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The Ancient Warren River Vallery and the Vetter Stone Company, Minnesota--Donn Vetter

As told by Donn Vetter
Mankato, Minnesota

Story Narrative:

Donn Vetter comes from a long line of quarry men. He is the quarry manager at Vetter Stone, near Mankota, Minnesota. Don talks about the ancient river valley and those geologic events that made the stone here so special.

This story was collected as part of a collaborative effort to record the state of American lakes, rivers, and waterways as well an attempt to uncover what water means to Americans. Listen to other stories recorded by the Minnesota Humanities Center for their We Are Water MN initiative, an outgrowth of our national traveling exhibition "Water/Ways."  

"The company name is Vetter Stone Company. It was founded in 1954 with my grandfather and his four sons. So my siblings and I are the third generation and I am the quarry manager and I’ve been here for over 30 years. What’s unique about the Minnesota River Valley is When the river Warren carved out the whole Minnesota Valley, it carved out enough of the overburden to get close to the stone and still make it economic feasible to quarry it. The overburden is actually what the glacier did not take - about a foot of dirt and then there is about 5-20 feet of just actual shale rock.

So it’s economically feasible to quarry or to mine 5-20 feet of overburden to get to the stone. As opposed to, if the river hadn’t cut through here we would have had to mine 150 feet of overburden and then it would be totally unfeasible for anyone to quarry any stone in this area. The stone was formed 400 million years ago in a shallow sea where tiny fragments , mostly calcium and little sea shells and some magnesium, would pile up and then after millions of years it would compress under heat and pressure and form into dolomite stone, which is harder than limestone.

The stone is special because it has a certain very specific color of just the warm, cream, buff and pinks that you don’t find really anywhere else in the world. And it also has a very tight grain so it can pass the tests for being on a building of wind loads and flexural strengths and the technical part of staying on a building forever without failing. And it’s something that architects want to see and specify. We’ve done a lot of big things around the world.

We’ve worked on buildings from the Smithsonian Institution with the Museum of the Native American Indian, a skyscraper in Minneapolis that’s 57 stories high, which was originally called the Norwest Center which is the Wells Fargo Tower now. We did Target Field for the Minnesota Twins, that’s all our stone on there. We did the US embassy in Moscow. And we’ve got some other buildings in Tokyo. So we have some stone around the world."

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