Meteor, right?

Tom McDermott

There has been a long history of strange lights in the night sky surrounding Rochelle. In 1918 Melvin Govig sat in the yard with his father Nels when “the sky lit up and there was a terrific noise.” The next day father and son found the spot where a meteorite had landed. It was west of Creston on the Metler farm.

A few years later in 1934 Nasby and Charles Spitzer were tenants on the Pierce farm north of Creston. Charles witnessed a bright light streak across the sky and appear to land somewhere north of Rochelle. Nasby and Charles searched the next day and found an eight-inch diameter stone that they believed to be a meteorite. The stone was discovered about a half mile north of Illinois Route 38 on property owned by the Rochelle Asparagus Company. The boys donated the stone to the agriculture teacher, Mr. Wehner, at Rochelle High School. 

Over time, meteorites were said to have been found on the Mabel Pierce farm, Clyde Davey farm and LaVerne Olson farm. For the museum, one meteorite found its way to our humble establishment in 1989. The story goes that Frank Lloyd Wright was building a house at 333 N. 12th St. in Rochelle in 1934. Frank was made aware of some unusual rocks located in the Creston area. Frank and Bob Lazier jumped into a truck and headed to Creston to harvest the stones. The stones were collected from the area of the farm where Bill Davidson lived. Horses were used to recover stones from the Clyde and Albert Davey property also. The legend states that Mr. Wright harvested a total of four unique stones for an envisioned rock garden. 

While preparing the rock garden, Mr. Wright was visited by local businessman Vince Carney. Vince took a fancy to one of the stones and negotiated a deal with Mr. Wright. At the end of the day, Frank Lloyd Wright had three large stones in his rock garden and Vince Carney had one 600-pound stone adorning his garden.

Mary Carney, in 1989, donated the “meteorite” to the Flagg Township Museum. Hundreds of area school children have stood in awe before the meteorite over the years. What mysteries of the universe were contained with the heavenly body. For the first 10 years the meteorite sat outside on the museum yard. In 1999, the museum board was notified that if the stone was truly a meteorite it may be worth several thousand dollars. The meteorite was immediately moved inside to prevent theft. From 1999 through 2019 the museum proudly displayed the meteorite. In 2019, Museum Director Jan Devore reviewed the research on the meteorite and found the evidence to validate that the stone was a true meteorite was simple hearsay. A sample of the stone was sent to the Geology department at Northern Illinois University and tests were run to establish the origins of the meteorite. 

Today the stone sits in the cell room of the museum. No longer is it listed as a meteorite. The stone today is displayed as glacial erratic. What is a glacial erratic rock? Glaciers can pick up chunks of rocks and transport them over long distances. When they drop these rocks they are often far from their origin. These rocks are known as glacial erratics. For 85 years, the museum was the proud owner of a meteorite that had traveled millions of miles to find a home in the fields near Creston. Today we are the proud owners of a 600-pound rock that was pushed hundreds of miles by a glacier, 1.6 million to 10,000 years ago, to find a home in the fields near Creston.  

Tom McDermott is a Flagg Township Museum historian and Rochelle city councilman.