Tyson Research Center has experienced a diverse and interesting history, spanning from the last ice age to present. The area has been used by early Native American cultures, farmers, miners, railroads, timber harvesters, the U. S. military, and St. Louis County Parks prior to its present use as a biological field station and research & education center.
(12,000 B.C.-1500 A.D.) Native American Quarry: Tyson was used as a quarry site by the native Americans to gather a specific type of chert known as "Crescent Hills chert." It was prized as some of the best for making tools. It is probable that there was a Native American habitation site along the edge of the Meramec flood plain northwest of Tyson (see map).
(1890-1910) Forest Clearcutting: The entire area, as well as most of the Ozarks, was clearcut for pine and oak timber. Although the forest as we now see it is dense with trees and vegetation, prior to clearcutting it was much more open and contained fewer trees. Fire suppression after the clearcutting caused the forest to grow back very thick.
(1877-1927) Minke Hollow Quarry: A limestone quarry operated by lease in the Mincke Hollow area. The Hunkins-Willis Company established a small town occupied by the men employed by the quarry and their families. The Tyson Station of the railroad served as the town's major connection with the outside world.
Old foundations of houses and the spring box at the Mincke Spring are the only obvious traces of the community that was once in Mincke Hollow. The most southerly of the building foundations, on the west side of the road, is the former school house. Larger foundations at the north end of the hollow remain from kilns, and perhaps from a company store and other larger structures. As we have numerous ecological research projects going on in this area, it is not open to the public.
The Kimmswick limestone which was quarried is calcareous shell fragments and fossils, thus it is well-suited for making lime. The quarry operation terminated in 1927 when the 50-year lease was not renewed by the property owner.
(1941-1945) World War II: The Federal government acquired the land via eminent domain. They constructed fifty-five 30-yard-deep bunkers and ten 10-yard-deep bunkers camouflaged into hillsides, as well as various buildings, roads, and the perimeter fence. Munitions and high explosives were stored in the bunkers. At this time, the current Tyson headquarters building was a firehouse.
(1950-1951) County Park: The whole area, including west Tyson park and Lone Elk park, was a park for St. Louis County called Tyson Valley Park and was open to the public. The current headquarters building was converted to a restaurant.
(1951-1963) Korean War: Federal government reacquired the land during the Korean War, for storage of agricultural grain.
(1963-present) Washington University: Washington University obtained Tyson as surplus property from the federal government in 1963. It currently spans 1,966.5 acres. Since the acquisition of the property, many researchers have utilized its resources for ecological research and teaching.
In the early years, Washington University professors, graduate students, and Tyson staff undertook a variety of studies. These projects covered a wide range of subjects, from forests to amphibians. During this time, the Tyson Field Science Program provided environmental education to children from grades K-12.
Current operation and future directions: Tyson is being used more heavily than ever for teaching, research, and outreach. These programs involve faculty and students from Washington University, as well as from other local and national institutions.