Part two of a three-part series
A local newspaper stated, “V. Valtinson returned to his home at Grand Rapids, Minnesota, Monday after a five weeks visit here with relatives and friends. Mr. Valtinson is one of the real pioneers of Black Hammer Township and can tell thrilling stories of the early days with the Indians. While here, Mr. Valtinson added a few stones to the stone figure on the hill in Black Hammer that he built on March 28, 1867.” That newspaper report, published on July 29, 1926, was 59 years, four months and a day after Valtin Valtinson said he built The Stone Lady of Black Hammer.
Valtin E. Valtinson is credited with stacking the stones to create The Stone Lady. Did he have help? Another tale has been told that teenagers built the cherished landmark. But both could be true. Valtin, being born in September of 1852, would have been 14 years old in March of 1867 – a young teenager, but certainly old enough to be clearing a field of rocks on a pioneer farm.
However, the 1870s have been more widely recognized for construction of The Stone Lady. Concerning that newspaper entry, could there have been a misspeak, a note-taking error or a typesetting reversal of the “6” and the “7?” Instead of 1867, should it have read 1876 when he would have been in his mid-20s? After all, Valtinson did not own the property until 1876. But he purchased it from his older brother, Soren Valtinson, who had purchased those 40 acres for $400 in 1866. It was surely their father (at age 53), also named Valtin Valtinson, who had purchased nearby land in 1865 (when son Valtin was 12).
So, whenever the Stone Lady was built – in either the late 1860s or the 1870s – her hilltop home in Black Hammer was on Valtinson land. Older brother Soren left Houston County after selling that acreage to younger brother Valtinson. But during the decade of Soren’s ownership, the brothers may well have been working the land together, especially since Soren was unmarried with no wife or children to help with the farming. Soren was listed as unmarried in 1876 when he sold the land to his brother. Marriage might have been the cause of the sale; Soren soon moved to northern Minnesota where he would be married about the same year. Did Soren leave behind a stone lady in Houston County when he was about to take the hand in marriage of a human lady in northern Minnesota? (Probably in Otter Tail County.)
Valtin would remain on that land in Black Hammer for another 19 years before leaving the county soon after his widowed mother’s death in 1895. He was back for a visit when that 1926 local newspaper blurb appeared – apparently, the only published or documented account of the date when The Stone Lady first appeared on the hill.
Understandably, that very brief printed reference had long slipped from memory when many decades later – most late 20th century and early 21st century citizens pondered the age of the unique landmark. It had become a matter of conjecture. The roadside sign erected at the site reads, “Some will tell you that in 1878, a pioneer settler name Valtin Valtinson… ”
At age 73, on one visit back in Black Hammer while adding a few stones to The Stone Lady in 1926, why would Valtin be able to recall the exact day and month of the construction, which had occurred 59 years previous? Did March 28 have any other significance for him? A birthdate? A wedding date? Surely a coincidence, but the number 28 appears again when Valtin rented his farm to Lars Christopherson on March 28, 1895 – exactly 28 years after he recalled stacking stones on a hill near Black Hammer.
Another brief notice in that July, 1926 newspaper quoted Valtinson, “I wish to thank my many friends who have been so kind and courteous to me during my visit among you and assure you that you will be heartily welcome at my home at Grand Rapids, Minnesota.”
Not hosting as many gatherings as in decades past, The Stone Lady, may still be visited. To be continued.
Thanks to historical researcher Thomas Carlson for his valuable contributions.