Alma had a dinosaur

The only known photo of Genevieve taken in the basement of Cutler Hall, Colorado College. (Photo credit - Colorado College Tiger, Aug. 12, 1932, page 3, Courtesy of Colorado College Tutt Library, Special Collections)

The legend of Genevieve, a fossilized dinosaur, not only made of stone, but also of gold, began July 3, 1932.

That was the day W.K. Jewett, owner of the London Mine near Alma, stopped at the Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs and made the official announcement of its unearthing.

The story was picked up by the news services, and word of the fantastic fossil find spread through the scientific world like a prairie fire.

The golden dinosaur was discovered by William White, 700 feet underground, deep in the London Mine. Curiously, the miners had been using the creature’s nose as a lamp holder, not realizing there was a dinosaur there.

White, a hard rock miner, believed at first he was looking at two stumps. In reality, it was a dinosaur lying on its back with its limbs at an angle of 75 degrees.

Eager to retrieve the dinosaur from its rocky tomb, miners blasted it out of rock at the 700-foot level of the London Mine with dynamite. The blast shattered the specimen. Bits and pieces of the dinosaur were hoisted to the surface of the mine where curious crowds gathered to see the prehistoric monster.

As the story goes, a geology professor at Colorado College, Robert Landon, traveled to Alma so he could examine Genevieve, an extraordinary record of a former world.

The measurements he made revealed that the animal was 18 feet long and 6.5 feet tall. A long neck supported a small head. The creature had a long tail.

Jewett, who gave to the city of Colorado Springs the Patty Jewett golf course, presented the dinosaur to the Colorado College museum. The 16-ton dinosaur reached Colorado College by truck, where a crew of men carefully carried it to the basement of Cutler Hall.

College technicians spent countless hours in the basement, where they enthusiastically cemented together what the newspapers hailed as the rarest find ever made in paleontology.

After the repair of the fossil dinosaur, it was moved to Colorado College’s museum and put on display.

There is a real mystery that surrounds this dinosaur. In the 1960s, the museum closed, and Genevieve’s display was removed. No one seems to know what happened to this specimen.

Was Genevieve smelted down, put in the basement archives and forgotten, or taken to a professor’s house for a private collection? The mystery of her disappearance still stands to this day.

Two critical questions must now be answered: where did Genevieve go, and was she really made of gold? The past would not easily give up these secrets.

An article from Greeley, Colorado’s Tribune-Republican, dated July 2, 1932, stated the dinosaur remains were made known to Mr. Jesse Figgins, Director of the Colorado Museum of Natural History (noted for his famous Folsom site work), who said this unusual dinosaur fossil must be the remains of a marine reptile.

Nowhere in the article does it report Genevieve was made of gold but it does state that she was shattered when dynamited out of the mine, but that restoration wasn’t expected to take long.

When asked about Genevieve, Colorado College archivist Jessy Randall said she’d been questioned about her before. The last time was in 2004, when Geology Professor Emeritus Bill Fischer was still alive. Fischer gave this response:

“The one man who would have had the answers, Professor Bob Landon, died in 1995, and all of the people associated with the college museum are also deceased.

“I never heard of the specimen during my 50-year association with the school, and I suspect that it really was never installed in the museum and that the college newspaper account that ‘it was resting on a pedestal in the museum’ is totally false.

“From the photograph, one can see that with 16 tons of matrix and bone, it would have taken months if not years to prepare the specimen for display. Now for a few thoughts as to the fossil itself. First of all, it is not a dinosaur and probably not a rhynchocephalian reptile.

“The photograph is of very poor quality, but my best guess is that it may have been a Phytosaur. But regardless of the correct identification, it was a very valuable find, and I am sorry if it ended up in a smelter ... good luck in your search and sorry I couldn’t be of more assistance.”

Sadly, it looks like Genevieve’s case has gone cold. The museum has long been closed, and those associated with the museum are deceased.

It is doubtful that she was made of gold, but she was found in a gold mine, the source of a good rumor and the basis for a great story surrounding her mysterious existence and disappearance.

Although Genevieve remains a mystery, this article has dug up and weaves together most of what is known and speculated about her.

Although her real story has been buried with the museum workers and gold miners who have passed away, there are still a few miners who, while relaxing at a local saloon, fondly ponder the puzzle of Genevieve.

They raise their shot glasses and make this toast to the miners who found Genevieve, the golden dinosaur: “May you always stand on ore and your labors be in vein.”

Acknowledgments

The authors thank Danny Alfrey for bringing Genevieve to our attention back in 2011. We appreciate Ben Elick’s help in obtaining the photograph of this mysterious fossil.

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