Witnessed Fall: Vernon County, Wisconsin, USA

An March 1865 Witnessed Fall: Vernon County, Wisconsin, USA

Foreshadowed the Death of a President

Vernon County, Wisconsin

Posing with an faux antique scale cube, Vernon County rests patiently as it has in collections for almost 150 years. It is written that its fall attracted little attention, but today meteorite collectors worldwide covet such historic witnessed falls of small TKWs.

For the fledgling United States, the year 1865 is the dividing line between the Civil War and Reconstruction, and during that year only a single meteorite was witnessed to fall within the young borders of the US. The meteorite fell just 20 days before the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Coincidence or fate?

Does a foreshadowing seem a stretch? Well, some Chinese think that Communist Party Chairman Deng Xiao Peng’s death on February 19th was foreshadowed by the February 15 fall of the Juancheng meteorites. Then why not Vernon County and Abraham Lincoln?


Vernon County, Wisconsin

Vernon County is classified as a veined H6 chondrite. About 1500 grams of Vernon County was recovered in the form of two stones; one weighing 800g and the other 700g. 

Sadly the 800g stone was lost within a few years of its fall.

The distribution of Vernon County according to the Catalogue of Meteorites is as follows:

123g in the Harvard Collection

65g in the Paris Museum of Natural History

37g in Natural History Museum in London

28g in the Vienna Museum

22g in the Field Museum in Chicago

18g in University Geological Museum in Copenhagen

8g in the MtN in Berlin

7g in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

2g in the collection of the Max Planck Institute

2g in the American Museum of Natural History in New York

1.5g in the Collection of the University of New Mexico

My specimen fits nicely between Berlin and Copenhagen.


The following excerpt is from the 1884 book Original Researches in Mineralogy and Chemistry by John Lawrence Smith and Joseph Benson Marvin.

Vernon County, WisconsinVernon County, Wisconsin


Vernon County, Wisconsin

This feast for the eyes has an extra helping of crust along its two original edges. Smith and Marvin described Vernon County as being covered with “a thick, black, dull crust.” They get no argument from me.

Vernon County, Wisconsin

Another small patch of crust spilled over onto this face contrasting colorfully with the iron oxide that H6 specimens are famous for.

Vernon County, Wisconsin

The lone cut face on my specimen show classic H6 texture. Much metal is visible, and although expressed as a rusty orange on broken faces, shows a shiny steely white when sliced.

While the connection to President Lincoln is a stretch, it does place the fall of Vernon County into a familiar time frame in American history. Lucky for the Vernon County meteorite that just 17 years earlier Wisconsin became a state. Otherwise this orphaned treasure might have joined its long lost sibling.

Until next timeā€¦


The Accretion Desk welcomes all comments and feedback. accretiondesk@gmail.com


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About the Author

Martin Horejsi
Dr. Martin Horejsi is a Professor of Instructional Technology and Science Education at The University of Montana. A long-time meteorite collector and writer, before publishing his column The Accretion Desk in The Meteorite Times, he contributed often and wrote the column From The Strewnfields in Meteorite Magazine. Horejsi is currently a monthly columnist in The Science Teacher, a journal by the National Science Teachers Association. Horejsi specializes in the collection and study of historic witnessed fall meteorites with the older, smaller, and rarer the better. Although his meteorite collection once numbered over a thousand pieces with near that many different locations, several large trades and sales have streamlined the collection to about 250 locations with all but 10 being important witnessed falls. Many of the significant specimens in Horejsi's collection are historic witnessed falls that once occupied prominence in the meteorite collections of Robert A. Haag, James Schwade, and Michael Farmer. Other important specimens were acquired through institutional trades including those from The Smithsonian Institution, Arizona State University, and other universities.
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