Withered Family Found– Almonte Gazette– A Media Mystery



The winter of 1886-1887 resulted in the death of nearly 80% of all cattle in the Badlands. Roosevelt lost over half of his herd.”Waiting for a Chinook” by C.M. Russell

I found this interesting article in the Almonte Gazette and decided to see if it was just sensational journalism.

A Withered Family Found– February 21 1887— Almonte Gazette—The bodies of five persons—a man, woman and three children—were taken from a cave in the Badlands of Dakota by a miner and were forwarded by Col. J.H. Wood, arriving to-day. The bodies are simply dried up, are not petrified, and are in a remarkable state of preservation. Scientific men say they belong to a race which existed two thousand years ago. The withered family will  be sent to the Smithsonian institute. 1887

So I pursued the matter for about an hour and saw various recounts…

ST. PAUL, Minn., Feb. 21. 1887–Col. J.H. Wood, of this city, has received the bodies of the five persons –a man, woman, and three children–taken from a cave in the Bad Lands of Dakota by a miner. Science Volume 9 1887

Library of Virginia-Alezandria Gazette 1887

Desiccated Bodies from Dakota? Five bodies taken by a miner from a cave in the Bad Lands of Dakota and sent lo the Smithsonian Institution are simply dried up, not petrified. They are.however, in a remarkable state of preservation. Scientific men who have seen them say they belong to a race which existed 2,000 years ago. This will be a very important addition to the collection of desiccated bodies now on exhibition in the national museum.


I have been through the Badlands lots of times and believe you me– it is not a place you want to get lost in. I wondered if they really were just a lost family after reading what the weather was like in  1887 in that area.



Weather conditions throughout 1886 created a foreboding scenario. A late thaw and scorching summer meant a short growing season. Wildfires took their toll on certain areas, and by winter the cattle were underfed and ranchers had little feed to supply their livestock.

The winter of 1886-87 proved to be extraordinarily harsh. One blizzard after another quickly buried what was left of the grazing land, and cattle were found “frozen to death where they stood” in temperatures as low as -41° F. Hardier cattle survived long enough to eat the tar-paper off the houses in Medora before succumbing to the elements. Others were found dead in trees after the snow melted, having climbed massive snowdrifts to reach the edible twigs before expiring amid the branches.

Tens of thousands of cattle died in the Badlands in the winter of 1886-1887, around 80% of the total population. In the spring, the Little Missouri swelled onto its floodplain, surging with melt water and ice. The carcasses of innumerable cattle bobbed down the icy river.

So were they really from a race that existed from 2000 years ago? After another hour of research not another word was dedicated to print about this find in the Badlands. One has to wonder if they were simply a travelling family frozen in the snow.We will never know.

Other Mysteries

Benoit & Richardson Photo– a Mystery

The Mystery Ruins of Carleton Place- Photos by Adam Dowdall

For the Love of Paris Green –Another Local Murdoch Mystery?

The Mystery of the Old Grandfather Clock in Beckwith – Descendants of McLachlins?

Mystery Solved of Who Killed the Red Baron — Again???

The Mystery of My Smelly Car — Seinfeldism


About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

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