Elephant Teeth

For eighty years Northwestern University kept a natural history museum that is now largely forgotten. According to the university archivist, Patrick Quinn, before the rise of the Field Museum in the 1920s it was recognized as the finest collection west of the Atlantic states. Some of the specimens listed in the curator's annual reports were of local origin. In 1895 Charles A. Stewart donated part of a mammoth molar found in a gravel pit at the head of Central Street, north Evanston. Probably Doetsch's pit, now Lovelace Park and previously a landfill, but for many years a sand and gravel quarry on Gross Point Road.

A similar donation was recorded in 1893 from Albert L. Stebbins and described as part of the molar tooth of an elephant found near Niles Center, now Skokie. In 1884 William A. Phillips deposited a collection of arrow point fragments from a chipping station on the Evanston lake shore along with a mounted Indian skeleton from the same place. Dr. Phillips had a keen interest in Indian artifacts and used a series of fragments to show the point maker's art in a progression of steps from raw material to finished piece.

The edge of Lake Michigan freely provides a basic raw material of the stone age known as chert. Similar to flint, it is hard, sharp, brittle, and easily shaped. When struck with metal it throws sparks. Successive glaciers of the ice age gouged it out of the lake bottom and left it in heaps along the shore. Lake chert shows the bounty of nature for instead of digging it from the ground with great labor it could be just picked up on the beach. The workshops are called chipping stations because they are marked by the flakes and chips and broken pieces littered about.

In addition to the chipping station in south Evanston previously described by Grover, there was one south of Calvary Cemetery in Rogers Park and another on the lake bluff of Northwestern University just north of the ravine known in local histories as Hazzard's Glen and later as the Rubicon. The ravine is since filled in and the workshop site was destroyed when Dearborn Observatory was built there in 1888. The twelve foot lake bluffs can be still be seen well away from the water after the campus expanded east with the landfill in the 1960s.


Evanston Antiquity by John Epler