Copyright 2011 - M.Bandli - Historic Meteorites
Historical Notes: The Cosby's Creek masses were discovered in the southwestern part of Cocke County, Tennessee sometime before 1837. Two masses were found in close proximity on a hill near the creek.
For some time the details of the masses were kept secret because the finders believed that they were valuable silver ore. After their discovery, some of the inhabitants tried to break the largest mass into pieces with sledge hammers but failed. They then roasted the it in a “log-heap” where it became brittle and broke it in to fragments using cold chisels and spikes. The fragments were subsequently transported some 30-40 miles by a mountain wagon to two separate forges where they were wrought into “gun-scalps”, horse-shoes, nails, and other common items.
In a set of letters dated 1845 from Judge Jacob Peck (1779 - 1869) to Prof. Charles Upham Shepard (1804 - 1886), Peck writes:
“I have been informed, that part of it was taken to the forge of Peter Brown, in Green County, and there forged. I understand that a man by the name of McCoy, had a neat bar forged from it for making a gun- barrel, which, to use the expression of Brown's son, 'was as bright as silver.' In the conversation, young Brown informed me that he thought a piece of the iron in its natural state still remained. On searching, it was found by a little girl of the family. It weighs more than a pound, and had been preserved by the family as a nut-cracker.”
Peck also describes how the large mass appeared prior to its destruction:
“The original mass was one of rare character, and ought to have been preserved entire. Much of it was composed of large and perfect octahedral crystals.”
Though the largest mass was never officially weighed prior to its demise, it was estimated to weigh approximately one ton. The smaller mass weighed 112 lbs and was sold by a mountaineer, eventually ending up in the custody of Gerard Troost (1776-1850). In 1839 Troost recognized the material as meteoric iron and published his treatise in several scientific journals.
In the end, nearly all of what would have been an incredible one ton (~907 kg) crystalline iron was destroyed and forged. Today, between both masses, which were estimated to weigh a total of 970 kilograms, only ~90 kg is preserved.
Gordon, S.G. (1934), Meteorites in the Collections of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences Philadelphia , 35 (for 1933) , pp 223-231.
Grady, M.M. (2001), Catalogue of Meteorites , 5th edn. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Shepard, C.U. (1847), Report on Meteorites. The American Journal of Science and Arts, 4, November, pp 83-85.
Collection No. B263.1 - A 3.38 gram natural fragment measuring 16 x 12 x 9 mm.
Provenance: Gerard Troost (1776-1850); to William S. Vaux (1811-1882); by deposit to The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (ANSP); by transfer to The Karl Collection; by transfer to The Tricottet Collection.
Above: Photo excerpt from Gordon's 1933 ANSP Catalogue showing matching collection number. Below: Provenance.