Explorers of Big Bone

Many people have been involved in the exploration of the Big Bone Lick site. Here are just a few of the people who have helped shape Big Bone Lick’s rich history.

Baron Charles Le Moyne de Longueuil

In 1739, Big Bone Lick was discovered by Baron Charles Le Moyne de Longueuil. The bone specimens he found are now in Paris, France.

Mary Draper Ingles

In 1750, in Draper's Meadow, a small settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains (then considered the outer limits of colonial civilization), Mary Draper joined hands in marriage with William Ingles. Will and Mary Ingles parented two sons, Thomas and Georgie. On a fateful July morning in 1755, Mary was just days away from giving birth to the third Ingles child. Will and Mary's brother, Johnny, were tending the fields when a band of Shawnee attacked the settlement and carried away Mary, her two sons, and Johnny Draper's wife, Betty.

At the Shawnee camp along the Ohio River (close to modern-day Portsmouth, Ohio), Mary was separated from her sons and Betty. Accompanied by French traders and Shawnee braves, Mary was sent westward down the Ohio River on a salt-making expedition to the land of the big bones, Big Bone Lick. It was there among the skeletons of the extinct giant beasts that Mary toiled from sunup to sundown. She boiled hundreds of gallons of salt lick water to scoop out handfuls of salt brine, as precious a commodity as gold.

Mary escaped from her captors in late September, 1755, and made her way back home to western Virginia by following the Ohio, Kanawha, and New Rivers. Tradition says that Mary, knowing that the infant daughter she birthed in the first days of captivity would never survive the journey through the wilderness, left her baby with a Shawnee maiden. In roughly six weeks, Mary "followed the river" back home to what was left of Draper's Meadow and was reunited with Will.

George Croghan

Croghan was sent by the British to gain the support of the local American Indians. Croghan collected bones at Big Bone Lick. He was later captured by Indians, and his collection was lost. Croghan returned to the Lick for more fossils. He shipped the collection to Lord Shelburne who lived in London, England, and to Benjamin Franklin.

Lewis & Clark

The Lewis & Clark expedition started with Meriwether Lewis when he set out for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he was having built a 55 foot keelboat for the trip. He was to bring the boat, supplies, arms and crew down the Ohio River to The Falls of the Ohio to rendezvous with William Clark.

On his way down river, Lewis spent more than a week in Cincinnati. Following instructions from President Thomas Jefferson, Lewis examined a collection of fossil bones owned Dr. Casper Wistar of Cincinnati. Wistar had collected these fossils from the famous Ohio River salt lick. Lewis was also to visit Big Bone Lick.

President Jefferson gave Lewis and Clark specific instructions to watch for huge mammals during their exploration of the West. The theory of extinction was not widely accepted in Jefferson's time and Jefferson was sure these large mammals had immigrated to the Western Territory.

William Clark

At the conclusion of the Lewis and Clark expedition, Thomas Jefferson sent William Clark back to Big Bone to collect more specimens. Big Bone played a major role in the history of the Lewis and Clark expedition and the scientific endeavors of our third president, Thomas Jefferson.

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