| On a lovely and breezeless Sunday afternoon in August, 1975 the Viking Altar Rock was rededicated in an ecumenical ceremony. At the Mass which was celebrated, the same set of holes was used to support the altar as served that purpose for the Viking faithful.|
Since the Rededication a Viking Altar Rock display has been added to the Sinclair Lewis Interpretive Center at Sauk Centre, Minnesota. The band of brave Vikings will not be forgotten in the land through which they passed.
Were the Vikings, Scandinavia's medieval seafarers, the first Europeans to visit Minnesota? The Viking Altar Rock, along with other artifacts that have been found throughout west and central Minnesota, would indicate this is so. A regular trail of historic finds, which are unquestionably of Scandinavian artisanship, approximates a water system by which the Scandinavian mariners would have traversed a good portion of present day Minnesota. One of these finds is the Viking Altar Rock near Sauk Centre, Minnesota.
History fortunately upholds what is otherwise just an exciting supposition. Records in the Norwegian archives Center show that in 1354 King Magnus of Norway and Sweden was roused to action by the report that one of his two crown colonies in Greenland had been abandoned in the face of persistent harassment by the Skraelings, or Eskimos, upon whose hunting grounds the settlers were encroachinq. The King appointed Sir Paul Knutson to lead an expedition to locate this lost colony. Treacherous weather throughout 1355 deterred the royal search mission from setting out till the next year when they finally sailed for Greenland.
Further reports in Norway show that Knutson's party returned unsuccessful in either 1363 or 1364. The proposed route of Viking travel in Minnesota and the story of the Viking Alter Rock is easily the missing link.
Finding the Greenland colony entirely deserted and with no signs of violence it is logical that these men of conscience and determination would simply have continued their painstaking search. Pressing on across western seas they attained the coast of Vinland, named by Viking explorers as an attribute to the mildness and bounty of this little known land. Knutson almost surely was aware there had been abortive attempts at settlement here before and would have surmised that the Greenland colonists could have sought these shores to reestablish themselves safely beyond the sphere of Eskimo reprisal.
Methodical in their search, they must have made forays into every possible inlet along the Atlantic seaboard. This search may have consumed months, even years and it is likely a headquarters of sorts was established on the coast. Inevitably, by hugging the shoreline from Vinland north, they proceeded through icey channels into the vast Hudson Bay. Here,it is conjectured, the party split. Some of the men chose to go inland, presumably to seek a shorter overland route to their Atlantic base via rivers and lakes. The rest of the men would return through Hudson Bay to their Atlantic settlement where hopefully the two groups would rendezvous.
The overland expedition ascended the Nelson River to Lake Winnipeg and from there maintained a southerly course by way of fairly direct and navigable waterways. In this manner the Vikings earned their claim as Minnesota’s first European visitors. They could scarcely then have foreseen the future when this green and lake-studded land would be home to millions who share their own ethnic background.
Along the proposed route of Viking travel there have been found mooring stones plus the better known Viking Runestone. Medieval Scandinavian implements have also been unearthed. Vestiges of the Vikings passage through Minnesota seems to end in Central Minnesota at the enormous chancel-like stone referred to as the Viking Alter Rock, for to date it is the last in a series of related finds.
This rock, 27 ft long by 17 ft wide, stands bold on the lower slope of a knoll. Sauk Lake stretches off in the distance. One can picture the Vikings dispatching men form the anchored boat to find a suitable place to camp. Spotting this boulder with its striking similarity to a church chancel how natural that they would choose this site as an alter at which to offer thanksgiving to their God and ask His protection in this wilderness.
In the rock are two sets of roughly triangular holes, hand drilled by the Vikings who were experts in chiseling mooring stones as anchorages in their native fjords. The two horizontal holes are about forty inches above ground level. Thoughtful research indicates their purpose was to hold the altar shelf. The two vertical holes at the rock's other end supported sticks or halberds onto which was secured a canopy that stretched protectively above the altar to give protection.
The Sauk Centre Knights of Columbus have worked un- flaggingly in their efforts to jog public awareness and interest in the Viking Rock. They felt that in rescuing this Altar Rock from anonymity they could memorialize the dauntlessness of those long ago Vikings, brave and faithful in their religion and in their king's quest for his lost crown colony.
Eventually the Viking Altar project was assisted by WesMin RC & D (Resource, Conservation & Development). WesMin, part of a national program to conserve and develop resources, cooperated with organizational aid and technical services, thereby expanding the Viking Alter project beyond its original conception.
Through WesMin RC & D the Viking Altar was grafted onto a carefully designed "Trail of the Vikings" which embraced several more communities and gave the project a regional rather than local dimension. The Viking Altar is at the southern terminus of this Viking Trail which offers a selection of routes. This will enable the time-conscious traveler and the traveler who desires an intimate and more precise exposure to the history, scenery and culture of rural Minnesota’s first European visitors.
|Clotho U.M.Church Ice Cream Social|
10 miles west of Long Prairie on County Road 38
Think of homemade ice cream, and if you are, or ever have been, a resident or visitor to Todd County, you automatically think of the Clotho Ice Cream Social. It’s held the first Sunday in August near the Clotho United Methodist Church.
The ice cream social was begun in 1934 as a fundraiser for the church. It was discontinued about 1972 as interest had dwindled. In 1972 it was revived and continues to flourish today. People plan their vacations around it; come from all over the state and nation to partake of the delicacy, renew old friendships and enjoy the entertainment from its hayrack stage that is provided by whomever wants to perform.