Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Samuel Brown, 24 August 1806

Washington M. Territory Augt. 24th 1806

Dear Sir

I recd. your letter of July 9th by yesterday’s mail & am very sorry to inform you that Mr Irvill’s collection of Bones was removed from Natchez a few hours before I arrived there from New orleans so that I have not yet had the satisfaction of examining it—Judge Rodney & Dr Seip, an intelligent Physician of Natchez, who saw part of the collection, assure me that Dr Wistars ideas of its importance, are perfectly just—Mr Irvill exhibits the Bones of. at least three distinct species of animals. The mammoth, the megalonix & a third species which Judge Rodney says is of the “Hog kind. A Mr Stewart of Cincinnati who spent the last evening with me assured me Judge Turner is of opinion that these bones belong to “an enormous Turtle.” Dr Seip who perhaps is a more correct Anatomist than either of the other Gentlemen modestly declines giving his opinion on the subject—Mr Stewart was present when the Bones of the Megalonix were discovered in Green Brier & frequently saw those now in the possession of Irvill shortly after they were dug up by Dr Goforth at the Big bone Lick. He says that the bones of the Megalonix found at the latter place are nearly double the size of those which Colo Stewart sent to you—Mr Irvill paid Dr Goforth (as Stewart informs me) only one hundred Dollars for the whole collection. He now asks in Orleans $10.000. He told Stewart, the other day that a company of Frenchmen had offered him $7.500 but as he reported at Natchez & still asserts at orleans that he procured the bones at a great expence on the Missouri it is to be presumed that his assertions with regard to the offers he has refused are not more correct—I have forwarded your letter & that of Dr Wistar to my Brother James Brown of New Orleans & have interested Mr Daniel Clarke in the business & hope that something may yet be done to secure for the Philosophical Society a collection so curious & so interesting to Naturalists

It was with great satisfaction I learned from Mr Stewart that Irvill left a great number of bones at Dr Goforths which were not necessary to complete his skeletons. These he has pledged himself to deliver to me at N Orleans in the course of the ensuing autumn. Perhaps among these may be found the very bones which are most wanted.

It will be satisfactory to the Society to hear that Dr Goforth with five or six men procured all the bones in Irvills collection in four days & Mr Stewart assured me that he could “load a Boat with bones of the same species in a very short time” The bones are found in a marsh of about half an acre in extent & are buried in the mud from four to ten feet deep—The mud is soft & they can be felt by running a pole down into it & are easily raised. I sincerely wish that the society would appropriate two or three hundred Dollars & send one of the Mr Peales or some other confedial person to the Big bone Lick where I am confident a most valuable collection might be procured at a trifling expence. The Country people would assist in an undertaking of this kind & the carriage New Orleans would cost the Society very little. As I hope to reside in future in that City I shall always feel sincere pleasure in contributing, in any way, in my power, to promote the interests of the Society—

With sentiments of the greatest respect I am yo Mo obt

Sam Brown


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