Dolliver Memorial State Park
Dolliver Memorial State Park, dedicated in 1925, is one of Iowa's earliest state parks. Located on the banks of the Des Moines River in Webster County near Lehigh, the park contains a variety of flora, fauna, and geologic formations including sandstone bluffs and hardwood forest.
When the area became Dolliver Memorial State Park, a box-like canyon of sandstone cliffs within the park was known locally as "Boneyard Hollow." The name comes from the large number of bison, elk and deer bones that were found in the canyon, on both sides of the creek that runs through the canyon. Although a variety of theories exist about how they came to be in the canyon, none are conclusive.
In the early 1900s, what would eventually be Dolliver Memorial State Park was a part of the J.B. Black farm and was primarily used for recreation. Around 1912, during a family picnic with friends, eleven-year-old Ruth Peterson found a lead tablet inscribed in Latin and dated 1750. The tablet was sent to Edgar Harlan, Curator of the State Archives, who in turn sent it to Archbishop Ireland of St. Paul, Minnesota, for translation.
ANNO DOMINO MDCCL LOUIS XV REX DUX Earquat et Pater Hennepin feris fugentes decederem fluminus – paseum muttum ad fluminis xxx eves ar in celatus hiemabamus adverta vernis terrarm occupatamus quae seccatur flumine nomine Louis XV.
In the year of our Lord, 1750, in the reign of King Louis XV, General Earquat and Father Hennepin fleeing from the wild beasts spent the winter concealed in a shelter and at the coming of spring took position in the name of King Louis XV of the land drained by this river.
The tablet was determined to be a hoax due, in part, to the poor Latin grammar. Eventually, two Lehigh residents admitted that they had created and buried the tablet as a joke. However, the episode had prompted Edgar Harlan to visit the site. Once he had seen the beauty of the area, he returned several times with his colleague on the Iowa State Board of Conservation, Louis Pammel. 1
Soon after the State Board of Conservation was created in 1917, a number of prominent Fort Dodge residents sent a petition asking that the site be purchased for a park. $10,000 had been raised for the purchase as a memorial to Jonathan Prentiss Dolliver. The land was purchased from J.B. Black, who became Dolliver Park’s first custodian. Land was donated by J.B. Black and a Mr. Sperry to provide an access road to the park. Later additions have increased the park’s size to 614 acres.
- 1. “The Natural History of Dolliver Memorial State Park, Webster County, Iowa,” edited by Raymond R. Anderson and Chad L. Fields, Guidebook 81 (Iowa City: Iowa Department of Natural Resources Geological Survey Bureau, 2007), 58. Available online: http://s-iihr34.iihr.uiowa.edu/publications/uploads/GSI-081.pdf.