Dinosaurs on the move

House built of fossils and billed as "oldest in the world" set to move to Medicine Bow

 

Mike Armstrong

The Fossil Cabin Museum is finding a new home at the Medicine Bow Museum once it gets the funds to move.

Seven miles outside of Medicine Bow, towards Laramie on US 30, is a pull-off with two Wyoming informational visitor signs and a couple of buildings. One of the informational signs is about the dinosaur graveyard, referring to Como Bluff, "one of the greatest and well known fossil beds of dinosaur remains in the world."

The sign states that at Como Bluffs, 15 miles north, paleontologists found many fossil specimens in near perfect condition. During the late 1870s and 1880s, paleontology teams from Yale University and the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences discovered a multitude of dinosaur and other prehistoric animal remains here. Some dinosaurs found at this site were: Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodocus and Apatosaurus, known then as a Brontosaurus.

Dinosaurs from Como Bluff are on display at the Peabody Museum at Yale, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

There was such strong competition, according to the sign, "Dinosaur Wars" broke out amongst these academic institutions to retrieve bones from the dinosaur graveyard. Hundreds of bones were unearthed and shipped from this site to different locations around the world.


In 1897 a paleontologist named Walter W. Granger discovered a cabin on a hillside constructed of dinosaur bones. He realized the bones came from a nearby hill that was scattered with fossils. He named it "Bone Cabin Quarry."

That quarry later became known as the Dinosaur Graveyard.

Although Como Bluffs is on private property and no trespassing is allowed, there is another attraction where the Dinosaur Graveyard sign is located. One of the two buildings at the pullover is made of dinosaur bones and aptly named the "Fossil Cabin Museum".

The builders of the Fossil Cabin Museum started out as homesteaders in 1908.

Thomas and Grace Boylan, with their son Edward, not only did ranching but had a gas station on what was the Lincoln Highway. Around 1915, T. Boylan began collecting dinosaur bones from nearby Como Bluff intending to complete a dinosaur skeleton to attract commuters to his gas station. T. Boylan came to realize he did not have enough bones for a complete skeleton.

He decided to build a house with his bounty of fossils using 5,796 mortared together dinosaur bones.

The Boylans lived in the stone house next to the Fossil Museum Cabin and also operated a museum in their house until construction of the museum was finished. T. Boylan said that he designed it to be around the size of the huge dinosaur named the Diplodocus.

T. Boylan advertised his creation on postcards that he sold at the museum as, "the building that used to walk," and "creation museum." He did so well at branding the Fossil Cabin Museum, it was labeled "Oldest Cabin in the World" in 1938 by Robert Ripley and a sign can still be seen that reads, "Believe It Or Not."

T. Boylan ran the gas station and fossil museum until he died in 1947. After his death, G. Boylan continued operating them until the late 1960s.

Interstate 80 was completed in 1970 and traffic decreased along US 30 to the point the gas pumps were removed and the museum lost business. G. Boylan struggled to keep the tourist attraction open, finally selling the museum and surrounding buildings in 1974 to the Fultz family.

"My family bought the dinosaur museum in 1974," Roger Nash, the executor of the property said. "My parents had the museum for many years and after their health declined my sister and her husband, Jody and Paul Fultz, took over running the museum."

Nash can remember being a teenager and helping run the museum with his family, but with the fall off of traffic running the museum was a labor of love for the family rather than being profitable.

"After Paul passed away Jody ran the museum as she was able to," Nash said. 'Then Jody passed away in 2008."

Nash said the family was not sure what to do with the properties.

"The family was trying to determine what to do with the properties that were left behind and they contacted the University of Wyoming about moving the museum to Laramie and they were not responsive," Nash said. "So the museum sat until 2016, when people started breaking into it and stealing the items from the museum and damaging the building."

Lorrie Wright, Nash's partner, said that the Fossil Cabin Museum has been broken into more the past year than all the eight years combined prior.

During the time the museum has been closed rumors have been going around that the property was being sold to buyers out of state. Wikipedia has it potentially going to a buyer in North Carolina.

That was never a consideration said Wright and Nash. The family has been insistent that the building stay in Wyoming since the day the property went up for sale.

"The family is adamant that the building stay in Wyoming and that it be a part of Wyoming because it is Wyoming," Nash said.

The problem of the building getting damaged by vandalism the past year, has created a situation that if the building doesn't find a new home it could be permanently unsalvageable. This was heartbreaking to the family, but a resident in Medicine Bow gave them an idea.

"After talking to Scotty (Vernon Scott) at The Virginia Hotel it was decided that we would try to move the building to Medicine Bow," Nash said.

The location desired is next to the Medicine Bow Museum.

To make this all possible Nash has obtained a mover's estimate of moving the building the seven to eight miles. There are considerations in moving the "oldest cabin in the world." The cabin weighs 102,166 pounds (53 tons).

To move the Fossil Cabin Museum, the cost will run around $50,000, so this is the goal of those who want the cabin to find a new home.

"We are currently in fundraising mode so that we can move the museum to its new location where it can be better protected and the public can enjoy the history and beauty of this museum," Nash said.

Fundraising is being aggressive as possible because it is hoped the move will happen in August while the weather is still good.

Wright said there has been contributions from several energy companies and a Saratoga restaurant has offered to do a fundraiser.

The excitement to have the building safe and in Wyoming cannot be understated by many in Carbon County.

"It is a one of kind treasure," Sharon Biamon, Medicine Bow Museum Director said.

The cabin was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

"We are excited to donate the museum where it can be shared with the world and it could be kept safe," Nash said.

Any person interested in contributing to the fundraising effort should send their donations to:

Medicine Bow Museum

PO Box 187

Medicine Bow, WY 82329

These gifts should indicate the donations are for the fossil cabin.

Mike Armstrong

On US 30 seven miles outside Medicine Bow stands the Fossil Cabin Museum and signs on the "Dinosaur Graveyard".

 

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