One day in 1916 Jake Nelson, a resident of Roseau, was working in his garden. Nelson was digging up some dirt and noticed some debris in the ground. But when he looked closer, he realized what he had uncovered. His garden was filled with ancient artifacts which included arrowheads, a club, a stone used to scrape hides, and a strange stone. Over the years, this small one-and-a-half-inch rock earned the title “The Roseau Stone.”
The stone sat untouched in Nelson’s home for almost a decade until a conversation with Mike Holm, a former Minnesota Secretary of State. The stone was given to Holm, then went through the hands of almost anyone who had an interest in it. This frequent change of hands occurred until 1939, though all of the details of the exchanges were written on the box it was kept in.
One of the people who had the stone for the longest period of time was John Jager, a Minneapolis architect. The earliest, and most well-known, theory about the origin of this stone was put in place by him. Jager saw the runes on the stone and recognized them as similar to some northern European runes. If this theory is correct, it would prove that Europeans had set foot in North America long before the days of Columbus!
The second proposed theory was brought about by Professors Albert E. Jenks and Clinton R. Stauffer at the University of Minnesota. This theory suggested that the stone was simply a result of naturally occurring geological formations on the stone. A much less exciting take.
The final theory is that the stone was a result of indigenous Woodland culture, or carved by someone around 7000-5000 BCE. Roseau County is home to many archaeological finds that document the existence of indigenous settlements at the time. If the details were true in the story from Jake Nelson, the stone found amongst other artifacts would be a strong indicator of this theory. So where did the Roseau stone originate from? Could it prove that there were Europeans in North America before Columbus? Or is it simply a fluke of nature?