Agate Fossil Beds National Monuments
Backstory and Context
The Agate Fossil Beds are located in Harrison, Nebraska. The two mountainous structures stand tall along the Nebraska plains. The two hilltops store something valuable to our nations history. The Agate Fossil beds contain fossils that date back to twenty million years ago. The time when these animals lived was called the Miocene Era. The animals that once roamed the area were the Dinohyus, a giant pig-like animal, a Menoceras a short rhinoceros and many more fossils remain.
The man that discovered this area was a man named, James Cook. He was a rancher in the west and drove cattle. Cook met some interesting people along his cattle drives. He met Professor O.C. Marsh a dry paleontologist and Native American, Red Cloud. They would become life long friends. Cooks first stumbled across the Agate Fossils while riding with his sweetheart. Cook bought the property and renamed the area Agate Springs Ranch. The couple became married and had two sons, Harold and John Cook.
Harold Cook the Cook’s first son, took an interest in paleontology. Harold became a well-educated man going to several universities around the United States. In 1892 Harold helped Erwin H. Barbour remove a large part of the Agate Beds. This helped his career as a paleontologist. Unfortunately, Harold had to quit school to help his family keep the family ranch. Later on in his life Harold was appointed to the Nebraska State Park Board and served many years.
In the 1990’s the National Park Service constructed a visitor center for tourists while visiting the National Monument. The center contains hundreds of Native American artifacts. The Cook family had collected them from his friend Red Cloud and wanted them to stay on the property. The center has a great picture timeline to understand the full history of the discovery of the Agate Fossil Beds. If one wants to see fossils and ancient Native American artifacts, check out Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.