeleton appears to be complete from the tip of the nose to the seventeenth caudal.”  (Gilmore, 1914) 

I Came Near Going Off

On September 7, 1885 (about the time Stegosaurus stenops was discovered) Marshall suffered a leg injury that would not heal.  He wrote: “and though the injury was so slight that I paid but little attention to at first, it in a few days got to be quite serious. Wednesday of the past week I had to get a surgeon to attend it, and he pronounces it an indolent ulcer  and commenced a treatment which is bringing it back to life again – and I hope soon to be around again.”  In his pension testimony Amanda stated that; he had a large boil on outside of left leg.  I poulticed it and after it broke the flesh began sloughing off.  Brought him to Dr. Dawson who said that is a bad looking leg”.  Both of these incidents may have been at least partially the result of using a mercury based salve in use at the time. 

On January 20 1886 Marshall wrote; “I have been quite ill for sometime, and feeling a good deal depressed about matters generally.” On the 31st of January, 1886 Marshall wrote: “I have been so ill and miserable for the past month that I could not do anything, but will try and figure out what you need soon.

Marshall experienced this range of health issues during the year but at the end of the year he went down.  On January 23, 1887, Sadie Felch responded to Professor Marsh for her father stating he has been; “quite ill  requests me to say as soon as he is able he will look up the matter for you.”   Marshall must have been well enough to respond himself on February 2, 1887 writing; “I have been bad off for the two weeks with my old trouble of neuralgia of the heart, am as yet hardly able to be up.” The first two pages are missing from Marshall’s  letter on February 21, 1887 but there a PS at the end of the letter that was preserved; “I am having rather a serious time this winter – and it has been almost five weeks since I was out – have had two attacks since my last in one of which I came near going off.”  

A Post Mortem Diagnosis

The skin lesions were probably the result of using mercury salve, in common use at the time. The sharp pains in his chest were probably the result of improperly healed ribs damaged at the same time he fractured his neck vertebrate after being thrown from a horse during the Battle of Cedar Creek on the 19th of October, 1864. The heart problems he had experienced before the Civil War are best described by Amanda when testifying during his pension application on his behalf in 1888; I place my hand on his heart and it was beating very hard.  I called it a “tearing” feeling. No, the Dr. did not say his heart was affected.  He made me get up one night and open the window for air, said he couldn’t get his breath.” Most likely this was a heart valve regurgitation issue, possibly the mitral valve. It doesn’t appear that Marshall ever had a long term alcohol or opioid problem but he may have taken either mercury based calomel or little blue (mercury) pills making some of his symptoms worse. All of these things were in combination with fairly severe PTSD. 

Digging up dinosaur skeletons in a site like this is hard work, particularly when you consider the heat, cold, wind, gnats, and lack of shade.  Marshall likely spent most of his days working at the quarry and at night he worked by lamplight putting together letters.  This kind of work is something that can be done fairly well over maybe 3 or 4 months per year but Marsh was pushing him to work not stop. The quarry was highly productive and Marsh was very demanding. The reality was that there is only so much an injured and ill Civil War veteran could do.  

Like the Stegosaurus he was excavating, Marshall had been driven to exhaustion.  

Every Hour is Precious

The excavation of the Stegosaurus was largely complete by December of 1886 but work would continue in the field as well as several letters back and forth where Marsh was having difficulty and Marshall was responding to questions.  Perhaps it would have saved a lot of back and forth letter writing if Marsh had paid for Marshall to come to New Haven and answer questions but such an offering was no longer on the table.  

On December 15, 1886 Professor Marsh wrote; “We have come to grief with Sk 11, and I write for help…. Can you help us out? If so, please do so at once.”

As soon as this letter arrived, Marshall responded on December 20, 1886 providing detailed descriptions and information but concluding: “There can be nothing done toward putting groups together without the diagrams-for in them I have tried to give all the explanations necessary-and what they do not give I can add very little too new-as they are the main history and record a I work along”

A few weeks later on January 19, 1887 Marsh wrote; we seem to need is an outline sketch of how the groups lie, and about how the beast Sk 11 runs through them… every hour is precious in making plates for the Volume.”

About the time Marshall was unable to hardly get out of bed he again responded on February 2, 1887 with another detailed description and also providing; “an outline showing as near as I can remember the position of the groups in SK.11” 

Marsh wrote again on the 10th of February; “I am very anxious to find the hind feet (or one of them), and also to get the position of the plates and spines” 

It should have been apparent by now that although the Stegosaurus was remarkably complete, a specimen considered by Gilmore to be “the most perfect specimen of the genus yet discovered” it wasn’t perfect and short of a Rhino being suffocated in a volcanic ash flow twelve million years ago such as at Ashfall State Park in Nebraska, perfect preservation in a river system was pretty much not an option.   

Marsh, being Marsh, expressed disappointment that both hind feet would be missing.  Marshall never gave up trying and once again did his best to assist Marsh. On the 27th of February, Marshall expressed dismay that both hind feet were missing and provided Marsh some boxes to check. 

Over the next few months discussion of the Stegosaurus gradually subsided and other dinosaurs including Diplodocus became the focus of the quarry story and thus, this is where our chapter comes to closure.

Above is a picture I took of the pelvic region looking back toward the tail area during one of several visits by JoAnn and I to the National Museum of Natural History over the years.  Beginning in 2014 and ending in the summer of 2019, the Dinosaur Hall underwent significant renovations.  JoAnn and I are planning a trip back east for the fall of 2019 to see what happened to the Allosaurus, Ceratosaurus, and Stegosaurus. 


Evanoff, Emmett, and Kenneth Carpenter. 1998. “History, Sedimentology, and Taphonomy of Felch Quarry 1 and Associated Sandbodies, Morrison Formation, Garden Park, Colorado.” Modern Geology 22: 145–69.

Foster, John Russell. 2007. Jurassic West: The Dinosaurs of the Morrison Formation and Their World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Gilmore, Charles W. 1914. Osteology of the Armored Dinosauria in the United States National Museum, with Special Reference to the Genus Stegosaurus,. Smithsonian Institution, Bulletin 89. United States National Museum: Govt. print. off.

Next Chapter: The Hands Whoso Beauty Was Duty Done

After 1887 Marshall’s days as a dinosaur excavator continued for another three years but from a practical standpoint were over.

Marshall and Amanda apply for and receive pensions for their Civil War service and both go home to Vermont for a visit.

Amanda unexpectedly dies on New Year’s Eve 1893, about the time she becomes known for her service and an inspirational figure to other women.

Professor Marsh relied extensively on field excavators like Marshall Felch out west while back home at the Peabody Museum of Natural History he needed fossil preparators, illustrators, and paleontologists to complete a solid identification of a species. The Peabody Museum of Natural History opened in 1876 and seven years later it was overflowing with fossils including a growing collection of Jurassic dinosaur bones derived mostly from Como Bluffs Wyoming, Morrison and Canon City Colorado.  With funding from the US Geological Survey after 1882, Marsh hired Marshall Felch to open up the old quarry.

Based on the letters sent to Marshall from 1883 to 1888, Professor Marsh seemed to have four general objectives;

    • find missing parts, particularly skulls and feet
    • locate better representations of particular bones
    • confirm how certain bones were joined together
    • find something new such as the Ceratosaurus 

By 1884 Marshall had become a very good excavator and by the end of 1886 he would excavate a number of bones and partial skeletons including two exceptional skeletons of Allosaurus and Stegosaurus. 

A Twist of Fate

Marsh didn’t just want to win, he wanted to decimate Cope. The culmination of the fight between Professor Cope and Marsh began in late 1889 when, at the urging of both Professor Marsh and John Wesley Powell, the new director of the Department of Interior John Nobel wrote a demand letter to Cope. The letter required Cope to turn over all the vertebrate fossils he had collected in the west while working with Ferdinand Hayden; in other words a major portion of his life’s work. Cope knew immediately who was behind this letter and was ready.  Maybe this letter could have been ignored or negotiated but Cope had been maintaining files that contained every misdeed Marsh had ever done. He contacted the New York Herald with a barrel full of dirt on Marsh including the fact that the US Geological Survey (USGS) paid for a substantial portion of the dinosaur collection Marsh had at the Yale Peabody Museum. This moment is the culmination of the “Bone Wars” story told in books, articles, and film. 

Professor Cope and Marsh were both severely bludgeoned through this process but it wasn’t Professor Cope who gave up his fossils. The move backfired on Marsh who had been paying field excavators and his staff at Yale with USGS money.  It wasn’t Cope but rather Marsh who lost a major portion of his collection at the Peabody including most of the dinosaur fossils that had been collected after 1882 at Como Bluffs and the fossils Marshall excavated here. The Peabody’s loss became all too real when in 1898, the first of several loads of dinosaur fossils from the Yale Peabody were shipped by train down to Washington D.C.and accessioned into the Smithsonian collections, something Professor Marsh witnessed before he passed away in 1899. Professor Cope would have enjoyed this spectacle but he didn’t live long enough to see it.

In spite of the turmoil surrounding the bone wars story, Marsh remains one of the most famous paleontologists of all time with extensive honors and a very rich legacy of publications. Professor Marsh had a tendency to keep the limelight on himself rather than those that worked for him.  Marshall died in 1902, at the time a relatively unknown dinosaur excavator. Marsh remained as famous as ever but in a rather quirky twist of fate, the feud between Professor Marsh and Professor Cope inadvertently led to a well deserved and substantially greater appreciation Marshall’s work.

In 1903 a dedicated and knowledgeable paleontologist by the name of Charles Gilmore was hired by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. to work on all the dinosaurs that had arrived from the Peabody. Fifteen years later, Gilmore had completed outstanding publications describing Marshall’s work on Ceratosaurus, Allosaurus, and Stegosaurus.

From a public recognition standpoint, “Marshall’s skeletons” went on permanent display in the great dinosaur hall beginning about 1910 in the brand-new National Museum of Natural History. Although Marshall’s name is far from a household word, tens of millions of visitors have since viewed the results his technical and scientific work.  


The National Museum of Natural History 

The National Museum also known as the Smithsonian Institution Building or “the castle” was built in 1855.  It was the first major building on what is called the Mall today. In response to exhibits arriving from the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the Arts and Industry Building was added in 1881. 

Soon substantial rock, mineral, and fossil collections being acquired by the Smithsonian and these geologic collections escalated dramatically between 1898 and 1903 when train car loads of dinosaur bones arrived from the Yale Peabody Museum in New Haven Connecticut. Some of those materials were the dinosaurs Marshall excavated. 

In response to all this material, the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) was planned, built, and opened with a grand dinosaur hall to the public in 1910.  

It was Gilmore who publicly expressed great appreciation of Marshall Felch’s work. Not only did Gilmore publish in depth descriptions of “Marshall’s” dinosaur skeletons, he turned these discoveries into prized permanent exhibits for the public to see.  

Charles Whitney Gilmore

Skeletal drawings of Ceratosaurus displayed in the last chapter were included in the manuscript by Charles Gilmore entitled  “Osteology of the carnivorous Dinosauria …with special reference to the genera Antrodemus [Allosaurus] and Ceratosaurus”.  In this chapter the second major focus of Gilmore manuscript’s is Allosaurus.  Both the Ceratosaurus and the Allosaurus were initially described by Professor Marsh but the most thorough descriptions were by Gilmore.  

Charles was born in 1874 and grew up on a family farm southwest of Rochester New York. At the age of six, an aunt took Charlie to visit the nearby Ward’s Natural Science Establishment, created to find and sell rocks, fossils, and other natural science materials to colleges, universities, and museums. Charles recalled seeing; a number of men stuffing’ all kinds of birds and mammals… the museum bug had been firmly implanted … for immediately collections of fossil shells, rocks, birds’ eggs, and insects were started … soon the idea of following  museum work as a life profession was implanted, an idea that never deserted me…(Colbert, 1984)

At the age of eight the family moved to Howell Michigan and after graduation from high school Gilmore decided to attend recently founded land grant university in Laramie Wyoming, the the University of Wyoming. There he focused on their collection of dinosaur specimens. After graduation he began a career with the Carnegie Museum and quickly became an outstanding authority on dinosaurs.

When the U.S. National Museum (aka Smithsonian) was gearing up to open up the natural history museum, Charles Gilmore applied for a paleontology position and in 1903 was hired. Over time Gilmore took on many assignments including preparation of a manuscript on Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus writing; The preparation of this material was begun in 1911 and has continued, barring interruptions, up to the close of the year 1918″ (Gilmore, 1920). 

In 1920 Charles published the manuscript entitled ” Osteology of the carnivorous Dinosauria …with special reference to the genera Antrodemus [Allosaurus] and Ceratosaurus“.  The sole Ceratosaurus utilized for his work was excavated by Marshall Felch while the Allosaurus excavated by Marshall Felch was the most referenced of any of the Allosaurus material.  

Gilmore took charge of the entire NMNH vertebrate fossil collection in 1923 and remained there until his retirement in 1945. During his career he published forty-three scientific papers and monographs and participated in sixteen scientific expeditions.  

Gilmore had the great virtue of being able to apply the seat of his pants to the seat of a chair, to get down on paper the knowledge that was in in his head concerning dinosaurs and other fossil reptiles”. (Colbert, 1984)

Charles Whitney Gilmore (1874-1945), curator of the Division of Vertebrate Paleontology at the United States National Museum,  Gilmore is shown with vertebrae of a Diplodocus. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Accession 90-105, Science Service Records, Image #SIA2008-1930

Dr. Charles Gilmore working on a 32 foot long tail of a sauropod dinosaur on March 24, 1938 in the National Museum of Natural History. 

Charles was “one of the great American students of dinosaurs, a quiet and most modest man, a man of great generosity, truly beloved by his colleagues”  (Colbert, 1984). Picture courtesy of the library of congress and wiki commons.

Without a Scratch

The Cabin, a Shed, and a Shaded Work Table

Considering both the remarkable excavations in 1883 and the strong probability the bone bed would continue into the hillside, Marshall needed a building. There he could  store tools, equipment, and specimens until they could be packed and later shipped.  On the 7th of January, 1884 Marshall wrote; “We are much in need of some place at the quarry – to keep things housed in better shape than we have had – for it is difficult to take care of different bones and their fragments by laying them around in the quarry as we have had to do… So also with our papers – diagrams – maps – tools etc – two or three times in the summer we were washed out and had a good deal of work to do over again.”  Marshall continued; “If we had a small board building say 10 x 16 – with board roof and cracks battened without floor – but plenty of shelf room around the sides we could … fixing up the bones to pack …some of the work could be done in stormy weather.”  Marshall then described specifically what he wanted; “1000 ft. of common lumber would I think be sufficient … and could be put up in a few days after getting the lumber on the ground – the hardest part of the job being in packing it up the hill on our backs some 250 yards from the road.” 

Marshall mentioned in early March that he was working on the building and that they were moving the blacksmith shop currently at the ranch over to the quarry.  When it was stated there was a need to store tools, blacksmith tools were a beautiful example.  

The cabin was finished in September at which time added a shed to it. The cabin couldn’t hold it all and they needed additional space to both work and store specimens particularly in bad weather.  In early November Marshall shared that they had purchased wood for shipping boxes and the shed.  Marsh described  that they used tar paper for a roof covering on the shed instead of shingles but that the roof was so flat it would not shed rain and “maybe some tar or mineral paint was needed to make it last longer“.  During the monsoon rains that are common in late July and early August, a cloud burst; “beat our tar paper roof on our store shed to a pulp – and buried the working ground and quarry with mud and rocks from above – and completely washed our trail to the road down to bed rock”.

The buildings needed to support the excavation were in place with one exception.  They needed a long table for organizing specimens with a shade cover that was built in early 1886. As each block with dinosaur bones came out, they would first lay it out on the table in the position as it was found.  They could then do various markings on the specimens which would enable preparators back at the Peabody to do the same, extremely valuable information on how things were connected.  The quarry with all the buildings was photographed in 1888 by I.C. Russel from the USGS on July 7 or 8, 1888. This is shown below and modified to show when buildings were built.  

The Trail 

A trail was constructed to connect the quarry to the dirt road down below that connected Garden Park to the town of Canon City.  They needed it to get materials up to the quarry and packed boxes from the quarry.  Marshall and his helpers had repaired the trail more than once and explained to Marsh on October 28, 1885 that that it was necessary “to get lumber up the hill for boxes – or the boxes down”.  About a week later Marshall wrote again stating that  most of the lumber they needed to make shipping boxes was still at the foot of the trail. Marshall went on writing that once the trail was sufficiently repaired,  they could “draw up the lumber with a horse – and so divide up the time in making and packing boxes and taking out what is necessary to leave the work in good shape – and if the weather holds good … haul in the boxes to town. This part – carting – I can do alone after the rest are through.”   

The trail was much too steep for a wagon but not an issue for the time.  They most likely built a small flat sled, loaded a box on it and pulled it with a man or maybe a horse down to the road with one man holding onto it from uphill so it didn’t take off on its own. Conversely you could use the sled to help drag up lumber to the quarry. 

On July 9, 1888 Marshall wrote to Professor Marsh; “Mr. Russel has been here and gone – I spent the most of two days with him – showing everything of interest and in making measures of the different stratas in the Jurassic. He expresses himself as highly pleased and well satisfied with his visit here – and astonished at finding such a great variety of fossils – especially the mollusks – a box of which we packed up to send to the National Museum.

He had his photographic apparatus along and took several views of the strata along the creek – and some of our quarry – which he will finish up on his return to Washington – and will send you some copies.”


The Ceratosaurus that was called “an ugly character” was discovered by Marshall in the fall of 1883. It wasn’t the only big carnivore the quarry would produce. In this case it was a relatively complete articulated skeleton of a deeply buried Allosaurus was waiting to be discovered. 

Marshall wrote to professor Marsh on September 30,1883; “We have also found and partly uncovered the feet and limbs of another new animal – the most singular and interesting of any found yet – we think” .  On the 10th of October, Marshall wrote the “long – hooked grooved claws“. 

Marshall was familiar with Allosaurus bones as Williston, Mudge, and himself found fragmentary bones of this dinosaur and a new species of dinosaur, Allosaurus fragilis was introduced to the world by Professor Marsh based on these bones.  

Marsh responded on the 15th of October, 1883; “I want to make restorations of the fore and hind legs of Allosaurus… So look out sharp for the fore legs….  In all Carnivorous dinosaurs the bones are smooth, fine grained and more or less hollow.” 

Marshall recognized that he had found a few skeletal parts but the majority of the skeleton seemed to be deeply buried under at least fifteen feet of rock. Marshall outlined the issue on the 1st of the November;  “The skull of… the Allosaurus I think lies in another direction … but all the rest of the skeleton not taken out lies under the deepest portion of rock in the quarry.”

On the 10th of November Marshall described a second issue; “the Allosaurus is laying directly under the big femur – At this point the regular bone strata is thicker (some 6 feet)”. 

Finally, seven days later Marshall wrote; “nothing more can be done over or around where the Allosaurus lay till a good deal of cap rock is taken off first“. His forethcoming plan on how to effectively remove this cap rock would be key for the success he would eventually have. 

The Ceratosaurus excavation work had been primary focus in late 1883 and early 1884 but now Professor Marsh was thinking about his desire for more Allosaurus. He wrote to Marshall on March 1, 1884;  “The next thing of importance you have found is the Allosaurus skeleton, and I hope you may yet get the skull. Here also every fragment as large as a grain of corn is well worth saving. This is a different animal from Skull No 4[Ceratosaurus], but first cousin.” 

Figure 40 from of right fore limb and foot of Allosaurus. (Gilmore 1920)

Marsh wanted everything generally immediately and in perfect condition but the majority of the Allosaurus skeleton was buried under what Marshall called the deepest part of the quarry.  The simple approach was to simply dig a trench into a fifteen feet layer of rock but Marshall felt it would be detrimental to approach it that way and Marsh wanted it in good condition.  Marshall suggested removing overlying rock in a much larger area just to the west and in that way there would be plenty of work room and the whole skeleton could be approached at the same time. In Marshall’s words; “to work to the best advantage – not only in removing the rock but in getting out the specimens in good condition, we should commence at A and work it with the natural seams – and take out all clean to the marl bed as we go along…and we could carry along a wider strip and if we struck on to a skeleton that was continuous – and found to be so we could make sure work of it with less trouble…and save the specimens in better shape” 

Marshall’s map from March 7, 1884 shows this work plan.  The map has been modified in red text with arrows to show Marshall’s intent.  Marsh agreed a few days later to this plan.  The full excavation of the Allosaurus would therefore be delayed for a few months but Marshall had some relatively accessible areas containing some Allosaurus bones.  These along with what Marsh felt was another carnivorous dinosaur Labrosaurus would continue to be discovered.  


A Tragic Farming Accident

Marshall and Amanda’s son and Ned and Sadies little brother Emerson, fell victim to a tragic farming accident around the 6th of July, 1884.  Marshall Felch described what happened in a letter to Professor Marsh on the 15th of July. The letter Marshall’s own handwriting along with the transcribed version are shown below.  



Canon City Colo
July 15” 1884 
Prof. Marsh
Dear Sir,

One week ago this morning, my youngest boy = almost fourteen = was taken sick, and after great suffering – died on Saturday evening. 

His trouble – was an injury causing peritonitis.

All that we could do – and with the best medical attendance to be had, it was of no avail.

He was a keen bright active boy – a general favorite with all whom he met – and his loss has completely prostrated us.

The anxiety and care during his sickness together with the terrible heat of the past ten days has so unnerved and upset me that I am almost down myself.

As soon as I get a little rest and strength I will go on with the work – and in that try and overcome as much as I can something of our great trouble.

Respectfully Yours
M. P. Felch

The date of his death 

The 15th of July was on a Tuesday.  Emerson must have been injured and become ill on the 8th of July or a day or two before that.  Based on Marshall’s letter, he died on Saturday, July 12, 1884.  

Marshall’s letter below shares news of Emerson with Professor Marsh.  In the letter Marshall describes Emerson as a keen, active, bright boy who has had a tragic accident triggering peritonitis. 
Peritonitis is an illness that is usually infectious and often life-threatening. It’s caused by leakage or a hole in the intestines, such as from a burst appendix. Even if the fluid is sterile, inflammation can occur.
Symptoms usually include pain, tenderness, rigid abdominal muscles, fever, nausea, and vomiting.  In this situation it led to death. Antibiotics were needed but they were something in the future.


Professor Marsh established a separate genus of large carnivores in 1879 he named Labrosaurus. It was based on a rather sparse amount of bones discovered at Como Bluffs Wyoming.  Fred Brown was working there at the time and was familiar with this discovery. When Brown arrived in early 1883 he shared this with Marshall and explained that Professor Marsh wanted to find more of this dinosaur.  Brown knew what to look for and before he left he found what looked like more Labrosaurus bones. Marshall firmed this up on June 8, 1884 writing to Professor Marsh; “[Marshall] had a new skeleton (No 5) that lays just above where Brown found the Labrosaurus jaw”.  For Marshall, number 5 was Labrosaurus.

Marshall’s skills in osteology were getting pretty good by now and he almost immediately began noticing the similarities of these Labrosaurus bones to Allosaurus bones he had already seen. On June 15, 1884 Marshall wrote: “I have taken up the femur with skeleton No. 5 [Labrosaurus] and find it more bulky and massive – though of about the same length as Allosaurus …Have also found one of the long foot bones – perfect and almost exactly like the long ones in Allosaurus…. I can see no difference between these metatarsals (No 5) and of Allosaurus – except the former may be a little larger.”

The drawing to the left is a Labrosaurus (Allosaurus) metatarsal (foot bone) prepared by Sadie Felch. The drawing was included in an August 20, 1884 letter to Professor Marsh from her father Marshall. Perhaps the difficult class work Sadie had been taking at the Military Academy helped prepare her to be a more effective assistant to her father and contribute something like this.  

Professor Marsh seemed to be a little tone deaf in response to Marshall’s assertion that it was Allosaurus. Marsh’s mission was to describe new species so he continued to push Marshall to find more of the Labrosaurus and Marshall did his best to abide. It was by now apparent to Marshall that it was probably Allosaurus but Marsh never let go and continued to push Marshall over the next three years to find Labrosaurus.  Gilmore and others will later determine that insufficient evidence existed to establish a new species. Marshall appears to be correct; he was simply finding more Allosaurus and recognition of this by Marsh would have assisted in how he instructed Marshall to proceed. 

Marshall and Ned Weld implemented the excavation plan to work toward the Allosaurus while always on the lookout for Labrosaurus. They worked what they called one strip at a time. On July 5, 1884, Marshall wrote to Professor Marsh Marshall; “To carry one strip across, averages a hard weeks work sometimes more – where the bones are badly crowded – and I sometimes think our Allosaurus which is now about twenty feet away – to be a thousand miles off”.  

Marshall continued; “I took up to day and finished up at the North End of my strip a fine specimen of a femur or tibia of No 5 [Labrosaurus]. This I took up a whole and it will figure well without much more being done with it”.  

Allosaurus (aka Antrodemus, Labrosaurus, and Epanterias)

Cope and Marsh were making new discoveries on a regular basis and since it was a naming race, the same critter with subtle differences might get a new name. 

The first “Allosaurus” bones discovered in Colorado in 1869 were identified by Joseph Leidy who named a new genus and species of dinosaur he called Antrodemus valens.   Professor Mudge, Samuel Williston, and Marshall Felch  discovered some fragmentary bones while working in the old quarry in 1877.  Professor Marsh assigned the “new” dinosaur the name Allosaurus fragillis, not recognizing it was pretty much the same thing as Leidy’s Antrodemus.  Marsh and Cope went on to name three other “new” species; Epanterias, Labrosaurus, and Creosaurus, all of which were based on other fragmentary material and are now all considered to be Allosaurus rather than distinct genus. 

After all the bones arrived at the National Museum of Natural History years later, Charles Gilmore conducted a thorough analysis of what was what and began realizing that he was seeing a whole lot of one genus of dinosaur that today is called Allosaurus but Gilmore renamed it Antrodemus acknowledging Leidy’s discovery and basing it on the naming conventions of the time.  Around 1970 a decision was made to call it all Allosaurus and the best representative example of this genus and species was identified as the Allosaurus fragilis being discussed in this chapter.  

Forty One Crates

By the 20th of August, 1884 Marshall and Ned Weld, Marshall’s nephew, were getting close to the Allosaurus but still had a ways to go.  They were also anticipating an actual visit from Professor Marsh sometime in early to mid September and would have a chance to show him a number of things and get his input.  Professor Marsh did arrive sometime between September 20 and 24 but it is unknown exactly when he was there or what all he looked at but it was probably a helpful thing, especially since it was only two months since Emerson died and Marshall could both his expertise and encouragement. 

After Marsh left, they finally came upon the Allosaurus around October 20, 1884. A week later Marshall wrote; 

” By the last of next week if we have good luck all can be shipped including No. 7 (Allosaurus) as we have it most all removed from its bed and part of the blocks dressed ready to group

… This has been the most difficult piece of work yet attempted – as a portion was so badly weathered from exposure last winter to frost that a good deal crumbled down in taking out – but by great care we shall be able to get the blocks to match well – and all of the fragments saved and marked so as to locate without difficulty.

…. we knew there will be found several perfect dorsals – ribs – one whole fore foot – all the cervicals in splendid condition – and some of the skull – how much we cannot tell as only a portion is exposed in a large block” 

An Old River Bed

Professor Marsh paid Marshall a much awaited visit around the 1st day of fall in 1884.  Marshall pointed out the deep river channel and also that there were actually two bones beds in this part of the quarry and bones including a large femure of what seemed to be Brontosaurus on top of the Allosaurus.

Three years later Marshall wrote to Professor Marsh reminding him of this; “I suppose you remember that there was quite a depression running about north-east and south west – and in this depression which we call the old river bed – we have always found our best and most perfect specimens”.  

One month later Marshall wrote;  “We have in all now ready to ship – forty one (41) boxes all well made and packed, and well hooped in good shape to handle safely.”   He goes on to describe some additional discoveries and stated that in order to complete more of the Allosaurus that “considerable stripping overhead is done – and a part of the large skeleton is removed which has overlaid No. 7 all the way along.”

Drawing above of the Allosaurus pelvis excavated by Marshall Felch. Figure 46 from (Gilmore, 1920).  

Right forefoot of Allosaurus based on skeleton excavated by Marshall Felch.  Figure 45 from Gilmore (Gilmore 1920)

The Confession

On the 20th of October, 1884 Marshall wrote to Marsh. He provided both good and bad news beginning naturally with the good news. 

A few months earlier Marshall and the other workers had done some work on the far western end of the quarry but were finding only what Marshall called “smooth water worn fragments” or small fragments of bones in rock.  To Marshall it looked like a part of the river where there was fairly good water flow so any skeletal material would be fragmented and water worn. They excavated blocks containing these fragments and stacked them on the quarry floor in same order and location as they had been found in the spirit of preserving everything. The diggers figured they would come back and take a closer look when they had time. A few months later in mid October they had some time so they took a second look.  

Marshall made an unexpected discovery that he described to Marsh on the 22nd of October. He described a block that contained what he believed was; a portion of the Skull of Stegosaurus the top or frontal bone I suppose, as both eye orbits show – and the back of the skull showing the occipital condyle [base of the skull]. This appears to be all – not any part of the lower jaws or maxillaries being connected with the rest.  

Before he mailed the letter, Marshall and the team began meticulously looking to see if they could find more skull fragments but they were unsuccessful. It was at this instant that Marshall thought back and remembered an incident several months earlier when he had been gone for a day. When he returned he asked for an update Ned Weld mentioned that a quarry worker named Elijah Hammonds had thrown a few blocks from that area that for him looked worthless over the edge. Hammonds was reprimanded and later let go. 

Perhaps a grand opportunity had been missed. Marshall knew that the Professor wanted a Stegosaurus skull and this doubly made Marshall feel obliged to tell his suspicions to Marsh. The team worked hard for two days searching in that part of the quarry along with the dump down below but no more of this particular skull was ever found. 

The block containing any additional skull material may or may not have even been possible to find.  Maybe water movement and the river moved off part of the skull or maybe it was carted off by a carnivore 150 million years ago?  No one knows.  Marshall could have written a letter describing what had been found and sent it express to the professor.  Such a letter would probably have been well received but Marshall didn’t chose the easy path. He confessed his suspicion that some of the skull had been tossed over the edge by Hammond rather than emphasizing the positives.

A careful reading of hundreds of letters written by Marshall portrays someone who is honest, resourceful, dedicated, intelligent, and by now a damn good excavator. 

Marshall had just successfully removed an Allosaurus that had been buried under 15 ft of rock with another dinosaur over top of it.  Years later Charles Gilmore would describe the Allosaurus Marshall removed;  “I have selected this specimen on account of the well-preserved condition of the bones and from the fact that it consists of the greater part of the skeleton of a single individual.”  

The year had been highly productive with the discovery of Ceratosaurus, Allosaurus, and much more.  This work had been completed even with with a host of weather hardships and most importantly the death of Emerson. 

When Marshall confessed this possible mistake to Professor Marsh he may have hoped that the professor would recognize that his suspicion may or may not have even occurred but probably deep down he knew Marsh well enough by now that this was unlikely.  

On the 6th of December Professor Marsh responded;

“I cannot tell you how disappointed I was to find that all after our efforts, that Stegosaurus skull was lost by the stupidity of a man who ought never to have touched a bone. That skull was worth more to me than all the other fossils secured this year twice over, because it was the one thing I especially wanted now. I fear we may never get another from that quarry, and only there did I expect to find a perfect one….One perfect skull is worth a car full of ordinary fossils. Above all, throw away nothing, and allow no one except yourself and Smith to take out specimens, and no one not experienced to work anywhere near fossils”.

Right humerus of Allosaurus excavated by Marshall Felch.  Figure 41 from Gilmore (Gilmore, 1920)

Marshall had received his fair share of harsh rebukes over the last two years from Professor Marsh but this one must have been especially painful.  What Marshall didn’t know was that Marsh had a long history of strained relationships with all those who worked with or for him. 

Without a Scratch

The letter from Professor Marsh must have had a profound effect on Marshall.  Over the last two years he had lived, breathed, and even dreamed about the quarry. 

On a cold winter morning, January 6, 1885 he responded;

“From the time the first block of that skeleton was removed ‘till the last was taken out – I saw myself to every move made and every blow struck on it – had platforms made – covered with burlap cloth, to receive all the blocks and fragments as they were removed –placed and replaced them many times in position – made and remade maps and diagrams of all the different groups and blocks, used all the devices I could think of to so locate all the parts and fragments that I got the whole so fixed in my mind it would haunt me in my sleep and as I have said before; think I could put together again by moonlight.”

He had done his best but now he would try even harder; “Taking all things into consideration if the work done on this last job – is not called fair and passable – I shall be disappointed, and shall have to study up new methods and devices for future work.” 



Below is figure 48 from Gilmore that includes the front, outer, and back views of the tibia, astragalus, and calceneum  (lower leg, ankle, heel) of Allosaurus discovered by Marshall Felch. (Gilmore 1920)

Marshall then drew a comparison of digging dinosaur bones here in relationship to a Civil War Battle; 

“The work of removing fossils from this quarry calls for a vast amount of ability skill and patience, sometimes more than I possess – and is like to dislodging an enemy from some strongly fortified position – only there the more damage done the better the work – while here we must take the fortress and all belonging with it without a scratch.”

Funding Curtailed

Marshall somewhat closed up shop at the end of 1884 but soon after his “Without a Scratch” letter was mailed, he followed up with plans and strategies for the upcoming work season.  The quarry looked very promising and Marshall along with his nephew Ned Weld were ready, willing, and able to go to workMarshall responded to Marsh on Feb 13, 1885;

“I am somewhat disappointed at the turn matters have taken – and it going to come hard on me in one or two particulars. I had made arrangements about the ranch so as to have the care of that off from my mind – and had ordered quite a large bill of fruit trees to be paid for on delivery in April – depending on the work for money to meet the obligation.

Had I known it a month sooner I should have avoided engaging the fruit trees – as I don’t like to get in debt or hire money during the present hard times, and stringency in money matters.

I suppose that I had better pick up the loose ends and pack away in the buildings and await future developments or better times.”

Marshall could have easily set aside maybe 5-10 acres of land where two or three hundred seedlings could have been planted; a sizable investment. 

Unfortunately we don’t know what all Professor Marsh was writing back during 1885. The letters that Sadie Felch gave Earl Douglass in 1926 didn’t include the Marsh letters from 1885.   A severe windstorm occurred near Roosevelt Utah about 1910 and a years worth of letters lost.  Because of this, we have to make logical guesses what Marsh was writing based on Marshall’s letters. What we can surmise is that Professor Marsh wrote sometime in early February, notifying Marshall that he had no funding at the moment for any work at the quarry in 1885. 


The Canon City area is historically known for apple orchards and we can surmise that when Marshall mentioned fruit trees, he meant apples. They do fairly well in this climate and were the rage here in the late 1800’s.  Fairly frequent late season frosts in the spring have diminished production over the last hundred years.  The standing joke locally is that spring time has perfect weather until the opening ceremonies of the Blossom Festival in early May when snow and below freezing weather put a kibosh on all the fun.  

Weld’s Claim

An unexpected repercussions immediately resulted because no funding for excavation work in 1885 was expected.  Marshall’s nephew Ned had been planning on working in the quarry during 1885 and when Marshall informed him of the situation, he didn’t take it lightly and took out his frustrations on Marshall.

On the 16th of March, Marshall wrote to Professor Marsh letting him know that Ned had filed a “preemption claim of 40 acres of land that would severely impact their ranch operations. Marshall stated; “Situated as this claim is, with my best tillable ground on two sides – and with their dwellings close up in the corner that sets into my claim – I have always during the cropping season been a sufferer from the invasion of stock, pigs, and poultry – besides having to allow a right of way for roads water etc across my land”.

Weld’s land claim was filed under one of the various preemption laws, something like the homestead act.  It gave him almost an immediate legal right to use and develop the land. In other words, he could do most anything he wanted including all the things that Marshall expressed fear about such as bringing in pigs.  Its how land laws worked in those days.  No one ever bothered before on this piece of land because it was hemmed in on the north and east by Marshall’s land and on the south and west by badlands. 

The image above originally drawn by Marshall Felch and included in his March 16, 1885 letter. It was modified here to point out key features including the 40 acre parcel Ned Weld filed on along with a placer mining claim labeled Q.  At the time Ned took the first step and filed a “preemption claim, this parcel was not owned by anyone and part of the public domain. 

A Second Significant Problem

Marshall was smack dab in the middle of a major dinosaur excavation and many bones were poking out here and there when Marshall learned that funding looked bleak for excavation work in 1885. Ever since dinosaur bones were first found in 1877 at the old quarry, tourists, locals, and merchants such as Eugene Weston came onto the quarry when it was unoccupied and dug out pieces of dinosaur bones hauling them off for souvenirs. Marshall knew that it would not take collectors long to do some really serious damage when they realized that no one was regularly working at the quarry. 

In order to achieve both a legal right to be there and some level of legal protection Marshall filed a 20 acre placer mine claim early on.  He didn’t own the land but the claim provided rights to be working there and protect his valuable development.    Marshall wrote many times to Marsh about putting up fencing and posting signs to keep collectors and vandals away to protect the claim. 

Mine Claims

The 1872 Mine Law enabled a citizen to explore for minerals on open public lands. If something looked promising the prospector might file a mining claim.  The land wasn’t owned by the prospector at this moment but the claim gave them rights to be there, develop a mine, and protect their investment.  If a mine owner had a sizeable investment it made sense to go the next level and obtain ownership. If you owned it, the claim was termed patented.  If you didn’t own it the claim was termed unpatented.  To go to this next level and patent the claim the applicant had to establish that a discovery of a valuable mineral deposit had been made and this was at the time a reasonably strenuous process. A patented claim would be much easier to protect than an unpatented one. 

Marshall discussed this option in his March 16, 1885 letter to Marsh.  He explained that he would have to “prove up” on the claim which meant going through the process to obtain ownership of the land.  It was relatively common to apply for patent when you had found something like gold, silver, copper, etc. but in the case of dinosaur bones it could be a sticky widget. Pursuing such ownership and failing might jeopardize the whole thing.  Maybe there was another solution?  

The Homestead Solution

The easy solution was to file for a homestead patent on the land.  Such patents were 160 contiguous acres in size and would double the size of the ranch. The reason Marshall had never filed before was that the great majority of available land within and adjoining the 40 acre parcel had no potential for farming. The only part of the land that had any potential for farming was about 20 or so tillable acres or the east half of the Weld claim along Oil Creek. The Felch home and outbuildings were currently within a few feet of this parcel and the family had been using the land already so acquiring just this piece was logical but Homestead Act acquisitions were for 160 acres of land.  He wanted to utilize the Homestead Act though because as a veteran and in his own words;  “having served in the army 3 years, 10 months, and 12 days that time would be deducted from the usual term of five years – leaving me but a little more than one year before I could make a final proof on any land that I should enter as a Homestead“. 

The thought of using this valuable right for 160 acres of land of which only about 20 acres could be farmed seemed almost intolerable to Marshall but there was one additional benefit such an acquisition could provide.  He could include the area where the dinosaur quarry was eliminating an attempt to “prove up” on the mining claim. There was only one problem with the whole idea, $400. 

Four Hundred Dollars 

Ned wanted $400 for the land claim.  Marshall went to a lawyer and they worked out an agreement to pay Ned $400 for his land claim but here came the next problem. Marshall didn’t have $400. 

It was already a tough year considering both the debacle with the apple trees, and no excavating money coming in.  Marshall simply didn’t have the money.  After some deliberation Marshall contacted Professor Marsh explaining that this would ultimately benefit Professor Marsh which isn’t a lie, its clearly the case.  Marshall would file a homestead application on land that would include the dinosaur quarry and give Marsh full access to dig dinosaur bones on it;  provided Marsh gave him some help with the $400 problem. 

Marshall requested Marsh pay $200 or half the cost of clearing off the Weld claim and Marshall would borrow the rest.  Because we do not have the Marsh letters for this time period it is not clear what the final arrangements were but later in June Marshall asks Marsh how he would like to be reimbursed for the $200 so either Marsh paid $200 and lent Marshall the other $200 or maybe he only lent Marshall half and Marshall had to borrow other money for the other half.  Regardless, once the Weld Claim was purchased, Marshall filed for the land under the Homestead Act of 1862. For all practical purposes, the land was immediately the Felch’s but officially it was not until 1891 that the official title was presented.  That title included the old quarry.  

Starting Late, but Starting

Marsh wrote in mid June that he had received funding and that the quarry could be reopened.  This was great news for Marshall but he had missed the cooler digging weather in April, May, and June so they would begin in the hottest buggiest weather, but any work was better than none.  The time off had also given Marshall somewhat of a reprieve to focus some attention on the ranch and farm during the ever busy growing season.  Fencing, planting seed, weeding, running irrigation water, and all the rest required a lot of attention in the spring and early summer. In 1883 and 84 Marshall had to hire a ranch hand to do the work he couldn’t and finding good help was a challenge. 


Professor Marsh had published on what he had for Allosaurus first in 1877. This was based on discoveries by Mudge, Williston, and Felch here at the old quarry.  Marsh published additional information on Allosaurus and other theropods including the Ceratosaurus back in 1884 but Marshall’s shipments of 41 boxes of material in the late fall of 1884 didn’t arrive in time for that report (Marsh 1884).  The shipments would provide substantial new information on Allosaurus but Marsh had what he needed for species identification and it would take Charles Gilmore to do intensive preparation and work on the Allosaurus material for Marshall’s recent work to be fully appreciated. 

The image to the right is five caudals (tail vertebrate) from Allosaurus, excavated by Marshall and illustrated in Gilmore’s 1920 publication. 

Charles Gilmore

In the pages that follow I have attempted to give, for the first time, a detailed description of the complete osteology of Antrodemus valens [Allosaurus fragilis]. This work is based almost entirely upon material preserved in the paleontological collections of the United States National Museum, and primarily upon specimen No. 4734, U.S.N.M., known also by the collector’s designation as “Sk. 7.” I have selected this specimen on account of the well-preserved condition of the bones and from the fact that it consists of the greater part of the skeleton of a single individual. (Gilmore, 1920)

No 4734 is the museums accession number of Marshall’s Allosaurus that he generally called sk 7. The image below left is Allosaurus skull excavated by Marshall and illustrated in Gilmore’s 1920 publication.  The full skeleton is “Marshall’s Allosaurus on display at the National Museum of Natural History.  

A Family “Fossil” Affair

Fossils, and the sense of discovery, seem to be a part of the Felch family conversation. Collecting fossils in the dinosaur quarry was generally restricted to Marshall and his crew, but Marshall would talk about it at the end of the day and the youngsters may have played a bigger role than he let onto with Marsh.  Emerson would certainly have been one of those with an interest in fossils when he was alive. They were probably also encouraged by Amanda to go check on their father knowing that his health and well-being were always a question.

They also explored on their own in other locations, probably getting a chance to look for clams and ammonites in the hogbacks when they went to town for example. 

In mid-July of 1885 Marshall wrote to Marsh; “I have packaged three parcels of those clams … but in No. 3 they are quite different – much smaller – about the size and shape of an almond – and in fact they resemble almonds so much that my daughter who discovered them calls them the “almond clam”.

Sadie seems to be the most interested of the Felch youngsters, helping her father with bone drawings such as the one to the above right. She developed her own sizable rock and fossil collection, and will become the only member of the Felch family ever to see her father’s dinosaur bones at the Yale Peabody Museum.

Marshall Felch wrote to Professor Marsh on September 7, 1885; 

“Dr. White [Charles White] of the Survey [USGS] came up early this morning and has just come in having been out in the hills with my children during the day.  He seems highly pleased with this locality and has found a great variety of shells aside from the clams in the Jurassic formation – all of which he says he is quite sure of their fresh water origin…Among the clams that were sent – he says he found 2 if not 3 varieties or species.” 

Ned and Sadie would have been the “children” with Dr. White in 1985 although Sarah was 18 and Ned was 17. 

Dr. White was collecting Jurassic fresh water clams including one he gave the name “Unio felchi“, for maybe the family in general or perhaps for Ned or Sadie. Pictures of the clam below were included in a USGS publication by Dr. Yen. (Yen 1952)


Colbert, Edwin H. 1984. The Great Dinosaur Hunters and Their Discoveries. New York: Dover Publications.

Gilmore, Charles Whitney. 1920. Osteology of the Carnivorous Dinosauria in the United States National Museum: With Special Reference to the Genera Antrodemus (Allosaurus) and Ceratosaurus. Washington: Govt. Printing Office.

Marsh, O. C. 1884. “Principal Characters of American Jurassic Dinosaurs; Part VIII, The Order Theropoda.” American Journal of Science 3–28 (160).

Next Chapter: Marshall’s Masterpiece

Marshall first discovered Stegosaurus in the quarry in 1884 but it would be a second discovery of Stegosaurus in late 1885 that would lead to Marshall’s masterpiece; the Stegosaurus that will go on display at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) . 

This specimen will showcase everything that Marshall had learned about excavation, removal, and documentation.

Although Professor Marsh hired Marshall to do the work it will be the paleontologist Charles Gilmore ,working for the NMNH, that will come to truly appreciate Marshall’s work.

A Gigantic Jigsaw Puzzle

“In the ‘eighties, still another collector whose work was of great value to Marsh was M. P. Felch, who had helped Mudge and Williston at Canon City in 1877. When Marsh’s appointment as vertebrate paleontologist to the United States Geological Survey in 1882 placed more money at his disposal, Felch was one of the men whom he set to work and their association continued until 1889.  Felch, like Reed, was a methodical worker, who kept detailed records of his finds and sent frequent reports to New Haven.  His letters have a peculiar interest, moreover, because they show that he and Marsh were working out between them, a gigantic jigsaw puzzle, with dinosaur bones for pieces.”  (Schuchert and LeVene 1940)

The Letters

No doubt Marshall and Amanda wrote and received countless letters to family and close friends throughout their lives. Letters were the primary way of communicating throughout their lives and something all people in those days looked forward to receiving. Amanda wrote letters on behalf of soldiers the night before a battle so they could say goodbye on what they believed would be their last letter home.  With one major exception, no letters have ever been found written by either of them.  The exception takes place in the time period of 1882 to 1891 during which Marshall sent 258 letters to Professor Marsh in New Haven Connecticut.  These letters provide paleontology details of what Marshall was finding and shipping and often included drawings and maps. Professor Marsh demanded detailed documentation so that he and the staff at the Peabody Museum could effectively prepare and analyze specimens. In that sense, the letters were more like paleontology reports rather than a letter we might imagine although Marshall occasionally shared personal information providing glimpses about his family. These glimpses became more prominent in the later years and over time Marshall and the professor came to know one another in a rather personal way. 

Unlike every other letter Marshall and Amanda sent and received, these letters would not be lost. Letters to Marsh included correspondence from many different excavators, even fellow scientists including Charles Darwin and all of it was subsequently turning it over to the Yale Peabody Museum where it would be archived.   The Peabody library not only archived all of these letters, but in recent years scanned several thousand of these letters and subsequently made these available online.  

These Marshall Felch letters were found at Yale in the early 1990’s by two volunteers with the nonprofit Garden Park Park Paleontology Society named Donna Engard and Pat Monaco who made copies.  Donna, Pat, and Georgine Booms subsequently transcribed every single letter, reading every word out loud in the process. Marshall’s hand writing was fairly good,  probably something required during the Civil War while preparing legible hospital reports.  Donna, Pat, and Georgine did a magnificent job of completing this difficult project and over time they felt they personally knew Marshall.  

At this juncture we now had Marshall’s letters but what about the return letters from Professor Marsh. It was obvious from Marshall’s letters that Marsh had been writing back. The logical question was if there any chance of finding them as letters were only rarely copied in those days before mailing and Marsh’s letters to Marshall Felch were not the rare exception and copied.  They weren’t copied but they were not lost.  In an interesting twist of fate these letters were retained by Marshall’s daughter Sadie.  In 1926 Sadie Zimmerman (Felch) gave them to the famous dinosaur excavator of Dinosaur National Monument fame Earl Douglass. Douglass in turn placed them into the archives at the University of Utah.  There is more to the story of the retention and remarkable journey of these letters over a thirty year period which will be told in the chapter about Sadie. Once again in a second example of volunteer excellence, the paleontology sleuth’s Pat Monaco and Donna Engard discovered these Marsh letters in University of Utah archives. Naturally they acquired copies and like Marshall’s letters they were transcribed by Donna, Pat, and Georgine.

Today, both the Professor Marsh and Marshall Felch letters can be viewed on a publicly accessible educational website entitled “Hands on the Land”.  This work was accomplished through an effort by Ryan McKenna, at the time a Geological Society of America GeoCorps student intern working for the Bureau of Land Management Royal Gorge Field office. Subsequent students working through the GeoCorps program have continued to maintain and update this work. These letters have not only assisted with the development of the Marshall and Amanda story but other historic and scientific work as well. This chapter and the next one are built in large part on these letters. 

Detailed Knowledge of Great Dinosaurs 

Charles Shuchert wrote about the bones and skeletons Marshall excavated and Professor Marsh analyzed; 

“The collecting of 1877 had been done when the dinosaur fever was in its first stages, and species were made on limb bones or on vertebrae or on other incomplete material.  By 1882, Marsh, with his usual thoroughness, wanted to complete the picture of these great beasts, and he therefore needed the missing parts to add to those he already had.  After considerable prospecting about the Canon City region, it was thought wise to reopen the old quarry that had been worked in 1877, and a wise choice it proved to be; for out of this so called “Marsh Quarry” came detailed knowledge of many of the great dinosaurs that Marsh had made known to the world from partial skeletons only, and not only those whose remains were originally found at Canon City but others from Como as well: Allosaurus, Ceratosaurus, Stegosaurus, Brontosaurus, Diplodocus, Morosaurus, and Laosaurus.  The quarry was restricted in area to a few hundred feet, and the bone bearing horizon was not more than 3 feet thick.  Nevertheless, from it came representatives of at least a dozen genera and species, and two or three times that number of individual skeletons.” (Schuchert and LeVene 1940)

On the Payroll

In the spring of 1883 Marsh had the money and bureaucratic knowledge in place to launch a new wave of fossil excavations out west.  He wrote to Marshall Felch on February 27, 1883 giving official notification that he should expect to begin work at the beginning of April. A full time position would be a life changing assignment in two ways. First it would  bring in much needed income to support the family and secondly Marshall was intrigued by the work Sam Williston and Professor Mudge introduced him to back in 1877.  Marshall immediately agreed to take on the mission and right away began looking closely at the old quarry along with optional sites including the old ground where the Lucas brothers had been working but now abandoned.  Marshall wrote back to Marsh on May 25, 1883 about the Cope Lucas Quarries;

“Many good bones in the old [Cope-Lucas] quarry – that were partly uncovered by former workings – and have been picked over by curiosity hunters and other vandals since – have become in part or wholly worthless. This is the case with a string of cervical vertebrae – that lay in regular succession 16 and 1/2 feet in length”

Not surprisingly, Marsh wasn’t just writing to Marshall, he was also writing to one of the early Como Bluffs collectors experienced excavators named Fred Brown. Brown who was in New Mexico at the time was a very independent individual who “neither liked to boss nor be bossed“.  Marsh in a rather shrewd way told Brown to head to Garden Park and report to Marshall Felch guessing that one or the other of the two of them would emerge as the right candidate to head up the work in Canon City.  Upon receiving the offer, Brown immediately wrote back letting Professor Marsh know that he would take the job but not work under anyone, including Marshall. He arrived on April 2, 1883.

Marshall was only on the payroll for one day before he was introduced to this trademark move of Professor Marsh; that is having more than one excavator working at the same site  but also working somewhat independently and reporting back directly to Marsh. The situation seemed pleasant enough though to Marshall as he wrote back on April 5, 1884;  “He [Brown]seems to know the business very well – & I think we will get along all right.” 

Additionally Marshall wrote; “I commenced on the old ground worked by Prof. Mudge – I thought it best to work that enough to hold it – and also to try and find the companion to the large – limb which we found there when Mudge was here.  We have uncovered several bones but no vertebrae or limbs.”

Two weeks later on the 22nd of April Marshall shared that he and Brown had been surveying the area and were now convinced the old quarry was the place to work

“We have found there quite a variety – among which are several claws – and what we think may be foot bones –a part of a jaw of a small animal in which the sockets show plain with one tooth in place– also what Brown thinks is a portion of the skull and jaw of one of the larger animals –one large lumbar or dorsal vertebrae several small bones – and have now uncovered and partly worked out three cervical vertebrae.”

Over the next few months both Brown and Marshall would work both independently and also together in the old quarry while conversing separately with Professor Marsh.  Brown ultimately chose to move on in mid July back to Como Bluffs where he would later become the lead collector. 

Above drawing by Marshall Felch from his letter dated August 19, 1883

A tooth collected and mailed to Professor Marsh on June 13, 1883.  This has the artistic look of drawings by Sadie Felch. 

The Swede

The first person Marshall hired to work with him was J.L. Smith. He described on Smith in an April 28,1884 letter to Marsh as a Swede by birth”  noting that Smith was very skilled at sharpening, making and repairing tools. These were extremely valuable skills when it came to doing quarry work, skills Smith learned as a blacksmith in the industrial city of Worcester Massachusetts.  Marshall felt that Smith was an excellent worker describing him on September 11, 1883 as; by far the best man that I ever saw work at this work“.  He spoke of him again on February 3, 1884 stating that Smith was; “worth two of any other…skillful and trustworthy”.  Over the next two years it would be Smith who, other than himself, had the greatest understanding of the fossils in the quarry. 


In those days rock quarries were common around Canon City as stone was needed for foundations, walls, and buildings. A dinosaur quarry is smaller but had a lot of similarities to any other quarry; naturally the local hardware stores had tools.  Marshall went shopping and purchased on credit what he and Smith needed to get started.  He later listed out what he had been buying in order to get reimbursed from Marsh. By the time he mailed this request for reimbursement,  Marshall was starting to fully recognize another of Professor Marsh’s trademarks; underpaying or paying late.

Getting shorted or getting paid late became a significant problem because Marshall needed to pay Smith, buy tools, and also had to hire help at the ranch to fill in for what work he usually did. Marshall would spend a considerable amount of time in his letters over the next few years carefully describing his work and expenses in the hopes of getting paid in full and on time. 

Shopping List 

  • bellows, anvil, and tongs (a mini blacksmith set up)
  • 2 hammers
  • 2 mallets
  • steel to make chisels
  • wheel-barrow (hauling dirt over to edge of the cliff and dumping)
  • 3 picks with handles and one extra handle (removing overburden)
  • 3 small brooms
  • twine, sacks, sacking needles (wrapping bones)
  • battin (cloth) and glue
  • a bale of hay (for packing and shipping)
  • wrapping paper 
  • a hoop iron, iron bard (blacksmith materials)
  • 200 nails [square head nails were common in Marshall and Amanda’s lifetime]
  • a handsaw
  • turpentine
  • lampblack (historically a common pigment sometimes mixed with glue possibly to strengthen it)
  • and some lumber!

submitted May 31, 1883

Working back into the Hillside

The excavation team of Felch and Smith were working in the eastern part of the quarry while Brown worked in the western part. They both worked back into the hillside removing overlying rock above a layer that contained the bones. The further they worked into the hillside, the thicker the rock layers became. 

They understood that as they worked back into the hillside the bones would be less weathered and therefore in better condition.  There was some improvement but for geologic reasons this quarry would always seem to have fragile bones surrounded by hard rock but because of the diversity of and number of bones and skeletons was proving remarkable, it made it worth their time. Marshall would improve his collection techniques over time to effectively excavate and remove these fragile bones. 

On May 25,1883 Marshall wrote

“We have stripped off some 50 yds in length = from 10 to 20 feet in width and in places 10 to 12 feet in depth to get to the pay streak. The rock as we get in gets very hard in places – almost like mill-stone grit – and where the bones come in that – it is a slow and tedious job to work them out – as all the rock around has to be chipped away with small chisels a fragment at a time…If it were not that there were so many good bones – of many different kinds I would abandon the quarry for some other place.” 

The cross section below was modified from a drawing on the left made by Marshall Felch in December of 1883.   Look closely at Marshall’s drawing and you can see “14 feet high” written vertically next to this cliff face.


Marshall, Fred Brown, and J.L. Smith stripped off an estimated 10 to 12 feet of barren rock above the bone bed. Marshall described the area stripped as about 150 feet in length and anywhere from 10 to 20 feet in width.  In order to strip off the rock they first needed to loosen up the hard sandstone and the “tool” of choice to do that in those days was dynamite.  With practice, they could hand drill a hole into hard rock, set the charge, and break up the rock without damaging the bone bed. The height of the face of rock by this time was 14 feet high which was almost twice the height of a typical house room. All the rock removed above the bone bed would be put into a wheel barrow and carried over to the edge of the cliff and dumped.

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the time (November 30, 1884) that Marshall confessed to Marsh about using dynamite in a rather unusual way; “This record will hardly be complete if I fail to state that we have used nearly a keg of your powder in honor of Cleveland’s Election and Burchard’s speech that elected him

Fragile Bones 

Brown was the more experienced excavator but Marshall was more familiar with work he had seen done at the old quarry including the  technique that Amanda came up with and Samuel Williston used. Marshall, Brown, and Smith utilized the “Amanda/Williston broken bone process“. Marshall described it in an October 22, 1883 letter to Marsh; 

“stripping up well with cloth where fabric is glued directly onto the exposed bone to keep the pieces in place as we remove the rock”.

The team at Yale began using soluble silica (water glass) a powder that if combined with water acted like glue to harden the bones once they arrived.  Professor Marsh encouraged Marshall to use it in the field but over the first few months, Marshall was a bit stubborn and did not embrace this technology.  He wrote to Marsh on October 30, 1883; 

of all the methods we have yet tried…and they are many – our plan works the best.” 

Marshall’s technique was to carefully chip out individual bones, then wrap them with cloth and paste once they were exposed. He felt this was necessary because it was not just that the bones were fragile, but because there were so many of them. This additional difficulty was explained in his letter of November 16,1883;  

Hardly a bone we find but is so surrounded by others – either on top – or under or alongside but what we have to work with great care not to injure or destroy them – so we as a rule – follow closely as possible the bone we are on – and not leave it for fear of doing mischief in some direction or other”.

From Marsh’s perspective, special care and treatment was needed as by the end of the first year of excavating Marshall had made some extremely valuable discoveries including four dinosaur skulls so far being a rarity. Marsh made a different suggestion on November 6, 1883 that Marshall would come to extensively use. The technique would become more and more commonly used where similar conditions existed; the major disadvantage in 1883 was simply shipping costs;

“If you find another skull please don’t put a chisel or any cutting tool nearer to it than three inches, if you can help it. The more rock around the skull the better and I rather have 100 lbs extra rock come around a skull than to have a tool within two inches of any part of it.”

Collection Techniques

These are three examples of early collection techniques to protect fragile bone utilized by John Bell Hatcher who will visit the Marsh Felch Dinosaur Quarry in later years.   These images provided courtesy of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.  


Bones were placed into packing crate lined with hay, sawdust, or any other available soft material.  A wagon type trail had not been yet constructed to quarry so the technique would be to pack them into a box and when you had enough boxes for a wagon, put them on a sled and pull them by hand or a with a horse down to the main road. They could then be loaded into a wagon and transported the six miles over the rutted trail to town and unloaded at the Denver and Rio Grande terminal in Canon City where Marshall would negotiate shipping rates with what Marshall considered an uninterested and unhelpful employee. The bones would be loaded and shipped to New Haven Connecticut. On February 16, 1884 Marshall wrote to Professor Marsh describing how he felt about the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad;

In regard to the over charges for freight it is no more than can be expected of the D&R.G. Ry. Co. notoriously a Corporation of Highway Robbers that fleece everyone that comes in their way”


Knowing where they lay, with Reference to others

Over time three special characteristics about the Marsh Felch Dinosaur Quarry became more and more evident; the diversity of species, the concentration and overlapping skeletons, and the articulation of the skeletons.  It was a bit unusual to find so much skeletal material joined together (articulation) and must have been both nice, yet painful, for paleontologists back in New Haven who were trying to figure it all out. In today’s world, something as simple as a picture could have very helpful but unfortunately Marshall did not have anything like a camera.  The key to telling the story fell to a large extent on the preparation of good notes, drawings, and quarry maps.  

Professor Marsh wrote to Marshall on June 21, 1883;  

“Since writing you this morning it has occurred to me that the best way to mark the
localities of the bones found would be to make a map of the quarry showing; 

1st the old workings.
nd the extensions you make
rd the positions of all important bones found

Then when you send a box, you can mark a line around the bones then sent, ep [express post]. In this way we can keep the thing straight. Otherwise there is great danger of confusion, and half the value of specimens consists in knowing where they lay with reference to others.

If now you name each skeleton, A, B, C etc you will help us greatly. Suppose for instance you call this piece of head sent Skeleton A and all the rest of the same animal, Skel A this will keep it all by itself. If you have already started on other distinct skeletons, you might call them B, C, etc, as you chose. The main thing is to keep each separate, and have them so labeled that we can make them out here. You might label the vertebrae etc of each skeleton Vert 1A, Vert 2 A, Bone 1 A, etc.

I will send you some red crayons to mark broken bones so that we will know how they go.”

Marshall would take this task to heart. In  turn it encouraged him to think about the whole thing more scientifically. He wrote a detailed letter on July 5, 1883 to Professor Marsh that included the quarry map to the left. 

Here is part of the system Marshall used: 

  • Quarry sections were called divisions.
  • Some skeletons were called “Sk No 1”, etc.
  • Notations used for strings of vertebrae such as “series 1” etc.
  • abbreviations such as “Sc” for Scapula & coracoids
  • individual important bones might be called “bone A”
  • some simple markings such as a line for a tooth were used.

An Avocational Paleontologist

By July, Marshall was getting a handle on the techniques he needed to excavate a dinosaur skeleton but what he was finding was more complex than what the Lucas Brothers encountered.  Possibly Professor Marsh did not fully recognize or appreciate the difficulties. 

By this time Marshall was no longer a Civil War veteran, wagon driver, ranch manager, or fossil excavator.  He was instead what might call today a citizen scientist, fossil quarry manager, or maybe more appropriately an avocational paleontologist. An avocational paleontologist doesn’t collect fossils for souvenirs, far from it. They collect for the story a fossil provides in support of science knowledge.

On December 2, 1883 Marshall wrote; “We had a visit last Sunday from Prof. G. von Rath of the German University at Bonn. Both he and his wife expressed themselves as finding here the most interesting locality yet visited by them in America. As a rule I pay little attention to visitors as most come to gratify idle curiosity but knowing he was travelling in the interest of Science and would fully appreciate the work. … I thought you would have no objection to his getting all the information he could.





Marshall Felch sitting along cliff about 100 feet east of the quarry in 1888. 

On December 6, 1884 Professor Marsh wrote to Marshall; “One perfect skull is worth a car full of ordinary fossils”.  In the fall of 1883 four skulls along with a host of skeletons would be discovered.  A special focus on three dinosaurs that helps illustrate Marshall’s contributions to the story includes what was initially believed to be a Brontosaurus skull, a Diplodocus skull, and a Ceratosaurus skeleton and skull. 

Brachiosaurus  –  Skull No 2

Skull no 2 will not be the most important skull found in the Old Quarry but undoubtedly it will have the most interesting paleontology journey. 

Marshall first identified Skull No 2 on September 25, 1883 writing; “No 2 remains as first found but now that we have no doubt as to what is – we shall commence soon – and trim down as far as possible – without injuring the bone on exposed parts – and box and pack up.” The skull material that was found was boxed up for shipping on the 30th of September and a week later on the 7th of October Marshall wrote that it had been “shattered during the excavation process with the jaws badly broken” while observing that the “skull belonged to a very large animal“.  The letter arrived at Yale where the word “Brontosaurus” was added to Marshall’s October 7, 1883 letter that included a description of No 2.

Five years earlier, August of 1879, quarry no 10 at Como Bluffs Wyoming was opened up by William Harlow Reed and with the help of  Edward Ashley they exhumed one of the finest “brontosaur” skeletons ever found.  It was very complete with the exception of the skull. Not long afterward Marsh decided that a skull from a nearby quarry at Como Bluffs the missing piece,  but soon it was determined to belong to a Camarasaurus, like what the Lucas brothers had uncovered.  The otherwise amazing Brontosaurus skeleton remained headless. 

Marsh but later in the winter after Marshall’s excavation work increased in intensity over the next few months. Although the other discoveries seemed to overshadow Skull No2 in importance, Marsh began asking about it writing on December 12, 1883; “I find that the back part of both lower jaws of Skull No2 and the three bones of the skull that join on to them are missing. They probably all were torn off of the head together, and may have been scattered not far from where the skull lay. … Have you any more pieces small or large? 

Marshall continued to dialog with Professor Marsh here and there writing on the 7th of January; “The extreme cold and stormy weather of the past few days, and which still continues, prevents doing much in the quarry. I went over on Thursday however; to see what I could do towards finding some of the missing portions – belonging with skull No. 2. I removed a block of rock some 20 in. long 15 wide and 8 or 10 thick – on the top face of which was found the back part of jaw No. 2 of that skull. 

Professor Marsh responded to Marshall on April 9, 1884 writing; “We are now working on Skull No. 2. and any pieces will be very acceptable.” 

Marshall wrote back on June 5, 1884; “The cervical vertebrae mentioned in my last are Brontosaurus, as you have figured them – and from their position – Skull No 2 must have belonged with them.”.  Other Brontosaurus material was being found in the quarry so this would not be surprising.

A few years later Professor Marsh will produce “The Dinosaurs of North America” that included the brontosaurus skeleton shown to the right. It was based on material excavated from quarry 10 at Como Bluffs with the exception of the skull (Sk 2). The skull is the one excavated by Marshall in 1883 and early 1884 (Marsh 1896).

For many years Brontosaurus was called Apatosaurus which was the first one discovered and therefore had the “naming rights”.  Although the final verdict is not in, Brontosaurus was declared a separate animal in 2015 and the name was brought back much to the delight of paleontology crew at the Yale Peabody Museum (Choi 2015)

Not A Brontosaurus Skull 

A cast of the Brachiosaurus skull that was originally discovered by Marshall Felch in 1883 and initially described as Brontosaurus. It is now identified as Brachiosaurus and on display in the Prehistoric Journey Exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Brachiosaurus was not known until a relatively complete skeleton was discovered in 1900 by Elmer Riggs working in western Colorado for the Chicago Field Museum. Riggs published an important paper on this discovery. (Riggs 1903) As you might be guessing by now, skulls are simply not that common and the Riggs skeleton did not include a skull.  Fortunately, additional Brachiosaurus skeletal of a different species was discovered by William Janensch over four decades beginning in 1914 and those specimens contained partial skulls.   These specimens provide the link between Brachiosaurus and the Felch Quarry specimen. (Carpenter and Tidwell 1998) 

In the 1970’s, the sauropod dinosaur expert John McIntosh was conducting research at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. when he came across the skull material in storage that had originally been used by Professor Marsh for the  Brontosaurus skeleton.  McIntosh suspected that this might be actually be Brachiosaurus and he contacted Dr. Kenneth Carpenter at the Denver Museum of Natural History who together with Virginia Tidwell took up the task of analyzing this material.  In 1998 they published the paper entitled “Preliminary Description of a Brachiosaurus Skull from Felch Quarry 1, Garden Park, Colorado” (Carpenter and Tidwell 1998). 

Skull Number Three

On September 18,1883 Marshall wrote in regards to a new skull that he had discovered; 

“I did not have a chance to send to mail to day and will write more of the skull. We have tried to cut down the blocks but as the exposed parts jar away easily we conclude to let it remain and ship rock and all…The whole skull with both jaws I think are all here complete. The whole length of the head from the base of the skull to the teeth in front is quite two feet – and though I cannot tell very near – think the head is not more than 7 or 8 inches wide in the widest part. The teeth are those long, slender, cylindrical ones such as I have sent twice. Species must have been abundant here for we have found very many straggling teeth of this kind.”

The drawing to the right by Marshall Felch was included in the same letter where it had been named skeleton number 3 (or sk3 or No 3).  Marshall noted on October 7; “Teeth like those in No. 3 are abundant through the central and part of East End divisions”  This would be relatively close to where Mudge, Williston, and Marshall excavated what Williston called Diplodocus, but until this moment no Diplodocus skull had been located here or anywhere so there was nothing to compare it with. In the same letter Felch informed Marsh that “skull 3” had been shipped. Some time after arrival Marsh penned the name Diplodocus on that same letter although initially he thought it belonged to Apatosaurus. By this time Marshall had been reporting other parts of Diplodocus but did not make the connection until Marsh completed his analysis of this skull

 Professor Marsh wrote back on October 15, 1883 regarding the skull Marshall identified as No3; “it appears to be complete with lower jaws and snout in place… think this skull may prove to be Apatosaurus, but cannot tell without more specimens from the skeleton”. 

In 1884 Marsh published on Diplodocus that included the drawing to the right along with a front and top view (Marsh 1884).  The history of this skull and the story of Diplodocus longus that includes the work of Williston, Felch, and Mudge in 1877 is well told in Carpenter and McIntosh’s classic 1998 publication “The holotype of diplodocus longus…“(McIntosh and Carpenter 1998).

Can you work to advantage all winter?


In response to the extraordinary amount of material coming from the quarry, Professor Marsh began suggesting Marshall and his team continue working through the winter such as in his letter on October 15, 1883; P.S. Can you work to advantage all winter, if you have a tent etc?“.  One day later Marsh wrote; “I wish you and Smith to keep at work all winter. Williston tells me that the weather in your part is mild.”   


An Ugly Character

Robert Tyler was a new hand that Marshall had hired in early September mostly to help out at the ranch but as work was ramping up at the quarry Tyler was put to work digging bones and soon came across a new skull and skeleton. Marshall wrote to Prof. Marsh on October 19, 1883 writing;  This brings us to a new and quite interesting discovery made by Tyler who found… another head.”

Three days later Marshall wrote; their [probably Smith and Tyler] latest discovery was perhaps as interesting as any other discovery found …though the animal seems an ugly character – and must have been a terror wherever he lived – with his long stout jaws – sharp teeth – and horns on his head.” At the time, Marshall and Smith were working in another part of the quarry excavating Allosaurus bones that were part of a separate skeleton.  Perhaps Tyler’s skeleton no 4 was an Allosaurus? Marshall included a quick sketch shown to the right on which someone at Yale later wrote the word “Allosaurus”.

Ceratosaurus Illustrations

After the death of Professor Marsh in early 1899, the bulk of the collection at Yale that had been funded by the US Geological Survey was transferred to the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). There it was initially housed within what is known today as the Castle at the Smithsonian Mall in Washington D.C. until the NMNH was built, opening to the public in 1910. In the meantime an outstanding scientist by the name of Charles Gilmore undertook the arduous  task of taking another look at the material Marshall had collected, particularly the Allosaurus (Antrodemus), Ceratosaurus, and Stegosaurus.  This new evaluation meant additional preparation on every specimen and several years of analysis.  The end result was a major scientific paper on Ceratosaurus that was published in conjunction with Allosaurus (Gilmore 1920).   Gilmore described the Ceratosaurus as; “worthy of special mention, for it comprises parts of almost the entire skeleton, and was to a considerable extent found articulated”. This publication included a number of beautiful illustrations that are being included below to help illustrate the results of the historic work underway on Ceratosaurus (aka Skull No 4) in late 1883 to early 1884. 

I’ve revealed that No. 4 is a Ceratosaurus in order to share these illustrations in a timely way but Marsh wouldn’t give it that name until the spring of 1884. 

No. 4

Marshall described the difficulty of excavating this specimen on the 23rd of October; “We have been at work again to day on No 4 – It is a slow and delicate job – as it does not clean well from its bed underneath and we have to lie down to chisel under it removing a little at a time and then pasting up.” 

On the 24th of October Professor Marsh responded; “Your description and sketch of Skull (No4) shows at once that it belongs to a Carnivorous Dinosaur, probably Allosaurus…Take up the skull with great care, and spare no pains on packing to make it come safely. We need a Carnivore skull very much, and you may never find another.”  He continued on the 30th of October; “I am very desirous of having the bones that go with the four skulls all here before New Years, if they can be got out in good shape…All the four skulls belong to totally different animals. The Carnivore is of course quite by itself, but the other three belong to the Sauropoda”. 

Professor Marsh wrote again on November 6;  “The 5 boxes came in today, but I have only unpacked Box No 4 with the Carnivore skull. This is a very valuable specimen … The Carnivore Skull [N04], is one of the most interesting specimens I have seen from the West. We are now trying to harden it with gum and glue, and in a few days I shall myself go to work on it. It seems to have been complete … I am glad you are going for the skull of the Allosaurus. Both that and Skull No4. are typical Carnivores, perhaps the same species.”

Marsh expressed On November 10 both a desire for Marshall to continue working and maybe also come to Yale to assist the team with some of the new discoveries;  You better keep Tyler through the rest of this month, and longer if you find good bones” but an idea hit Marsh that he shared; “I wish very much you could see just what we do with the bones when they arrive here. Then you would understand fully what we need. Perhaps I can arrange later for you to visit us.”  Four skulls was a remarkable situation, something that must have exceeded Marsh’s highest expectations. Perhaps Marshall might be more valuable coming to the museum and learning what they did there while providing details about what he had found. It was a rare moment when Marsh extended such invitations; something few field excavators would experience. 

On the 23rd of November Marshall shared; “I met with a little accident at the quarry – got a blow on my knee from a heavy hammer – and have had to keep the house for a day or two past.”  Four days later he wrote in response to the invitation from Marsh to come to New Haven;  “I shall be happy to accept your generous offer and visit New Haven – also agree to the proviso to work another season on my return home”. 

One day later on the 24th Marshall wrote; “We have been at work again to day on No 4 – It is a slow and delicate job …we have to lie down to chisel under it removing a little at a time and then pasting up. I think this will come out so that with the two slabs containing the vertebrae it will weigh but little over 100 pounds.” 

On the 7th of December Marsh wrote: “caudal vertebrae in block with Skull No4 is very important … have drawings of every bone before taking them up”.

Marshall had second thoughts about a Yale trip writing on December 9; “I am sorry to have to write you – that it will not be possible for me to visit New Haven this winter. When I wrote that I would go – I had not fully thought the matter over – but now on further consideration feel compelled, much against my inclination however, to deny myself the pleasure and privilege of your very generous offer.” He continued;  “It will make very little difference in the work going on for if you send out a man in the Spring who understands just what is wanted and all the methods needed I will cheerfully turn the work over to him – and if I do not work myself will assist him whenever I can”.  

Winter weather forced closure of the quarry for awhile so Marshall took the time two days after Christmas to expand on how he felt about the work he has been doing;  I cannot though continue work at the same price…In this respect the seasons work has been somewhat unsatisfactory to me. If you will send on a man to take all the charge…The care of the work to keep things straight etc. has taken all my time to the exclusion of everything else – and is much harder on me than any of the men who have had only their regular days work of 10 hours to do.” Marshall had a family to help support and working non stop over the last 8 months had taken its toll. The intensity was more than he could handle. On the other hand, maybe he simply needed time off which took place over the next couple of months. He soon decided to continue working in 1884.

On January 4, 1884 Professor Marsh wrote; “I was greatly grieved to hear that you had thrown away some sternal bones. These are next to the skull in importance.”  On the 28th of January; We are at work on Skull No 4, which is coming out better than I expected”.  At this time Marsh still referred to No4 as an Allosaurus but a week or so later on the 6th of February he stated; “although it was an Allosaurus it was possibly a different species than what had so far been discovered” 

Above is the Ceratosaurus sacrum from plate 21.  Below is the string of caudal vertebrae from plate 22. (Gilmore 1920)


The image below is a cervical vertebrae. (Gilmore 1920)

Determination of Genus

By the 24th of February Marsh was becoming more fixated on No. 4; “Please don’t risk losing a fragment as large as a grain of corn on this entire skeleton”.  Near the end of this letter he suggests that Marshall “not forget about the dump as a place to go look for additional specimens such as the sternum bones that were tossed into it.”  

On the 28th, Marsh wrote; “determination of genus will be based in large part on locating some missing some dorsal vertebrae … I know that you want to do much better this year…The object of the work is to get material for accurate restoration of the animals found…it is important to treat all bones found as parts of a possible restoration”

Three days later Marsh expressed that he felt Marshall didn’t understand the significance of what he was finding; “Your great chance (the luckiest of any yet found in the West) was the skeleton of Skull No 4. Here not only was every fragment important, but the number of the vertebrae their proportions, and shape, and exact order were all of the highest importance. So of the ribs, toe bones etc. Such a chance probably will never occur again for you had the material for an entire restoration in a single specimen” 

Marsh went on expressing some regret that he had not gone himself to the quarry after this new dinosaur was discovered but that he remained so that he still might be able to do it justice;  Had I known the specimen was so good, or that there was a chance of any important part being lost I would have left everything here, and gone out at once, as this was the chance I had long hoped for … I hope sincerely we can yet rescue most of this skeleton, and make it useful. The species is new and probably it represents a new genus and family.”   

The Dump

The issue for Marsh was whether or not any significant material, particularly if it was associated with the Ceratosaurus, had gone over into the dump. 

On the 24th of February Marsh wrote; You will of course recognize the pieces by their color and texture, and how they are almost worth their weight in gold.” A few days later he wrote; “the whole determination of the genus to which this animal [Ceratosaurus] belongs turns on the dorsal vertebrae and the ribs belonging to them.” Once again, on the 8th of March, Marsh emphasized;  better leave all other work until every fragment is secured from the dump or rock. I would rather you would get me the rest of these two skeletons even in small pieces than to get 20 tons of big bones that I already know.”  

Marshall responded and began hiring additional help to sort through many tons of material in the dump below the quarry.  It would become a time consuming job that continued into early April. Marshall wrote on March 12, 1883; “Hunting the dump is slow work as all the stripping done over the Allosaur – the rock some 100 tons at least was thrown over partly covering the dump lower down the gulch where the rock from No. 4 was dumped over.” On the 20th of March, Marshall wrote; “some foot bones have been found.”  Later in the same letter he wrote;  “Tyler … went down and got the piece with the limb”  Marshall wrote on April 2, 1884; “We have at last got through the dump – and have the material found mostly sorted.”

On April 9, 1884 Marsh wrote; “I am glad you are finding so much of value in the dump. I knew there must be very important specimens there, and we need them here very much.”

Save Everything, That is the Rule 

All of the conversation about “getting every piece” and “not forgetting about the dump” originated from a small confession that Marshall made in his December 20, 1883 letter to Marsh;  We fixed up two sternal bones to-day with glass and glue – one of which I think is a fine specimen. … The other was found with scapula X and limb Y in the East End not shown on the map I believe. I think we have seen at least two besides these this season – one quite small – which puzzled us at the time – and we called them fragments of larger flat bones and did not save them – not knowing of anything like sternal bones till we saw them figured in the plates.” 

Professor Marsh read  intently every word of Marshall’s letters and he did not miss this confession, writing on January 4, 1884;  “I was greatly grieved to hear that you had thrown away some sternal bones. These are next to the skull in importance. Mudge and Williston knew little of collecting, or they would have told you to save everything. That is the rule in fossil vertebrates. There may be exceptions, but they are few.”

Harsh criticism from Marsh continued, becoming almost unbearable. If Marshall knew more about his personality he probably would have been able to accept these harsh critiques of his work,  but considering the lack of formal training, the difficulty of this excavation site, his personal health, and what Marshall called some of the coldest and most severe weather he had ever seen (26 degrees below zero), he was extremely frustrated.  Marshall and his crew had made mistakes but overall he was doing some remarkably good work, maybe the best work he had ever done in his entire life. By the fall of 1883 he was uncovering not just one but several highly significant skeletons. His reward was to receive little in the way of any compliments and making matters worse was he was generally getting paid late or even shorted. 

Marshall responded to these unrelenting critiques on March 7, 1883 writing;  “Had your instructions to me been as full and explicit in the beginning as in your letter of Mar. 1” many of the mishaps that have taken place would not have occurred. No one deplores the mistakes made more than myself and I have felt a good deal lately like giving up the work entirely.”


On March 12, 1884 Marsh shared what was one of the driving forces to ensure that Marshall got every piece of this skeleton; “I shall have my figures of Sk 4 out in a few days and the article will be in the April [issue] of the Am. Journal of Science”. (Marsh, 1884)

On March 19,1883 Professor Marsh revealed the name of this new dinosaur; “Sk 4. which I shall call Ceratosaurus, (Horn lizard) is proving more and more important every hour, as we work on it. It is worth all the rest of the quarry including Allosaurus, so far as you have got.”

The drawing below of the Ceratosaurus skull by Gilmore was discovered by Marshall and crew in 1883. (Gilmore 1920)

Rejoicing in our Museum

Professor Marsh On March 19 wrote back to Marshall stating they had received box no. 1, something that Marshall had shipped on February 20, 1884. The Yale team was very pleased with a “forefoot” something Professor Marsh rivals the skull itself in importance.  He writes “that it was finally found caused rejoicing in our museum in 4 or 5 different languages.”

Two days later on March 21, Professor Marsh reiterates the importance of the specimen that had been shipped in box no. 1 stating there was one lump  “…as big as my two fists, which had in it nearly all of a fore foot worth all the large bones in the quarry, as it enabled me to make a restoration of the foreleg.

Professor Marsh completed his publication on Ceratosaurus and shared this with Marshall writing on the 31st of March “I will send you some pamphlets on Ceratosaurus tomorrow or next day. You will then see the results of all our work.”  

Marshall responded on the 11th of April writing; “I received the pamphlets on Ceratosaurus. We all think it is the grandest specimen yet.”  This must have been a proud moment in Marshall’s life.

The Forefoot

Not all the material had arrived that would go into Marsh’s April publication on Ceratosaurus in time.  Most notable were pieces of the forefoot which Marsh had declared was second in importance to the skull. It was these bones that delighted everyone at the museum. Upon receiving these bones, the museum staff prepared the drawing on the left below looking the same as when they arrived.  After analysis, they were drawn in a manner representing their place in the foot (below right).  

The skeletal drawing below of the Ceratosaurus skeleton discovered by Marshall and crew in 1883 is by Charles Gilmore. (Gilmore 1920)


Carpenter, Kenneth, and Virginia Tidwell. 1998. “Preliminary Description of a Brachiosaurus Skull from Felch Quarry 1, Garden Park, Colorado.” Modern Geology 23 (January): 69–84.

Choi, Charles. 2015. “The Brontosaurus Is Back.” Scientific American. April 7, 2015. 

McIntosh, John S, and Kenneth J Carpenter. 1998. “The Holotype of Diplodocus Longus, with Comments on Other Specimens of the Genus.” Modern Geology 23: 85–110.

Riggs, E. S. 1903. “Brachiosaurus Altithorax, the Largest Known Dinosaur.” American Journal of Science American Journal of Science 4–15 (88): 299–306.

Schuchert, Charles, and Clara Mae LeVene. 1940. O.C. Marsh, Pioneer in Paleontology. New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

All letters are available online at this site.

Next Chapter: Without a Scratch

This chapter will focus on the time period in early 1884 up through the end of 1887 when the bulk of paleontology excavations would be completed.  It is a time period when remarkable skeletons of Allosaurus and Stegosaurus would be discovered along with an array of other materials.  Marshall Felch will complete what will be the best paleontology work he will ever do.  Sadly, this work comes during the time period when Marshall and Amanda’s youngest son Emerson Webster dies in a tragic farming accident.  Its both a very rewarding and painful time in their families history. 


Oberlin Ohio

JoAnn and I walked the gorgeous campus of Oberlin College in Oberlin Ohio while looking into their archives on May 26, 2015.  Oramel Lucas attended college there, both before and after his days of digging dinosaurs in Canon City. We were lucky to have their archivist help us find three hand written “dinosaur digging” letters by Oramel. It  may have been a surprise to the archivist as he graduated there from their school of theology although theologians commonly explored the natural world in those days.  

Oramel, Ira, and the Camarasaurus 

Talbot Hill 

Joseph Gladding (J.G.) Pangborn was a drummer boy in the Civil War who served with the 54th New York Regiment.  After the war he became a became a reporter, working for four major newspapers across the country and in 1876 he became a marketing representative for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (ATSF railroad.  The trains hired good writers to prepare colorful articles about the west, essentially marketing pieces to encourage tourism. The ATSF railroad had a line that extended up to the Florence area, just east of Canon City. (Bruce 2015)

In the summer of 1878, J.G. or Maj. Pangborn came to the Canon City area where he wrote a number of pieces about the area including one describing the great dinosaur discoveries. Pangborn did not travel alone but brought along his own illustrator, a well known Kansas artist by the name of Henry Worrall. (Taft 1946).  They were in turn accompanied by either some local individuals or visitors who traveled with them on the train. 

Their journey began about “midway in the park we pull up at the pleasant home of the gentleman who is to show us to the top of Talbot Hill”.  Living about midway up the park was the home of Aaron and Lucy Ripley so in all likelihood it was Aaron that gave the tour. 

They left the road and heading west toward “a wall of blood-red rock on the west side of the Park” where they “alight” meaning they were on foot.  

Saurian Hill

The illustration above depicts the blood red hill and an erosion feature called “bottle buttes” illustrated by Pangborn’s illustrator, Henry Worrall.  

The illustration to the left was done though by Arthur Lakes, most likely in 1878 but possibly in 1879. The story of how it was discovered is in the story, Arthur lakes in Garden Park.

The red rock represents fast moving stream deposits from the ancestral mountains that existed long before the dinosaurs. 

The wall of red rocks they encountered along the west side of the valley are known today in this area as the Fountain Formation. These rocks formed when small to large rocks were tumbled, rolling down fast moving streams along the fronts of mountains; mountains that existed long before the dinosaurs found here.  The layers of light colored rock at the top were sand, silt, and clay deposited along the edge of a great seaway being formed at the time, and that would last another thirty million years eventually depositing thousands of feet of rock on top of the layers with dinosaurs.  The rocks in the middle represent the Morrison Formation, the layers of rock deposited between those two events. 

The two men, one standing and one sitting, in the most distant quarry are probably Oramel and his older brother Ira or his younger brother Clarence. Drawing is from the Rocky Mountain Tourist and a careful look at the lower left corner confirms that this drawing was also by Henry Worrall (Pangborn 1878).

Six Foot Thigh Bones

Maj. Panghorn and his team continued their journey up the hill. When they reached the crest of the hill they were; 

choked by the indescribable magnificence of the view, and for the first time we appreciate the sublimity and grandeur of the Sangre de Christo range

A few more steps and we are at the tent of Prof. Cope’s party, and all within and without is heaped-up bones, rocks now, and many of them so perfectly agatized that at a casual glance it would ‘ stagger any but a scientist’s belief that they were ever covered with flesh

Before us are perfect parts of skeletons so huge as to prepare one for the belief that Noah’s Ark was a myth; sections of vertebras three feet in width; ribs fifteen feet long; thigh bones over six feet in length — and the five or six tons of bones thus far shipped East comprising only the parts of three animals.” (Pangborn 1878)

Maj. Panghorn continued; 

“Prof. Hayden, the widely known chief of the United States Geological Survey, upon visiting this place and inspecting these and other parts of the animal, declared it his conviction that the beast must have been fully a hundred feet in length…the parts of animals taken out being remarkable for their clean and perfect solidity

By this time Oramel and Ira had made eight shipments of bones to Professor that included 45 boxes of fossils.  Oramel told Maj. Pangborn that; “between 7,500 and 8,000 pounds of bones had already been shipped“. (Pangborn 1878).

Talbot and Worrall

The three photographs below are the active excavation going on at the Cope Lucas quarries in early 1878.  All three of pictures and the drawing above appear to have been taken from the same approximate position. Additionally the  drawing above and the center photograph below appear to represent the furthest quarry in the exact same scene.  The drawing above is by Pangborn’s illustrator Henry Worrall, leading to the conjecture that he took the photo. 

The pictures below on the right and left are by a local photographer named C.W. Talbot. Stereograph  photographs were very popular with two pictures on a display card. We are displaying one of the two pictures on each card.  A special hand held viewer such as the commonly used Holmes stereoscope would have been used to view the scene in three dimensions which was considered “mesmerizing”.

One half of a stereograph photograph taken by a local druggist by the name of Chalmers W. Talbot who lived in the Canon City area.  He was an entrepreneur who opened a photography business in 1874 and even operated a weather station for the US Signal Corps (U.S. Army).  This picture of the quarry area was taken within a few feet to where the picture to the right was made, but looking more south toward Cottage Rock. Picture courtesy of the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center. 

Taken at the same time the Pangborn team was visiting the quarry.  Key items and people are in the exact same location; for example looking closely you can pick up Oramel standing and pointing at bones with his brother Clarence or Ira sitting.  The illustrator Henry Worrall very likely took this photograph.  It appears that there were seven well dressed visitors, one of them a woman. Standing closest to Oramel appears to be Maj. Pangborn,  to whom he is explaining the bones. The less well dressed man on the right may be Oramel’s brother in law and part time dinosaur excavator Aaron Ripley who I believe guided the team of visitors to this location. 

The second Talbot sterograph image. This picture is looking a little more northerly based on the prominent juniper tree that appears to be the same one visible in 2018. This picture courtesy of the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center. 

Excavate, Package, and Ship

Oramel and Ira continued to excavate, package, and ship dinosaur bones through 1878, in fact Ira shipped bones all the way into early 1883.  After Pangborn and his team visited in early 1878, Oramel and Ira opened up a second quarry location about a quarter mile southwest of where the drawings and pictures were taken. They not only opened a new quarry but found a new skeleton.That fall Oramel would return to Oberlin while making arrangements with Ira for the bones from this new quarry to be shipped during the winter.  Oramel was scientifically observant and identified in a letter to Cope that he believed that a second fairly Camarasaurus was being uncovered at the new quarry.  He also informed Cope that he would use his brother Ira as his agent who would continue work in these quarries. 

Once Cope took a look at what arrived in Philadelphia, he concurred with what Oramel was suggesting; he was not seeing substantial differences between it and the Camarasaurus supremus that had already discovered.  Cope then decided that he already had sufficient material for identification and this new material was not needed.  He decided to sell this second skeleton,  but in the meantime he stored it in the basement of his home in Philadelphia. 

The sale would not occur, at least not in the way Cope was thinking, when he visited the quarry.  Cope arranged before his death in 1897 that not just this specimen and not just the entire Canon City collection but most of his collections would be sold to the American Museum of Natural History because of his fondness for Henry Osborn, the future director of this great museum.  

Ira Lucas was a Civil War veteran who had worked in a field hospital role He served in the same City Point field hospitals where Amanda served in the winter of 1864/65 and Marshall came to visit Amanda in late 1864 seeking relief of the injury he suffered at Cedar Creek. Marshal and Ira had their service in common and probably exchanged war stories in spite of being paleontology competitors.  Photograph courtesy of the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center. 

Cope in his upstairs study at 2102 Pine in Philadelphia, courtesy of the Osborn Library at the American Museum of Natural History. 


Cope traveled through this part of Colorado both before and after Oramel began his work, but he only visited the quarry one time.  On July 26, 1879 he wrote to his wife Annie about his arrival in Canon City noting; 

“Canyon City is a new and rather rough town of small size.  The scenery is fine. I found Mr. Lucas the discoverer of all the huge saurians, an agreeable man and a strict Presbyterian.  He lives with his father’s family.  Seventh day I made a complete survey of the Saurian beds and excavations which commenced 7 miles from town, north and extended 7 miles farther.”  (Osborn 1931) 

Cope had been fairly sick and had stayed in town for about three days.  He continued in his letter;

“ I felt that I was going to have one of my attacks of fever and yesterday I had it sure enough. I slept much and took aconite every hour day and night.”  (Osborn 1931) 

Aconite was a bit of an unusual herbal medicine to be taking. Historically it was used as a poison, poison arrows were dipped in it.  Never the less it was also being used for ailments such as nerve pain, headache, and rheumatism. Cope was customarily known to take self-administered opiates and other strong drugs, such as belladonna and aconite derivatives (Davidson 1997).

When sufficiently recuperated, Cope visited the quarry where he took notes and even drew a map and took notes. 

The map, notes, and letters from Oramel and Ira had been misplaced at the American Museum of Natural History but during a research trip were rediscovered Donna Engard and Pat Monaco of Canon City on a research trip back east in 1989.(Engard and Monaco 1989)

They in turn passed them along to John McIntosh.  These revealed many details about the excavation previously unknown.  For example, by the time the quarry closes 254 boxes of fossils will have been shipped and a total of not two or three but seventeen quarries were developed. The map by Cope below and redrawn by John McIntosh, is not to scale but depicts the major features in the excavation area. (McIntosh, John S. 1998)

Rocky Footing

In March of 1879, the scientifically based U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) was formed as part of the federal Department of Interior. The foundations of this agency wasn’t created out of thin air, it was well rooted in survey work over many years but most recently under the direction of both the Army and the Department of Interior.  Inconsistent work approaches resulted in a decision to combine it under one federal entity. The mission of the USGS was scientifically based survey work but many people recognize the agency for development of one of its first priorities; topographic maps.  Over the next few years the mission of the agency would continue to be clarified and today the agency remains performing many valuable public services. 

Ferdinand Hayden, a friend and ally of Professor Cope was by far the most obvious choice for the first director of the USGS but he was not selected because of some behind the scenes political maneuvering. If Hayden had been selected as the director, money and resources could have been pushed Cope’s direction and his vision of great scientific discovery of new species of animals could have been amplified. Any of the other obvious choices would not swing support his direction.  It was actually the geologist Clarence King who became the first director. He wasn’t interested in administrative type work and only agreed to get the agency up and running, nothing more. The second and somewhat unlikely selection for the second director in 1880 was John Wesley Powell. It was his leadership that had profound impacts on the the agencies future work, including what work was supported in Garden Park.  His allegiances became quite obvious in 1882 when Professor Marsh was appointed chief geologist of the USGS. 

When Professor Cope arrived in late July 1879 he was well aware that his ally Ferdinand Hayden had not been appointed its director and had a sense of potential impacts considering he had received a sizable inheritance from his father in 1875 he had began spending money in an unsustainable way. This must have been in the back of his mind when he was here in Canon City in late July 1879. At this point in his life he was not on as solid a footing as his hated rival Professor Marsh.  Never the less, he was there to ascertain the quarries potential and what the future held in regard to it.  A clue to his thinking is that he currently had enough material for identification of Camarasaurus and the second full skeleton excavated by Oramel and Ira in 1878 was something he was considering selling

The quarries that Oramel and Ira developed would be largely played out (the bones gone) by 1883.  Toward 1883 Ira would begin searching elsewhere in the fossil area including an area down near the old oil wells originally developed by Cassidy.  In 1901 a new team arrived from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History who explored the quarries that Oramel and Ira worked with little success.  On the other hand, the work with all those bones was for the most part just beginning.

Royal Treatment

Henry Osborn was at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) when he and Cope negotiated the eventual sale of much of Cope’s fossil collections with his good friend Edward Cope, including the dinosaurs that Oramel and Ira had collected (April 12, 1897) . The collection of Cope fossils was purchased by the AMNH in 1902 and the bones began arriving in 1904. Under the supervision of Osborn, Charles Mook, with the assistance of a staff of preparators, artists, and editors, began the detailed study and preparation of a manuscript that would have a heavy focus on Camasaurusus.  Osborn felt that in particular this dinosaur was very important and wanted it to receive the attention that Yale had bestowed upon dinosaurs such as Brontosaurus and Diplodocus in the great Marsh publication; Dinosaurs of North America (Marsh 1896).  A part of his motivation was his dislike of Professor Marsh, whom he had his first serious clash with in 1891 (Gregory 1938). Regardless of the reason, he took personal charge of ensuring that the dinosaur bones that Oramel and Ira had collected under Copes direction would receive  royal treatment at the AMNH.  

“The time, energy, and expenditure, involved in the preparation of this Memoir, chiefly on a single Sauropod, is beyond precedent. At many times the solution of the problems seemed impossible. It is a pleasure to dedicate it to the memory of the former President of the Museum, Mr. Morris Ketchum Jesup, who presented the Cope Collection, and bequeathed the funds by which this elaborate research has been carried in and the hundreds of illustrations have been prepared” (Osborn and Mook 1921). 

In 1921, after years of research and preparation work including the dinosaur skeletons Ira and Oramel collected, Henry Fairfield Osborn and Charles Craig Mook produced a beautifully illustrated 120 page manuscript entitled; Camarasaurus, Amphicoelias, and other Sauropods of Cope (Osborn and Mook 1921). 

Drawings and model of a Camarasaurus prepared for Osborn and Mook’s publication are presented below, courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History.  

Henry Fairfield Osborn 

Henry grew up in a prominent family in New York and was well educated preparing for a college degree which he pursued at Princeton. He then continued to study both here and abroad in Europe.  It was during 1877 that he participated in field work in Wyoming and Colorado collecting mammal fossils. It was during those time frames that he first sought out the assistance of Professors Cope, Leidy, and Marsh.  He found Professor Cope to be of great assistance and considered him somewhat as a mentor while Marsh was of little help.  His admiration of the work Cope did would have great influence on the dinosaur bones that Oramel and Ira were collecting.  In 1891, Osborn became both a professor at Columbia when it was rapidly evolving into a major university. At the same time he was put in charge of the fossil mammal collection at the American Museum of Natural History.  By 1908 he assumed the position of director of the American Museum of Natural History, a position he held until 1933 where he enabled the worlds best vertebrate paleontology collection to be developed using great paleontologists like Barnum Brown and Roy Chapman Andrews Chapman (Mongolia Expeditions).  Osborn is perhaps best known for the exhibit development including murals, habitat dioramas, and dinosaur skeletons that enamored millions of visitors.

Cope Lucas Quarry Discoveries

The major dinosaurs that had been identified by this time included the Camarasaurus supremus representing the bulk of the collection along with Amphicoelias altus and Laelaps trihedrodon.  The name Laelaps trihedrodon is no longer used for the specimens but in general would be a larger meat-eating dinosaur, possibly something in the Dyptosaurus family. 

A forth type of dinosaur recently identified includes a large plant eating dinosaur called Maraapunisaurus fragillimus previously not known in North America nor from the Jurassic Period (Carpenter 2018). 


Carpenter, Kenneth. 2018. “Maraapunisaurus Fragillimus, N.G. (Formerly Amphicoelias Fragillimus), a Basal Rebbachisaurid from the Morrison Formation (Upper Jurassic) of Colorado (Article, 2018) [WorldCat.Org].” GEOLOGY OF THE INTERMOUNTAIN WEST an Open-Access Journal of the Utah Geological Association 5: 227–44.

———. 2019. “History and Geology of the Cope’s Nipple Quarries in Garden Park, Colorado—Type Locality of Giant Sauropods in the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation.” GEOLOGY OF THE INTERMOUNTAIN WEST an Open-Access Journal of the Utah Geological Association 6: 31–53.

Davidson, Jane P. 1997. The Bone Sharp: The Life of Edward Drinker Cope. Philadelphia: Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

Dean, Eric T. 1999. Shook over Hell: Post-Traumatic Stress, Vietnam, and the Civil War. Cambridge, Mass.; London: Harvard University Press.

Donald H. Kupfer, Ph.D. 2000. “CANON CITY’S OIL SPRING, FREMONT COUNTY, COLORADO: COLORADO’S FIRST COMMERCIAL OIL PROSPECT (1860); AND THE DISCOVERY OF THE FLORENCE OIL FIELD (1881).” Drake Well Foundation © 2012 Petroleum History Institute, no. Oil-Industry History, Volume 1, Number 1, 2000.

Gregory, William K. 1938. Biographical Memoir of Henry Fairfield Osborn, 1857-1935. Vol. VOLUME 19-THIRD MEMOIR. Washington: National Academy of Sciences.

McIntosh, John S. 1998. “New Information About the Cope Collection of Sauropods from Garden Park, Colorado.” Modern Geology 23: 481–506.

Osborn, Henry Fairfield. 1931. Cope: Master Naturalist; the Life and Letters of Edward Drinker Cope, with a Bibliography of His Writings Classified by Subject; a Study of the Pioneer and Foundation Periods of Vertebrate Palaeontology in America,. Princeton, N.J.; London: Princeton University Press; H. Milford, Oxford University Press.

Osborn, Henry Fairfield, and Charles Craig Mook. 1921. “Camarasaurus, Amphicoelias, and Other Sauropods of Cope.” Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History 3 (part 3).

Ostrom, John H, and John Stanton McIntosh. 1999. Marsh’s Dinosaurs: The Collections from Como Bluff. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Pangborn, Joseph Gladding. 1878. The New Rocky Mountain Tourist, Arkansas Valley and San Juan Guide. Chicago : Knight & Leonard.

Next Chapter: What are you doing next Summer? 



There are only a handful of drawings and photographs of the ranch when the Felch family lived there. The drawing above by Loretta Bailey presents an inviting picture of Marshall, Amanda, Sadie, Ned, and Emerson getting the wagon packed on a lovely morning.  The ranch buildings are long gone but the three round rocks in Loretta’s drawings are still with us today. They make it feel like it was just yesterday when the family was out and about in the yard. 

Things are never as perfect as they might seem and so in 1879 the marriage almost unravels but something holds it together. Perhaps the the three children were the glue holding the fragile relationship together.  For me the three rocks seem to be an allegory for the children standing solid in a traumatic time.  

The picture above of the clock tower was taken in 2015.  It is a historic replica of the central tower of the old courthouse where divorce papers were filed. The old courthouse located about two blocks north of this location at 3rd and main was torn town in the 1880’s.    

Loretta Bailey and I were skimming through the Amanda Felch folder down at the Royal Gorge Regional History Center in late October of 2015 when we found a one-page court filing stating that Amanda had filed for divorce from Marshall on June 20, 1879.  It was a bit of a shocker (to say the least) so with Loretta’s encouragement we went down the next day to the local courthouse where we took a number and waited our turn to approach the window.  When our number was called, we learned that they did not keep any records after a relatively short period of time sending them off to the Colorado State Archives at 1313 Sherman Street in Denver.

They gave us some contact information for that office and we sent in a request for information on November 17, 2015. A few days later, the state archivist Paul Levit reported that he was unable to find a divorce proceeding for Marshall and Amanda; “We have very little from Fremont County in the way of county government records. Have you tried contacting the clerk and recorder’s office?”

We had a pretty solid idea of what was here locally and considered a local option a dead end so we gave it one more try. We needed to know the answer to this most perplexing question.   I provided a few additional details but far more importantly, I attached a copy of what we had found at the history center.  Paul gleaned through that filing and found what he needed. The one document we had was from the 3rd District Court of Colorado.  In short order he found the hand-written file, copied it, and graciously returned it that very same day.  

We passed these along to Natalie Kinsey and Joan Alexander in Vermont and Joan soon transcribed them. It was a bittersweet moment, sort of like when someone in your family tells you about Aunt or Uncle so and so; “They seemed so nice when you had met them, who would have guessed”.  On the flip side, we all know the ugly things that get said in a divorce and the mean spiritedness that can carry a relationship down a hole that no one can get out of.  Natalie, Joan, Loretta, and I discussed this a lot over the next few years gradually achieving a better understanding about it. 

Ultimately we came to a couple of fairly solid ideas on what the problem actually was, as well as what was it that kept the family together. Loretta Bailey was doing volunteer work down at the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and came across a most unexpected clue in the winter of 2015 and 2016.  She had walked past a photograph hanging in the hallway as long as she could remember, but one day she stopped and looked more closely at the photograph.  It showed 21 young women posing in Civil War West Point military uniforms at the Colorado Collegiate Military Academy. For the first time she read the names of the young women attending and about fell over when she saw one of them was Sarah (Sadie) Felch. This might not seem important until you put together when this occurred and how difficult it would be to accomplish under any circumstances; circumstances requiring a solid footing. 

Garden Park: “Nowhere in Comparison

Samuel Williston left Canon City by mid October of 1877 and soon began working at the Morrison quarries with Arthur Lakes. By early November that he was in ill health and returned to his home in Manhattan Kansas.  His time off wouldn’t last long.  Word arrived from Professor Marsh that he had a new assignment, after all he was one of Professor Marsh’s most trusted assistants. Williston somewhat reluctantly agreed and arrived in Como Bluffs on the 14th of November.  

Samuel met with two employees of the Union Pacific Railroad who had discovered and shipped dinosaur bones to Professor Marsh When Williston inspected the work area he announced in a letter to Marsh that “Canon City and Morrison are simply nowhere in comparison with this locality both in regards to perfection, accessibility, and quantity”.  

Como Bluffs 

Marsh was off to the races in the new Wyoming battlefield Como Bluffs (Ostrom and McIntosh 1999).  A number of quarries would be developed and those amazing discoveries are beautifully described in a number of books including Ostrum and McIntosh’s publication “Marsh’s Dinosaurs: The Collections from Como Bluffs“. 

Beginning in late 1877 and ending a dozen years later, at least 480 large boxes of dinosaur bones came from Como alone and a substantial amount of small mammal fossils were also collected.  Como Bluffs is an amazing paleontology and historic story described in a number of books. 

Hold On a Second

Ostrum and McIntosh commented about Williston’s statement of “nowhere in comparison” in their book “Marsh’s Dinosaurs – The Collections at Como Bluffs”; 

“Subsequent work by M.P. Felch at Canon City (Garden Park) proved this judgment to be premature.  Felch worked Quarry 1, Garden Park for five years and others worked it subsequently.  The total yield of this quarry rivaled any single quarry at Como and included most of Marsh’s Jurassic dinosaur skulls”. 

In later years, Charles Gilmore with the National Museum of Natural History would stress the significance of the articulation of three skeletons in particular originating from the Marsh Felch quarry and how they enabled a much better understanding of  these well known dinosaurs; Allosaurus fragilusCeratosaurus nasicornis, and Stegosaurus stenops

Canon City: The Late 1870’s 

This lithograph is from the 1882 bird’s-eye-view map of Cañon City shows that commercial development along Main Street focused on the area west of 6th Street(near the right).  The courthouse appears at the left edge of the map.  (Wellge 1882)

Canon City in the 1870’s 

Canon City grew from 229 in 1870 to 1,500 residents in 1880. The first train arrived in 1874 and by 1880 the line extended to Salida and Leadville. Marketing to tourists described; soda springs, marble caves, oil wells, fossil beds, scenery along Grape Creek, and the Royal Gorge, as it is now called.  There was even an omnibus running through town (trolley car pulled by horses). A newspaper report stated “Its streets present a decidedly business like appearance, being thronged constantly with people and wagons. Its hotels are overflowing, many having to seek accommodations in private houses”.  Gardens and orchards were being planted. Coal mines were being developed. The state penitentiary was being built on the west end of town where it remains today.  The first official school house was being built and would open in 1880.(Simmons and Simmons 2005)

The “choicest wines, liquors and cigars always on sale” were on sale at Murray’s Saloon. Down the street the McClure House opened as hotel. The grand opening of the McClure house in 1874 featured “lighted candles placed in every window of the building and parlors decorated with buntings”.(Simmons and Simmons 2005)

When Ida Steele Osgood arrived in Cañon City in 1879 she “found the population booming.  Silver discoveries in Leadville made Cañon City an important outfitting and supply center until the railroad tracks reached the Cloud City the following year.  After unloading the trains in town, freight was hauled to Leadville and towns along the way.  Concord stage coaches were filled with luggage and passengers, and hotel lobbies and halls were full of cots. Every available space was occupied. There were reported to be more than 1,500 people living in tents in and around Cañon City.  The saloons were full of noisy men and women.”(Simmons and Simmons 2005)

In 1879 Marshall and Amanda were both forty-three years old.  Sarah was 12, Ned 10, and Emerson was 9. All three youngsters had been attending school up at the one room school house in Garden Park School, the same one Oramel Lucas taught at three years earlier. Amanda’s son Albert was 23 and most likely still with the family but later begin working for the Santa Fe and Atkinson Railroad the Railroad in Kansas. Help on the farm in the summer months was critical, the three youngsters would have had a long laundry list of chores to do. Marshall worked at the ranch and probably picked up work as a wagon driver here and there for extra money.  Amanda kept the home front running and accommodated boarders for extra money when she could. 

Seems like a rosy picture but the physical injuries and mental trauma Marshall suffered in the Civil War were about to rear up and try to pull the family apart. 


Filing For Divorce: May 5, 1879

Marshall, Amanda, Sarah, Ned, and Emerson were living on their ranch in Garden Park. It would have been in the spring that any crops or a vegetable garden were going to be planted. Working on irrigation ditches, building fences, and other farming work could be expected as well. May 5, 1879 would not be any of those things. It would be unpleasant, in the mildest of terms. 

An argument between Marshall and Amanda escalated into a verbal confrontation.   Marshall then hit Amanda in the face and forced her to leave the house.  Amanda left taking the children with her. Maybe they left in the wagon or sadly left on foot, either way it had to be a gut wrenching journey.  Amanda found a place with a roof over their head but described that they were living in “indigent” circumstances. Considering how dirt poor they were most of the time, this is hard to imagine. 

Amanda heard that Marshall was trying to sell the ranch which propelled her to take steps to keep that from happening.  She retained Mr. Macon, an attorney.  On the 20th of June they filed a formal complaint and she requested a divorce. On the 23rd of June, Sheriff Shaffer served papers on Marshall Felch. Marshall in turn retained the attorney J.L. Cox subsequently filing a counter complaint on the 28th of June.  (Wilson 1879)

Amanda’s Complaint 

The key points of Amanda’s complaint are:

On the 5th of May, Marshall struck Amanda in the face with great force

He then drove her away from the house

She and the children were forced to live in “indigent” circumstances.

He treated her in a cruel and inhuman manner after that date

She was afraid to return because the defendant would continue to lecture her and again inflict upon her a repetition of acts of cruelty upon her.

It is a rather simple and seemingly factual account of the situation. 

Amanda’s requested the following for relief:

One half of the ranch estate estimating its value at about $2,000 noting that Marshall had been attempting to sell it in order to defraud her of potential income

Custody of the three children

Counsel fees

General relief

Alimony as deemed appropriate by the court

Marshall’s Defense

Marshall explained in his counter claim that he hit Amanda in self-defense;

“until at last plaintiff [Amanda] arose from her chair and advanced toward defendant in a threatening manner, hurling at him threatening and abusive words and epithets, when defendant being in a weak and excited condition caused by the nature of his malady and plaintiff’s conduct struck plaintiff a blow to defend himself from the attack that defendant recognizes the wrong he did by so doing and was about to ask plaintiff’s pardon and ask her to return.” (Wilson 1879)

Marshall denied that he;

was guilty of extreme cruelty toward plaintiff but that on the contrary he at all times except upon the one occasion herein after mentioned and conducted himself toward the plaintiff as a kind loving husband and has done all in his power to make plaintiff happy”.

He disputed her assessment of the value of the ranch and stated he would be the more suitable parent to assume custody of Sarah, Ned, and Emerson. 

Marshall’s remaining remarks are an intense attack on Amanda’s character.  In particular, he accused her of having three affairs naming specific dates and people including Walter Weld in May, David Baldwin in the summer of 1878, and finaly James Murphy.  In particular he was particularly upset about Walter Weld and described Amanda as being involved in the grossest and most indecent conduct.(Wilson 1879)

Walter Weld

Marshall’s older sister Sarah married Ned Weld in Vermont in 1854. Ned and Sarah had three children; Ida, Walter, and Edward. Ned passed away in 1860.  In 1879 Sarah and her grown children including Ned and Walter were living in the Canon City area, possibly even boarding at times with Marshall and Amanda.   Walter Weld’s birth date is unknown, but a reasonable guess is that he was born in 1856 or 57 based on Sarah and Ned being married in 1854 and Ned passing away in 1860. Additionally there was one younger and one older sibling.  

Walter Weld would have been around 22 or 23 years old in 1879.  about the same age as Amanda’s son Albert. Walter Weld will actually go to work for Marshall assisting him with dinosaur excavations in the mid 1880’s.   

David Baldwin

David Baldwin was the dinosaur digger who purchased the small crocodile fossil at the curio shop in Colorado Springs for Professor Marsh in 1877. Baldwin was in Canon City the summer of 1878 looking for alternative dinosaur dig sites of potential interest to Professor Marsh (Baldwin 1878) . Considering that both Marshall and Baldwin dug fossil bones at one time or another for Professor Marsh, they probably were acquainted. Baldwin continued to work in New Mexico after 1880 collecting for Professor Cope.  Late in life he seems to have died somewhat in obscurity.

Baldwin lived in the Canon City area during the summer of 1878. This is the time period when Marshall accused Amanda of having an affair with him.


James Murphy

The final accusation was launched again James Murphy who was the manager of the oil wells mostly just south of the ranch along the creek.  Marshall may worked for Murphy at times as an agent distributing oil in the local area. (Donald H. Kupfer, Ph.D. 2000)  Consideration of Mr. Murphy having an affair with Amanda seems as equally implausible as the other two men as the other two. 

Thoughts about Amanda

Dorothea Dix, in charge of the nursing corps, wouldn’t even take a second look at a woman who had any hint or appearance of impropriety.  Amanda not only arrived at Ms. Dix’s doorstep in early 1864 with a stellar reputation, she went to work for Ms. Dix becoming one of her most trusted nurses. In 1888, a group of prominent Civil War officers and a former governor of Vermont testified in support of Amanda’s application for a pension in regards to her strong moral character in the war

In 1879, Amanda was 43 years old while her nephew Walter Weld was 22 or 23 years old. Today we might describe the 40’s as the prime of your life, but in 1880 the average life expectancy was 40 years old and Amanda had not only lived a life of hardship, she had given birth to six children including her son Albert.  Anything is possible but nothing about this or the other accusations of an affair makes any sense. 



Thoughts about Marshall 

Following his injuries at the Battle of Cedar Creek, Marshall went to Amanda at City Point for help. This moment doesn’t convey the feeling of a solider arriving from a traumatic injury but rather a friendly little story where he went to her somewhat in courtship. Field hospitals dealt with bloody injuries and death every day in the Civil War. Someone like Marshal with pain in his left side and neck would not rise to the level of needing attention beyond some hot rocks and pain medication.  At the time his injuries were hardly noticeable. 


Maybe the issues that led to Amanda filing for divorce were lingering effects of both physical and mental injuries that happened to Marshall in the Civil War and plagued him afterwards.  Let’s explore some of this and the ways he tried to deal with it seeking a possible link. 


In his work as a hospital steward he dispensed medicine to the troops. There is a laundry list of medicines dispensed during the Civil War.  Three worth mentioning that may have played a role in Marshall’s behavior included Laudanum, Calomel, and “Blue Mass” or little blue pills. All three of the medicines were in common use after the Civil War and something Marshall would have had access to.  He was skilled with medicines and could most likely develop a tincture using powders, herbs, and alcohol in order to cut down on the costs.  

Mercury in the sorts of quantities being dispensed through the war would not a good thing for our brains.  It could have clouded his judgement and any opium based medicine such as laudanum, that was the most common would certainly not make things better. 

Physical and Mental Injuries

Marshall went to Amanda after his spinal injury during the battle of Cedar Creek. His periodic episodes of debilitating pain in his left side and lost of strength and numbness in his left arm would not improve and in fact only get worse with age.  He arrived to the war with heart problems and came out of it with almost chronic diarrhea. In 1878 Amanda reported that “when he had cholera morbus [diarrhea] I felt his pulse, it would beat 3 or 5 times, then would skip 2 or 3 beats“. 

His problems weren’t just physical. In Marshall’s pension testimony Amanda stated: “He was also nervous then [In Montezuma in late 1860’s].  The boys would be drinking and (quarreling?) outside and that made him nervous, suppose his sickness helped to make him nervous.(Rodney Chipp 1890).  This implies PTSD. 

Laudanum was a very common opium-based medicine used to relieve pain during and after the civil war. It may have been used by Marshall when experiencing pain.  After the war, Laudanum was a commonly used medicine used for a wide spectrum of the public, even babies were given a spoonful when experiencing teething pain.

The Union Army alone issued nearly 10 million opium pills to its soldiers, plus 2.8 million ounces of opium powders and tinctures. An unknown number of soldiers returned home addicted, or with war wounds that opium relieved” (Trickey 2018) .

Blue Mass was a mercury based medicine and dispenssed commonly blue mass” which were commonly known as little blue pills.  They were prescribed for many common problems including depression. These pills that were in fact poisonous to the nervous system but this was unknown at the time and they were dispensed in relative massive doses. Some of the symptoms that doctors later learned were the result of mercury ingestion included “irritability, anxiety, hostility, depression, insomnia, memory loss, nerve damage, tremor, and problems with dexterity. (Phillips 2002)

Calomel means “beautiful and black” in Greek.  Calomel was a strong mercury-based medicine commonly dispensed by doctors throughout the 1800’s.  Doctors (and hospital stewards in the Civil War) would give patients huge doses of calomel for a variety of ailments but one of the more common uses was to “cleanse the bowels” (Schmid 2009).  

Sympathy, Kindness, and Love

Marshall stated in his testimony that he;  

“had been suffering from a disease of the heart and nervous system that renders him more easily [harassed] and troubled by mean and cruel language and conduct on the part of any one associating with him and more particularly by such conduct on the part of those to whom he should be able to look for sympathy kindness and love.” (Wilson 1879)

Marshall felt that his disabilities led to ridicule by others, including Amanda, who should have been sympathetic. 


Marshall grew up in an age of Victorian manliness and masculinity.  He was probably very sensitive about his abilities to be the soul breadwinner of the family and maintain consistent employment. 

Amanda was a woman doing man’s work in a man’s world.  She had been doing a man’s work since she was a young girl, helping out on both the farm and home after her mother’s death before setting off to join the Union Army as a nurse.

Amanda didn’t take no for an answer. When she needed a medical wagon to go take care of “her” troops she walked in to the Secretary of War on the 14th of September 1862 with few credentials, she walked out with orders for what she needed.  She approached every situation as a duty and did whatever was needed to get it done. This attitude certainly stuck with her until the end of her life. 

In those days men were the breadwinners and decision makers while women stayed in the background and took care of the house and children. Marshall was sick for lengthy periods of time forcing Amanda to take on jobs typically reserved in those days to the man. 

A stray comment that otherwise wouldn’t have been noticed may have been received by Marshall as a terrible insult.  Insecurities about his sense of manliness may have clouded what he was seeing

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder 

We’ve focussed on the who, what, when, and where of Marshall and Amanda’s experience in the Civil War without stressing the emotional toll it must have had on the two of them.  Erik Dean published a remarkable book in 1997 entitled “Shook Over Hell:  Post Traumatic Stress, Vietnam, and the Civil War.  On page 78, Dean writes;

“Dozens and dozens of accounts of Civil War hospitals mention horrific scenes in which wounded men in every condition conceivable – shattered and shrieking – were brought in on stretchers to be tended by the overworked medical staff.  With an unendurable stench pervading the air, mangled me some with limbs already rotted by gangrene, covered the floor and flowed out into the yard as blood-splattered surgeons hoisted the next screaming victim on the “operating table” – frequently a door propped up on tables and, as their assistants held the struggling patient down, sawed away furiously to amputate an arm or leg.  Buckets of blood and piles of amputated arms, legs, and feet littered the ground, and the groans or haunting death appeals of the mortally wounded rang forever in the ears of those that were there.”  (Dean 1999)

Dean further described the experience of the Civil War nurse Kate Cummings;

“While waiting for the full of casualties …. this anxiety is enough to kill anyone…being depressed, melancholy, completely demoralized, and having disturbing dreams…O, I felt so sad…Many a boyish and manly face in the full hey-day of life and hope, now lying in the silent tomb” (Dean 1999)

Amanda and Marshall both repeatably experienced these types of emotional trauma almost every day for almost five years.  PTDS was not understood in the Civil War and was only dealt with when veterans had been driven completely insane.  Its effects were real and came with consequences that were largely ignored. 

Pulling it Together

Though we don’t know the details of how Marshall and Amanda resolved the divorce filing, we do know it was dropped, and their marriage continued.

The drawing below by Loretta Bailey depicts Marshall, Amanda, Sarah, Ned, and Emerson working and playing at the ranch in various situations. This is the picture we hope for!


O.C. Marsh

By 1880 Professor O.C. Marsh was world renowned for his work in paleontology, most recently for dinosaurs. After leading the Yale Expeditions  to the West in the the early 1870’s, Professor O.C. Marsh stayed close to home in New Haven where he managed all the paleontology work going on with his collectors out west as well as at the Yale Peabody Museum. The Peabody opened in 1876 and by 1880 it was overflowing with materials including dinosaur bones arriving from Garden Park, Morrison Colorado, and Como Bluffs Wyoming.  It wasn’t like a natural history museum we think of today, it was actually more like a warehouse for all the materials that had been collected. Marsh had both collectors out west and a small army of professionals at the Peabody that was by now the worlds leading paleontology laboratory.  It was only natural that he stay at home. 

 He did periodically take the train out west to check out things. In 1879 he visited Como Bluffs and in 1880 Canon City. (Schuchert and LeVene 1940)

Professor Marsh was notoriously secretive and would have gone out of his way to avoid any fanfare so he arrived to slip in and out of town with little notice.  He figured it would only alert Professor Cope to what he was doing and he couldn’t let that happen. He may have even avoided staying in a hotel in town and boarded at the Felch Ranch to avoid publicity. 

Professor Marsh came to Canon City for two things.  First he would get to meet Marshall Felch and get a feel for his capabilities.  He probably noticed that Marshall had some physical limitations but that he seemed well educated and nicely organized.  He would have been looking more for brains than brawn so Marshall’s traits would meet his needs and in all likelihood Marshall could hire help for the heavy lifting. 

Certainly he would also go look at the old quarry where Marshall had worked with Professor Mudge and Samuel Williston three years earlier. Marsh first heard about the highly fractured nature of the bones back in the fall of 1877 from Samuel Williston, but like all good paleontologists he knew that bone near the surface tends to weather and break up. The hill had some hard rock layers in it that sloped up away from the cliff edge.  There was a strong hint of not only more skeletons, but also bones, that would be less fractured. Marsh logically would have looked over the edge of the cliff down at the dump where Samuel Williston had tossed fractured bones over the edge.  Of course he was wondering what might be in that pile that he needed, he always encouraged collecting every scrap. 

When he left he must have been confident the quarry held promise and Marshall could handle the work.  His only constraint was money. By this time in his life he had spent a sizable percentage of his inheritance so he needed additional income to go after these bones.  

The Chair

In 1926, Sarah (Felch) Zimmerman was sitting with the paleontologist Earl Douglass at the University of Utah. She recalled the time Professor Marsh visited their ranch in 1880 when she was about 12 years old.  Earl Douglass commented in his notes that Marsh was known to be cold and unaffectionate so what Sarah told him next was definitely a surprise. 

He kissed her when he first saw he which somewhat perturbed her mother…

This was not good but its what happened next that is something Sadie would never forget; 

…and when she set a chair for Prof. Marsh it landed him on the floor.  Her mother reproved her severely and she was much mortified herself.(Douglass, Earl 1926)

It appears that she pulled out a chair from the table for him and when he sat down she may have pulled it back a little more landing him on the floor.  Regardless of exactly how it happened, there are a great many people (especially those that worked for him) that would have paid a lot of money to have seen this.

The story does one more thing; it lets us know that by 1880 the family was back together. 

The Military Institute

The Grand Army of the Republic was a fraternal organization formed in 1866 consisting of Union veterans of the Civil War.  It was a powerful and influential organization with chapters all across the country, including Colorado.  There were 70 posts across the state including one in both Canon City and Florence.   The GAR organization came together to push forward an idea of a Collegiate Military Institute that would be built in Canon City. This facility would be founded on “firm principles pertaining to what the Civil War was fought for and what they needed to do to preserve this heritage.” 

In 1880 the cornerstone of the Institute was laid to a great reception in 1880 and a beautiful facility built opening to the public for the school year in 1881.  (Grenard 2016)


Not an All Male Institute

In 1979 a local historian by the name of Doc Little wrote a very interesting article entitled “Civil War times saw women in institute”  His opening paragraph stated;  “ You think that admission of young women to the nation’s military academies in the last three of four years [1975 or 76] is something new?  Wrong. Girls were part of the military school life as far back as 1881 – at least they were at the Colorado Collegiate and Military Institute”…The institute administration realized that the region was too small to support an all-male cadet corps and voted to accept girls as well. The school catalog for the school year 1881-82 listed a student body of 66 of whom 18 were girls. One was from London, another from Abergele, North Wales, and some students from Kentucky, Michigan, Kansas, and Pennsylvania… Tuition, which included meals was $300 per year for boarding cadets.  Day students paid $40 for the year.  Dress uniforms were $25 and they were patterned after female dress uniforms from West Point at the time of the Civil War.  (Little 1979)

It is possible that because of Marshall and Amanda’s role as Civil War Union Veteran’s that they may have received other beneficial treatment in sending Sadie to school. 


In the picture of the young women at the Institute, Sarah is referred to as Sadie.  Lets call her that from this point forward. When the academy opened in the fall of 1881, Sadie was 14 years old.  She most likely attended the year the institute opened and may or may have not continued for another three years but regardless,  even a short stint at this facility would have been a powerful experience for any young person, something that her family could rally around.

Being that the institute was a military academy military drills and the course work included; Greek, Latin, calculus, orthography, surveying, mining engineering, chemistry, English literature, French elocution, and literary essays.   (Little 1979)

There is no way that Marshall and Amanda could have afforded the three hundred dollar tuition per year so Sadie was a day student and that mean’t getting back and forth to school on a daily basis and the institute was about 8 miles from the ranch. Sadie will come to be known as excellent rider of horses so maybe she rode a horse to school.  In a combination of walking/trotting/ and galloping she could have made it in less than an hour.  Marshall and Amanda may also have had friends in town that could have boarded Sadie for some of the week nights, particularly when the weather turned cold.

Regardless of the exact circumstances of Sadie attending the institute, it demonstrates in a major way that Marshall and Amanda had patched things up in a significant way, at least functionally.  Anything short of that would not have enabled what would remain of their remarkable accomplishments yet to come. 

The Letter

In 1881 John Wesley Powell was appointed the second director of the just formed United States Geological Survey (USGS).  He succeeded Clarence King who guided its initial formation.  In 1882 he hired Professor Marsh to be the chief paleontologist and provided an annual budget of about $15,000 a year for Marsh to use to assist with the western scientific work. Some of the work that he had been planning involved Marshall Felch, specifically to have Marshall Felch reopen the old quarry.   Marsh could tell within a few months if it would prove productive.  

Not long after Marsh received his appointment, Marshall received a letter that would dramatically change the course of his life. 


Yale College Museum
New Have, Conn.
March 30 1882

Dear Mr. Felch,

What are you going to do this summer? Do you want to collect “fossils” in your region if there is a good chance? 

Please let me know soon,

Yours truly
O.C. Marsh


Dean, Eric T. 1999. Shook over Hell: Post-Traumatic Stress, Vietnam, and the Civil War. Cambridge, Mass.; London: Harvard University Press.

Donald H. Kupfer, Ph.D. 2000. “CANON CITY’S OIL SPRING, FREMONT COUNTY, COLORADO: COLORADO’S FIRST COMMERCIAL OIL PROSPECT (1860); AND THE DISCOVERY OF THE FLORENCE OIL FIELD (1881).” Drake Well Foundation © 2012 Petroleum History Institute, no. Oil-Industry History, Volume 1, Number 1, 2000.

Douglass, Earl. 1926. “Othniel C. Marsh Correspondence: Cover Sheets by Earl Douglass Based on Meetings with Sarah (Felch) Zimmerman on October 25, 1925 and July 21, 1926.,” July 21, 1926. Earl Douglass Papers. J. Willard Marriott Digital Library.

Gregory, William K. 1938. Biographical Memoir of Henry Fairfield Osborn, 1857-1935. Vol. VOLUME 19-THIRD MEMOIR. Washington: National Academy of Sciences.

Grenard, Dan. 2016. “Sadie Felch – Colorado Collegiate Military Institute.” ..Org. Historic Garden Park Fossil Area. 16 2016.

Little, W.T. (Doc). 1979. “Civil War Times Saw Women in Institute.” Canon City Daily Record, November 14, 1979.

Marsh, Othniel Charles. 1896. The Dinosaurs of North America. Washington: Govt. Print. Off.

Ostrom, John H, and John Stanton McIntosh. 1999. Marsh’s Dinosaurs: The Collections from Como Bluff. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Pangborn, Joseph Gladding. 1878. The New Rocky Mountain Tourist, Arkansas Valley and San Juan Guide. Chicago : Knight & Leonard.

Rodney Chipp. 1890. “Pension Application: Marshall P. Felch.” Pension Application Deposition 401703. Canon City: Pension Office.

Schuchert, Charles, and Clara Mae LeVene. 1940. O.C. Marsh, Pioneer in Paleontology. New Haven; London: Yale University Press ; H. Milford, Oxford University Press.

Simmons, Laurie R, and Thomas H Simmons. 2005. “Historic Buildings Survey of Downtown Canon City, Colorado 2004-05.” State Historical Fund Grant 004-M2-008. State Historical Society.

Wellge, H. 1882. Bird’s Eye View of Cañon City, Colo. County Seat of Fremont County 1882. Lithography.

Wilson, Jim. 1879. Divorce Filing – Amanda vs. Marshall. 3rd District Court in Colorado.

Next Chapter:  Marshall Digs Dinosaurs

In April of 1883 Marshall Felch begins a full time job excavating dinosaurs for Professor Marsh. This quickly becomes a major dinosaur quarry and over the next year, Marshall and his workers will uncover several major dinosaur skeletons and four very rare dinosaur skulls. One of these discoveries will initially be called by Marshall, an ugly character.  In early 1884 Professor Marsh will unveil this discovery to the public, a new genus and species of meat eating dinosaur with the name Ceratosaurus nasicornis. 

fill in later

Grinders, Claws, Darwin, and Dinosaurs

Paleontologists and geologists had a pretty solid understanding of our planets remarkable history by the mid 1800’s. This is lightly touched on in a background story called Grinders, Claws, Darwin, and Dinosaurs.

The Morrison Formation

At the end of 1876, dinosaurs were virtually unknown. One year later a rather remarkable picture of a gigantic long necked, long tailed, plant eating dinosaurs was underway along with a huge predatory meat eating dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs were found almost simultaneously in three separate locations in the American West in 1877; Morrison Colorado, Canon City Colorado, and Como Bluffs Wyoming. These sites are historically tied together, providing a core piece of what is sometimes called the dinosaur bone wars. This war began in 1877 and continued until both Professor Cope from Philadelphia and Professor Marsh of Yale died in the 1890’s.

Morrison, Canon City, and Como Bluffs are not just tied together historically; all three discovery locations were found in layers of sandstone and shale that were soon called the Morrison Formation (age dated from about 155 to about 148 million years ago) because of the 1877 discoveries near Morrison, Colorado. 

The Morrison Formation is featured in above photograph.  The picture is looking west across the Felch Ranch.  The little red hill between the prominent buttes and the softer looking whitish rock on the slope below it are within the Morrison Formation.  The Cope Lucas excavation area is at the base of and between the two prominent buttes.  

America Takes Center Stage

For a little more background on the emergence of paleontology in America including intros to Professors Leidy, Marsh and Cope and how we arrived at this moment is provided here in a short story called America takes Center Stage.    

Touching a Dinosaur Bone 

I’ve given a fair amount of walking tours to explain the Marsh Felch and Cope Lucas Dinosaur Quarries.  I carry lots of pictures and sometimes bring along big rolled up quarry maps. When I do the Cope Lucas Quarries I bring a historic stereo-optic viewer to see a three dimensional picture of gigantic bones being excavated in 1878 on the spots where the photos were taken.  

Props are great but nothing comes close to bringing out a piece of real dinosaur bone and letting everyone touch it.Youngsters as little as about 5 or 6 have some sort of inherent way of detecting what is real and what is not. Touching real bone while standing in the location where it came from is probably their highlight.  It also seems to prompt a followup question about where the bones now and why did they leave and go to some far away museum.  Without some on site signs or going on a walking tour, one would hardly know a quarry was here. There are a few outstanding quarries that are where the animals died such as the great quarry at Dinosaur National Monument in Utah or the mammal quarry at Ashfall Fossil Beds State Park in Nebraska where the perfectly preserved skeletons can take your breath away.  

The Yale Peabody Museum:  Paleontology Collection

JoAnn and I finally had a chance to see where “our bones” that were collected in 1877 at the Marsh Felch Dinosaur Quarry went to.  We arrived at the Yale Peabody Museum in New Haven Connecticut on October 3, 2012 and met with museum specialist Dan Brinkman who provided wonderful assistance.  He took us into the curation area and showed us exactly where the bones from Canon City were.  He explained effective ways to look through them and take photographs.  The bones collected at that time were highly fractured or scrappy, had been collected, packed, shipped, and accessioned into their collection.  Somehow those scrappy bones were in good enough condition that paleontologists today still periodically look at them when doing research.  One such bone we saw in their collection demonstrates this issue nicely. 

American Museum of Natural History – NYC – May of 2011 – Big Bone Room

On the 10th of May 2011, I had a somewhat unique opportunity to take pictures in the Big Bone Room of the American Museum of Natural History.  These bones were not “scrappy” like what we saw later at Yale but impressive and large.  That is not because they were better cared for, but rather the fossilization conditions at both sites were different. 

These bones were collected from the Cope Lucas Dinosaur Quarry by Oramel Lucas beginning in the spring of 1877. The site is about a half mile north and west and maybe 300 feet above the Marsh Felch Dinosaur Quarry. Carl Mehling used the forklift to lift out individual pallets so I could take pictures of 18 pallets of bones.  Picture to the right is of a Camarasaurus supremus vertebrae, one of the bones on one of the pallets. 


Oramel Lucas

Oramel Lucas was living alone in a home in the hilly part of Berkeley, California in the early 1930’s. He was now in his 80’s and his health was starting to fail. His wife Hattie had died not long ago.  Oramel and Hattie lived in various place across the west coast including Pendleton and Oregon City in Oregon and Pacific Grove and Berkeley in California. Oramel worked in various ministerial capacities, but he had a special interest in Chinese and Japanese Americans. Oramel and Hattie’s son Arthur died back in 1890 at the age of two and at this moment he was sitting with his only surviving child, his daughter Ethyl.  

Oramel asked Ethyl to take notes and write down the story before he became a minister, even before he went to the theology seminary school at Oberlin College in Ohio, when he came west and discovered huge dinosaur bones.

Oramel Lucas came west in 1876 to make some money  teaching and work on geologic studies as recommended by his professor, Albert Wright back at Oberlin College.

Here, in his own words, is his story of what happened in the fall and winter of 1876/77 (Lucas, Oramel 1930).

At the end of my sophomore year in Oberlin College my financial condition was pretty low (minus!). I borrowed $50.00 for a trip to Colorado. Before starting I consulted Prof. A.A. Wright, Prof. of Geology as to the possibility of making up some study and what sort of study in geology I could work out myself. He said, “Quite impossible without class work.” I said, “I’m going to the Rocky Mountains.” He said, “By all means take up geology.” I had previously written to my father [David Lucas] to secure for me the village school in Canon City, if he could. One member of the school board had a friend he wanted to put into that position so father failed in getting that position for me.

By the time I had arrived home schools in neighborhood had most of them engaged teachers. The school in Garden Park, 9-10 miles north of Canon City, where my sister Lucy [Ripley] and her family lived was not engaged so they employed me for the six months school – a small school.

While engaged in teaching this school I occasionally went into the hills hunting deer. One day, toward night – one Saturday – a couple of miles from my boarding place I had shot at a deer. The deer ran off. I could find neither hide nor hair of him!

Disappointed, I wended my way back over the ridge to my sister’s where I spent the holidays. Passing over the ridge of hills homeward I picked up a piece of rock, about three inches long and as wide as my hand, the shape of a cross section of a fish. Upon examining it closely I found there were fine white streaks running lengthwise. I at once decided that it must be petrified bone instead of a fish.

Looking in the vicinity I noticed a little lump of dirt, 3 or 4 inches above the level of the ground. Taking a stick, I poked the dirt away and found a petrified bone 5 or 6 inches in diameter at the smallest place and 3 feet long. Greatly surprised, as I had never seen a petrified bone, I covered it up very carefully waiting for an opportunity to take it out.

My first opportunity, I dug it out and carried it down to my boarding place. I had to make two trips as it was more than I could carry in one load.

The next Saturday, I investigated the neighborhood, looking around in the vicinity, and came upon a bed of petrified bones with numerous pieces scattered around.

From this bed I eventually took out a femur bone 6 feet long and about 10 inches in diameter in the smallest place and a shoulder blade 5 ½ feet long and 3 feet wide at the widest place and quite a number of vertebrate, joints of the back and the tail and pieces of ribs.

Arthur Lakes – Bones of the Monsters

Oramel Lucas was not alone in finding large dinosaur bones. In many ways his story parallels the story of Arthur Lakes who found bones in the hogbacks near Morrison Colorado in the spring of 1877. On April 2nd 1877, he first wrote to the famous paleontology professor O.C. Marsh, looking for guidance and support.  Marsh was either not that interested, or busy on other paleontology matters and didn’t bother to write back. About three weeks later, Arthur Lakes wrote back again, and again no response. By early May, Lakes who was well educated, had figured out that the animal was 60-70 feet in length and put together a remarkable story published in the Colorado Springs Gazette entitled “Bones of the Monsters” (Lakes, Arthur 1877).

Lakes was a very colorful and interesting author who wrote about nature and Colorado. Arthur also maintained a close friendship with Reverend Charles Walker after they had both graduated in 1874 with divinity degrees together at Matthews Hall in Golden. Even though Lakes was living in the Morrison area, printing the article in Colorado Springs was relatively easy because he was down there when he was visiting Reverend Walker. (Simmons 2018)  

By early May Lakes had hauled out ten crates of bones before storing them in a shed.  A couple of weeks later he had gathered so many bones that he took it upon himself to ship almost a ton of them to Marsh even though Marsh had so far not expressed any interest. Arthur wanted to work with him but he needed to be paid, so he also took it upon himself to not only ship bones to Marsh, but simultaneously he shipped a smaller quantity to Professor Cope.  If Marsh wasn’t interested maybe he could work for Cope. It turned out that Cope was interested and immediately wrote back asking for more bones stating he would pay Lakes a monthly salary for his work. Not long after this exchange, Marsh finally wrote back not only expressing interest, but including money for Lakes to continue his work.  This sealed the deal as far as Lakes was concerned but Lakes had to confess that having not heard from him he had sent bones to Cope. (Jaffe 2000)

Image by Arthur Lakes. He who drew many similar drawings of ongoing paleontology work. O.C. Marsh (right) lunching near Robber’s Roost with his fossil collectors. Most images were of work in the Como Bluffs Wyoming dinosaur quarries, 1879.  Image courtesy Linda Hall Library, Scientist of the Day Blog, December 21, 2015. Original image stored at the Yale Peabody Museum in New Haven Connecticut. 

This Moment in Time

This is the moment when Marsh clearly understood the implications of what was before him. Cope was about to one up him, at least in regards to dinosaurs. Most paleontologists and historians describe this moment in time to be the single event that triggered the “dinosaur bone war” between the two scientists. The war was already well underway with other fossils but it was about to dramatically escalate. 

When Marsh found out that Cope was involved, he was all in. He let Lakes know what to do next; contact Cope and instruct him to forward all the bones that Lake’s had first sent to Cope to Marsh which Lakes did.  Cope obliged but now he had a good idea of what Marsh was receiving.  

Marsh made one more request to Lakes; do not to publish anything about the discovery. When Lakes heard this request he explained he couldn’t comply. The article describing discoveries of large bones had already been published in the Colorado Springs Gazette. 

Marsh then instructed Professor Mudge, a paid fossil excavator working in western Kansas, to immediately head to Morrison and take charge of the work. 

A $3.00 Souvenir

David Baldwin was a paid fossil excavator working for Professor Marsh, who happened to be living in Canon City in the winter of 1876-77 because it had particularly good weather in the winter, at least for this part of the world. At the time the Canon City area was not known for the types of mammal, bird, or lizard fossils that Marsh had so much interest in.  He was actually planning to dig fossils in northern New Mexico the next season but he must have taken notice of the January newspaper report describing the very large bone Charles and Marshall Felch had found(Charles Felch 1914). In early February of 1877, at the very end of a letter to Professor Marsh, he shared that there had been some local fossil discoveries;  “there are bones of large animals in the Jura near here” (Baldwin, David 1877).  In the same manner that Marsh had not responded to Arthur Lakes, Marsh didn’t pay attention to what he was reading or possibly not that interested as he did not comment on this rather important statement.  

Before Baldwin headed south, he learned of a small fossil for sale in a curio shop in Colorado Springs. He knew enough to know that Professor Marsh was intensely interested the evolution of birds and he suspected this fossil might be a bird.  The specimen had actually been collected earlier by a John Jennings of Canon City and a S.C. Robinson of Colorado Springs. Baldwin contacted Marsh letting him know about this fossil and Marsh, in turn, instructed him to purchase it which he did for $3.00. Baldwin sent the fossil by express with it arriving at the Yale Peabody Museum on May 8, 1877 where it was accessioned into their collections. A few months later Marsh described the specimen as a “very small dinosaur” which he designated Nanosaurus victor (Marsh 1877).   He later renamed it Hallopus victor but kept it in the dinosaur family while recognizing there was something distinctly different about it. (Ague, Carpenter, and Ostrom 1995)

Nanosaurus victor (AKA Hallopus victor)

The specimen Baldwin first bought at a curio shop remained a dinosaur until 1970 when it was identified as a primitive crododilomorph with a new name, Hallopus victor (Walker 1970).

For arguments sake, let’s call it a relatively small, land dwelling, long legged, fairly agile animal that was somewhat in the highly diverse crocodile family, as it existed in the the latter part of the Jurassic Period.

Based provided a very good description of where the specimen was collected yet when Marsh published on the specimen in 1877 he did not provide a clear description of where this specimen came from.  This may have been because the specimen had been collected from the location that was clearly under Lucas’s control.  It wasn’t until the mid-1990’s that Ague, Carpenter, and Ostrom firmed up where this specimen originated. Their analysis was based on both a detailed historic review of Baldwin’s description in combination with forensic techniques.  The specimen was collected near a small red hill located in the very same area where Oramel Lucas starting finding large dinosaur bones in the spring of 1877 (Ague, Carpenter, and Ostrom 1995). The hill today is known locally and in paleontology circles as Cope’s Nipple. 

Hallopus victor, YPM 1914, in all its “incomplete but leggy glory” by Jaime A. Headden.  Artwork is from the blog “Better Know a [Crocbeak] – Macelognathus and Hallopus” 

An Iguanodon?

At the time Oramel made his discovery, only three dinosaurs were known, Megalosaurus, Iguanodon, and Hylaeosaurus were based on discoveries in the early part of the eighteenth century in England. All three were distinct enough that they established a framework for a new group of animals they begin calling dinosaurs but, based on the limited amount of fossil bones discovered, they were poorly understood.  The English geologist Gideon Mantell discovered large teeth of an animal that looked like the much smaller teeth of a modern Iguana.  In a few years after intense investigation he would name it an Iguanodon. 

In 1858, a forth well known dinosaur discovery happened in western New Jersey.  It was a fairly large, bipedal, and plant eating dinosaur later named Hadrosaurus. 

Dinosaurs were only a small part of the fossil record by the end of 1876.  The large long-neck, long-tail dinosaurs and the large meat-eating dinosaurs that we’re familiar with today were still on the horizon. Oramel had very little to compare what he was finding with what he was seeing. Its no wonder that he suspected he had found an unusually large Iguanodon.  He wrote to Professor Wright on April 6, 1877 stating: “from size and shape of these fossils I think them to be the remains of Iguanodon from 50 to 60 feet in length” (Lucas, Oramel 1877a).  

The image above is of an Iguanodon as they were presented in 1852 in the Crystal Palace Park display in London .  Picture by Ian Wright available in Wiki-commons

Oramel reiterated his thoughts in a June 14, 1877 Canon City newspaper report stating that he had discovered an Iguanodon; 

“the fossil remains of a carnivorous and herbivorous giant … of the Iguanodon, a reptile of the Cretaceous period that had somewhat the habits of the Hippopotamus. In shape, the Iguanodon, resembles a Kangaroo in the body, having a serpent-like head with flat serrated teeth, the tail being very long. It is estimated that this fossil is that of an animal at least sixty feet in length, and eighteen feet high.(Lucas, Oramel 1877b)

The reporter concluded the article by stating:

The remains now gathered make five wagon loads. Next week we will devote more space to this mammoth fossil and try to describe it more fully, in the meantime it will be on exhibition at the museum of Mr. Eugene Weston on Main Street.(Lucas, Oramel 1877c)

Oramel’s Inquisitive Nature

Oramel wrote a letter to the paper as promised that was printed on June 21, 1877.  He listed out geologically where and when the dinosaur lived;

the Jurassic formationthis being the middle period of the Mesozoic time, or Reptilian age…characterized by the existence of great reptiles among which the Saurians or Lizards were most prominent” (Lucas, Oramel 1877c).  

Oramel was thinking deeply about the different bones he was seeing and took his work seriously, picking up publications by Hayden and Dana(Lucas, Oramel 1877).  Most likely he picked up the 1875 edition of Professor James Dwight Dana’s manual of geology that was widely in use as a standard geologic text book.  He also had at least one of the Ferdinand Hayden’s U.S. Geologic and Geographical annual reports pertaining to Colorado, probably the 1875 progress report that had just been published.

Oramel noticed the hollowness of the bones, looked closely at the pelvis, commented on the lengths of the front versus the rear legs, and took special notice of the feet.  Every animal has a framework of bones and each bone can tell a lot about the animal. He was so curious that he even dissected a common swift and a small lizard to see how the bones compared with what he was seeing. He not only described the length and shape of bones but the skeleton as a whole. He even analyzed how the bones were all connected. 

Based on the size of the bones he was seeing, he compared them to the only possible comparable dinosaur at the time; an Iguanodon.  He estimated that the animal was between 63 and 65 feet in length, a surprisingly good guess, but it certainly was not an Iguanodon.  He even went on to discuss what sort of place the dinosaur lived and what it ate. 

it was an herbivorous animal, standing high above the ground biped-like, being able to lift itself on its hind legs for the purpose of cropping branches of trees, or at other times as a quadruped grazing upon the luxuriant sedges and reeds, low types of which; if any exist at the present time. Along the borders of marshes, estuaries or streams in or about which it lived.”(Lucas, Oramel 1877c)

A Mining Claim

When Oramel was narrating his story to his daughter Ethyl, he recalled an incident that took place where he found the dinosaurs;

“I made a camp at the foot of the hill near the creek. I had a tent. First camp by creek meant coming down hill to the creek for water. After, changed camp had to carry water about a quarter of mile uphill. The main reason I changed camp was that a man named Weston built a little shack, out of sight under a hill where I was working, where no one would see it, but on the corner of the quarter section where I was working. He went down to Pueblo and filed on it. At the time I had dug out quite a number of bones, Weston came to see me and offered to sell part of his claim. So, I went to a Canon City lawyer who said that Weston bad forfeited his claim by offering to sell before he had proved up on it. So Weston gave up his claim. So I filed a claim and lived on it.”(Lucas, Oramel 1930)

Oramel Lucas and Eugene Weston must have struck out a resolution to these difficulties considering the bones Oramel collected were now on display in Eugene’s shop. 

Someone Well Versed in Paleontology

Oramel was well educated and that obviously helped him understand his own limitations. The last line of his June 21, 1877 newspaper article read;

I propose soon to send portions east to someone thoroughly versed in paleontologic science, that if possible, positive knowledge of species and name may be had”(Lucas, Oramel 1877c).

Benjamin Mudge

Benjamin Mudge grew up well educated in Connecticut. He went on to graduate with a master of arts and then practice law for many years but he always maintained a strong interest in the natural environment.  He loved building collections from the seashore and the natural world around him.

When the great war broke out he relocated to Kansas where his interest and skill in the natural world only escalated. Mudge was very intelligent, well spoken, and within a relatively short time he became a great and very popular lecturer.  He was named the first state geologist of Kansas and in 1865 and then became the chair of the Kansas Agricultural College (Kansas State).  He was simultaneously building a collection of fossils that included the amazing discovery of Ichthyornis, the bird with teeth in 1870.  By 1873 he was working primarily in western Kansas working as a paid fossil excavator for Professor Marsh of Yale. When Arthur Lakes discovered dinosaurs in early 1877, the professor found himself being directed by Marsh to head west to Colorado and oversee the work of Arthur Lakes at the quarries near Morrison.(Parker, John D. 1881)

Snooping Around

By August, Mudge and Lakes had sent enough material to Professor Marsh that he was able to give initial notice to the world that a new gigantic long necked and long tailed dinosaur had been discovered. It was first called Titanosaurus montenus and later renamed Atlantosaurus montenus

On August 4, 1877, Mudge got wind of a Cope man snooping around the Denver area, inquiring about bones down in Canon City.  Mudge wrote to Prof. Marsh stating,

I learned last evening that Cope had a friend in Denver, who was making inquiries about the Canyon City fossils; apparently with the idea of sending someone there for them; and to collect more”. (Mudge, Benjamin F. 1877).

By the 9th of August, Mudge received a telegram from Marsh telling someone to go down and see what was going on in Canon City. Mudge immediately responded that Lakes was out of town and he would go himself.  

By Lamplight

Professor Mudge arrived the next day in Colorado Springs where he had a layover and had time to check out a local curiosity shop.  He learned that they had information about the fossil locations in Canon City and may have been the same shop that Baldwin purchased what he thought were bird fossils.

He spent the night and arrived about sunset on Saturday night the next day in Canon City. He wrote to Professor Marsh the next morning stating that when he arrived on that Saturday night he immediately;

lost no time in looking at the bones…I only saw the bones by lamplight [is] poor at that, and the man in charge did not appear willing to visit his store today – Sunday – nor didn’t appear to have too strong an interest in the matter.” (Mudge, Benjamin F. 1877)

Based on the June 14, 1877 newspaper report, the place Mudge visited was Weston’s Curio Shop. The owner of the building was Eugene Weston and the man in charge of the business.  The majority of Oramal’s dinosaur bones must have been stored in the back. 

Bigger than our Titanosaurus

When Professor Mudge took a look at the bones by lamplight that Saturday night, he had a fairly good idea of what he was seeing after working with Arthur Lakes excavating large bones up at Morrison. He wrote to Professor Marsh the next day on the 12th of August describing the bones to be something in the dinosaur family and somewhat like Titanosaurus montenus that Mudge and Lakes discovered.   Mudge could tell it was something large like the Titanosaurus, but it was also distinctly different in many ways and much larger.(Marsh 1877a)

Titanosaurus montenus

The name Titanosaurus was already in use so it was changed next to Atlantosaurus montenus.  Without going into a long discussion, think of it more like Brontosaurus or its alternative name Apatosaurus. Regardless of the name, they were beginning to understand that it was a very large animal with a long neck and long tail that walked on four legs. Today we don’t give it a second thought,  but at the time nothing like this was known. 

Could Oramel be Persuaded? 

Mudge had developed a good eye for noticing distinct features in the shapes of various bones, something vertebrate paleontologists are well skilled at.  He noticed similarities and differences between the bones he had seen before and had an excellent background to grasp what he was now seeing in Weston’s curio shop.  One obvious difference was that these bones were larger. One bone he described in the August 12th letter as “one quarter larger”  while he simultaneously described the overall skeleton to be “10 to 30 percent bigger”.  He considered the skeleton to be well represented by bones of all parts including the legs, pelvis, shoulder, etc. with the exception of the head at least from what he could see.

He also observed that some of the bones had already been sent to Professor Cope and some were being packed and ready to ship. Mudge would need to do what he could to persuade Lucas to work with Marsh knowing that like everything else in the fossil world, Marsh wanted it all. Upon receiving Mudge’s letter, Marsh fired off a telegram on August 18 to Mudge to purchase the specimen.  By then it was too late,  Cope had already responded and had an understanding and agreement with Lucas in place.  Lucas was not going to break it. 

He Missed the Boat

Mudge was aware that David Baldwin had been here in Canon City.  He expressed dismay to Marsh in his letter of August the 12th stating that Baldwin had not secured the area where the bones, including the Hallopus fossil were coming from.  He continued; “I exceedingly regret that Baldwin did not secure them for you, as he might when there were first discovered”(Mudge, Benjamin F. 1877a). This disgust was obviously conveyed by letter from Professor Marsh to David Baldwin who in turn responded on September 16, 1877 writing;

…I did not suppose that you cared anything about them as I had written to you and that there were more large bones in the Jura near Canon and received no notice whatever from you. I spent two or three weeks in looking around spotting localities hoping you would write and let me know that you wanted some from the Jura but hearing nothing from you I quit… (Baldwin, David 1877b)

The lack of response from Marsh to Arthur lakes is well noted.  Here in Canon City it becomes clear that he further failed to respond to both Oramel Lucas and David Baldwin as well. 

A Little Kindness

Mudge continued to dialogue with and look for any arrangements that could be made to secure Oramel’s help. As they became acquainted, Mudge was aware that Lucas wanted to continue his education at Oberlin and that he was short on money.  Mudge wrote to Marsh on the 15th of August stating:  “we can secure his good will in the future by a little kindness and good treatment.  He is a young man trying to obtain an education. 

Mudge asked Oramel how much Cope was paying him, noting in his letter to Marsh he feels that he has sold his big bones too cheap to Cope”. (Mudge, Benjamin F. 1877a)

On August the 23rd, Mudge wrote to Marsh stating he was down to his last five cents and in need of money that had been promised. Its doubtful he would have told Lucas that Marsh was notoriously slow in paying his workers and often shorted them what they were expecting. 

A Small Plant Eating Dinosaur

The bird fossil Oramel Lucas collected and gave to Professor Mudge was sent to Marsh who identified it as Nanosaurus agilis in 1877. Four years later it was identified as an ornithischian or “bird hipped” dinosaur. This dinosaur would weigh only a few pounds, it was an herbivore, and walked on two legs. A beautifully illustrated and detailed analysis of small plant eating dinosaurs like this was completed in 2018 (Carpenter, Kenneth and Galton, P.M. 2018)

Small plant eating dinosaurs that were particularly abundant in the late Jurassic must have been very fast runners when pursued.  

Oramel made that clear to Prof. Mudge that he was honest in his dealings, and regardless of what he was selling the bones for he had an agreement with Cope, and that he would abide by his contract. Mudge noticed though that Oramel described what he was selling to Cope as big bones so Mudge asked whether or not the contract included the small bones.  Oramel gave some thought to this and with some obvious encouragement from Mudge decided that it didn’t.  Oramel must have figured that all the excitement seemed to be about gigantic dinosaurs. Mudge continued in his August 15th letter to Marsh that Oramel had agreed to sell some small bones;  

 bones which look to me like birds… He has agreed to send it to you, and we have just packed it for express.  Whatever it is he will sell it when you have decided what it is; and whether it is a bird or not.  At any rate it looks to me to be new, and valuable… This specimen is from the sandstone about ten feet above the big saurian he is now taking out and in the same geological horizon as our Morrison specimens. I shall look over the ground for more fragments.”  (Mudge, Benjamin F. 1877)

Marshall, The Wagon Driver

Marshall and Amanda Felch were one of a handful of ranching families living in Garden Park. Their ranch was also the one closest to all the sites where bones, including Oramel’s,  were being discovered. 

Marshall was an experienced wagon driver and knew the area like the back of his hand.  In Benjamin Mudge’s letter of August 12, he mentioned to Marsh;

I have not been able to obtain a team today, but have engaged one, with a man who says he knows other localities of bones, to go tomorrow.  I shall stay, at least – long enough to see what the locality will [produce], I will again after the visit to the locality which may require two days. (Mudge, Benjamin F. 1877a)  

 Mudge, of course, was referring to Marshall Felch. Two days later on the 14th, Mudge wrote;

I came out here yesterday and have been prospecting.  I have found fragments of bones in half a dozen places from a few rods to two dozen miles distant from the specimens now being taken out by Mr. Lucas for CopeI have engaged [boarded] for a week with Mr. Felch.”(Mudge, Benjamin F. 1877a)

Professor Mudge and Samuel Williston will refer to Marshall Felch by name on several occasions over the next few weeks as the person working with them on the excavation. We will learn that Professor Mudge was contracting with Marshall for three things;

  • guidance on fossil bone in the area
  • boarding at Amanda and Marshall’s ranch (room and probably two maybe three meals a day)
  • utilizing his help at the quarry 

Boarding with the Family

Boarding guests produced needed income and was a way of life for Amanda and the Felch family. As a boarder, Professor Mudge would be living in a vacant (or partially vacant) room in the second “sleeping” cabin. In such a small intimate setting it seems logical that Mudge, like other guests wasn’t just a hotel guest, but a part of the family. Amanda Felch would likely prepare breakfast and dinner and probably send a lunch with Marshall and the professor on their daily adventures.   Sarah was now 10, Ned was 8 and Emerson was 7. School was underway in the daytime but after school it would have been only a few minute walk for Sarah, Ned, and Emerson Webster to see what their father and the professor were up to. 

After the chores were all done, evenings were probably consumed with reading and talking about the day’s activities.  Sarah grew up loving horses and the book Black Beauty by the English author Anna Sewell had just been published. Reading aloud a book like that might have been a special treat for Sarah.  Amanda liked to tell Civil War stories which were both grim and fascinating. Benjamin Mudge was a fascinating story teller himself and perhaps shared stories of some of the fossil excavations while in Kansas such as a bird with teeth he called Ichthyornis dispar or maybe about growing up near the coastline in New England where he loved nature and collected rocks and seashells.  He might also have expressed excitement about the upcoming reunion at Kansas Agricultural College. 

500 Pounds of Bones

Mudge fully understood that he could not likely sway Oramel Lucas to switch sides. He and Marshall looked in several locations but started working at a location that Marshall had shown him.  Mudge understood that Marsh wanted a presence in the area.  They started working at a spot not far from the ranch that was exposed along a ledge with a vertical drop-off below.  

On the 19th of August, Professor Mudge wrote to Marsh;

In the afternoon, I found that one of my specimens will prove better than I expected.  I have already taken out six bones worthy of saving, and the spot appears to contain many more.” (Mudge, Benjamin F. 1877)

By the 31st of August Professor Mudge and Marshal sent east 500 pounds of fossil bones on the train with scarcely any rock. Mudge noted that the bones were in a crumbling condition but some sufficiently solid to have some good parts preserved. (Mudge, Benjamin F. 1877a)

Along the Edge of a Cliff 

The location that Professor Mudge and Civil War Hospital Steward Marshall Felch started working at, in September of 1877, is shown in the picture to the right where the arrow is pointing. There is about a 70 foot drop off next to where the excavation began. They accessed the site along a trail visible along the edge of the cliff in the right foreground.  Oramel Lucas’s quarry area was near the base of butte in the distance.  The picture was taken using a drone flown by Chris Grenard on February 16, 2016. It was enhanced in photoshop to bring out color.   


Sarah collected many specimens of agates and other things. By the time she was 17 she had a collection covering a sideboard that was about eight feet long.  She was even  offered a year’s worth of school at a ladies school for this collection and she estimated its value to be about $300. She liked to explore and was always showing people the marble cave located a few miles north of her home. (Douglass, Earl 1926)

In future years she provided sketches of bones and was a part of the work in the quarry. She would be the only family member to ever go to the Yale Peabody Museum in New Haven Connecticut where Professor Marsh would give her a personal tour.  

On July 21, 1926 Sarah came to Salt Lake City both to visit her daughter and to meet with Earl Douglass at the University of Utah, the well known dinosaur excavator who had developed the great quarry at Dinosaur National Monument.  Sarah Felch and Earl Douglass already met once in 1925 and she knew he was working on a dinosaur skeleton for the University. She was there to give him the letters that Professor Marsh had written to her father Marshall thinking they might be helpful to him with this new project.  He graciously accepted them and later placed them into the University archives.  During their meeting she told him some of the stories she remembered about the dinosaur discoveries. He took notes and wrote down that she said that she was “the first to discover what would come to be known as the Marsh Dinosaur Quarry”. (Douglass, Earl 1926).  

Sarah Felch loved the outdoors and future Marsh Felch Dinosaur Quarry would have been easy for her to visit after school or on weekends.  Young students often have a good eye for fossils and she must have seen something that looked like fossil bones peaking out of the rock, something she told her father Marshall about.

There is no doubt in the mind of this author that Sarah was the first to find fossils at the Marsh Felch Dinosaur Quarry.  

A Bird in the Hand

On the 6th of September Professor Mudge wrote to Marsh;

“I wish Williston were here.  He could assist on this delicate work to great advantage and make an artistic drawing of some bones which I cannot preserve. It appears as if a months’ time would be required on this spot without going to the other place where I proposed to put in a blast.” (Mudge, Benjamin F. 1877b)

About thirty years after working in Canon City, Samuel Williston recalled; “I was sent to Cañon City to help Professor Mudge, my old teacher, and Mr. Felch, who had begun work there in the famous ‘Marsh Quarry.’” (Williston, Samuel 1915)

On Friday the 21st, Samuel Williston wrote to Professor Marsh letting him know that he had arrived three days earlier and had taken a look around at the area including the quarry Mudge and Felch were working.  Initially, he wasn’t pleased with what he was seeing;

“I am very sorry to find that Cope is getting by far the best lot of fossils…the bones are well preserved and many of them entire.  Where we are at work …the bones…are so extremely friable and broken that it seems almost useless to ship them… Prof Mudge thinks we had better work out these than use time in the risk of not finding better”.

In the same letter he’s trying to understand how to excavate the bones safely as he is seeing what appear to be something different;

may we glue together fragments when it will save you time in hunting them out thereI think here must be a number of new species of those dinosaurs if we can only get good bones.

The small party continued digging out the “bird in the hand,” finding the bones better as they went deeper due to less weathering.(Williston, Samuel 1877)

Samuel Williston

Samuel grew up poor in eastern Kansas but with the encouragement of his mother, he started reading by an early age and was soon devouring a number of books. At the age of seven when he began finding clams at the top of a hill near his home and developed a keen interest in fossils. One of his early chores was catching and cleaning fish not a lot of fun for most but it gave him the opportunity to look closely at their skeletons.

When he was older, he began attending Blue Mont College (later emerged into the Kansas Agricultural College) which is where he began course work under Professor Mudge.  He studied everything from chemistry, botany, and geology to surveying and calculus.  He went on to work for the railroad as an engineer but returned back to college and obtained a bachelor of science degree in 1872.   He then worked under a doctor and studied medicine where he became particularly proficient at osteology, or the study of bones.

In 1873, Professor Mudge changed careers and began collecting fossils for Professor Marsh. Soon he was in need of assistance. One of his requests was for the standout student Samuel Williston who agreed. This became a life changing experience. He began a scientific career in 1874 that included but was not limited paleontology. (Lull and National Academy of Sciences, 1924)

In 1876, Professor Mudge and his team including Samuel were instructed to find more bones of the toothed birds, and to also look for what they called saurians (Mosasaurs and Plesiosaurs) along with Pterodactyls, and Crinoids. They were working in the Monument Rocks area, west of modern-day Oakley, and near the Monument train station in western Kansas.

Field Work 

Williston was well versed in fossil excavation by 1877. Earlier he described the basics of what field work in Kansas;

Items needed for the months of work were a heavy wagon and team of horses, with a driver who usually doubled as cook, plus a tent and riding ponies for the collectors. Food supplies were mainly flour, bacon, salt, and beans; the abundant antelope provided most of the fresh meat. Bison, seen by Cope and Marsh by the thousands in 1871 in Kansas, were completely gone by 1876, and their bones lay in heaps along the rail lines. Flour sacks and cigar boxes were carried for fossil containers. Heavy specimens were crated, wrapped in straw or buffalo grass.

In the field the collectors set up camp at some source of not-too-alkaline water, fairly near a railroad station, and worked out from there to explore for fossils. They generally stayed two to four weeks in the same location, sending one member of the party to the station about once a week for mail and to ship specimens. (Shor, Elizabeth Noble 1971)

A portion of a humorous sketch from Shor’s publication by Samuel is shown below indicating that the flies and insects in camp were pretty much in charge of their field work. 

A Skilled Paleontologist

Professor Marsh, at the urging of Professor Mudge, asked Samuel Williston to come to New Haven in the winter of ’76 for additional training. He accepted of course, and went back east to New Haven taking up residence and working for Professor Marsh. He returned to Kansas on March 9, 1877 as a substantially more well-rounded paleontologist with greater confidence and a favorite of Professor Marsh.

In 1877, the Marsh team including Samuel working primarily in the Monument Rocks and Russel Springs areas of Western Kansas. They had a very successful season collecting birds with teeth, Pterodactyls, Saurians, and turtles finishing up their work for the season in mid-September (or so Williston thought).

Secret Code

Professor Marsh was always deeply worried about secrecy in all the areas where he had excavators. He did not want any of Cope’s party to know where his team was working and especially what they were finding. Williston was aware that one of Cope’s excavators named Charles Sternberg had a brother who worked at a telegraph station. On the 22nd of April, 1877, Williston sent a telegraph to Marsh that read “Send hundred ammunition health poor B Jones  going south” which meant “Send $100 collecting poor, Cope going south”.(Jaffe 2000)

Sternberg and Williston

Professor Mudge had two outstanding students at the Kansas Agricultural College, Samuel Williston and Charles Sternberg. They both wanted to work for Professor Mudge. Sternberg was not hired, Williston was. By 1876 Charles Sternberg who needed money and loved field work was working for Professor Cope.

By a remarkably strange coincidence Williston and Sternberg found themselves riding together on a train headed west out of Kansas about the 15th of August. They were both heading to Denver but beyond that, it was anybodies guess.  

Charles Sternberg

Charles Sternberg was working in western Kansas for most of 1877 and his team was having an excellent year in what they called the Kansas chalk as well as the Loup Fork area in northwestern Kansas.  Overall they were in the same general area Williston and Mudge were working. The Marsh and Cope teams never ever shared useful information with each other and everything they did was in secrecy. 

Charles Sternberg received an interesting letter in late August of 1877 from Professor Cope;

Turn over all the outfit to Mr. Hill…and go at once to a new field discovered in the desert of eastern Oregon…Go to Fort Klamath, Oregon, and from there to Silver Lake, to a man by the name of Duncan, the post- master. He will guide you to the fossil bed in the heart of the sage-brush desert…You are to go secretly; tell no one where you are going. Have your mail sent by a circuitous route, so you cannot be traced.“(Sternberg 1909)

For Sternberg, these orders came with both great excitement, but also consternation, as this was a major expedition and he was leaving his family behind. Never the less he followed orders, packaging up the fossils that had been collected and prepared them for shipment to Professor Cope’s home in Philadelphia.

He then headed home to “bade my loved ones good-by for an indefinite time” and returned to the train station at Buffalo Park with provisions to head west to “fresh fields and pastures new” … He concluded “that even if someone should find out where I was going and try to follow me I could easily give him the slip and get to the field first.” (Sternberg 1909)

The Advantage of False Teeth

Charles Sternberg boarded the train in the morning at Buffalo Park station. Charles Sternberg was already on the train heading west when the train stopped at Monument station. Getting on the train most unexpectedly was a fellow student of Professor Mudge’s at the Kansas Agricultural College, Samuel Williston, whom Sternberg knew well.  He later wrote; Williston did not know at first that I was on the train, and when he entered my car, he was greatly astonished, thinking that I was on his trail (Sternberg 1909).  

In an interesting twist they decided to not only share the ride, but to spend the evening together in Denver where they dined out and even stayed at the same hotel.  They never, of course, told each other where they were going but instead shared stories about some of their past adventures without giving away any trade secrets. Charles shared that he had very much wanted to work for Professor Mudge but he could not afford any more assistants. He therefore contacted Cope who hired him based on a letter he wrote. 

Sternberg undoubtedly described the most amazing adventure he had the previous fall going with Professor Cope into the very remote and rugged Judith River badlands of Montana.  Some of the trials and tribulations of that expedition including the time the wagon and horses rolled  down a hillside three times before landing upright on a steep slope. Although horse, wagon, and cargo were badly battered, everything survived.  He may have also told the story of the time Cope invited a group of Indigenous Americans into his camp and in the process, pulled out his false teeth which was of great interest and amusement. It turned a somewhat quiet conversation into a moment of fun. 

This must have brought a hardy laugh from Williston who was able to tell a similar tale about the time in 1875 when a group of Apaches approached their camp on horses and then repeatably asked for “tobac” or tobacco. Professor Mudge rode up at that moment and his repeated attempts to say he didn’t have any tobacco weren’t getting through.  In frustration, Professor Mudge finally pulled out his false teeth to demonstrate he didn’t use tobacco initiating utter amazement and taking the edge off what was previously an intense moment, at least for Williston.

Its probable that in addition to their field adventures,  both young men described their experiences the previous winter when Williston took up residence on the campus of Yale working directly for Professor Marsh while Sternberg took up residence at the house of Professor Cope in Philadelphia always dining with the Cope family on Sundays. Williston when hearing this probably described his trip to Philadelphia in the fall of 1876 where he would have visited the Centennial Exposition taking in all the scientific and paleontology exhibits. Considering that it was right next door to where Cope lived, Charles must have attended, maybe on multiple occasions. 

Both men were in a field that they loved and both would go on to have highly successful careers. All in all, even though they were working for intense competitors who pretty much hated each other,  Williston and Sternberg  would consider each other to be friends and even allies in the future.  

When they departed the next day, Williston went south to Canon City where there was a highly fractured, but beautifully complete dinosaur skeleton, was waiting to be removed. Sternberg went much further west, then north to the badlands in eastern Oregon. He would have an adventure that in many ways would rival his trip to the Judith River with Cope, one where survival was in question more than once. 

The sketch below of the Buffalo Park Railroad Station is from Williston’s biography by Elizabeth Shore (Shor, Elizabeth Noble 1971). Having visited the same station numerous times, Samuel Williston made this sketch in 1877.

Most Unusual Tail Bones

Over the next few weeks, thirty-five crates of dinosaur bones were shipped and several smaller parcels sent by express mail to New Haven, Connecticut. Williston asked Professor Marsh not to open one package that contained most unusual caudal vertebrae (tail bones) featuring strange chevron bones (underside of the vertebrate). 

In November, Williston returned to New Haven and opened the very package he had earlier shipped.  It was these bones that enabled Marsh to establish a new dinosaur, Diplodocus longus (Diplodocus carnegii) that had a seriously long tail among other features. (McIntosh and Carpenter 1998)

Marsh and Williston also found some bones of a large meat eating dinosaur Marsh named Allosaurus fragilis along with a small bipedal plant eating dinosaur he initially named Nanosaurus rex but was later renamed Othnelia rex (for Othniel Marsh). 

Drawing above modified from picture of caudal (tail) vertebrae of Diplodocus carnegii on display at the British Museum of Natural History in London.  The “double beam” chevron bones on the bottom are the basis for the name of this dinosaur.  The name Diplodocus comes from the Greek words “diplos,” meaning “double,” and “dokos” meaning “beam.”

The image above is modified from figure one in the Diplodocus longus publication by McIntosh and Carpenter (McIntosh and Carpenter 1998). They modified it from an image drawn by Samuel Williston that was included in a letter he wrote to Marsh on September 26, 1877.   


Forty years after being out west digging dinosaurs and while serving as the Professor of Paleontology at the University of Chicago, Williston recalled; 

“The hind leg, pelvis and much of the tail of this specimen lay in very orderly arrangement in the sandstone near the edge of the quarry, … I did observe that the caudal vertebrae had very peculiar chevrons, unlike others that I had seen, and so I attempted to save some samples of them by pasting them up with thick layers of paper… Later, when I reached New Haven, I took off the paper and called Professor Marsh’s attention to the strange chevrons. And Diplodocus was the result.” (Williston, Samuel 1915)

Over the Edge

Bone hunters such as Professor Mudge, Samuel Williston, and many others developed techniques to collect bones so they could be packed, shipped, and arrive in good enough condition that a museum preparator could in turn, clean them up and make them presentable for analysis by Professor Marsh. A variety of glues, such as water glass, and hardeners such as shellac were developed over time to toughen up the bones but when Mudge and Williston arrived they were not prepared for anything this difficult.   

Mudge and Williston decided that the goal, based on Marsh’s desire to win the “species naming game” was to obtain enough material that Professor Marsh could identify something new. They decided they didn’t necessarily need two similar looking vertebrate, just one good one.  A large amount of good bone was collected but in what would be considered sacrilege today but made sense at the time. A fair amount of highly fractured bone was thrown over the edge of the cliff. 

The image above shows a real example of an early historic bandaging technique using a paste material on top of burlap.  This photograph was kindly provided by Dan Brinkman, a museum specialist at the Yale Peabody Museum in 2017.  Other early techniques such as placing a “splint” around broken bones and wrapping with just paper and tied with string were also used. 

Mending a Broken Bone Recipe

Mudge, Williston, and Felch needed a way to preserve as much as possible utilizing what they could find at hand for assistance.  The solution that was developed is an important step forward in paleontology.  The credit for the new technology generally is given to Samuel Williston because he wrote about the technique in his September 21, 1877 letter; “Will it do to paste strips of strong paper fractured hones before removing? . . . These strips are put on with ordinary flour-paste and can be removed I think easily.” (Schuchert and LeVene 1940)

Charles Schuchert, who was interviewing Professor Marsh late in his life, wrote; “He  was fascinated by this resurrection of ancient bones and their preservation in all their structural glory for the edification of paleontologists.”  When Schuchert was interviewing Marsh about this technology, Marsh alone took credit for the technique describing what he had seen doctors doing with broken bones. Even though Schuchert greatly admired Marsh, he knew him well enough that he later wrote the technique was based on the work Williston was doing at the time in Canon City. (Schuchert and LeVene 1940)

In actuality, several paleontologists began figuring out the solution to the fractured bone dilemma in those same general time frames but Williston was the first one to put it down in writing.  He gets the credit but maybe not all.  Perhaps there is an alternative that has not been considered.  It wasn’t just Professor Mudge staying at the Felch Ranch, Samuel would have stayed there also.  In 1926 Sarah testified to Earl Douglass that “Williston taught her how to shoot and I became an expert“. (Douglass, Earl 1926). They were all living together at the ranch. 

Marshall and Professor Mudge were certainly discussing the problem of fractured bone well before Williston arrived. It was probably discussed at the ranch in the evening around supper time so when Williston arrived, the topic only intensified.

Although Amanda and Marshall witnessed far more amputations than mending broken bones, they certainly saw their fare share and perhaps assisted in doing some of that work. Amanda was outstandingly good problem solver, well noted in her Civil War legacy, there was nothing special about this one. The, what I’m calling the “mending a broken bone recipe” was flour for paste and old newspaper. Credit is probably due to everyone there at the dinner table but if we have to give credit to only one person, in my book would be Amanda.     

A Geology Map

The material collected at the Marsh Felch Quarry was shipped to New Haven where it was prepared and analyzed. The story of the Diplodocus which was the majority of fossils found is beautifully told in the 1998 journal publication “The Holotype of Diplodocus longus” by Ken Carpenter and John McIntosh.(McIntosh and Carpenter 1998)

By mid October of 1877 Samuel Williston and Benjamin Mudge had decided to move on.  Mudge headed back to his college reunion in Manhattan Kansas while Samuel went up to Morrison Colorado to work with Arthur Lakes for a short term before being sent on to Como Bluffs.  It is while Sam is staying in Morrison that he writes a summary about the Canon City area and that summary included both a map and a cross section. 

Although they moved on from Canon City leaving the quarry behind,  Marshall had about two months of solid introduction to paleontology and geology.  Undoubtedly, the rest of the family including young Sarah did as well. Marshall apparently soaked up the knowledge and maintained correspondence with Professor Marsh who even came to see Marshall and the quarry in three years.  Marshall would be the person who will reopen the quarry if Professor Marsh came across additional funding. .  

“Not being able to go on with the quarry at Canon without blasting I spent a week in exploring the whole basin—finding several localities that promise well that had escaped Lucas… The basin containing sedimentary rocks is six miles wide and extending 12 miles north of Canon… The formation [Morrison Formation] is over three hundred feet in thickness to characteristic (there and here) capping sandstone stratum. I found fossils nearly ten miles apart and the whole region contains them… I certainly think that the fossils will  turn up almost anywhere between here and Canon City “(Williston, Samuel 1877)

A Cross Section 

If you look closely just above the center of the map at the map you will see a small cross about where Felch Creek and Oil Creek merge (later called Four Mile Creek). A word which is believed to be “Cottage Rock” is located just above this cross. A horizontal line at this point across the map depicts where Samuel drew a cross section of the landscape shown below. The small cross is located where the Felch Ranch was.


Oramel and other members of his family were busy digging up and placing wrapped and cushioned dinosaur bones into boxes and shipping them off to Professor Marsh in Philadelphia. Most likely those bones were brought down to Four Mile or Oil Creek on a sled that was pulled by a horse or mule and then hauled in a wagon to the back room of Eugene Weston’s Curio Shop, then periodically loaded onto a train. In a remarkable piece of detective work the shipment records were acquired by John McIntosh in the 1990’s. It turns out that by January 6, 1878, the Lucas clan had shipped 45 crates of fossil bones back east to Copes new home at 2102 Pine Street in Philadelphia.  (McIntosh, John S. 1998).  Cope’s residence became quickly overloaded so after inspection much of the material was moved to the basement of one of the remaining Centennial Exposition’s abandoned buildings.  

By early August of 1877 Oramel had shipped enough material back to Professor Cope that he was able on the 23rd of August to release a publication entitled, “On a Gigantic Saurian from the Dakota epoch of Colorado“.  Professor Marsh had already published about the discovery of Titanosaurus, “A new and gigantic dinosaur” in the American Journal of Science and Arts. Marsh’s publication enabled Cope to not only describe a new dinosaur that represented a much more gigantic animal, and I believe the largest or most bulky animal capable of progression on land, of which we have any account”.  He must have relished being able to release his publication that featured his dinosaur that was superior in size to Marsh’s Titanosaurus (Cope 1877). 

The name given to the new dinosaur was Camarasaurus supremus with Camarasaurus meaning “chambered lizard” (referring to the hollow chambers in its vertebrae).   Much more dinosaur material arrived to Cope in October and November enabling Cope to develop more detail of the Camarasaurus and other dinosaurs.  

The amount of material collected by Cope’s parties was very large. It was not all prepared at once, but a considerable amount of it was cleaned up by Jacob Geismar under Professor Cope’s direction. In 1877 a reconstruction of the skeleton of Camarasaurus was made by Dr. John A. Ryder, under the direction of Professor Cope. This reconstruction, the first ever made of a sauropod dinosaur, was natural size and embodied representations of the remains of a number of individuals; it was over fifty feet in length. It was exhibited at a meeting of The American Philosophical Society on December 21, 1877, and since has been exhibited a number of times at the American Museum”(Osborn and Mook 1921)

Professor Cope scheduled a talk on Camarasaurus supremus for the December 21, 1877 meeting at the American Philosophical Society. The Society,  founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743,  were housed in a building still there today that is next door to Independence Hall.  Considering that Cope himself was a renowned speaker, the talk must have drawn a good sized crowd of fellow scientists and philosophers. A number of full sized drawings of bones of Camarasaurus were put on display and arguably a full sized drawing of the Camarasaurus skeleton was presented (about 60 feet long), at least according the Cope Manuscript published in 1921 by Henry Osborn and Charles Mook (Osborn and Mook 1921).  Alternatively it has been suggested by John McIntosh that the full sized drawings of individual bones were put on display but not the entire skeleton drawing (McIntosh, John S. 1998).  Either way it had to be an impressive talk. For paleontologists today the skeleton drawing has obvious noticeable anatomical errors but considering that it was depicting something unknown before it is remarkable in every sense. A reduced drawing was reproduced by Charles Mook and is included below.  Unfortunately, the original drawing was lost. 


Ague, Jay J., Kenneth Carpenter, and John H. Ostrom. 1995. “Solution to the Hallopus Enigma?” American Journal of Science 295 

Baldwin, David. 1877a. “David Baldwin to O.C. Marsh; Feb 10, 1877,” February 10, 1877. 

Charles Felch. 1914. “The Discovery of the Jurassic Beds in Garden Park.” Canon City Record, February 20, 1914.

Cope, E. D. 1877. “On a Gigantic Saurian from the Dakota Epoch of Colorado.” Paleontological  Bulletin 25 (b): 5–10.

Douglass, Earl. 1926. “Othniel C. Marsh Correspondence: Cover Sheets by Earl Douglass Based on Meetings with Sarah (Felch) Zimmerman on October 25, 1925 and July 21, 1926.,” July 21, 1926. Earl Douglass Papers. J. Willard Marriott Digital Library.

Gregory, Joseph. Personal correspondence. 1981. “Letter from Professor Joseph Gregory to Dr. John McIntosh,” May 6, 1981.

Jaffe, Mark. 2000. The Gilded Dinosaur: The Fossil War Between E.D. Cope and O.C. Marsh and the Rise of American Science. First Edition edition. New York: Crown.

Lucas, Oramel. 1877a. “April 6, 1877 Letter to Professor Wright,” April 6, 1877

———. 1877b. “What Is It?” Canon City Avalanche, June 14, 1877.

———. 1877c. “Letter to Editor.” Canon City Avalanche, June 21, 1877, 

———. 1930. “Discovering Dinosaur Bones in Colorado.” Unpublished. Oramel Lucas files. Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.

Lull, Richard Swann, and National Academy of Sciences (U.S.). 1924. Biographical Memoir, Samuel Wendell Williston, 1852-1918. Vol. 17, 5th memoir. Washington, D.C.

Marsh, Othniel Charles. 1877. “Notice of Some New Vertebrate Fossils.” The American Journal of Science and Arts, 3, 14 (September): 249–56.

McIntosh, John S. 1998. “New Information About the Cope Collection of Sauropods from Garden Park, Colorado.” Modern Geology 23: 481–506.

McIntosh, John S, and Kenneth J Carpenter. 1998. “The Holotype of Diplodocus longus, with Comments on Other Specimens of the Genus.” Modern Geology 23: 85–110.

Mudge, Benjamin F. 1877a. “Mudge to Marsh – August 1877 Letters,”

Osborn, Henry F., and Charles Craig Mook. 1919. “Characters and Restoration of the Sauropod Genus Camarasaurus Cope. From Type Material in the Cope Collection in the American Museum of Natural History.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 58 (6): 386–96.

Osborn, Henry Fairfield, and Charles Craig Mook. 1921. “Camarasaurus, Amphicoelias, and Other Sauropods of Cope.” Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History

Shor, Elizabeth Noble. 1971. Fossils and Flies: The Life of a Complete Scientist Samuel Wendell Williston (1851-1918). University of Oklahoma Press.

Sternberg, Charles H. 1909. Life of a Fossil Hunter. 1st ed. Henry Holt and Company.

Walker, A. D. 1970. “A Revision of the Jurassic Reptile Hallopus Victor (Marsh), with Remarks on the Classification of Crocodiles.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 257 (816): 323–72.

Williston, Samuel. 1915. “The First Discovery of Dinosaurs in the West.” In Dinosaurs: With Special Reference to the American Museum Collections. New York: American museum of natural history.

———.“Williston, Samuel Wendell Correspondence: 1877 Jul-Oct,” October 1877. the correspondence of O.C. Marsh – Yale Vertebrate Paleontology Department.


Oramel and Ira

Oramel and Ira continue their work in Garden Park at the quarries, mostly Oramel in 1878 and 1879 and Ira taking charge after that until the quarries are “played out” and work ceases near the beginning of 1883. The top billing for these quarries will be Camarasaurus supremus. Over time the genus, Camarasaurus will become one of the more common and well known large sauropod dinosaurs. The species supremus will be the largest of four species of this dinosaur.