About the Williamette Meteorite in Oregon

Oregon man found meteorite and attempted to acquire posession of it but courts decided it belonged to the owner of the land where the rock was found

Though smaller and less imposing by its mass than the greatest of the Cape York meteorites, that called "Willamette" from having been found two miles northwest of the town of that name in Clackamas County, Oregon, ranks as the fourth, or possibly the third largest iron meteorite in the world, and is the largest discovered within the territory of the United States; remarkable peculiarities of form make it an especially interesting object. It was a chance find, made in 1902 by two prospectors in their search for gold or silver. Noting what appeared to be a very slight rock projection they tapped this with their hammers and the sound of the blow revealed the presence of metal; digging down here and there, they ascertained the existence of a considerable mass of iron. Although at first no one supposed that it was a meteorite, before long this fact became known, and the finder, by very primitive methods and by dint of tireless efforts, succeeded in transporting the iron to his own land. His courageous attempt to acquire possession of it was not, however, crowned with success, as the courts decided that the company owning the land whereon it had been found possessed the right to reclaim it from the finder.

When weighed on the railroad scales in Portland, Oregon, the net weight of this siderite was shown to be 31,107 pounds. The most striking peculiarity is the abundance of pittings and hollows and their unusual size. That these resulted in part from the effects of the enormous heat generated by the swift flight of this weighty mass through the earth's atmosphere, is generally admitted; but some of the deepest pits are believed to owe their origin to the decomposition of spheroidal nodules of troilite, and the cylindrical holes to the decomposition of rod-like masses of the same substance. Willamette, which was donated to the American Museum of Natural History, by Mrs. William E. Dodge, is 10 feet long, 6 feet 6 inches high, and has a thickness of 4 feet 3 inches. Chemical analyses have been made by Mr. J. M. Davison of the University of Rochester and by J. E. Whitfield of Philadelphia. Their respective determinations are here given:

Davison Whitfield

Iron 91.65 91.46

Nickel 7.88 8.30

Cobalt .21 ?

Phosphorus .09

99.83 99.76

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