Before 1802, the idea that ancient creatures called dinosaurs once roamed the earth was unknown. It is probably true that native Americans saw strange track like markings in the stones along the local stream beds in the Connecticut Valley. However, what they thought them to be is not known to us today.
In 1802, a young farm boy by the name of Pliny Moody was plowing a field on his father's farm 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 home and installed it as the doorstep at the Moody family home. It remained there until the time he went off to school in about 1810. At that time it was purchased by Dr. Elihu Dwight of South Hadley, who brought it home and kept it in his home for about 30 years. It was during these years that the tracks recieved their nickname, "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, Massachusetts and left it's tracks in the mud. This is what the tracks were thought to be until the late 1830's.)
In the late 1830's the tracks came to the attention of professor Edward Hitchcock of Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts . After some study of these and other tracks found in the valley, he declared the footprints 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 Ichnology, which is the study of ancient track and trace fossils. He continued to study the ancient tracks in the area until his death, traveling around the valley collecting what was to become later the largest collection of dinosaur tracks in the world.
In 1841, Sir Richard Owen suggested the name dinosauria for a number of large skeletons found in Europe. However, it wasn’t until about the time of the American Civil War that the concept of the dinosaur became more widespread and popular. It was in the 1860's that scientists revisited the ancient “bird tracks” of the Connecticut River Valley and finally declared them to be the tracks of dinosaurs.
After his graduation from Amherst College in 1896, George Harlan Nash help fund several geological expeditions by Amherst College professors to various places in the American west. 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 College’s geological expeditions around the world . The Nash family also owned a home in the same neighborhood in which Pliny Moody lived and discovered the first dinosaur tracks . Young Carlton learned about dinosaurs and their tracks at a young age and it was these influences that sparked Carlton’s life long interest in dinosaurs.
Carlton Nash graduated from high school in 1932, in the depths 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 for himself and in that same year he found the outcrop that was to later 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 the 1-3/4 acres containing the dinosaur footprint site. If they hadn't bought the dinosaur tracks site the previous owner was going to dynamite it for flag stones. 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 . He also worked at 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 track business full-time. He also sold the Christmas tree business to his brother George Harlan Nash . From this humble and fragile beginning Nash Dinosaurland began.
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 during this time 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 world. During this time, he began to travel to many of the great geological sites of the west. 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 Dr.Barnum Brown and R.T. Bird (who both visited his site), Roy Chapman Andrews, Jim Jensen, and 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.
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