Tucked away in the Ozarks, one might be surprised to hear that long ago, dinosaurs roamed the area that is now Marble Hill. Because the region is on a major fault line, there have been shifting layers of the earth that have exposed secrets buried deep. In 1942, a geologist named Dan Stewart was lucky enough to stumble upon the discovery of Missouri’s first found dinosaur fossils.
The legend surrounding the story claims that Stewart was researching types of clay in the Southeast Missouri region near Glen Allen, which is right outside of Marble Hill. While there, he ran into a boy who went by “Ole Chronister.” When Stewart revealed his work, Chronister asked Stewart to look at some strange rocks his family had found on their property when trying to dig a well. Upon careful examination, Stewart realized these weren’t ordinary rocks — they were bones.
After sending the bones off to the Smithsonian, they were confirmed as authentic dinosaur bones. They were originally misidentified as belonging to a sauropod, but in the 1980s, they were reidentified as hadrosaur bones. This kind of omnivorous dinosaur is more commonly known as a duck-billed dinosaur. They also realized this particular kind of hadrosaur was an unknown species, and they decided to name it the Parrosaurus missouriensis. Missouri declared the species the official state dinosaur in 2004. In 2021, the Smithsonian announced that paleontologists who continued to excavate the site had found four adult missouriensis duck-bills, which will contribute to ongoing research about dinosaurs in Missouri.
The bones and fossils were divided up for display. Some went to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, while others were given to local museums around the area. The most were held at the Bollinger County Museum of Natural History in Marble Hill, which unfortunately closed in 2022. However, one can still see the bones and models on display at the Bollinger County Library, also in Marble Hill, and a few others a bit further at the Discovery Playhouse in Cape Girardeau and the Ste. Genevieve Museum Learning Center. Additionally, one of the town’s favorite life-size dinosaur models, named Elvis, is on permanent display along Highway 34 near the entrance to Marble Hill.