|The first documented dinosaur tracks
found in North
America were uncovered in 1802 by a farm boy by the name of Pliny Moody1. At age 11
he was plowing a family field near Moody Corner, South Hadley,
Massachusetts and uncovered a slab of tracks in the shale ledge that
underlay the field. It is said that he took the slab of tracks and
installed it as a door step at the family home . A few years later,
about the time Pliny Moody went off to school, the tracks were bought
Dr. Elihu Dwight of South Hadley, Massachusetts. While in the
possession of these two men, they were shown to the educated people of
the day, the Christian clergy . The clergy declared them to be the "tracks of Noah's raven" because the
biblical Noah, when he was on the ark, released a raven that never
returned. It was believed that the raven landed in South Hadley,
Massachusetts and left it's tracks in the mud which later turned to
stone . After obtaining the tracks, Dr. Dwight had the tracks in his
possession for about 30 years
. Eventually they where obtained by Professor Hitchcock for Amherst
However, the first dinosaur tracks
that came to
the attention of science were noticed in Greenfield,
in 1835. They were quarried by Dexter
Marsh2 at a stone quarry near Turners Falls,
Massachusetts in order to be used as flag stones in the streets of
Greenfield, Massachusetts . The tracks were noticed by several
Greenfield residents before coming to the attention of a Greenfield
physician by the name of Dr. James
Deane3. Dr. Deane took a special
interest in them and began studying them . He also, contacted
Professor Edward Hitchcock of Amherst College that same year to make
of the find . After a short delay, Professor Hitchcock came to see them
also recognized their significance . The people who first noticed
the Greenfield tracks called them "turkey
because they looked a lot like the tracks
of a turkey . Eventually these tracks where
obtained by Professor Hitchcock for Amherst College .
As to which find is more important, I'll leave that to better people
than I to determine . To me both are important, one are
the first tracks to be found and the others are the first tracks found
to science .
In the 1830's both slabs of tracks came to the attention of one Professor Edward Hitchcock4
of Amherst College . After Professor Hitchcock studied them, he
decided that they
weren't the tracks of "Noah's raven" or "turkey tracks", but
were the tracks of unknown ancient birds . Anomeopus was the name
given to the Moody tracks . Tridentipes elegans was the name given to
Marsh/Deane tracks . These early footprint finds sparked an interest on
part of Professor Hitchcock to study them further and thus began the
field of Ichnology (the study of fossil footprints). He spent the rest
of his life collecting tracks from around the Connecticut River Valley.
This work culminated in one of the first published works on fossil
of New England (1858 with a supplement published in 1865). It
was around the time of his death in 1864, as knowledge of dinosaurs
increased, that it became apparent that the Connecticut River Valley
tracks were not the tracks of ancient birds, but rather the tracks of
dinosaurs. They were then re-identified as dinosaur tracks .
In 1933, Carlton S. Nash made a new discovery of dinosaur tracks about
one mile from the original Moody find. In 1939 he was able to buy the
land and open Nash Dinosaurland. One can still see and enjoy dinosaur
tracks at that site today.
1. Pliny Moody was born
December 18th, 1790 to Ebenezer and Lois Moody . He grew up in a house
near Moody Corner, South Hadley, Massachusetts. He was the son of a
After discovering the first tracks, Pliny Moody went on to attend and
receive his A.B. from Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont in
1814. He married Eliza Pomeroy of Southampton, Massachusetts on
September 19th, 1819. They had two children that lived to adulthood :
(Plinius b.1822 - who graduated from Amherst College in 1845, Andover
Theological Seminary in 1848, became a lienced pastor, and died in 1858
at age 36) and (Eliza b.1823 - who married Elisha Bridgeman, moved
to Belchertown, Massachusetts, and died 1847 at age 23).
Pliny Moody is listed in the 1860 South Hadley town census as a farmer
. He died on June 30th, 1868 in a wagon accident and is buried in
Evergreen Cemetery in
South Hadley, Massachusetts. His gravestone, also listing his
ancestors, is still there. A picture of his gravestone is shown on this
2. Dexter Marsh was born
August 22, 1806 to Joshua and Mindwell Marsh in Montague, Massachusetts
. He grew up in a
family of humble means and did not have the opportunity
for much of a formal education . However, it is said that he had a good
intellect and a good Christian character. He spent most of his life as
a day labor doing a variety of
different jobs .
He is the man who is credited with being the person who dug up the
first dinosaur tracks made known to science . He was hired by one Mr.
dig up flag
stone from a quarry in Turners Falls, Massachusetts . He was
installing them in the streets of Greenfield, Massachusetts when
people noticed stone tracks in the flag stones . They were quickly
named "turkey tracks" by the people who saw them .
Dexter Marsh spent many hours during the rest of his life collecting
tracks up and down the Connecticut River, especially in the Greenfield
area . It is said that at the time of Dexter Marsh's death in 1853 that
he had the best collection of tracks and related fossils in
the world . The collection contained over 500 slabs of tracks and 200
fossil fish, but could not be held together . So it was sold
off in pieces by the family for a sum of around $3,000 . That
was a tidy sum of money in that day .
Dexter Marsh died April 2, 1853 and is buried in the Green River
Cemetery in Greenfield, Massachusetts .
3. Dr. James Deane was born
February 24, 1801 to Christopher and Prudence Deane of Colerain,
Massachusetts . He grew up on a farm and worked on the farm until he
was 19 .
He attended local schools including Deerfield Academy for a brief
period of time . He then pursued several different things for a career
lawyer . He eventually decided to pursue medicine and went to the
medical school at the University of the State of New York graduating in
1831 with an MD . He then returned home to the Greenfield,
Massachusetts area to establish a medical practice, which he practiced
rest of his life .
His interest in the "stone bird tracks" was a side interest that he
pursued for the rest
of his life after first seeing them in 1835 . He eventually wrote a
book entitled Ichnographs
from the Sandstone of the Connecticut River Valley that was
published in 1861 a few years after his death .
Dr. James Deane died June 8, 1858 and is buried in the Green River
Cemetery in Greenfield, Massachusetts .
4. Professor Edward Hitchcock
was born May 24, 1793 in Deerfield, Massachusetts to parents of humble
means . He graduated from Deerfield Academy in Deerfield,
Massachusetts, but never attended college . It was during these early
years that he developed an interest in natural history and science . In
1816 he became the principle of Deerfield Acadamy and while there had a
Christian spiritual awakening . He then became a Congregational
minister and served for awhile at a church in Conway, Massachusetts .
This interest in the spiritual and the natural world lead to a life
long interest in reconciling the natural world with the biblical
account of creation in the Genesis .
After serving for a time as a pastor, he was offered a teaching
position at Amherst College in 1825 . He spent the rest of his life
associated with that institution . From 1825 until 1845 he taught
Natural History and Chemistry . In 1845 he became the third
president of Amherst College and the Natural Theology and Geology
professor . He served as president until 1854 bring the college
back from the brink of bankruptcy . He continued to serve as the
Natural History professor until his death .
Professor Edward Hitchcock died February 27, 1864 and is buried in the
West Cemetery in Amherst, Massachusetts .
One of the significant events in his life occurred in 1835 when he saw
a slab of stone containing what looked like "stone bird tracks". This
one of the great interests of his life, the study of Ichnology ( the
study of fossil footprints ). He always thought them to be the tracks
of an ancient bird . It wasn't until about the time his death that they
were definitively re-identified as dinosaur tracks.
He is especially known for four early scientific writings.
of New England (1858 with a supplement 1865) - This was the
first publication on the study of fossil trackways. Professor Hitchcock
identified them as ancient bird tracks, but they were later
re-identified as dinosaur
Religion of Geology and it's Connected Sciences (1851) - This
was an early attempt to reconcile the natural world with the biblical
account of creation in Genesis.
3. Four Reports on the Geology of
Massachusetts (1833-1841) - Professor Hitchcock was hired by the
state of Massachusetts to do the first Geological survey of the state
of Massachusetts . It was published in four volumes.
Geology (1840 and many revised editions) - This was an early
text book used by colleges to teach the basics of geology.
This information on this page comes from hearing many stories and
reading numerous articles about dinosaurs and dinosaur tracks in the
Connecticut River Valley over the years . However, I would like to
acknowledge the following sources as sources of information and
1. An article in the American
Journal of Science and Arts (1844), Report on Ichnolithology by
Edward Hitchcock, volume 47
: pg 292-322
2. Trace Fossils, Concepts,
Problems, Prospects (2007) edited by William Miller III, Geology
Department, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA, USA pages 32-41
3. I would also like to thank Ed Gregory of Greenfield, Massachusetts
for providing information on the Greenfield/Turners Falls area tracks .
Especially the transcript of the archetype by Rev. L.L. Langtroth
Recollections of Dexter Marsh dated December 1894 and the two
Dexter Marsh and Dr. James Deane .
of the Pliny Moody Tracks
Ed Gregory archive
Dr James Deane
Ed Gregory archive
Gravestone of Pliny Moody in
South Hadley, Mass.