Filed Under The Environment

Daniel Thomas and Orem's Mammoth

While digging to connect his home to city water, Orem resident Daniel Thomas made a fascinating discovery. First finding a “large ancient tooth” himself, Thomas later invited excavators from the University of Utah to his property. They unearthed a complete Columbian mammoth skull and skeleton. Today, this mammoth discovery continues to shape Orem city’s identity.

Utah is home to rich fossil deposits that describe the greater natural history of the region. Lake Bonneville and its shoreline were home to a wide variety of plant and animal species, many now extinct. Columbian mammoths were a large species of mammoth and are cousins with the modern-day African elephant. These beasts roamed throughout Utah along the ever-changing Bonneville shoreline until their extinction thousands of years ago.

Daniel Thomas, an Orem resident who lived in what is now known as the Cherry Hill neighborhood, began digging an irrigation trench in his yard in 1937. Thomas’s goal was to connect his home to the city’s new municipal water supply system. What he was not expecting to find, however, was a remnant of a Columbian mammoth. Thomas himself found “a large ancient tooth,” and soon after invited excavators from the University of Utah. They recovered a full skull and skeleton, and the remains are currently owned by the University of Utah and housed in the Utah Museum of Natural History collection. A city marker is displayed at the original excavation site, in front of The Paper Store and More, where the Thomas home used to be.

Today, mammoths and this particular mammoth find are still celebrated in Orem city. The Orem City “All Together Playground,” which opened in 2016, features a mammoth skeleton painted onto one of its prominent play structures. More recently, in the fall of 2021, Orem city unveiled their mascot, Mero the Mammoth. Mero, whose name is Orem spelled backwards, is described as “Orem’s first resident,” hallmarking the unique natural history of the area. Mero makes appearances at city and community events. He also appears on a variety of city marketing, signage, and web pages. The use of a mammoth as Orem’s mascot today (named Mero) shows the city’s desire to remember their home’s natural history.

Images

Cast of the Huntington Mammoth
Cast of the Huntington Mammoth Source:

User: Daderot. “Cast of the "Huntington mammoth" Columbian mammoth, Utah Museum of Natural History, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.” November 16, 2009. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons November 21, 2009. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d4/Utah_Museum_of_Natural_History_-_IMG_1784.JPG/800px-Utah_Museum_of_Natural_History_-_IMG_1784.JPG 

Columbian Mammoth
Columbian Mammoth Source:

Charles R. Knight. “Columbian Mammoth.” 1909. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons February 26, 2017. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/ec/Columbian_mammoth_TFA.jpg/800px-Columbian_mammoth_TFA.jpg 

Marker
Marker Source: “Marker” Photo Credit: Edward Patterson April 12, 2023
Mero Sign
Mero Sign Source: “Mero Sign” Photo Credit: Edward Patterson April 14, 2023

Location

Metadata

Edward Patterson, Brigham Young University, “Daniel Thomas and Orem's Mammoth,” Intermountain Histories, accessed July 24, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/774.