President, Thomas Jefferson, scientifically described fossil bones given to him by saltpeter miners found in a Monroe County cave in 1797. Jefferson thought they were the claws of a giant cat. In 1799 Casper Wistar re-described the bones as a new species of extinct giant ground sloth and named it in honor of President Jefferson. Only recently have the bones been Carbon 14 dated at over 38,000 year old.
On March 8, 2008 Megalonyx jeffersoni became the official state fossil of West Virginia. The idea of a WV State Fossil was the brain child of Ray Garton, a geologist and paleontologist from Fairmont, WV. Ray had the vision and wrote the resolution, but he had the assistance of many people in making the idea a reality. Ray’s colleagues, were his sounding board and support system through several years of trial and error. These people include his wife Mary Ellen, Fred Grady, Hassan Amjad, Robert Pyle, and Dave Phillips. When the idea was put before the legislature it was Delegate Mike Burdiss (Wyoming County) that took the reins and held to a steady course seeing it through to the successful end that we celebrate here today. Last, but certainly not least, other important legislative assistance came from Senator Roman Prezioso (Marion County), Delegate Joe Talbott (Webster County) and Senator Jon Hunter (Monongalia County).
15" l x 9" w x 10.5" h
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