Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Brown of Boone County, Kentucky, 28 April 1802

From John Brown of Boone County, Kentucky

Boone County State of Kentucky
April 28 1802


I have the Pleasure to inform you that I have forwarded to Mr. Peale a Present to the Sosiety, of Curious Matter. It consists of Part of the skull Bone, the neck Joint on the head, the Pith of the left Horn now Twenty one Inches in Circumference, the end off & in a decay’d State. I suppose it to have been Part of the head of the Animal whose large Bones are found in so many Parts of America & in such numbers formerly at the place called Big Bone (Kentucky). It was found by Uriah Hardesty an Honest Citiz. who felled Hunting in the Bed of a creek (for some months in the Year dry) falling into the Ohio River about Six miles below the mouth of Licking river & 12 or 14 miles North of Big Bone 2 or 3 miles from the Ohio. (there has not been any other Bones discovered near the Place) I thought Proper to make Mr Peales Museum the Place of Dépot to give him an Opportunity of Placeing it on his Skileton for the present that every advantage might be had from a View of the whole together. It will their wait the Orders of the Sosiety who will hence make whatever disposition of it they may think Proper—

I shall be highly Gratified when the time shall Arrive that the Sosiety shall think Proper to Promulgate their Oppinion on it—Be Pleased to Present with it, to the Sosiety, & for your Person Accept, the Homage of my sincere Respect, & High Consideration.

John Brown

RC (PPAmP); at head of text: “To Thomas Jefferson President of the Philosophical Sosiety of America &c. &c. &c.” Recorded in SJL as received 11 June from “Brown John. Boone county. K.” and “sent to A.P.S.”

The John Brown who wrote the communication above was not the United States senator of that name from Frankfort, Kentucky, who was TJ’s acquaintance and correspondent. When TJ received this letter, however, he thought that it was from Brown of Frankfort. In August 1802, TJ forwarded to the senator the thanks of the American Philosophical Society. Senator Brown sent the society’s letter on to its proper recipient, the “Gentn. of my name who took charge of the Bones referred to” (TJ to John Brown, 14 Aug. 1802, and Brown to TJ, 26 Nov. 1802).

Following his excavations of mastodon remains in the Hudson Valley, Charles Willson PEALE did not have a complete specimen of the animal’s skull. Learning that a large SKULL BONE had been found in Kentucky and that John Brown of Boone County might be able to obtain information about it, Peale wrote to Brown in January 1802, addressing him as “Major” and directing the letter to Columbia, which was in the Northwest Territory across the Ohio River from Boone County (Peale, Papers description begins Lillian B. Miller and others, eds., The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family, New Haven, 1983–2000, 5 vols. in 6 description ends , v. 2, pt. 1:392–3; C. W. Peale to TJ, 21 Jan. 1802).

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