A while back I was strolling through pictures on one of the History Center programs and I came upon some photos of quaint rock sculptures and grottos. The pictures were labeled the Kingston Rock Gardens. Asking around, at first no one knew about this garden. Then, other people began speaking with other people, and information came flooding in. (Thank you, Warren Nelson and Chuck Ailie)
Eventually the enthusiasm of Kingston citizens took hold and we found ourselves hosting a coffee at our Dassel History Center and Ergot Museum for enthusiastic Kingstonites who came to talk about their town.
The Kingston area was historically occupied by indigenous people for thousands of years prior to European settlers. The area around Crow River was suited for both winter and summer camp, being abundant in food and natural resources.
In 1950 an ancient dugout canoe, possibly thousands of years old was pulled from the Little Swan Lake. This canoe was said to be from the Woodlands People. There is a theory as to why it was in the lake; that it was filled with rocks and submerged over the winter for material protection. I will always wonder why it was not retrieved in the spring.
I can write with much more knowledge on the settlement of Kingston, MN of the first European settlers of Kingston and the progress of this town’s growth. In all of my stories I believe it important to acknowledge that although our settlement history is so fascinating, we were not the first people.
Mark Cates arrived in 1856 from Maine by way of Kentucky and England, built a home on land purchased from the Government Land Office and then returned to Maine to marry and bring back Elizabeth Palmer. Their son, Will, was born a year later, back on their Minnesota farm; the first European baby born in the county. Their farm is still in the family today. One Cates descendent is a hunter of archival material and has found ancient bison horns, elk horn and Native tools on his property.
Kingston was platted in 1857 and is the second established town in Meeker County. The first was Forest City.
Growing over the years, Kingston became a booming town by the 30s and 40s, with a mill, a lumber yard, hardware stores, cafes, grocery stores, a bank, churches, cemeteries, and even a little moonshine on the sly.
And the Rock Garden. This magnificent property was located on the northeast corner of the Highway 15 Kingston bridge running over the Crow River. A couple named Ed and Inga Nystrom built this in the 30s. It contained fountains, statues, walls, tiny grottos. People were told to drive by this amazing site on their travels.
From Oscar Lindquist…Those were the Days “In addition to its flowering beauty the Nystroms have sculptured numerous figures of rocks and pepples to represent interesting objects including Paul Bunyan……The story does not tell that this was once the Village dump ground“.
We were told that Mr. Nystrom sharpened ice skates for kids during the winter. The Nystroms were popular in the village and great supporters of community affairs.
Eventually the Nystroms sold to a man named Gregory Hess who opened the Riverside Inn and Tavern on the property. Sadly in 1965 a flood washed much of the sculptures away although remnants of it remain today.
Kingston was proud of their band. Proud that they had the first school in Meeker County (District 1). Kingston was a big town ball village, with a team nearly unbeatable. They had the first water powered mill in the county. Three Senators and a member of the House of Representatives came from Kingston and Kingston Township.
Kingston owns a great history. As one resident said….”If you are from Kingston, Kingston is always in your heart”