CARL JUNCTION, Mo. —
After 120 years, Carl Junction once again has a mammoth skeleton.
OK, so the one on display at the Community Center is made of foam. But it is representative, said its creator, Marv Dahmen, of the mammoth fossils found in a mine on land belonging to Carl Junction businessman Silas A. Stuckey in 1892.
Other mammoth fossils have been found in every county in Missouri, Dahmen said, as it was here the enormous Ice Age beasts wound up. They were pushed south by mile-thick glaciers from the upper reaches of Canada.
According to historical reports, the fossilized remains of two adult and two infant extinct species, Elephas Americanus, were discovered at the 20-foot level of Stuckey’s mine on the south end of Carl Junction.
In 1893, the fossils would be taken to the University of St. Louis where they were cleaned and assembled, then on to the Columbian Exposition of the Chicago World’s Fair where one was reputed to be one of the largest ever found.
Dubbed the “Columbian mammoths,” their discovery was made at the cusp of several significant dinosaur fossil discoveries in Utah and Colorado. Those discoveries led to a national craze with all things prehistoric.
What happened to the mammoth skeletons is a mystery, said Dahmen, a retired Carl Junction art teacher of 26 years who also has nurtured a lifelong passion for rocks, minerals and mining.
He speculated the craze for fossils may have led to their sale by Stuckey, perhaps netting him as much as $100,000 — or about $900,000 in today’s currency.
“He owned a hardware store on a dirt street,” said Dahmen. “Is it possible he sold them? Maybe. If they went to a private collection, the trail would have been lost. But museums are careful; they want bones and they want the story.”
Regardless, Dahmen doesn’t believe they are in the U.S., speculating that they instead wound up in Europe and won’t be back to Carl Junction anytime in the foreseeable future.
Gary Stubblefield, president of the Carl Junction Chamber of Commerce, had been hoping against hope that one day those mammoth bones would make their way home and perhaps serve as a catalyst to create an historical museum.
Last year, the community began an Historical Preservation Committee, so when Stubblefield learned of Dahmen’s mammoth replica, he was eager to offer it a home.
Dahmen created the 13-foot, life-size sculpture years ago to display at an exhibit at the George A. Spiva Center of the Arts. To create it, he purchased a child’s model mammoth kit at the hobby store and photographed each piece. He then projected the images onto a 13- by 26-foot piece of paper, and traced the outlines of every bone onto pieces of foam.
After cutting them out with an electric knife, he used a wire wheel grinder to sculpt them, then assembled them on welded steel tubing.
Since then, the mammoth has made outings to the Joplin Holiday Inn, a grocery store and even a parade, but in recent history has made its home in storage at the Community Bank & Trust.
Stubblefield hopes it spurs interest in both the history of Carl Junction and the Historic Preservation Committee. A group of fourth-graders will be the mammoth’s first official field trip visitors.
“I’m excited,” said Stubblefield. “This will help tell our story.”
Also on display at the Community Center is a display of mammoth bone fossils, minerals and mining artifacts from Dahmen’s personal collection.