Saturday, October 8, 2011

Dinosaur Bones

 In 1989, I flew to California with my 1 year-old daughter to introduce her to her great-grandparents and family in California and Oregon. While visiting my Grandpa, Ken Christison Sr., at his home in Oregon, he gave me a photograph of dinosaur bones and a wonderful story to go along with it. When Grandpa was sophomore in high school in 1931, a couple of boys on a hike with their teacher, Prof Kessler, and found a section of a dinosaur vertebrae at Garden Park. Garden Park is an area where many dinosaur excavations have taken place since 1877. On October 17, 1931 Prof Kessler returned to the site with his World History class to instruct and demonstrate the proper methods of excavation. My Grandpa was in this class and, therefore, in the photographs taken that day by L.B. Stewart, the art teacher. The story of the discovery and the pictures were published in the Denver Post on November 8, 1931.

Dinosaur Vertebrae Discovered in 1931 by Canon City Students

Canon City World History Class 1931 with Dinosaur Bones
Top Row: (Left to Right) Earl Ford, Kenneth Christison, Rusty Goodman
Next Row: Frances Easton, Willard Morris
Next Row: Opal Darndary, Margaret Akeley
Next Row: Billie Friend, Billie Lee, Lenora Countryman, Marie Knauf
Front Row: Prof Kessler

World History Class in the School Bus
Prof Kessler in front seat with Kenneth Christison
This photograph was featured in Monday's Canon City Daily Record on Monday October 3, 2011 with an article titled "The Great Dinosaur Race." Today, Saturday, is National Fossil Day and the Dinosaur Depot celebrated with various activities. June Hines, director of the museum, called me and invited me to come. So, this morning my friends, the Courtrights, and I left Elbert in the snow to drive to Canon City. We were especially looking forward to a walking tour through the Marsh Felch Quarry where the 1931 class found the vertebrae, but the tour was rained out. Instead, tour guide Dan Grenard met us and gave us a fascinating lecture about the history of the Marsh Felch Quarry. Then, he and his wife invited us to her office to show us pictures and maps. 

Prof. Kessler had thought the vertebrae belonged to a Diplodocus, however, Dan Grenard told us today it is believed to be a Camarasaurus (Terry Courtirght told me it's pronounced almost like the car - Camaro). After the bones were found, Prof Kessler contacted the Denver Museum of Natural History. In January of 1933, he wrote again saying was concerned about the decomposition of the bones. J.D. Figgins, Director of the museum, responded and told Prof Kessler to "shovel over the entire specimen 1 1/2 to 2 feet of dirt. Leave the canvas in place and carefully shovel over the entire thing." 

Today I learned the experts believe the segment of vertebrae was never recovered and is still buried with its canvas and dirt covering.If you are interested in learning more about Garden Park, please visit the Hands On The Land website.

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