A collection 67 years in the making
Lake Park man has shards of history
"I've been interested in rocks since I was old enough to walk," Darrell Frerichs said.
The 78-year-old Lake Park resident said his grandmother and some of his early school teachers encouraged his continued interest, but it all came to an (arrow)head when he was about 12 years old in the early 1950s, after a neighbor went out to survey field erosion follwing a heavy rain.
"He found three arrow heads and showed them to me," Frerichs said. "That's all it took."
The young Frerichs went in search of his own special find the next day, and he indeed found an arrowhead.
"It wasn't a great one, but it was an arrowhead," Frerichs said.
Through the years, Frerichs held several jobs, and said any time he could spare was spent hunting for artifacts near Lake Park and the surrounding communities. He said he's partial to several spots but keeps them a secret, as he would a good fishing hole. But he did say some of the best areas to search are near water sources, dry river beds or freshly plowed fields. He said the next generation of rock hounds have a more difficult task ahead of them than he did, noting many farmers don't plow as deeply as they once did.
"I feel sorry for these young guys," Frerichs said. "They're not going to find much, because us old-timers got most of it picked up."
Indeed, Frerichs picked up quite a few things in his time. His basement is filled with thousands interesting minerals and relics of the past. He's become somewhat of an expert on the region's history — and can talk for hours about his carefully-catalogued collection.
"That's why the archeologists like to study my collection, because I can look at that certain number and tell them just where it was found and even the day that I found it," Frerichs said.
The local man has referred several dig sites to the state for further study or professional digs. Representatives from the Smithsonian Institute will visit from time to time and ask to borrow certain pieces, according to Frerichs. Likewise, Frerichs, who is a member of several archeological societies, will submit information on finds the Smithsonian has never heard of, like a 15 cent trade token from Fort Sully in South Dakota.
And that's just a start to the delightful oddities Frerichs has gathered in his time.
The collection's highlights include meteorite material from the Estherville area, rare agates, a nearly whole petrified turtle — with a number of petrified eggs inside — and prehistoric shark teeth found along the beaches of Lake Park.
But Frerichs' focus harkens back to his 12-year-old fascination with sharp tools and weaponry crafted from stone. A number of his wall-mounted displays showcase the cultures once native to the region, each identifiable by the distinct shape of their arrowheads. Frerichs is particularly proud to have found artifacts of the Clovis and Folsom cultures, which were some of the first in the United States.
"The Woodland Indians and the Oneota were dominant around here the last 3,000 years," Frerichs said. "The Sioux came later and chased everybody out."
Frerichs said arrowheads were a later adaptation of the larger lance points. Indians would often strike a stone with a cobble and work the resulting sharp flakes into points using deer horns or hard wood.
"Up until, I would say between 2,000 to 3,000 years ago, they were all lance points shot by atlatls — spear throwers — and then the last couple thousand years, it's been all arrowheads," Frerichs said.
The Lake Park resident went so far as to fashion his own atlatl, tipped with one of his finds.
"They'll shoot this shaft probably faster than a compound bow," he said.
However, the pointed rocks aren't the only artifacts under his glass displays. One of Frerichs' favorite items is a small red stone, a little smaller than a peach pit, shaped and engraved on every side of its smooth surface.
"It's a ceremonial buffalo pipe," Frerich's said. "That one's been in the Smithsonian, and it's also on a poster you can get from the state of Nebraska. That's one of my rarest finds."
The pipe, like several of Frerichs' finds, was crafted from a piece of catlinite, often called pipestone. Frerichs estimates a pipestone badger pendant he found is 1,100 years old. He said it's one of about five found in the entire country. All of the others have been donated to the Sanford Museum in Cherokee.
"There's an empty spot waiting for that one, but I don't know if they're going to get it or not someday," Frerichs said.
Of course, the European fur traders and settlers left their handiwork behind as well. Frerichs found a pendant he learned was made by Dutch sailors on their way to the new world in the 1500s. He said the craft was likely used in trade.
"This is the farthest west one has ever been found," he said. "I would like to know how many times this thing was traded before it got this far."
Nowadays, Frerichs doesn't get out rock hunting as often as he used to, but he does a fair amount of trading himself, swapping finds and making jewelry pendants from polished stones. Frerichs plans to pass some of his collection to the next generation. A Union flag from the civil war will be given to his first born, as is family tradition, and the petrified turtle will be given to an academic organization, eggs and all. There's one piece however, he plans to keep for himself. It's an arrowhead his father found in the weedy grass, while Frerichs himself was searching the much more likely beach.
Experience had taught Frerichs sandy ground would turn up the best results, so he searched the beach, but his father had come along and kept to the weedy grasses. He soon shouted he had found an arrowhead.
"I went up there and sure (enough) he found it on a pocket gopher mound — one in a million chance — I think my dad only found two in his life," he said. "That one there gets buried with me."