Headstone found in Central Minnesota lake

Updated: September 12, 2019 06:52 PM

Back in June, KSTP told you about plans to take water out of Little Rock Lake in Rice.

Last month, the Sartell dam was opened and the drawdown began. When the muddy bottom was revealed, something mysterious also showed up.


"It’s Reier O. Watnaas, O for Olson because his dad's name is Ole," said Aric Watnaas.

A 30-pound concrete headstone, which dates back decades, was found just 3-4 feet from shore.

"It was placed face up at a 90-degree angle from the shore, so someone put it there," Watnaas said.

Drawdown on Little Rock Lake in Benton County to begin Aug. 1

As soon as he heard about it, Watnaas knew it had to be a relative.

"There's only a few of us in the United State and Norway," he shared.

He did some digging and believes he found the link.

"Reier is my great grandfather’s second cousin, I believe he came over to the United States in about 1880."

More research revealed Reier worked in North Dakota. He died a bachelor and was buried alongside his brother in Fosston, Minnesota in 1930.

How his original headstone ended up in a lake 180 miles from the cemetery, nobody knows.

"It’s kind of like a treasure hunt but you’ve got the treasure and now you’re trying to backtrack to figure out how it got there," Watnaas said.

Historic drawdown of Little Rock Lake underway

Reier died long before Aric was even born.

"I wish he had kids so that I could ask them (about their dad)," he said, acknowledging the whole situation is a little emotional and one that will keep pushing him to find out more about his ancestors.

"My father passed away two years ago and he did a lot of the family history, he didn’t have Reier in his family history when I went back to look, so it’s something new," he shared.

"Do you think this is a message from your dad saying, 'get going son?'" KSTP Reporter Jessica Miles asked Aric. "That’s what he would do," Watnaas said.

Watnaas plans to connect with the Benton County Historical Society, which may be interested in the headstone.

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Jessica Miles

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


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