Saturday, October 29, 2022

Wyoming Bone Wars by Zina Abbott


I suspect when most readers think of frontier Wyoming Territory, the sort of wars that come to mind are those between the Native Americans and U.S. Army, sheep wars between cattlemen and sheepherders, and range wars between cattlemen and homesteaders. Until I started my research for my latest book, Ellie, I had never heard of another war that raged in Wyoming Territory, starting in the early 1860s. It became known as the “Bone Wars,” and involve Indians, F. V. Hayden, John Wesley Powell, Yale University's Peabody Museum, the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, and the Smithsonian. The Bone Wars were not over preserving prime buffalo hunting grounds or grazing rights for cattle. It had to do with acquiring fossils, particularly those of the big dinosaurs.

Geology of the Bone Wars

To understand how all this came about, it is important to realize that, influenced by the five ice ages during the earth’s history, there were times large portions of North America were covered by large seas. I already wrote one blog post about fossil-hunting in western and central Kansas, which took place in the post-Civil War years. To read the blog post, please CLICK HERE.

During these eras, or epochs, different animals species lived and died, with the geology being influenced by climate and plant growth. With these inland seas, it has been determined the climate was warmer and much more humid. The fossils of the different eras appear in the various layers of rock and soil types that make up the geology of the Great Basin, which includes Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Montana. These are areas known for dinosaur fossil finds.

The picture I used for my header shows the multicolored beds of the Morrison Formation at Como Bluff, Wyoming. Como Bluff is a long ridge extending east-west, located between the towns of Rock River and Medicine Bow, Wyoming. Many historical dinosaur sites are located along the flanks of the bluff. At the base of this bluff is a reddish layer from the Sundance Formation.

There are three geological formations containing fossil remains from the Late Jurassic of the Mesozoic, which are exposed.

Geology of Devil's Tower-Courtesy onf

One is the Sundance Formation, which underlies the western North American Morrison Formation. In other words, the Sundance Formation is beneath the Morrison Formation. It is the most fertile source of dinosaur fossils in the Americas.

Himes Member of the Cloverly Formation near Shell, Wyoming

A second is the Cloverly Formation, from the Early and Late Cretaceous present in parts of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah. It was named for a post office on the eastern side of the Bighorn Basin in Wyoming. Shell, Wyoming is a well-known site that is part of this formation.

The third is the North American Morrison Formation, or Morrison Uplift. This is the formation to which Como Bluff (also known as Como Ridge) belongs. Como Bluff is a long ridge extending east-west, located between the towns of Rock River and Medicine Bow, Wyoming.

New Jersey Route 23 anticline, note man for scale

The ridge on Como Bluff is an anticline, formed as a result of compressed geological folding. 


In the case of Como Bluff, the anticline lifted in such a manner as to expose the layers that had formed over eras. That brought fossils close to the surface.

Nineteenth century paleontologists discovered many well-preserved specimens of dinosaurs, as well as mammals, turtles, crocodilians, and fish from the Morrison Formation. Because of this, Como Bluff is considered to be one of the major sites for the early discovery of dinosaur remains. Significant discoveries were made in twenty-two different areas scattered along the entire length of the ridge. 

Among the species discovered is the only known specimen of Coelurus, known from most of the skeleton of a single individual, including numerous vertebrae, partial pelvic and shoulder girdles, and much of the arms and legs, stored at the Peabody Museum of Natural History.

The Major Players of the Bones Wars 

If you think the various paleontologists would seek to uncover these fossils in a spirit of cooperation in order to expand the world’s knowledge of these creatures from the distant past, you would be wrong.

Edward Drinker Cope

In the 1860's paleontologists rarely collected their own specimens. It was common for collectors in the field to send fossils to a paleontologist for classification. Dr. Hayden's fossils were classified by Edward Drinker Cope (1840-1897). Cope had been for a time a student of Joseph Leidy.

Cope was associated with the Philadelphia Academy and relied on his own personal fortune. Following an expedition to Kansas, in which both participated, Cope assembled a skeleton of an Elasmosaurus, a marine sauropod, and published a paper concerning his discovery. 

Othniel Charles Marsh


Another well-known paleontologist of the day was Yale Professor, Othniel Charles Marsh. Marsh established himself as a professor at Yale without teaching duties as a result of a generous endowment by his uncle, George Peabody.

Originally, Cope and Marsh were friends, having met at the University of Berlin and having a common interest in the study of fossils. 

Unfortunately, Cope, in his haste to announce to the world his new discovery, placed the head on the wrong end; that is, the head was placed on the tail. When the error was discovered, Cope immediately began buying back at his own expense all of the papers with the erroneous illustration. Marsh, however, not missing an opportunity to enhance his own reputation, made sure the whole world knew of his former friend's error and took delight in exposing Cope.

Dealing with the Native Americans

Marsh and Red Cloud
On the expedition, Marsh crossed Lakota lands without permission in violation of the 1868 Treaty of Ft. Laramie. Nevertheless, Marsh seemed unconcerned about the Indians. The Expedition was saved from being attacked because Marsh had personally befriended Red Cloud by promising to intercede with the Great Father on behalf of the Indians. Marsh kept his word. In 1883, Red Cloud visited New Haven and called upon Professor Marsh. Red Cloud observed:

"I remember the wise chief. He came here and I asked him to tell the Great Father something. He promised to do so, and I thought he would do like all white men, and forget me when he went away. But he did not. He told the Great Father everything, just as he promised he would, and I think he is the best white man I ever saw."

Cope had a different way of dealing with the Indians. When visiting Indian camps, he would amuse them by taking out his false teeth. The Indians were fascinated by an individual who could remove and then replace his teeth. Cope was the more affable of the two.

The Bone Wars

Joseph Leidy

In 1872, Leidy visited Fort Bridger and was taken into the Washakie Basin, which he described as "an utter desert, a vast succession of treeless plains and buttes, with scarcely any vegetation and no signs of animal life."

At the same time, Marsh began a series of expeditions into the west to gather fossils. From that point forward, the competition between Marsh and Cope was on. As one writer put it, “Each had egos larger than the Uintatherium robustum discovered by Leidy.”


The Uintatherium robustum, named after the Uinta Mountains, was a eocene mammel looking much like a cross between a hippopotamus and an elephant. Cope, in fact, thought it to be related to the elephant and, thus, in a drawing put elephant ears on the animal. Both Cope and Marsh had more Uintatherium fragments than Leidy and, thus, both attacked Leidy and each other. Leidy, caught in the middle between the two, withdrew from further exploration in the West.

From that point forward, the fight between Cope and Marsh was on. The animosity impacted the U.S. Geological Survey. Each backed different candidates for Director. Cope backed Dr. Hayden. Marsh backing John Wesley Powell.

1870 Yale Expedition

The Bone Wars between these two men escalated in Wyoming Territory. Both Cope and Marsh conducted expeditions to the Territory. Marsh used the military to provide protection against the Indians. He also used his influence interfered with Cope's ability to obtain accommodations or assistants at Fort Bridger. Cope was required to sleep in the Fort's hay yard. On Marsh's first expedition in 1870, Wm. F. Cody acted as a guide for the first leg of the journey. Cody remained a life-long friend of Marsh and would visit with him every time Cody's show would play in New Haven. 

The Battle for Como Bluff

In March 1877, Union Pacific Railroad foreman, William H. Reed, as he returned the to the railroad station after hunting, discovered large fossil limbs and vertebrae at Como Bluff. Joined by Como Station agent, William E. Carlin, the two spent several weeks collecting local fossils. They did not tell anyone of their discovery for months. Reed notified Professor Marsh. 

depiction of Camarasaurus grandiserd

In July 1877, Reed contacted O.C. Marsh of the fossil find. Marsh hired both of them to acquire more fossils for him. They worked four local quarries and uncovered several  Camarasaurus specimens, including one new species, Camarasaurus grandis.

Late in 1877, Cope heard of the fossil discoveries at Como Bluff and immediately sent his own fossil hunters. In the correspondence between Reed and Marsh, much of it dealt with his efforts to keep Cope’s men away from his own quarries and search areas.

Arthur Lakes illustration Apatosaurus ajax

In Spring 1879, Reed, by himself, excavated several quarries at one to recover the fossils before Cope’s men. In May, Marsh directed Arthur Lakes to leave Morrison, Colorado (the town that gave the Morrison Uplift its name) to assist Reed at Como Bluff. The partnership resulted in many discoveries, including a small ornithopod skeleton.

Allosaurus fragilis attacks adult and juvenile Stegosaurus stenops

In August 1879, Reed’s assistant, E. G. Ashley, discovered a twelfth quarry site that yielded a new Stegasaurus species, S. ungulatis. In September 1879, they discovered a thirteenth quarry that produced form dinosaur skeletons than any other, mostly Camptsaurus and Stegosaurus.

Brontosaurus excelusus at Yale Peabody Museum

Another major discover that month would be a new species of sauropod, Brontosaurus excelusus, which would end up mounted in the Yale Peabody Museum.

In 1879, Cope showed up at the Como Bluff accusing Marsh of "trespassing" and stealing his fossils.

Marsh directed that the dinosaur pits be dynamited rather than allow fossils to fall into the "wrong hands."

On another occasion, Cope had a train load of Marsh's fossils diverted to Philadelphia.

Marsh, in turn, would attempt to delay Cope's work by salting Cope's digs with odd pieces of bone fragments unrelated to the fossils from the period in question.

The work – and the animosity between these two factions – would continue for years, although Reed, the first to find fossils at Como Bluff would quit his job in Spring of 1883.

Como Bluff: Arthur Lake expedition members E. Kennedy, Bill Reed

The Aftermath

The animosity between the Cope and Marsh finally became public in January 1890. While on federally financed expeditions, Cope had gathered numerous fossils. He spent close to $80,000.00 in his own funds on the effort. Nevertheless, in 1889 the federal government required that the fossils be turned over to the government. Cope blamed Marsh who had been successful in obtaining the upper hand with the Geological Survey. Thus, in an article in the New York Herald written by W. H. Ballou, a friend of Cope, Cope severely criticized Marsh regarding his work on the evolution of the horse by claiming Marsh had stolen the information from Russian vertebrate paleontologist Vladimir Kowalevsky, who had earlier written on the same subject. He claimed that his rival's work was "the most remarkable collection of errors and ignorance of anatomy and literature on the subject ever displayed."

Marsh did have a large collection of errors—errors made by Cope that he had documented over the years. The week following the New York Herald article backed by Cope, Marsh responded by claiming that Cope had committed "a series of blunders, which are without parallel in the annals of science." He also indicated that, when the first two had met in Berlin, he suspected Cope's sanity.

Apataosaurine specimen AMNH remounted 1995

The end result of the Bone Wars was that each exhausted their respective fortunes. Cope had to sell part of his collections. Marsh had to mortgage his house and beg Yale for a salary, the endowment from his uncle having been spent.

Today, Cope is regarded as the more intellectual of the two, but was careless. Marsh is considered to be the better politician and was more careful in his work. Unfortunately, Marsh has been accused of taking credit for the work of his students.

My most recent release, Ellie, from the Runaway Brides of the West series, takes Ellie to Medicine Bow, Wyoming Territory, and nearby Como Bluff in search of Dr. Rand Poechet. What fun to learn about this "war" and the amazing discoveries made as the different factions fought to find fossils of these giants from the past. 

To find the book description and link for Ellie, please CLICK HERE.





Wikipedia: Como Bluff, Anticline, Cloverly Formation, Sundance Formation, Morrison Uplift, Coelurus

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Writing a Series ~ Lorraine Nelson

 Today I thought I’d talk about writing a series and how it differs from writing a single title.

Writing a series can be difficult as you're dealing with multiple characters and, in some cases, multiple locations. To ensure all the details remain consistent for every character means keeping good notes. For this, I use a spreadsheet. On it, I can list each character, their personal attributes: hair: length and color; eyes: color, glasses, contacts; build, etc. I list their parents, children, occupations, vehicles they drive, and anything else important to the stories. Even location…details about the house, outbuildings, nearest town…all these things require constantly checking back through your manuscript if you don't keep detailed notes as you go.

In writing the Thunder Creek Ranch series, I've referred, and added to, my spreadsheet many, many times. Having to search through several 200+ page manuscripts for details is not fun and takes away from the creativity…time better spent writing. When the muse is working and the words flowing onto the page, the last thing you want to do is break that connection.

Even when writing a single title, I use my trusty spreadsheet to keep the details straight. I usually have two or three manuscripts on the go at all times, and it would be foolhardy to trust my memory. Even when I'm working exclusively on one book, I use that spreadsheet.

When reading a story someone else has written, inconsistencies will pull me out of it. I'm like, "What? She had green eyes in chapter three, now they're violet? What gives?" I don't want that happening to my readers, so I take extra care to prevent these things from occurring.

What about you? What things do you run across, as a reader or writer, that irk you?

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Horses of the Old West: The Piebald


This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Serendipityblue at English Wikipedia. This applies worldwide.

G.B.S., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

 I love horses. I can’t imagine anyone who reads/writes Westerns that doesn’t. In my new release, Luke Geller is given a piebald to ride. A horse that both infuriates and charms him. So, in honor of ‘Ornery’ this post is about piebalds.

First, what is a piebald? A piebald isn’t a breed but a color pattern.  A white horse with black splotches or a black horse with white splotches. In the states they are often referred to as pintos. Pintos can have any color pattern. Horses with white splotches on a coat other than black, such as brown or chestnut, are called skewbalds. In America, piebalds are considered part of the American Paint Horse family.

This beautiful horse got its name from magpies—black and white birds—and the term bald, referring to the white splotches. 


Piebalds have one of three specific coat colors: tovero, overo or tobiano.

The overo pattern does not have white splotches on the back of the horse. The legs can be dark and usually at least one leg has no white on it at all.

The tobiano coat has large white spots found on the body and or the legs.

The tovero has a mix of the two patterns and is mainly white. They also normally have dark mouths and blue eyes or at least one blue eye. These piebalds can have spots at the base of their tail.

No matter what color pattern, these horses are all keepers in my book.

Got a particular breed of horse you’d like discussed on the next post? Just leave me a comment.

Thanks so much for stopping by.




He’s a history professor and part-time archologist. She’s a rancher from the 1800s.

#Timetravel #Western #Romance #Paranormal




Guest Author ~ Maggie Carpenter


Hi All: I'm excited to share with you my latest release, The Gunslinger's Daughter!  

She can outshoot, outride, and out-hustle any man.

But can she resist the arms of a handsome, muscled cowboy?

On the run from ruthless outlaws, Clementine Cassidy gallops into the town of Fairstone, only to find Ted Lambert runs the livery. He’d been her unwanted self-proclaimed protector growing up. But desperate for her beloved mare to eat and rest, Clementine must accept his help.

She soon learns Fairstone is under the tyrannical rule of two diabolical brothers. In spite of Ted’s warnings to steer clear, Clementine cooks up a devious plan.

Though her reckless scheme works, Ted is furious makes his displeasure known. But his hot-handed correction ignites a crackling chemistry between them, and when he sweeps her into his arms, she surrenders to his fervent passion.

The villainous pair have partners in crime, and there’s a secret behind the takeover of the town. Now they must seize back control and mete out revenge.

With the outlaws already hot on her trail, and infamous desperados ready to retaliate, the battle has only just begun. 

Can Ted rein in the willful, free-spirited young woman he loves, or will Clementine’s cunning beat the black-hearted bandits?

Scroll up, click the link, and escape into excitement, romance and suspense today..

(Note: This book was originally published under the title, Claiming Clementine, and has been rewritten in its entirety.)