08-27-2020 Letters and Commentary

CLOSING OF “OLD” LIBRARY COULD RENEW INTEREST OF VIKING KING… The removal of the Hartford Public Library in the Webster House to its new digs in the Art and Bonna Vanderlyn Community Center might stir interest in its stone foundation. It could be local historians might be moved to inspect the cut stone foundation for signs of Norsemen artifacts.

Of course, the move this week reawakened my fantasy of a Viking Chief trekking through the Hartford Valley 1,000 years ago. Unfortunately, he dies there and his fellow Vikings hollowed out a giant boulder and lay him to rest inside.

Then in 1884 stonecutters discover the hollowed boulder with a few bits of bone, leather and a sword just a few miles north of the village. They bring the “curiosities” to town and then go back to their stone cutting. Ultimately, the tomb ends up as part of the foundation of the Hartford Library.

The following is my Karl’s Kolumn written after Roy Davis mentioned the incident in his Paw Paw River Journal…

As Paw Paw River Journal author Roy Davis can attest, his retelling of the story of the human remains and sword being found inside a rock tomb near Hartford has always intrigued me. (Tri-City Record, 9-11-05)

Since first reading Roy’s story in an earlier River Journal many years ago, I’ve always thought of bones in the tomb as that of a Viking. The Native Americans of North America, particularly in these climes, were woodland folk with complex and well-established burial rituals that didn’t include stone tombs.

There are many instances of Viking (Norsemen) artifacts being found across North America, from the eastern seaboard where whole villages have been unearthed (including tombs) to Minnesota where tools, containers and coins have been discovered. There is even an extensive excavation and collection of finds in central Michigan.

So, it takes little imagination to suppose that such a tomb could have been found in Hartford. Pity the finders in 1884 didn’t stop what they were doing (cutting stone for a house) and call in the experts to take a look. Instead of conjecture and daydreaming of what might have been; there could have been more than a line or two in the Hartford Day Spring.

Still, it’s a wonderful story to imagine a Viking drawing his last breath along the shores of the Paw Paw River.

He would have been a powerful adventurer that braved the pre-Columbian wilderness to travel thousands of miles across seas, land, and rivers. The weak and timid never made it far from their birthplace.

This Viking was a warrior of some import; as a sign of respect and awe, his sword was buried with him.

More than likely, he was a chief, perhaps a king, in his own right; after all, he was buried in a stone tomb.

And he was not alone, this Viking chief/king. There was a band of followers with him. They carved a stone tomb and (maybe) moved on.

By the way… I seem to recall from Roy that the house being built became the Hartford Public Library in more recent years. Already historic in its own right, wouldn’t it be amazing if there were still some trace of the stone tomb in the building’s foundation?