Small stone rocks Granby: Search for Granby Idol turns up new leads
We live in an age without wonder or mystery; there are no more unexplored places on the map where cartographers caution “here be dragons.”
But who among us, even in this digital age, has not dreamed of chasing down a treasure, of seeking out the unknown and the adventure that comes with it, if only for a little while? Residents of Grand County are lucky in that regard because of a real life legend, or myth, that started out right here in Middle Park; the Granby Idol.
Many citizens of the area are at least vaguely familiar with the story of the Granby Idol, but now new research is calling into question some of the assumptions about the long-lost relic and where it has laid hidden for the past several generations. Amateur researchers Bart Torbert and Dusty Pierce — who grew up in the Granby area — have been hunting for the Idol for years and have found new clues leading them north to Minnesota.
There are many legends about the Idol and the, somewhat contradictory, research materials do not make it easy to define the story. But regardless of the provenance one particular questions hovers over the entire issue.
Where is the Idol today?
The Idol initially emerged in the early 20th century and was allegedly discovered by a Granby area landowner named William “Bud” Chalmers, who hailed from the Minneapolis area. According to Torbert the most commonly told story about the Idol has Chalmers selling the mysterious artifact to a wealthy St. Louis man named Harry Knight, who owned a ranch next to Chalmers in Grand County in the 20s. From there the trail went cold.
A little over 10 years ago Pierce was researching the Idol when he stumbled upon a catalog of items at the University of Minnesota’s museum in Minneapolis. The catalog included an entry for a plaster cast of a “Granby stone” placed in the museum by the University Anthropology Department’s founder, Professor Albert Jenks. According to officials from the Museum the plaster cast was removed in 1999 and sent to storage along with half-a-million other items that were neither cataloged nor inventoried.
Despite not being able to locate the cast officials in Minnesota did have one document related to the Idol,
a letter from Professor Jenks to James Ford Bell, the founder of General Mills. In 1928 Bell provided funding to the University to establish the “Granby Stone Image Fund” – at the time the Idol was not referred to as an idol and was commonly called the Granby Stone Image. The Fund was to cover costs of Jenks’ research on the Idol and created a purchase option allowing the University to buy the item from Chalmers, if desired. Bell, and other wealthy philanthropists, also funded research expeditions conducted by Jenks to study native cultures in New Mexico.
Torbert uncovered these records at the University and while they were able to locate documentation discussing potential purchases of the Idol, no purchase documentation exists. Bell was a collector of all sorts of items. But Bell’s living grandson told Torbert and Pierce he knows nothing about the statue or his grandfather’s involvement with it.
Unfortunately the Jenks lead runs cold in Minnesota. The University’s current Anthropology Department does not know anything about the statue or where Jenks’ research files ended up. Jenks was a leading figure in the American Eugenics movement and the University’s Anthropology Department is less than enthusiastic about their founder’s history.
Torbert and Pierce are now looking to find more information on when Chalmers allegedly sold the Idol to Knight, to see if they can confirm or debunk the provenance of that story.
“I am thinking that if it was in the mid-1920s it has to be bogus,” Torbert stated. “We know the statue was in Minnesota in the late 1920s”.
Whatever the truth is, the legend of the Idol will continue to intrigue and inspire imaginations until the true story is finally revealed.
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