History | The Marburg Mastodon

From the 17 Jun 2023 Simcoe Reformer:

"A remarkable find, that will no doubt prove very interesting to geologists of Canada was made last Friday morning, June 11th, by Charles Challand of Con. 5, Lot 15, in Woodhouse township.

"It was while digging for a drain in a marshy spot on the north end of his farm that one of the workmen happened to strike his spade on what he first supposed to a log of hardwood. On closer inspection, however, it proved to be formed of bone. Concluding that something interesting and perhaps even valuable, had been discovered, the earth was quickly removed until a tusk measuring nine feet and one-half inches from tip to base was excavated. Beneath this one, another tusk was found which although not so long, had a greater circumstance, being nearly two feet around at the base.

"Encouraged by these remarkable discoveries, the search went on for more petrified remains and as a result, a portion of the skull was brought to light, being the upper part. This was more than three and one-half feet broad, but it immediately crumbled, with the one portion remaining being the outer end of the jaw and the upper part of the skull with the eye socket. The jaw contains two whole teeth and a broken portion. The teeth are each seven inches long and four broad. The socket for the eye measures ten inches in breadth and eight in depth. This was attached at the base to a portion of the backbone twenty-two inches around."

In Historical Highlights of Norfolk County, Bruce M. Pearce reproduces Mrs. Leo Challand's 1941 account of this find, which tells what happened next...

"Word was sent to Ottawa and Dr. Ami came to search the spot. The skull, with teeth, some ribs and toes were found. They were discovered on a bed of lakesand, under one and one-half feet of shell marl and one and one-half feet of peat vegetation. Dr. Ami said that this mastodon would have been five times the size of an ordinary elephant and would have lived here from 8,000 to 40,000 years ago.

"This unusual discovery created a sensation in the community and crowds of adults and children visited the spot. Verbal verification of the find was make seventy years later by two prominent and aging Norfolk citizens. Harry Austin of Woodhouse and Harry Misner of Port Dover, who were on hand when the mastodon remains were unearthed. They remembered that Charles Challand, owner of the farm, had exhibited the relic in a tent at Port Dover in Powell Park at the time of the Port Dover fall fair."

Officials from the National Museum purchased the remains from Mr. Challand, and added it to their exhibit of prehistoric remains in Ottawa. The National subsequently loaned these remains to the Eva Brook Donly Museum in 1967 to display in our then-new Centennial Wing.

A few other small Mastodon bones and teeth were subsequently discovered in Norfolk's Windham township. These are now on display at the Eva Brook Donly Museum.

Copyright 2001-2003 John Cardiff and Norfolk Historical Society