For 40 years, farmer Myron Benedict kept a 20,000 year old secret.
In 1909, Porter County farmer Myron Benedict was plowing his field when he came across what appeared to be a massive tooth. It was harvest season, and the busy farmer threw the tooth in a corncrib and forgot all about it. In April of 1949, Benedict unearthed parts of a skeleton, teeth, and tusks of a mastodon (Mammut americanum) while plowing a portion of his property that had never been previously tilled.
Digging for the mastodon bones was delayed till the fall of 1949 so that the soil could dry out and ease the work involved in recovery and preservation efforts. Benedict enlisted the help of the Chicago Natural History Museum, now the Field Museum. Representatives came out to supervise the dig, hoping to find a complete skeleton for display. While they never found the entire skeleton, they unearthed a well-preserved tusk, rib bones, a jawbone with teeth, vertebrae, and a leg bone.
These artifacts and others are on display in the Prehistoric Porter County exhibit. Children are invited to do a little digging of their own, as we ask visitors to think about what they would do if they found a tooth in their backyard. Visitors can also unearth mastodon facts and examine the Museum’s extensive collection of replicas in this newly renovated exhibit. The exhibit is on display in the old Porter County Jail, and visitors are encouraged to note the unique aspects of this historic building.