By MARK EVANS
Missouri isn’t just for Mark Twain, Harry Truman and Jesse James anymore.
The Show-Me State has its own dinosaur now.
Actually, the bones of the state’s first dinosaur were discovered nearly 80 years ago, on a Bollinger County farm. Now, part of the fossilized bones of the Missouri Dinosaur, Parrosaurus missouriensis, are being prepared for display at the new Sainte Genevieve Museum Learning Center (SGMLC), which will become the Official Missouri Dinosaur Visitor Site.
The museum’s grand opening will begin with a ribbon cutting and ceremony at 11 a.m., Dec. 11, to feature this unique dinosaur discovery.
Guy Darrough, museum curator and director of the dinosaur site put the significance of the find into perspective.
“Out west is where they find a lot of dinosaurs,” he said. “We grew up with Tyrannosaurus and Stegosaurus and Triceratops. We grew up with those dinosaurs, like the Sinclair dinosaur. Those are all out west. Out there they have lots of badlands. There’s lots of rock and things weather all the time. When you’re out in the badlands looking for bones, you’ll see it sticking out of the rock. It’ll be pretty obvious it’s a bone, usually.”
Not so, in Missouri, where Darrough noted that the fossil site is “covered in grass and trees.”
“So it was a total accident in 1942 they sent a man named Dan Stewart, of the Missouri Geological Survey and he met a kid walking in the kid one day, doing geology work,” Darrough said.
Stewart told the 8-year-old boy he was looking for clay.
“They boy said, ‘Well my mom’s digging a cistern. We’ve got a pile of clay right now,’” Darrough related.
The boy invited Stewart to check it out and Stewart noticed a pile of bones near the clay.
“They thought they were cow bones or horse bones or something, but Dan Stewart went, ‘My goodness, those are dinosaur bones.’” Darrough said. “Eventually the Smithsonian gave Mrs. Chronister $50 and she bought a cow. There were 13 vertebrae that were in that pile went to the Smithsonian.”
Charles Gilmore, who Darrough said “was a famous dinosaur expert at the time,” thought the bones might be from the tail of a sauropod.
“He got all excited about it and he and Dan Stewart wrote a paper on it and they named it Parrosaurus missouriensis,” Darrough said. “Charles Gilmore died and then those sat in the Smithsonian for years until a fellow named Bruce Stinchcomb, a geologist, bought the site in the hopes of finding more bones.”