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November 07, 2007
Great archeological 'dig' right in Grand Meadow's backyard
Discovered by Maynard Green . . . the man who wouldn?t give up!
|Grand Meadow resident Maynard Green shows just a few of the hundreds of Indian arrowheads in his collection, many of which were made north of Grand Meadow thousands of years ago.|
GRAND MEADOW, Minnesota (STPNS) -- More than 60 years ago, Maynard Green knew there was something special about one of his favorite hunting spots north of Grand Meadow. It took him some time to convince others, however.
Green, a long-time Grand Meadow resident (GMHS, class of 1936), well-known rock hound and gemologist lived north of town in his youth, and since then has lived in the village. He and his wife, Amy, are one of the longest-married couples in town.
A lover and collector of Native American artifacts since his youth, Green noticed something during the late 1940s that puzzled him. He had an inkling of what it might be, he just wanted someone to confirm it.
It was while hunting on the property of Maurice Thorson that Green noticed something rather unusual about the wooded area and the adjacent farmland. There were what Green referred to as "pits" in this area . . . lots of unusual pits. On the seven acres of woods alone were about 100 pits which were several feet deep and about 20 feet across (some smaller). Each pit was surrounded entirely, or sometimes partially, by a mound of dirt.
Puzzled by the pits and mounds, in 1952, Green wrote a letter to his friend, Dr. Lloyd Wilford, an archeologist with whom he had previously enjoyed making surveys of campsites and hunting for Indian artifacts.
He described the wooded area and pits to Wilford, telling him what he was pretty sure they were not. They were not windfall pits, he said, nor were they made by dynamite, as they were too irregular and there was no reason to be blasting in that area. They were also not made by a bulldozer, he stated.
"I believe they have been dug by hand and I don't think that white men have done it as the old-timers around there say that they have always been there and that the Indians used to have a big camp there."
Green also told Wilford that he had "found arrowheads near here, and there is quite a lot of flint chipping in the fields, and I also know of several stone hammers being found near here."
His letter continued: "In the cultivated fields around this patch of timber there seems to be an abundance of a gray or whitish flint. It is my theory that this is an old Indian flint quarry. Could this be possible?"
Having received many "false alarms" in the past, Dr. Wilford didn't get too excited, but he made some contacts and in the next several years, Green would be contacted from time to time by various individuals with ties to archeology or Indian studies.
While he never quite made the connection he was looking for, Green wouldn't give up. He was determined to persevere until someone-the right someone-would acknowledge what he already suspected.
Eventually-in the 1980s, two young men from The Cities who were attending a lecture in Rochester decided to take a side trip to Grand Meadow to check out what they had heard about for years and thought was another dead end lead.
What they found made them sit up and take notice. "They pert near went crazy!" Green stated.
This visit kicked off quite a period of documenting, map-making and studying of the site by various people from State agencies.
If you ask a local resident about the "Indian site" or "Indian pits", you'll likely hear something like, "Oh, yeah, I've heard about those." In fact, when Green was younger, the nearby "old-timers" told of their folks talking about the Indians who made camp on the site north of Grand Meadow. That would be around the turn of the century or so-about as far back as anyone here would remember.
Most people seem to know there were Indians north of Grand Meadow, along Bear Creek, maybe 100, even 200 years ago.
That's what I thought.
I mean we've all heard or studied about the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862, and we know there were Native Americans here before that, so . . . yeah, maybe 200 years ago, right?
I was shocked to find out what these young whippersnappers from The Cities "pert near went crazy" about.
When looking at Maynard Green's arrowheads, spearheads and primitive Native American tools-more precisely, when looking at the system by which he has cataloged and documented the hundreds and hundreds of relics that he has found, one will see dates like 100-300 B.C. or 3,000-1,000 B.C. . . . 7500 B.C. written on the charts.
Some of the artifacts that Green has discovered over the years north of Grand Meadow were undoubtedly left there as recently as 200 years ago, but most of what he has found, dates back several hundred, even thousands of years!
Scientists believe that from 7200 BC to 1800 AD, ancient civilizations trudged great distances to retrieve chert, a flint-like stone, from more than 1,000 man-made quarries on 100 acres north of what is now Grand Meadow.
This waxy, grayish stone, which archeologists have in recent years named Grand Meadow chert, was used for arrows, knives, spears, scrapers and other tools. The fact that some of these tools have been found as far as 500 miles from Grand Meadow, according to state archeologists, is one indication of the importance of this early mining site.
They say this location would have been an important industrial center, where people traveled year after year. That's why Grand Meadow chert is found miles from here, and why Galena (Illinois) cert or Burlington (Iowa) chert has been found north of Grand Meadow. Just as we tourists go shopping on our trips, so did the Native Americans during their trips and migration to other parts of the country. The Indians from this territory might have gone south in the winter, for instance.
Also, the redistribution of the various flints and chert was a result of trading among Indian tribes.
The Indians retrieved the chert by digging the pits (thus the mounds of dirt surrounding each pit) which developed from glacial deposits in holes and cracks in limestone. Over the years, most of these quarries have been buried under farmland. Today there are 83 pits left on seven acres in the woods, adjacent to farmland.
To say the site is "very rare" is an understatement. According to state archeologists, it is the only site of its kind left in Minnesota.
The Grand Meadow quarry is the only documented Native American flint quarry remaining in Minnesota.
Archeologists say the quarry was used continuously for at least 9,000 years until about 300 years ago; therefore, it is the oldest continually-used site of human activity in Minnesota.
Although prehistoric spear and arrow points, hide scrapers and other tools made from this flint-like stone have been widely found in Minnesota, no site prior to this has ever been located where the stone was actually quarried.
Green has collected an ice cream bucket full of various tools from the quarry and nearby creek that he calls (with a grin) his "Indian toolbox". That is, in fact, what it would have been, and he can imagine the Indian men having their own "toolbox" where they searched for just the right arrowhead, spearhead or hammer or scraper to accomplish the job they had to do at the time.
Maynard Green has been attributed with discovering the chert pits. That recognition alone would be worth savoring, but according to Dr. Orrin Shane of the Science Museum of Minnesota, it was "due to Green's arduous efforts the site is finally being preserved."
In a letter written by Dr. Shane recommending that the Grand Meadow Quarry be named a State Historical Site, Dr. Shane said he "believes that Mr. Green exemplifies the outstanding contributions of T.H. Lewis and A.J. Hill to the preservation of Minnesota's past in two ways: his conscientious efforts to document his collections at the Grand Meadow Quarry Site and in his continued efforts to notify professional archaeologists about the importance of this site.
The letter concluded, "The preservation of Minnesota's heritage has been served well by Maynard Green who recognized the importance of Grand Meadow and his timeless efforts toward its preservation."
Because of his efforts to have the Grand Meadow site acknowledged by archeologists and have it named a Historic Site, in 1993, at a dinner in The Cities, Green received that year's Hill/Lewis Award from the Institute for Minnesota Archeology. As stated by the plaque he received, Green received the award "for outstanding contributions to the study and preservation of Minnesota archeology."
Now owned by the State, in 1994, the site was named to the National Register of Historic Sites by the Department of the Interior, and there was talk of turning it over to Mower County to oversee.
It took him almost 40 years to get the state's archeologists to take his discovery seriously and another decade to have it declared a Historic Site, but age 89, Green's work is still not complete.
The quarry has never been marked nor signage erected because the State was afraid this would draw curiosity seekers and perhaps unwanted attention. The locals know where it is and Green thinks, if handled properly, people would respect the historical value of the site.
While there was some talk of having a path put in at the quarry for a self-guided tour and perhaps a kiosk telling the history of the site, this has not yet been accomplished-perhaps due to lack of State funding.
There is still some hope-after all, if LeRoy, Taopi and Rose Creek could get state funding for their "Shooting Star" bike trail and wildflower scenic route, perhaps someone will be able to help procure funding so that the quarry can get the recognition it deserves.
Meanwhile, in Minnesota archeological circles, Green will be known as the man who wouldn't give up.
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