Buried Treasure in the Heartland
Buried treasure in the Heartland - something you don't hear everyday, especially in the agricultural center of America. However, the truth of the statement is beginning to sink in with Kiowa County, especially now that the world is taking notice. This buried treasure is not gold or jewels, a sunken ship or buried city. It is even more exceptional, for this treasure is otherworldly. Beneath acres of prairie grass where Indians and buffalo once dwelled, lays a treasure worth waiting for and seeking, year after year, because it fell from the sky.
On a homestead between Greensburg and Haviland lives a couple who has made it their goal in life to unearth this treasure. Here on the land they purchased 13 years ago lies a field of moon rocks which have been unearthed and highly regarded for centuries. These rocks are better known as meteorites, and have lain hidden beneath the soil for thousands of years. Space rocks such as these are extremely rare, being composed of both iron and stone and revealing dazzling crystals when sliced open. They are known as pallasite meteorites and have been named Brenham Meteorites because of the location of their discovery near Brenham Township of the late 1800s.
Dr. Donald Stimpson and his wife, Sheila, hail from Chicago, and began their treasure hunting as a hobby. Both of them held exceptional jobs in the science field, and spent vacations rock-hounding for fun. On a trip to Kansas one year, they visited The Big Well in Greensburg and it was in the gift shop that their adventure began. A book entitled Space Rocks and Buffalo Grass written by local Ellis Peck was purchased, and an interest peaked that went further than they probably ever dreamed. Inspired, the Stimpsons sought to meet Mr. Peck, visiting with him about his life and findings and came to appreciate the wonder of the crater that lay on his land. Upon his passing in 1994, the couple was contacted by a family member about the auction of his land. Recognizing the rarity of the opportunity, they forsook their city life and bought the acreage and the treasure that still lay below.
Don and Sheila began their dream from "square one." In order to live and work on the acreage they had to dig a well, hook up electricity, and move in a modular home. Step by step they developed the land, all the while knowing that the treasure lay nearby. They began to detect metal and to dig, and were successful in finding many interesting specimens. In 1996 a building was opened in Haviland which housed many of their recent finds, but closed after a short season. Then in 1998, two very large meteorites (700lbs and 1000lbs) were discovered, and these captured the attention of the science world.
Since then, even more pallasite meteorites have been unearthed in Kiowa County, not only on this farm. In recent years a mammoth 1430 pounder was unearthed by Steve Arnold on the Binford farms of Haviland. This meteorite was featured on the Discovery Channel and made news around the world. A Toyata pick-up commercial was even filmed surrounding the meteorite theme, transporting it from Haviland to its final destination. Shortly there after, Dr. Stimpson detected and excavated another meteorite of even greater magnitude, a 1500 pounder on the Ross farm of Haviland.
Enthused by these incredible finds, a die-hard group of meteorite supporters in Haviland instituted a festival celebrating our most unusual treasure. At the first annual Meteorite Festival, Dr. Stimpson displayed some of his findings, exhibited much of the information gathered surrounding these fascinating space rocks, and even performed "cloud chamber" experiments for visitors to view. (Other events during the festival included a parade, musical and dramatic entertainment, food vendors, a kids' carnival and educational booths, star gazing, and a free hamburger feed in the evening.)
Don and Sheila continue to toil to bring forth their dreams of not only unearthing this rare treasure, but to house and share it with the world. It doesn't take one long to see that this industrious couple is gracious with the gift they have acquired. In the process of forming the non-profit "Haviland Crater Institute", they are soon to lay a foundation for an education center in which the meteorites can be exhibited and enjoyed by locals as well as travelers by. Located just two miles off of Highway 54, the Stimpsons have an ideal location for those who wish to explore and learn about these findings. They even hope to someday develop an area on the property, where the general public can come and look for their own meteorites, not unlike the diamond park in Arkansas.
Until that time, Haviland hopes to proclaim the wonders of these natural phenomena. The Second Annual Meteorite Festival is being planned in full force and will be held July 14 this year. Dr. Stimpson will, of course, be its most important guest (next to the meteorites themselves) and he is sure to share his excitement and love of this most unusual treasure with any and all who are present. In addition to this event, the Meteorite Festival Committee wishes to continue to use this unique geological find to enhance local commerce as well as to educate the generations to come.