Paleontology and the discovery of fossils fascinate many people. They are little unearthed puzzle pieces to the past that help everyone understand the way of life before us. 

In the early 19th century to the 20th century there lived a family with the same love of fossils who happened up a ranch in Harrison, Nebraska. They named it the Agate Springs Ranch. 

Ready to learn more? Let’s dig in. 

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument History 

It all started when the Graham’s – Mary Eliza Graham and E.B Graham- moved with their two daughters from Three Rivers, MI to Cheyenne, WY, for E.B’s health reasons.

Eventually, the family discovered a ranch they would later turn into their home. They named it the Agate Springs Ranch because of the moss agate that grew around the land and the nearby river on the property.

Years later, the youngest Graham daughter, Kate, met and married a rancher and adventurer named James Cook. Together, she and Cook took over the family ranch and raised two boys. One of their sons later went on to be involved in paleontology himself. 

One day while exploring, Kate discovered quite a bit of fossil on the land. It was a knowledge that the local native American tribes in the area were already privy to. However, her discovery prompted the couple to invite Paleontologists out to have a look. And what the professionals ended up uncovering is what’s now a world-famous 19.2 million-year-old bonebed. Because of this, the ranch was later renamed to the Agate Fossil Beds Ranch.

Fossils, Fossils, and more Fossils 

There are many animal fossils found at the Agate that belong to mammals who lived after the dinosaur age.

Many of them look similar to the animals we have today. The beardog (in between a wolf and coyote), dinohyus (a pig-like animal that isn’t related to the pig but slightly resembles it), menoceras (a smaller sized rhino), moropus (related to both the horse and the rhino), and the stenomylus (a cross between a camel and antelope.) 

The James Cook Collection

In addition to fossils, there’s also a whole other collection called the James Cook collection. 

Over the years, Cook became good friends with the local Oglala Lakota Chief, Red Cloud. During the course of their 30+ year friendship, Red Cloud gifted Cook with many stories and artifacts. James kept the items on display in his home and shared his learned knowledge with everyone who visited.

Today, they are on exhibit at the Agate national monument. Inside of the exhibit, you can learn all about the history of the Oglala Lakotas and discover old family photos of the longtime friends.