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A little meteor on the prairie

The story starts in the summer of 1885.

JSSP Keith Norman Column Sig
We are part of The Trust Project.

It is possible you don’t know Jamestown has a meteorite named after it.

Or maybe you don’t care. Either way, I’m going to tell you about it.
The story starts in the summer of 1885 during the construction of the Northern Pacific branch line south along the James River.

Workers found an open “slanting hole within five feet of the track,” according to a report generated by Oliver Whipple Huntington, a professor at Harvard.

With a name like Oliver Whipple Huntington, where else but Harvard would he teach.

Anyway, someone decided to crawl into this hole and see what was at the bottom.


This took a little courage because the hole had to have at least some resemblance to a badger hole.

It is worth noting, crawling into a badger hole is still considered a bad idea just like it was in 1885.

What was removed from the hole was a roughly 9-pound hunk of iron that was identified as a meteorite.

This find was made about 15 to 20 miles southeast of Jamestown and may be near Montpelier. The exact location would be difficult to find as “no particular attention was given to the matter at the time” according to Huntington.

Huntington speculated the meteorite was found relatively soon after it burned through the sky and crashed into Stutsman County. This was based on the fact the hole was still open above the space rock.

Somehow, Huntington found out about the meteorite and purchased the item. The price and terms for space rocks found in rural North Dakota seem to have been lost to history.

After studying it and writing his paper, Huntington cut the meteorite into pieces which he sold to museums around the world.

According to the website of the North Dakota Historical Society, there have been 10 meteorites recovered and confirmed in the state’s history.


For the sky watchers out there, what are commonly called shooting stars are actually meteoroids or hunks of rock that have been traveling through space. The light you see is the meteoroid burning up as it encounters the friction of the Earth’s atmosphere.

If the rock survives that friction and strikes the Earth, it is called a meteorite. If you find a rock that is heavier than normal and magnetic, you might just have a meteorite.

But I still wouldn’t crawl in a potential badger hole looking for one.

Author Keith Norman can be reached at www.KeithNormanBooks

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