Fraternal ties to Kensington Runestone?Julie Snider, a researcher and writer with Sign.if.i.cant Words of Alexandria, has been researching the Kensington Runestone and the possible involvement of area Masons and other fraternal organizations.
Julie Snider, a researcher and writer with Sign.if.i.cant Words of Alexandria, has been researching the Kensington Runestone and the possible involvement of area Masons and other fraternal organizations.
Snider took into consideration researcher Scott Wolter’s thesis that the Knight’s Templar left the stone as a land claim.
“What I found is that the Masons and other fraternities in Alexandria have been involved with it since it was found,” Snider noted. “Maybe they were just friends of Olof Ohman, maybe they wanted to set right history as it had been taught to them, maybe they saw it as an economic opportunity for the community they were building. Possibly all of the above and more.”
Snider shared her research and Wolter’s thesis with members of the local Masonic lodge, who were interested in learning more.
A public meeting, which was originally scheduled in February but cancelled due to inclement weather, has been rescheduled for Friday, March 12 at 7 p.m. A presentation will be given at Constellation Lodge No. 81 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, located at 205 Sixth Avenue East in Alexandria.
The topic will be the Kensington Runestone. The guest speaker, Scott Wolter, is a professional geologist who, in 2001, was hired to do forensic testing on the stone. He will present his scientific findings and other points of interest discovered over the past nine years.
He will discuss the role that the Cistercian Templars may have played in the carving of the stone as it is told in the book he authored, The Hooked X, and as was presented on the History Channel, Holy Grail in America. The lodge and this presentation will be open to anyone interested in attending.
Following is an excerpt of Snider’s writing, based on research she conducted at the Douglas County Historical Society and the local Masonic lodge.
A Few Good Men
“A dispensation was granted to organize Constellation Lodge No. 81, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons at Alexandria on February 25, 1869. The lodge was duly organized on March 8, 1869. The charter of the lodge was received on January 27, 1870.” This is taken from Constant Larson’s book History of Douglas and Grant Counties, Minnesota, which was published in 1916. In this same year the lodge had a membership of 115.
In a publication distributed by the Committee on Masonic Education, Grand Lodge AF & AM of Virginia it is printed: “If I were a Mason…I would never be a stranger in any town or city…I would be a part of the history of freedom in my country…I could work for the better future of mankind…I would know the secrets that inspired the world’s greatest leaders…I could be confident of the future, even beyond the grave…Yes, Masonry has its secrets. The truly important ones are not passwords, handshakes and ritual: they are the secrets of self-discovery…”
In 1898 a stone was found wrapped in the roots of a tree by Olof Ohman, a farmer in Kensington. The stone was carved with runes and dated 1362. It would come to be known as the Kensington Runestone.
On July 28, 1927 an article ran in the Park Region Echo about a “Proposed Kensington Runestone Monument.” It included a sketch from architects, Jenson & Fess of Minneapolis. It was a replica of the Washington Monument, the cornerstone of which was laid in 1848 at a Fourth of July celebration hosted by Freemasons.
The proposed monument design was to rise 200 feet into the air from a circular foundation. The interior was to contain a room 46 feet in diameter, which was to have been a historical museum intended to house the runestone in the center. Other relics of ancient origin found in the Northwest were to have surrounded it.
The Depression, which began in 1929, may have played a part in why this project was not seen to fruition.
In 1928 10 prominent, local businessmen financed the Kensington Runestone to ensure that it would remain in the community. Their names are listed on a plaque with the stone at the Runestone Museum. The majority of them shared Masonic and fraternal affiliations.
Below is some information about each of those men:
Constant Larson: Douglas County attorney from 1901 to 1910 and from 1923 to 1926. He also served as the Alexandria City Attorney. He attended the University of Minnesota. He founded the Kensington Runestone Foundation in 1927 and organized the 10 who financed the stone in 1928. He was editor-in-chief of History of Douglas and Grant Counties. This book includes a chapter on the runestone. He was a member of the Alexandria School Board, the Douglas County Library Board, the Alexandria Golf Club and was described as an ardent politician. He was appointed to the National Economic League, the American Academy of Sociology and Political Science, the National Panel of American Arbitration, and the Minnesota Historical Society. He was also a Masonic member of Constellation Lodge No. 81 and a member of Kiwanis.
Carl V. Anderson: Owner of Anderson Furniture Company and Anderson Funeral Home in 1905 after the death of his father. He served on the Alexandria City Council for one year and in 1930 was elected mayor of Alexandria. He served as mayor for five consecutive terms. He was a Knight Templar Mason, a member of the Osman Temple of the Mystic Shrine, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Kiwanis Club, Chamber of Commerce and the Alexandria Golf Club. His wife, Esther, was a member of Lyra Chapter, Order of Eastern Star at Constellation Lodge No. 81. The Park Region Echo printed a story about Mrs. Anderson on December 17, 1963, which stated, “She, her husband and sons were vitally interested in the Kensington Runestone and helped finance its many projects.”
Dr. A. Dair Haskell: General practitioner and surgeon of Douglas County and the northwest section of Minnesota. He had been a surgeon for the Great Northern Railroad Company and chief of staff at St. Luke’s Hospital. He descended from the family of Haskells who settled in New England in Colonial days and who made history in several states of the Union since the founding of the country. The Haskell family published a magazine called The Haskell Journal. He served as mayor of Alexandria and as a member of the Alexandria City Council and the board of Public Works. He was a member of the Masonic Order both York and Scottish Rites, a Noble of the Mystic Shrine and a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
Phillip J. Noonan: General manager and president of North American Creamery Company after the death of his father in 1920. He was president of Farmer’s National Bank, a 20-year member of the Park Board, a Masonic member of Constellation Lodge No. 81, the Pilgrim’s Commandery, and of Osman Temple of the Mystic Shrine. He created the Noonan New Homes Addition with Noonan Park and the Noonan Gardens. He supervised the leasing of various farm properties and established a farm and home loan business after his retirement from North American Creamery. On December 3, 1936 the Park Region Echo printed its largest special edition in the paper’s history to thank Noonan for his unselfish works. In November of 1937 the Noonan Appreciation Dinner was held at the Armory to honor Mr. Noonan, at which time Senator Henrik Shipstead sent his congratulations from Washington, D.C.
John A. Wedum: Purchaser of a lumber and implement business in Kensington, which became known as J.A. Wedum Co. The stone was kept at his store for a time. In 1910 he, along with four others, purchased the Alexandria Hardware and Lumber Co. From there he bought an interest in several lumber companies in the area. He was instrumental in the development of the city heating system with A.H. Gregerson, donated land for a park along with A.A. Secord, and was a member and chairman of the building committee of the Congregational Church. He worked with farmers in Douglas, Grant and Pope counties, offering loans and lessons on keeping books, financing projects and achieving goals in the farming communities. After his death, people continued to repay these handshake loans into an account, which eventually became the Wedum Foundation, which is still in operation today. He was a 32nd degree Mason, Constellation Lodge No. 81.
Gustav A. Kortsch: From 1879 to 1914 he partnered with other businessmen in the community to operate a general store that was eventually sold in 1914 to Herberger-Wettelson Co. He also operated a store at Kensington for several years. He became the first mayor of Alexandria in 1909, after helping to draft a new charter for the Village of Alexandria. He was one of the incorporators of the Douglas County Bank and later president. He was the first vice president of the Commercial Club, president of the Alexandria Business Men’s Association and chairman of the Roads Committee of the club. He was involved with the placement of the cement markers on the National Parks Highway extending from Osakis to Evansville. For several years he had charge of the Douglas County booth at the State Fair and was active in promoting the Douglas County Fair. He was president of the county library board, a member of the board of directors of the Kinkead Cemetery Association, and a charter member of the 133 Knights of Pythias in Alexandria. He had served as chief of the Alexandria Volunteer Fire Department and was fuel administrator for Douglas County during the war. He purchased the farm where Inspiration Peak is located and opened a road so the public could access and appreciate the view. The day of his funeral, all stores were closed during that hour. The library was closed for the afternoon and evening, and the flag at City Hall hung at half-mast.
Claus J. Gunderson: Douglas County Attorney from 1889 to 1903. He was elected to the State Senate in 1908 where he served eight years. He was said to have been a self-made man. Born in Kensington, his mother died when he was 1 year old and his father when he was 14, leaving him nothing of material value. He attended public schools in Alexandria and then the University of Minnesota. For several years he was a teacher. In 1883 he became president of First National Bank and then studied law at the University of Michigan. He was an attorney for National Contracting Company. His final appointment was Judge of the Seventh Judicial District. He was a member of Phi Delta Phi and a charter member of the 133 Knights of Pythias. Listed among his honorary pall bearers were Constant Larson, J.O. Shulind, J.A. Wedum and A.D. Haskell. In a letter of appreciation, Constant Larson wrote of Mr. Gunderson; “We think of a man standing out above the crowd, like a tower of a building… Though born in homely circumstances and beset by many difficulties, he chose to rise above these and conquer his adversities… This is shown when he began his apprenticeship of life as a leader by becoming first a master of himself.”
J.O. Shulind: Head of National Contracting Company, later known as National Builders. They built the Foshay Tower, Minneapolis Auditorium, Central Lutheran Church, Sheridan School and many other buildings in Minneapolis, as well as Camp McCoy in Wisconsin.
Carl O. Franzen: Entered the lumber business in Carlos in 1903. He expanded to Miltona in 1917 and to Alexandria in 1923. His companies were known as C.O. Franzen Lumber and Miltona Lumber. He was president of both. He was a member of the Kiwanis and Commercial Clubs of Alexandria and of the Northwest Lumbermen’s Association.
Thomas A. Syvrud: Alexandria Ford dealer. In 1911 he started the Ford garage, then known as Setter and Syvrud, later as Setter, Syvrud and Meyers Co. In 1930 it became the Syvrud Motor Co. Previous to entering the automobile business he had been a road man for International Harvester Company and had worked in the real estate business for five years. He served two terms as mayor in 1917 and 1918.
In 1958 the Runestone Museum was co-founded by three, again, prominent, local businessmen who also shared Masonic and fraternal affiliations.
The plan that had been proposed in 1927 was not used, and the building location became Alexandria, instead of the previously planned Kensington site.
Dr. Edward J. Tanquist: After attending Macalester College and the University of Minnesota Medical School, he moved to Alexandria in 1922 and reconstructed a home into the Tanquist Hospital. He was supervisor there until 1944 and a life-long member of the American Academy of Family Practice. He was past president of Kiwanis Club and a past lieutenant governor of Division Six. He was a co-founder of the Runestone Museum, member of the American Legion Post, Masonic member of Constellation Lodge No. 81, Shriners and a member of the Elks Lodge.
Gordon E. Duenow: Editor/manager of Park Region Echo after moving to Alexandria in 1946. Previously he had worked as editor of newspapers in Warren, Thief River Falls and Bagley. After moving from Alexandria in 1961 he became editor of the St. Cloud Daily Times until he retired in 1975 and returned to Alexandria. He served on the board of deacons at First Congregational Church, was a member of the Kiwanis Club, Masonic member of Constellation Lodge No. 81 and past patron of the Eastern Star. He served as county chairman of the Democratic Party and on the Minnesota Newspaper Association board.
Lee H. Johnson: Founder of the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Alexandria. He began his career as an engineer for the Aultman and Taylor Threshing Machine Co. He became the first Minnesota salesman for the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Minnesota, Inc. in 1924. He had been the primary builder of the local Coke plant. He was one of the founders and a director of KCMT-TV in Alexandria and a former president of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, the Viking Sportsmen Club and a former director of the Alexandria Kiwanis Club. He was a founder of the Runestone Museum, a member of Elks Lodge, VFW Post 936, Fraternal Order of Eagles, American Legion Post 87 and Alexandria Runestone Barracks 2719.