Open main menu

Page:Notes on the State of Virginia (1853).djvu/59

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
43
ANIMALS.

Their chief speaker immediately put himself into an attitude of oratory, and with a pomp suited to what he conceived the elevation of his subject, informed him that it was a tradition handed down from their fathers: “That in ancient times a herd of these tremendous animals came to the Big Bone Licks, and began an universal destruction of the bear, deer, elks, buffaloes, and other animals, which had been created for the use of the Indians; that the Great Man above, looking down and seeing this, was so enraged that he seized his lightning, descended on the earth, seated himself on a neighboring mountain, on a rock, of which his seat and the print of his feet are still to be seen, and hurled his bolts among them till the whole were slaughtered, except the big bull, who, presenting his forehead to the shafts, shook them off as they fell; but missing one at length, it wounded him in the side; whereon, springing round, he bounded over the Ohio, over the Wabash, the Illinois, and finally over the great lakes, where he is living at this day.” It is well known that on the Ohio, and in many parts of America further North, tusks, grinders, and skeletons of unparalleled magnitude, are found in great numbers, some lying on the surface of the earth, and some a little below it. A Mr. Stanley, taken prisoner by the Indians near the mouth of the Tanissee, relates that, after being transferred through several tribes, from one to another, he was at length carried over the mountains West of the Missouri to a river which runs westwardly; that these bones abounded there; and that the natives described to him the animal to which they belonged as still existing in the Northern parts of their country; from which description he judged it to be an elephant. Bones of the same kind have been lately found some feet below the surface of the earth, in salines opened on the North Holston, a branch of the Tanissee, about the latitude of 36½° North. From the accounts published in Europe, I suppose it to be decided that these are of the same kind with those found in Siberia.[1] Instances are mentioned of like animal remains


  1. Clavigero says: “Non mi sovviene che appo qualche nazione Americana visia memoria o degli elafanti, o degl ippopotami, o d' altri quadrupedi di si fatta grandezza. Non so che fin ora, fra tanti scavamenti fatta nella Nuova Spagna, siasi mai scoperto un carcamo d' Ippopotamo, e quel ch' è piu, ne anche un dente d' elefante.—125.