Morrow County Prehistory, by Tami Sneddon

Morrow County Chronicles 1997

    The wind blew cold.  The ice sheets were close enough to feel the effects of their cold masses of air as they burst onto the plains.  The days were growing longer and green shoots were starting to break through the partially frozen ground.  The blowing silt that had come from the debris carried by glaciers and rivers made breathing difficult.

    The mammoth roamed the hillside with its shaggy coat of hair and a layer of blubber three inches thick protecting him from the cold. He no longer needed to use his enormous curved tusks to forage the grass that had lain beneath the layer of snow.  The hills would soon be lush with grasses that would provide a healthy diet.  Not far away bison and musk ox were foraging for food.  They were all on watch for predators.  The saber-tooth cat was hiding in the brush.  There was a feeling of change in the air...

    ... Approximately 12,000 year later, April 26, 1891, reported in the Heppner Gazette:
        "A Monstrous Tooth - Ed Matlock, while cleaning out the well springs, on his ranch north of town, found part of the skeleton of some huge animal consisting of a piece of jaw bone containing one tooth, which is seven inches long, three inches wide and 17 inches in circumference.  From the tooth it is thought to have been a herbivore animal of the early ages.  This is quite a relic ....

....March 20, 1973, reported by the Pendleton East Oregonian:
    "Mammoth tusk uncovered while digging diversion ditch, pond.  Heppner - Richard Meador set out to dig diversion ditches and a silt pond on the William Barratt property on the hill behind Pioneer Memorial Hospital in Heppner.
    He was six feet down into clay soil when he found what appears to be the tusk of a mammoth, a prehistoric ancestor of today's elephant.  Meador called for help to uncover and preserve the tusk.  Using garden tools and whisk brooms, working slowly to preserve the crumbly relic, were Duane Neiffer, chemistry and earth science teacher at Heppner High School, Tom Shear, art teacher and photographer; Neil Pousen, algebra teacher, Tami Meador, senior in high school, and Inez Meador, junior high science teacher.
    The group spent most of a Saturday uncovering the tusk.  'We managed to bring in 7 1/2 feet of the original but the last two or three feet were in sandy soil which had caused it to deteriorate beyond saving.' Mrs. Meador said.
    The pieces saved weigh more than 200 pounds.  The tusk were reassembled in a bed of plaster..."

    The Meador find is now exhibited at the Morrow County Museum in Heppner.  The Museum collection also includes other prehistoric finds:
    -In 1977, Bob Jepsen brought in a mammoth tooth found after a heavy rain in a canyon at the edge of a wheat field on the Noel Dobyns Ranch.  In 1991, Mr. Jepsen brought in a 26" segment of a mammoth tusk.
    -Elmer Hill of the Morrow County Soil Conservation Service gave a mammoth knee joint and tooth section, found locally, to the Morrow County Gem and Mineral Society.  
    -Don Peck found four pieces of a mammoth tusk on the Burton Peck ranch.
    -The Morrow County Road Department found a mammoth tooth while working in the Sand Hollow area.

    There were several elephant-like mammals that roamed North America during the Pleistocene epoch which began about one and a half million years ago, and ending approximately 10,000 years ago.  The writer does not claim to know precisely which species these fossils were a part of, the Columbia Mammoth that stood 13 feet high with tusks 8 feet long; the majestic woolly mammoth which roamed the tundra; or the American mastodon with the large curved tusks and body covered with long reddish brown hair, which prefer swamps and lowlands.

    The hills of Morrow County have seen many changes in climate and plant life, as well as different beasts calling it home.


Windsor Chorlton, Planet Earth, Ice Ages, Alexandria, Virginia:  Time=Life Books, 1983.
"Mammoth", "Mastodon"  Microsoft Encarta 96 Encyclopedia, 1993-1995 Microsoft Corporation.
Ewart Baldwin, Geology of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, University of Oregon, 1964.
Richard Moody, The Fossil World, New York:  Charwell Books, Inc., 1977.
Morrow County Museum Archives, Heppner, Oregon.

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