The History of Dinosaur Park
Dinosaur Park is located on what was once part of a 1600s land grant to Richard Snowden. From the 1650s through the mid 1800s, the Snowden Family owned several iron furnaces, hundreds of acres of land, and a large force of enslaved African Americans, many of whom were ironworkers. In the mid 1800s, the Snowden family sold the Muirkirk iron furnace to Andrew and Elias Ellicott. It was later purchased by William E. Coffin who renamed the complex the Muirkirk Ironworks.
The African Americans at the Ironworks mined iron ore in open pit mines where they dug large chunks of iron ore out of the dense clays of the Muirkirk Deposit. The ore was then taken to the Muirkirk Ironworks, which was located near present day US Route 1 and Muirkirk Road. It was during the mining process that bone and plant fossils were uncovered at the Deposit, the most famous being the bones of Astrodon johnstoni.
The Ironworks shut down in the early 1920s. Eventually the mines were used to supply clay for making bricks and pigments for paint. The brickyard operated until 2005 when the land was sold to a development company, Jackson-Shaw.
The African American Workers of the Muirkirk Ironworks
While farming was the major source of employment for African Americans in the Muirkirk area in the late 1800s, the iron industry was also an important source jobs. African Americans worked the farms in warm weather and mined ore during the winter.
An African American ironworker named Augustus Ross purchased land near the ironworks and constructed a log home in the late 1880s. Other African American ironworkers followed and soon the community of Rossville was formed. There, and in other nearby locations, the African American ironworkers of Muirkirk build a strong and vibrant community with churches, schools, and social clubs that is still evident today.