Brewster boulder to get new home on Fury’s Island


BREWSTER — A large granite rock unearthed from a rural Brewster farm three years ago will get a new resting spot by early next week, weather permitting.

Since it was dug up from a farm field three miles north of Brewster in 2014, the rock has rested not far from a field approach along Nobles County 1. It will now be moved a few miles farther north — to Fury’s Island, a Nobles County park in Graham Lake Township. There, the hope is more people will be able to see it.

The boulder, measuring approximately 15 feet long, 10 feet wide and 10 feet tall, is significant — not just for its size, but its history. Years ago, former Globe Editor Lew Hudson referred to the rock as the Fourth Maiden, of the same coloring, but a bit smaller in size than the Three Maidens, the large granite boulders near the entrance to the Pipestone National Monument.

Hudson wrote that the rocks were carried to southwest Minnesota from a remote area of Canada by the last glacier, some 12,000 years ago.

For years, few knew of the rock near Brewster, except for some locals and the family who owned and farmed the land. The rock was said to have a tipi-like appearance, coming to a point about six feet above ground on a little knoll.

The Wehler family once owned the farm, opting to keep the land around the rock in pasture. In later years when the land was rented out, farmers encroached on the rock, yet kept a safe distance, not knowing just how large it was underground.

Then, three years ago, when a northwest Iowa farmer bought the land and planned to pattern tile, the fate of the rock was in question.

That’s when Tom Behrends of Brewster asked for permission to remove the rock from the site. He feared it would either be blown up like he suspects others in the region were a century ago, or buried — never to be seen again.

Behrends initially dug around the rock with his backhoe, and then tried to push it with a quad track. When neither piece of equipment was up to the task, he ended up calling in a couple of men with Caterpillars to unearth the boulder and push it roughly a quarter-mile to a spot near the field approach.

At the time the rock was removed, the plan was to relocate it to the county park, but a misunderstanding between the county, its parks system and Behrends led to a three-year delay in the move.

Behrends said a crane will be brought in Thursday or Friday to lift the boulder — estimates of its weight range from 119,400 pounds up to 125,000 pounds. It will be loaded on a truck and hauled to Fury’s Island, where it will be placed just to the left of the entrance.

“When we went camping at Graham Lakes, I thought if that rock ever needed to be moved, it would be nice to have it at the park,” Behrends said.

The old-timers in Brewster long referred to the boulder as the Landmark Prairie Rock, named for the guidance it offered both Native Americans and early settlers to southwest Minnesota.

Mary Smith recalls hearing about the rock from her aunt, Bessie Whelan, who taught in the Kinbrae and Dundee area.

“She had a lot of history from the people she met and knew up there,” Smith said.

Whelan, a member of the Daughters of the Revolution, had her picture taken next to the rock sometime in the 1970s, and suggested the rock be recorded for its historical significance.

Back when the Wehlers still owned the farm, the deep ruts from Conestoga wagons — the covered wagons pulled by oxen to bring new settlers to the area — could still be seen in the soil.

“The wheels … were 8 to 10 inches wide, they sunk so deep into the earth when they went one cart after the other,” Smith shared. “They churned the earth up so deep that the clay was mushed up to the top.”

She saw the ruts for herself when a cousin took her up in an airplane and flew over the site.

Smith detailed the travels of early settlers who followed the river to Jackson, then cut across to Lakefield and Okabena. As they headed west, they knew finding the rock would point them north to the waters of the Graham lakes and Talcott.

“Little kids picked up a lot of arrowheads around that rock — it was a sign for the Indians, too,” Smith said. “They had to have water for themselves and their horses also.”

After hearing of the rock’s potential demise by the new landowner, Smith said she tried to put a stop to the plans for its removal or burial. As a DAR member herself, she said she couldn’t find any historians who could speak to the rock’s significance.

She’s now left to wonder why the DAR didn’t record the historical site more than 40 years ago. She suspects it was due to the cost.

“The DAR, at the time, didn’t think it was necessary to put a plaque on it — they probably couldn’t afford it,” she said.

Now, while she’s glad the rock wasn’t blown up or buried, she’d much prefer the rock was left in place instead of being dug up.

“When you move something ... it loses its real historical significance,” she said. “It had been farmed around for many, many years. (The new landowner) was just dealing with it as a rock.

“There should have been a plaque on it, and he wouldn’t have been allowed to touch it.”