Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Dr. John H. Lemon - New Albany Indiana Paleontologist


The 1910 U.S. Census lists John Herschel Lemon was born in September 1844 and his obituary lists at a farm near Harrodsburg, Indiana. His family moved to Bloomington, Indiana in 1856 when he was 12, where at age 13 he and his brothers became students at Indiana University (IU). The American Civil War interrupted his studies and in May 1862 he became a private in the 54th Indiana Infantry, Company A and later 82nd Indiana Infantry, Company F. They guarded 4000+ Confederate prisoners of war (POWs) at Camp Morton (Indianapolis) and later deployed to western Kentucky.

The Owen Connection

His interest in paleontology may have been inspired by geologist Richard D. Owen (1810-1890) who was boarder at his mother's house in Bloomington, Indiana. Owen was professor on Natural Science at IU for 15 years and served as colonel in the Union Army in the 15th and later 60th Indiana Infantry Regiment and was in charge of the POWs at Camp Morton. His permanent residence was in New Harmony, Indiana and where he is buried when he died.

After the war, John Lemon continued his studies at IU and later studied at University of Michigan. Once he became a doctor, he moved to New Albany in 1867 and practiced medicine till the 1930s. He died on July 10, 1935 which at that time he was considered Indiana's longest serving physician.

The Smithsonian Connection

In 1887, Dr. Lemon sent the Smithsonian some charophyte fossils found at the Falls of the Ohio. F. H. Knowlton (1860-1926) named the fossil after him in 1889 calling it Calcisphaera lemoni in a paper called Description of a problematic organism from the Devonian at the Falls of the Ohio. The holotype specimens are in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History USNM P 3664.

The George Greene Connection

New Albany fossil collector and author George K. Greene named a number of fossils after Dr. Lemon in publications from 1904. Greene named the fossil horn coral Heliophyllum lemoni in which wrote "The specific name is in honor of Dr. John Lemon, of New Albany, Ind., an ardent collector and a good palaeontologist. Found in the lower Devonian (Corniferous group), at the Falls of the Ohio. Now in the collection of the author." Later in his publication, he named another fossil after Lemon, the Crania? lemoni. "The specific name in in honor of the discoverer, Dr. John Lemon, of New Albany, Ind."


The Colonel Lucien P. Beckner Connection

Beckner had two fossils of Dr. Lemon in his collection. The first was a Paraconularia newberryi (Winchell) fossil still partially embedded in a nodule.Another was labeled Pentremites pyriformis? blastoid both fossils listed as found in Indiana.



In preparing this entry about Dr. Lemon, an informative blog post entitled Dr. John Herschel Lemon Reminisces about Early Life in Bloomington by Randi Richardson on November 26, 2018 at the Monroe County History Center Research Library blog was found helpful.

George K. Greene's Contribution to Indiana Palaeontology Volume I Part I to XX published from February 1898 till September 1904.

Smithsonian National Musuem of Natural History Department of Paleobiology Collections database

Frank Hall Knowlton's 1889 paper Description of a problematic organism from the Devonian at the Falls of the Ohio