In 1802, a young
farm boy by the name of Pliny Moody was plowing a field in
South Hadley, Massachusetts . He unearthed a stone slab that
had strange markings on it that looked a lot like large bird
tracks. He took the slab to the educated people of his day, who were
mostly christian clergy, to get their opinion on what they
were. They declared them to be the tracks of Noah's raven.
(Noah, when he was on the biblical ark, sent out a raven that
never returned to the ark.) It was thought that the raven
finally touched down in South Hadley and left its tracks in
the mud. This is what the tracks were thought to be until
Professor Edward Hitchcock.
In the 1830's they came to the attention of professor Edward Hitchcock of Amherst College, Amherst,
Massachusetts . After some study, he declared them to be the tracks of ancient birds, not the tracks of Noah’s raven.
He held that belief until his death in 1865. He is the person who began the study of vertebrate ichnology, which is the
study of ancient vertebrate track and trace fossils.
He continued to study the ancient tracks in the area until
his death, traveling around the Connecticut River Valley collecting
what was to later become the largest collection of dinosaur
tracks in the world.
In 1841, Sir Richard Owen suggested the
name dinosuria for a number of large skeletons found in Europe.
However, it wasn’t until after the American Civil War
that the concept of the dinosaur became more widespread and
popular. It was sometime after this that scientists revisited
the ancient “bird tracks” of the Connecticut River
Valley and finally declared them to be the tracks of dinosaurs
The Beginning Of Nash Dinosaurland
After his graduation from Amherst College
in 1896, George Harlan Nash helped fund several geological
expeditions by Amherst College professors to various places
in the western United States . During this time he also began
taking his son Carlton Snell Nash to visit the Pratt Museum
of Natural History at Amherst College. It was there that young
Carlton became fascinated by dinosaurs, dinosaur tracks, and
Amherst Colleges geological field trips to the American
west . The Nash family also owned and lived in a home in the
small neighborhood in which Pliny Moody lived when he discovered
the first dinosaur tracks . Young Carlton learned about dinosaurs
and their tracks at a young age and it was these influences
that sparked Carltons life long interest in dinosaurs.
Carlton Nash 1933
About The Time He Found The Dinosaur Track Site
Carlton Nash graduated from high school
in 1932 at the bottom of the great depression. Unable to find
a steady job right away he took several classes in geology
at Amherst College. He learned about dinosaurs and the occurrence
of dinosaur tracks in the Connecticut River Valley. In 1933
, he started looking for dinosaur tracks himself , and in
that same year he found an outcrop that was to become the
basis for Nash Dinosaurland. He pried up a few layers and
found several tracks, but he did not own the land so he kept
the discovery to himself.
In 1939, he was able to purchase 1-3/4 acres
containing the dinosaur footprint site . In the summers he
would remove dinosaur tracks to sell year-around from his
home in South Hadley . In the fall he would cut Christmas
trees in Vermont and Canada for sale on the East Coast of
the United States . In the spring he worked a desk job at
the Holyoke Water Power Company. He continued all three jobs
until 1950. In 1950, without talking to his wife, he quit
his job at the Holyoke Water Power Company. He came home that
day and told his wife that he was going into the dinosaur
business full-time. He also sold the Christmas tree business
to his brother George Harlan Nash . From a humble and fragile
beginning Nash Dinosaurland began.
Growth of Dinosaurland
Post World War II America ushered in many
changes in the United States. One of the greatest changes
was the increased mobility of Americans by car. Many tourist
sites grew up all across the nation . One that was established
was Nash Dinosaurland . Over the years thousands of people
have visited the site.
Also, Carlton remembered the pictures and
stories of Amherst College’s geological expeditions
to the great geological places of the American west. He also
began to travel to these places, he toured everything from
the Carlsbad Caverns and the white sands of New Mexico to
Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies . He visited such great
fossil places as the Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon, Dinosaur
Valley, Dinosaur National Monument, Fossil Butte, Como Bluff,
The Big Horn Basin, Badlands of South Dakota, and the fossil
places of Montana. He met people who were some of the old
pioneers of the American west . People who were born in America’s
western territories before they became states.
Over the years he met a number of great American dinosaur
hunters from Barnum Brown (who visited his quarry) to R.T.
Bird, Roy Chapman Andrews, Jim Jensen, Jack Horner, and the
owners of the Black Hills Institute .
He was also written up in numerous publications
including Time, Newsweek, Sport’s Illustrated, the New
Yorker, Yankee, Woman’s Day, Nation’s Business,
Mechanic’s Illustrated, the Wall Street Journal, the
Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times .
He also appeared on various radio and television
programs on ABC, NBC and CBS including Good Morning America
and the Today Show . His first appearance was on the John
Cameron Swayze show in the early 1950’s .
He also sold tracks to a number of notable
people over the years including the the families of the Maytags,
Skinners, Carnegies, Pattons, Dave Garoway, Laurel Hardy,
and John Cameron Swayze.
In 1997, at the age of 82, Carlton passed
away at Nash Dinosaurland
. On that day his son, Kornell Richard Nash, took over the
business and continues the work his father began.
The dinosaur tracks are still excavated
and sold all over the world.
Kornell Nash has changed the name to the
Nash Dinosaur Track Site
and Rock Shop.