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Recent Paleontological Discoveries in Cumberland Bone Cave

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Recent Paleontological Discoveries in Cumberland, Maryland, Bone Cave



La Salle High School, Cumberland, Maryland

One of the richest sources of mammalian remains of the Pleistocene era to be found on the North American Continent was uncovered in 1912 with the discovery of the Cumberland Bone Cave about 3 miles north-west of Cumberland, Maryland. At that time the Western Maryland Railway, blasting through a limestone ridge along the town of Corrigansville, Maryland, exposed a number of fossils. For a time the worth of these fossils was not recognized by those working on the construction of the cut and many of the bones were lost. However, an amateur naturalist visited the site one day and immediately recognized the worth of the remains. He contacted Dr. J. W. Gidley of the United States National Museum who spent the next three years excavating and classifying the bones discovered.

Originally, a sinkhole had existed at the top of the ridge which is composed of Keyser limestone, with the rock strata perpendicular to the present surface. Animals moving down to nearby Wills Creek fell into the sinkhole and dropped into a cavern about one hundred feet below the surface. It was this cave that was explored when the railroad made its cut through the ridge. The shaft leading into the cave had developed along the line of cleavage in the limestone. As a result of projecting rocks, the bones were broken up by the time they reached the bottom. Becoming intermingled with the dirt and breccia of the cave, many of the fragments became cemented together so as to make identification difficult. However, Dr. Gidley was able to identify 45 distinct species of mammals before the cave was blocked by the Western Maryland in 1915. After Dr. Gidley's death in 1931, Dr. C. Lewis Gazin, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the United States National Museum completed classification of the remains.

In November 1950, while investigating possibilities of re-opening the Cumberland Bone Cave, the author noted a small opening across the tracks from the original entrance. By tracing the rock strata, it was determined

Brother Nicholas belongs to the Religious Order, known as Christian Brothers. His home is in Philadelphia. This article is taken from a lecture first delivered before the annual meeting of the American Academy of Science last December in St. Louis, Missouri. Brother Nicholas is a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Speleological Society.


Brother G. Nicholas, F.S.C.


Collection Location:
Ruth Enlow Library, Oakland

Original Size:
22 x 15 cms

Editor: Felix G. Robinson

Maryland, History


Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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