April 3, 2011

Knox Rocks

What do Henry Knox and Late Triassic theropods (dinosaurs) have in common? Well, Henry was a big guy, but the truth is they traveled some of the same territory in Massachusetts—the dino’s probably left more evidence.

March’s installment of the Sheffield Historical Society’s ongoing series of talks featured a unique perspective of the exploits of Henry Knox through the Berkshires. Geologist and Sheffield native, Dr. Bruce F. Rueger of Colby College presented Gen. Knox's March though the Berkshires.

On a windy Friday evening about 45 people attended the talk held at Dewey Hall in Sheffield, MA.

After offering a disclaimer that he was “a geologist, not a historian” Dr. Rueger began with some background on Knox. He followed by explaining how the Taconic and Berkshire hills were formed over a succession of tectonic collisions spanning about 150 million years. The presentation traced Knox’s route east from Kinderhook, NY to Westfield, MA describing the geological forces that shaped the terrain and differing rock formations along the way. At one point Dr. Rueger helped the audience visualize the subsequent tectonic plate separation that helped form the Housatonic and Connecticut River valleys by comparing the process to “pulling apart a Snickers bar . . . the chocolate on the top is like the crust.”

Of the varying rock formations, the most interesting to me is the New Haven arkose which was formed by sedimentation between 180 and 200 million years ago. During this period “as the rocks pulled apart . . . volcanoes happened in central Massachusetts.” This is the paleo-river environment that a number of dinosaur species left their marks in. One place to see dino footprints is the Trustees of Reservations site in Holyoke that I have previously visited and, as Dr. Rueger said in “a plug for Amherst College” another is their new Beneski Museum of Natural History “has one of the most spectacular exhibits of dinosaur footprints.” This spot is on my list.

A brief question and answer session followed Dr. Rueger’s summation of the undulating terrain of Western Massachusetts. It seemed that all had forgotten his earlier disclaimer, as I heard not a single question pertaining to geology. I too, unsuccessfully struggled to come up with a question more suited to Dr. Rueger’s field. Dr. Rueger did his best to field the audience’s historical questions as some reflexively shook their heads in disagreement. Following refreshments were served and the crowd dispersed.

The next presentation of the Sheffield Historical Society is Springing to the Call: A Visit With a Civil War Soldier. On Friday evening Dennis Picard presents daily life for a 6th Massachusetts Volunteer soldier.

1 comment:

  1. Hello, Mr. McCormack. I am following your exploits, regarding General Henry Knox, with great interest. I have been an admirer of good old, "Harry" for over 25 years ever since I read the the best bio-book about him by North Callahan. I call it the "Bible" of Knox. I am also a part time actor who plays General Knox for the American Historical Theater, (please check my profile on their website) and I am portraying Secretary of War Knox at Independence Hall, for Historic Philadelphia Inc. Keep up the great work of spreading the word about this amazing man and true unsung hero of the Revolution and early America. Bob Heffner (phillybob1776@yahoo.com)