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The Atoka Meteorite

Atoka is a small town in the wooded hills of southern Oklahoma, some 100 miles north of Fort Worth and TCU, as the crow or the meteorite flies. According to Wikipedia, it was settled by the Choctaw Indians in the 1830s and eventually named after their chief by a Baptist missionary, and besides a small skirmish between Union and Confederate soldiers just outside of town in February 1864, nothing much happened in Atoka. Until September 17, 1945 when a large meteor streaked across the night sky, and attracted the attention of a dedicated meteorite-hunter.

(Unidentified, undated newspaper clipping).

He was not the only one to notice it and Mr. Monnig promptly received a very nicely worded letter answering his question. That a young boy of 13 was able to write this letter is surprising enough but he is also able to describe very precisely the orientation and the angle of the fall. And that letter contains another interesting fact: he mentions that he saw another and even large meteor, a violet one, a few months prior. Did that meteor produce a meteorite? Did anyone ever look for it? If Mr. Mark Twain Carroll is still alive and happens to read this, I would love to give him a small fragment of the Atoka meteorite that he saw such a long time ago.

Mr. Monnig did not keep a copy of whatever response he made to Mark Carroll, but by then the meteorite had been found and this discovery was announced along with an even more historical event: the end of World War II, in the local newspaper.

And by then, Mr. Monnig was already in Oklahoma, investigating the fall and following the various leads. It had been seen by quite a few people, including a farmer in Atoka returning from a hunting trip and even by a lady in Mount Pleasant, Texas, who had attended one his lectures on astronomy. One mass had already been broken but most of the fragments were quickly found.

(Unidentified, undated newspaper clipping)

Some 37 years later Mr. Monnig still remembered very clearly that hunting trip of 1945, and was able to describe it very thoroughly in a letter to Harvey Nininger. He also had his own and rather original theory as to why so few small fragments had been found.

Mr. Sanders picking up a piece of the Atoka meteorite. Photo taken by O. Monnig.
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