For more than 8,000 years, Native Americans extracted a rare stone from the northeast part of today’s Mower County to use for creating arrowheads and other tools.
Now the Mower County Historical Society in Austin is launching a multi-year project to develop the archaeological site known as the Grand Meadow Chert Quarry thanks to a $59,000 grant from the Minnesota Historical Society.
This is the largest grant ever awarded to the Mower County Historical Society, which is collaborating on the project with The Archaeological Conservancy — a national group focused on preserving important sites — and the Dakota Community at Prairie Island, Minn.
With the grant, the Mower County Historical Society will make the ancient Native American quarry available to the public and student visits in 2022, in the form of a self- guided, educational tour along a walking path.
The Grand Meadow Quarry is the only known source for a particular type of “chert,” the stone used by Native Americans to make most of their everyday tools, including spear points, arrowheads, knives and scrapers.
Chert is a hard stone valued for its ability to make a sharp edge, and this particular gray chert is now known by archaeologists as “Grand Meadow Chert.” It is one of only 20 kinds of chert from Minnesota, and it’s the only one that was acquired by digging pits by hand to reach a layer of the prized stone.
Grand Meadow Chert was used throughout Minnesota and has been found at sites in 52 counties, dating back to at least 6,000 B.C. when a spear point made of this chert is known to have killed a buffalo near Granite Falls, Minn.
This chert particularly became important after 1200 A.D. to the ancestors of today’s Dakota people, who appear to have visited the Grand Meadow Quarry often to renew their chert supplies.
An exhibit on the Grand Meadow Quarry and the county’s ancient history is at the Mower County Historical Society’s museum. It features photos and artifacts from the quarry, which was first rediscovered by the late Grand Meadow native Maynard Green.
Those interested in viewing the exhibit this winter will need to make an appointment by calling the historical society at (507) 437-6082.