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History of American Towns - Alexandria, Minnesota and the Controversial Historical Minnesota Kensington Runestone
The Kensington Runestone is a 200 lb slab of greywacke 30 x 16 x 6 inches, which has runes (letters used in some Germanic languages) carved on the face and sides. It was found in 1898 near the settlement of Kensington in Minnesota. It has been a subject of controversy ever since.
It is housed in Alexandria’s Runestone museum. In the days before the U.S. Civil War, brothers Alexander and William Kinkead followed their dreams from Delaware to Minnesota territory. They arrived in Minnesota when it was moving toward statehood. In1858 they homesteaded a tract of land on the south shore of Lake Agnes and formed a town with five Minnesota men. In 1859 a Post Office was established in Alexander’s cabin and he became postmaster. The town was given his name.
Their brother William and his wife Clara joined them. Clara kept a diary, which is now in the Douglas County Historical Society’s archives. Although the brothers enlisted in the Army during the Civil War the town was distanced from the war. However another war with Indians was looming. When word came of an eminent attack most of the town fled to Sauk Center and St. Cloud.
The town was resettled after the 1860’s. It was in 1898 the Olaf Ohman uncovered the Runestone on his farm. The stone was displayed at a hardware store or possibly the bank. If authentic it would indicate that Vikings came to Minnesota in the 14th Century. Numerous books and articles have been written about it. On the other hand it could be one of the biggest hoaxes ever.
When the stone was discovered the journey of Leif Ericson to Vinland (North America) was being widely discussed and a renewed interest in Vikings was stirred up in Scandinavia by the National Romanticism Movement.
Many experts in languages, philosophy and other specialties have examined the stone but most thought it a fake. Hjalmer Holand who was a student of Scandinavian migration took an interest in the stone. He took the stone to his home in Door County, Wisconsin and began a campaign to establish its authenticity.
Holand took the stone to Chicago and to several countries in Europe and debated it authenticity with scholars. In 1928 a group of Alexandria business people bought the stone for $2000 and local people raised money for a display case. In1935 it was displayed at the American institute in Minneapolis.
Lorayne Larson throughout the 1930’s lectured about it in many states traveling with the stone in the back of her Ford touring car. She wrote a pageant in 1938 about it that was part of the Alexandria civic celebration.
In 1974 Runestone enthusiast Marion Dahm discovered remnants of Viking homes near where the stone was originally found.
Over the years the stone has been displayed many important places but no authenticity has been determined.
One theory of why Vikings might have come to Minnesota seems a bit far-fetched. S story that King Magnus of Sweden had issued a letter to appoint a law officer to go to Greenland, which was a colony, to investigate rumors that the population was falling away from Christianity. Those who like this theory thin that the lawman went beyond Greenland to North America. There seems no evidence to support the theory.
It appears the debate will continue for a long time.
Link to Runestone Museum
Douglas County Historical Society
- Alexandria Chamber of Commerce: Alexandria, Minnesota: Work, Live, Vacation
Minnesotas Alexandria Chamber of Commerce is the place to go for information on jobs, resorts, cabins, events, business information and more in Alexandria Minnesota.
© 2010 Don A. Hoglund