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Lemmon Petrified Wood Park

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Petrified Wood Park in Lemmon, South Dakota
Jack Dura
Petrified Wood Park in Lemmon, South Dakota

Today’s story takes us just south of the border to the Petrified Wood Park in Lemmon, South Dakota. The roadside attraction features pillars, spires, a miniature castle, and other creations made of petrified wood. There are also cannonball concretions, various other geologic specimens, and even several quartzite Dakota markers, originally installed in 1892 along the boundary of North and South Dakota.

Former Lemmon Mayor Ole Quammen was the creator of the Petrified Wood Park, which he conceived of around 1920. He began construction in the summer of 1931 and engaged a crew in gathering many tons of petrified wood and fossilized remains mostly from within an 8-mile radius of Lemmon. More than 27 tons of petrified wood came from a single 80-acre tract near Lemmon.

Trucks hauled the materials to the park site – lots Quammen owned near a gas station. Building materials also included a few tons of quartz found in South and North Dakota. The only modern feature of the park was a single electric light.

The park was expected to become a major tourist attraction along the Yellowstone Trail, near the intersection of U.S. Highway 12 and State Highway 73. The park was said to be the largest collection of petrified wood in the country.

At noon on this date in 1932, the son of Lemmon’s founder dedicated the park “to the scholars and geologists of the future.” Other speakers included North Dakota Supreme Court Justice John Burke and former North Dakota Governor Joseph Devine. Bismarck was represented at the dedication by a delegation of businessmen and the city’s Juvenile Band. Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe performed dances. The Associated Press called the park’s dedication “one of the greatest celebrations in the west-river country,” noting that nearly 12,000 people attended.

As people headed home, the day took a dramatic turn. A violent rainstorm brought “a cyclonic wind” and two inches of rain, stranding motorists for hours, uprooting trees and flattening barns. The storm smashed store windows and flooded basements in Hettinger. A mile of telephone line was ripped off its posts. And while some may have been petrified with fear, no injuries or deaths were reported.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

Argus-Leader. 1931, September 17. Page 18
The Minneapolis Star. 1931, September 26. Page 24
Argus-Leader. 1931, October 4. Page 17
The Billings Gazette. 1931, December 13. Page 15
The Daily Plainsman. 1931, December 21. Page 12
Argus-Leader. 1932, May 8. Page 3
The Independent-Record. 1932, May 8. Page 8
Great Falls Tribune. 1932, June 7. Page 6
Rapid City Journal. 1932, June 7. Page 8
Argus-Leader. 1932, June 7. Page 12
The Bismarck Tribune. 1932, June 8. Pages, 1, 5
The Hope Pioneer. 1932, June 16. Page 2
southdakota.com/petrified-wood-park/ https://www.lemmonsd.com/attractions-1

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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