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N.D. flint site receives national landmark status after six years

DUNN CENTER, N.D. -- Six years are nothing compared to 11,000, but they still seemed like an endless wait. When Allan and Gail Lynch, of rural Dunn Center, got news that the pockmarked pasture on their land had been named a National Historic Land...

Gail Lynch
In this July 27, 2011 photo, Gail Lynch is seen on her pasture in Dunn Center, N.D. When Allan and Gail Lynch, of rural Dunn Center, got news that the pockmarked pasture on their land had been named a National Historic Landmark, her eyes filled with tears of relief. (AP Photo/The Bismarck Tribune, Lauren Donovan)

DUNN CENTER, N.D. -- Six years are nothing compared to 11,000, but they still seemed like an endless wait.

When Allan and Gail Lynch, of rural Dunn Center, got news that the pockmarked pasture on their land had been named a National Historic Landmark, her eyes filled with tears of relief.

"It's finally done," she said.

The Lynches' land holds the mother lode of Knife River flint, quarried for more than 11,000 years by Plains Indians who used it for tools and weapons. Flint was the gold standard of the day, and the Lynchs' land -- and to a lesser degree five landowners around them -- was so richly abundant that archaeologists estimate 1 million cubic feet of it was mined from some 2,500 pits.

"When you refer to Knife River flint, boom, this is it," said Allan Lynch, who's lived in Dunn County all his life and on the flint quarry land for most of it.

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The designation was recently made by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who named three others at the same time, none of which echo so far back in time as the one in a grassy rise above Spring Creek.

Work on the application started years ago, led by National Park Service staff at Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, which preserves and interprets the culture that used the flint.

"It's a big deal for North Dakota," Allan Lynch said.

'The Lynch Quarry'

Valerie Naylor, superintendent of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and supervisor of the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site at Stanton, said the quarry is an integral part of the Indian Villages' story.

"Not only did they travel a long way to mine the flint, it was traded all over the continent," Naylor said. "This is fantastic, that it has received the recognition that it deserves."

The land will remain in private ownership, and a plaque will explain the specail nature of what will be called "the Lynch Quarry."

Allan Lynch has always known the significance of the quarries just east of the house. His folks, who moved there when the Garrison Dam flooded them out of their river bottom land, were protective and respectful of them

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Cows grazed the quarries, but they were never otherwise disturbed, except by visitors who walked there, and various students and archaeologists who hoped to understand the cultural significance of the place.

Some of the old quarry pits are shallow, some are fairly deep, though thick grass and wildflowers soften the bowl-like contours.

It's believed the quarries were used continually starting in Paleo-Indian times until as recently as the late 1800s by the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara who lived in earth lodges along the Knife and Missouri rivers between Stanton and Fort Yates.

Over the years, Allan Lynch has discovered the heavy hammer and anvil stones the Plains Indians used to work the flint.

"They were coming here for thousands of years. One day they left and never came back, but their hammers and anvils are still in place," Allan Lynch said. "It boggles my mind."

Over the years, he pounded in 72 fence posts to mark the distinct anvil rocks he's found situated next to quarry pits.

When oil development moved into Dunn County, the Lynches became even more anxious for the landmark status.

Even though the designation was not official, Allan Lynch said Marathon Oil moved a well site two miles south rather than just behind the quarries to help preserve the natural setting.

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Since the land remains private, the Lynches or future owners can do as they choose with it. If it's substantially destroyed, or impacted, the National Historic Landmark designation goes away, Allan Lynch explained.

Under the quarries are "millions of dollars" worth of gravel and coal deposits -- in fact, some coal was mined out in the 1900s -- and Allan Lynch said, "We know this needs to be protected. This is a unique and rare area."

About 200 acres of the quarries are on Lynches' land and smaller sites are on neighboring land belonging to Daryl Dukart, Kevin Benz, Alan Hendrickson, Stanley Hausauer, Kathleen Messmer and Elayne and Bernel Appledoorn.

The Lynches welcome visitors who want to see and walk the quarry, but they should call ahead.

Related Topics: HISTORY
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