It’s 1964, and a man cutting a drainage ditch through Kenosha farmer Frank Schaefer’s field hits something. Something that knocks him clean off his feet.
Turns out to be a wooly mammoth’s thighbone.
Local amateur archaeologist, Phil Sander, draws a map of the site, and Frank Shaefer gives the enormous bone – and some bits of tusk he finds near it – to the Kenosha County Museum. Fast-forward to the 1990s, when archaeologists using Sander’s map work for a year and a half to uncover more of the mammoth’s remains. Meanwhile, Schafer’s neighbor, John Hebior, mentions a bone found on his farm. Sure enough, it’s another mammoth. And when they dig it up, it’s not just any old mammoth. It’s the largest woolly mammoth ever excavated.
Wisconsin History is Made
The Schaefer and Hebior mammoths are some of the oldest proof of human habitation in North America. The 14,500-year-old bones show marks of butchering, 1,000 years before humans were thought to have lived in Wisconsin. Yes, the earliest Wisconsinites had to work a little harder than today’s brat-grillers and fish-fryers for their dinner.
Visiting the Mammoths
If you’d like to size up the mammoths for yourself, take a trip to the Kenosha Public Museum (free admission), where you can see the Schaefer and a replica of the Hebior. The Milwaukee Public Museum also keeps a replica of the Hebior on display in their lobby area, and once you’re there, it’s worth the $10-14 admission to explore the MPM’s three floors of history and science exhibits.
Learn more about the Wisconsin’s amazing history, and the people who made it, in our museums. We’ve put together a list of them for you, right here.