Douglas County History | Story of the Runestone | Runestone Timeline

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Douglas County History

Amazing night 9.11.11 055In 1858, the territory of Minnesota was accepted into the union as the thirty-second state. It was in 1866 that the State Legislature formally established the county boundaries and named it after Stephen A. Douglas, a senator from Illinois who was instrumental in securing Minnesota’s territorial and statehood status. Although its boundaries had been established, it remained attached to Stearns County for most governmental purposes since there was, as yet, no one living within its borders.

Five men are known to have settled in Douglas County that August. Three men, Holmes, Grant and Sanford, settled at what became known as Holmes City on Grant Lake. Two brothers, Alexander and William Kinkead claimed land on Lake Agnes and Lake Winona. Alexander Kinkead was named the first U.S. Postmaster in the area and his log house was named the Alexandria Post Office.

During the summer of 1858, the U.S. Army cut a trail through the brush, woods and prairie and on to Fort Abercrombie on the Minnesota-Dakota border. When it became passable, the Burbank Stage from St. Cloud traveled the trail with frontier stage stops at Osakis, fishing by loon 8.7.12Alexandria, Chippewa (Brandon), and Evansville. With the stage came men looking for opportunities for the future. Among them were a few men with families. George Kinkead, together with his wife, Clara, and their children, came to make their home near his brothers. The Alexandria settlement soon included several log houses.

The stage brought the frontier community “letters from home” and news of world events. In 1861 it brought news of the Civil War between the States. In 1862, less than four years after their arrival in Douglas County, Alexander and William were inducted into the Union Army. More recent settlers and the George Kinkead family remained.

On August 24, 1862, the state again brought news of war…that of the Sioux Uprising, together with the Governor’s request that everyone should flee to more populated areas where soldiers could give protection. The settlers took what possessions they could, and fled to Sauk Centre and then to St. Cloud. Very few ever came back and so ended Alexandria’s first beginning.

In 1868 the Government Land Office was moved to Alexandria from Sauk Centre. In less than seven years the swarm of homesteaders had claimed most of the farmland. It was a wild and wooly, hurry-scurry time in spite of slow travel with oxen and horses, covered wagon and stagecoach. The town of Alexandria would have its second beginning.

*Information compiled and article written by Minnie Osterholt for the Douglas County Historical Society Heritage Column. Revised 4/25/95.


Story of the Runestone

In the fall of 1898, Olaf Ohman, a Swedish farmer, living near Alexandria, Minnesota, found a large flat stone imbedded in the roots of an aspen tree he dug up. His little son, stooping to dust it off so that he might sit on it, saw some strange carvings on it. The stone was taken to the farm home of Ohman where the marks on the stone were cleaned out. To everyone’s amazement a long inscription on the face of the stone and on one edge was found. The stone is a native rock called graywacke and measures 31 inches long, 16 inches wide, and 6 inches think. It weighs 202 pounds, so it must have been chiseled out on the spot.

The stone was brought to the small village of Kensington about four miles away, and was exhibited in the window of the local bank. Thus it was soon identified as the “Kensington Runestone” from the name of the village, and because the inscription was in “runes,” as the characters used by the Northmen were called.

OlafOhmanThe stone at once aroused a great deal of controversy as to its authenticity. The inscription was not completely translated, however, until H. R. Holand of Ephriam, Wisconsin, a well-known Norwegian scholar and historian, became interested in it, secured possession of the stone from the finder, and began devoting his time to research as to its genuineness. His translation is now accepted both here and abroad and reads as follows:

8 Goths and 22 Norwegians on exploration-journey from Vinland over the west We had camp by 2 skerries one days-journey north from this stone. We were and fished one day After We came home found 10 men red with blood and dead Ave Maria Save from Evil The following three lines appear on the edge of the stone: Have 10 of our party by the sea to look after our ships 14 days-journey from this island Year 1362

We now know that about the year 1355 Magnus Erickson, the King of Sweden and Norway, sent out an expedition under the command of Paul Knutson to go to Greenland to assure that the Christian religion would not perish there. It is believed that the King had received word that the people of the settlement in Greenland had immigrated to the mainland and lost their religion. The King probably received this information from John Guthormson, a prominent politician of the time, who had come from Iceland. This ship arrived in Norway about 1348.

Speculation says that when Knutson’s expedition to Greenland found the Western settlement deserted it went on to Vinland. There were no Greenlanders there, so the expedition looked for them on the shores of Hudson Bay. From there they came down to where the stone was found. Some members of the Paul Knutson expedition returned to Norway in 1363 or 1364. The party on 10 that were left with ships waited in vain for over a year for the explorers to come back down the Nelson river to Hudson Bay.

7913VIn corroboration of the story told by the stone, various Scandinavian implements of the 14th century have been found in the vicinity of the route the party must have taken to reach the place where the stone was found. These implements are three battle axes — one of which is a “beard” ax, a firesteel, and a spearhead. These articles are pictured and the stories of their finding and verification are given in Holand’s books, The Kensington stone, Westward from Vinland, and America 1352-1365.

The Kensington Runestone is now on exhibit permanently in the Runestone Museum in Alexandria, Minnesota, having been secured from Mr. Holand in 1928 by a group of Alexandria business and professional men.

In 1932 after two trips to Europe where he did extensive research work in 26 museums in six countries, Mr. Holand published his book The Kensington Stone. From page 137 forward, the book goes into this discussion very fully and quotes such experts as Gathorne-Hardy, Hovgaard, Nansen, and Fossum as concurring in the opinion stated by Holand, “That an ordinary ‘daghrise’ represented a unit of distance of approximately 75 miles.” The word “daghrise” means day’s journey and was an expression used by those in the expedition not referring to the distance they traveled each day in going from Hudson Bay to where the stone was found; and one day’s journey to Cormorant Lake where the ten men were killed. It is not to be supposed that the men actually measured these distances but made the statements as estimates.


The Runestone Timeline

“The Biography of a Riddle”

Dock Removal Oct 9 2011 041The story of the Kensington Runestone is still unfolding. Since the mysterious stone was found so long ago, it has had many homes, traveled to many places, been the subject of a host of books and articles, and sparked a controversy that shows no sign of ending. What happened to the Runestone after it was discovered is as intriguing, in its own way, as the possibility that Vikings came to Minnesota in the 14th century.

1898: Olaf Ohman uncovered the Runestone on his farm near Kensington. A photograph of Mr. Ohman and His family is on exhibit at the Runestone Museum. The photo was probably taken in the 1890’s.

1899: The Runestone was displayed at a hardware store or bank in Kensington. News of the stone’s discovery hit the newspapers, and it was shipped to George O. Curme, a professor of philosophy at Norwest University for analysis. Curme concluded the inscription on the stone was “ungenuine”.

1901: The Runestone was returned to Olaf Ohman and for the next six years it laid face down on the ground as a stepping stone to his granary.

1907: Hjalmer Holand, a student of Scandinavian immigration, learned about the Runestone and viewed it at the Ohman’s farm. Holand took the stone home with him to Door County, Wisconsin, and began a lifelong campaign to probe its authenticity.

Gerber Daisies Just Planted1909: The Norwegian Society of Minneapolis took affidavits from Ohman and the others and declared the stone was genuine.

1910: Holand deposited the Runestone at the Minnesota Historical Society. The Society’s museum committee reported favorably on the authenticity of the stone, but its findings were not endorsed by the institution’s governing body.

Holand exhibited and defended the Runestone at the Chicago Historical Society.

George T. Flom, a University of Illinois linguist, studied the inscription and declared “the lateness of the runes and the modern characters of the language prove that it was chiseled in recent times.”

1911: Holand offered to sell the stone to the Minnesota Historical Society for $500.

The Society declined because it was not sure weather Holand or Ohman was the legal owner.

Holand took the stone to Europe, exhibiting it in France, Germany, Denmark, and Norway and debated its authenticity with doubting scholars.

1927: The Runestone was a part of the Fourth of July celebration at Oscar Lake. Olaf Ohman and Hjalmer Holand posed with other men who were part of the Runestone Celebration committee. Olaf Ohman and Hjalmer Holand were at front center.

Sunset 6.23.121928: A group of local businessmen led by Constance Larson, an Alexandria attorney, purchased the Runestone for $2,000.

1929: A group of local contributors raised money for a display case for the Runestone. Blueprints for the case are displayed in the Discovery Room at the Runestone Museum.

1935: The Runestone was displayed at the American Institute in Minneapolis.

1938: A picture was taken of auto dealer Robert J. Young with the Runestone at the vault of the Chamber of Commerce building—a former bank. Known as the “Runestone Girl”, Lorayne Larson, Constant Larson’s daughter, lectured in many states throughout the1930’s, carrying the Runestone with her in the backseat of a Ford touring Car. In 1938, a pageant she had written was staged in Alexandria as a part of a civic celebration.

1948: The Runestone was exhibited at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian did not endorse the stone’s inscription as genuine, but it did publish a translation of a study by Danish etymologist (language who concluded that it ” may be authentic”.

1950: Eric Moltke, runologist at the Danish National Museum, declared the Runestone “suspect in every detail”, arguing that the inscription contained two symbols, which were not invented until 200 years later.

1951: A monumental replica of the Runestone (12 times the size of the original) was erected in Runestone Park just east of Alexandria. Stone for the giant replica was quarried in Cold Spring, Minnesota. Members of the Alexandria Kiwanis Club financed the monument.

1958: The Runestone figured prominently in the celebration of Alexandria’s centennial. Local contributors built the Runestone Museum as a permanent home for the controversial stone. Dr. Edwand J. Tanquist, who played a large role in starting the Museum, became one of the stone’s strongest defenders.

1965: The stone went to the World’s Fair in New York, traveling across country in a replica of a Viking ship mounted on a flatbed truck.

1974: Runestone enthusiast Marion Dahm discovered remnants of Viking homes near the site where the Runestone was unearthed by infra-red photos.

1976: Clarence Larson and Ted Winkjer discover the Runestone’s foundation stone by using telepathy.

1977: Canadian film crew makes a documentary film investigating the discoverers of North America “whomever they may be”.

1990: Rhonda Gilman of the Minnesota Historical Society and retired Rev. Paul Schmelzer debate about whether or not the Vikings actually came to Minnesota in the 14th century.

1993: ” Unsolved Mysteries”, a popular investigative television program on NBC, interviewed people and filmed the story of the Runestone.

1995: Sunstone Films, a British film production company, does filming at the Runestone Museum containing footage of the Runestone and a picture of Olaf Ohman, which is broadcast on the BBC in a series called “Timewatch” featuring a program called ” Before Columbus”.

1999: Scholars and professionals continue researching the Runestone. New primary sources of languages are found in Scandinavian countries and provide further insight to translation of the stones message.