MIDDLE SMITHFIELD TOWNSHIP, MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Twelve-thousand years ago, Monroe County looked very different than it does today. Prehistoric animals and Native Americans once roamed the area. In the 1960’s a local farming family in Marshalls Creek made a huge discovery buried below their fields. Wednesday afternoon, that once-in-a-lifetime find was finally memorialized in the Poconos.
With the lift of a cloth, amazing local history is now permanently marked.
The story starts before Marshalls Creek was built up with development. Decades ago, instead of Wendy’s serving burgers, that land’s where farmer John Leap harvested vegetables. His niece, Nancy Treible, remembers the area as his peat bog.
“They shipped it all over the area to resorts like Buckhill, Skytop,” Nancy Treible says.
One day in 1968, while excavating the field, farmer John and his workers hit something strange.
“He thought it was a tree stump,” Treible explains.
But they were very wrong.
“When they saw it they knew it was a find!” smiles Treible.
They dug up a 12,000 year-old mastodon. The prehistoric elephant-like mammal is related to the wooly mammoth.
Experts say the Marshalls Creek mastodon weighed about five tons, and stood twenty-six feet tall.
He’s sprawled out on display at Harrisburg’s State Museum. But after farmer John’s big dig, all signs of the mastodon disappeared from Marshalls Creek. Until now.
“They put up the historical marker and it’s a great honor for the Leaps”, smiled Ernie Leap, John Leap’s great nephew.
This is the most complete mastodon skeleton ever discovered in Pennsylvania and one of the most in-tact across Eastern North America. Backbone DNA suggests the Marshalls Creek mastodon had cancer and died young, at about 30 years old. Scientists say no projectiles or spear heads were discovered with the remains, suggesting it died naturally and was not killed by Native Americans.