- Associated Press - Saturday, December 20, 2014

CROOKS, S.D. (AP) - A 75-pound historical marker that once stood in South Dakota has been found in southern Alabama. How it got there remains a mystery.

When leaders of the Minnehaha County Historical Society first learned that the marker that at one point could be seen outside of West Nidaros Lutheran Church near Crooks had been found over a thousand miles away, their first thought was that it had been stolen, the Argus Leader (https://argusne.ws/13oOLXv ) reported. But a member of the committee that oversaw the marker’s installation in 1997 says that’s not the case.

Sherry Clayton contacted the historical society after seeing the 54-by-44-inch metal slab up for auction - with a $25 opening bid - on the website for the Redfield Auction Gallery in Rainbow City, Alabama. Clayton is a member of her local historical group and says she knows how important and expensive those signs can be.

“To me, if people sell these markers, then it just promotes other people to steal them,” said Clayton, who lives in Rainbow City. “I think they should be stopped.”

After hearing from Clayton, the historical society contacted the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Department, which then reached out to the auction house that had the marker.

Redfield owner Mike Fisher says a man who had previously done business with the auction house brought the sign and said it had been in an aunt’s garage for five or six years. She had told him that she’d found it in a ditch near her mailbox one morning.

Fisher acknowledges that the marker never should have been put up for auction, and he took it down. He and Minnehaha County authorities then speculated that a visiting pheasant hunter might have stolen the marker, which has a crack that looks like someone tried to repair.

But Joan Eitrheim, who was part of the group that presided over the marker’s original installation, insists it was never stolen. She says the story goes like this: The historical marker was struck years ago by a church member’s car. It eventually was replaced. She doesn’t know what happened to the original marker, but its only value probably would have been as scrap metal.

“I know it was damaged, and I guess I don’t remember the details,” Eitrheim said. “But it’s not been stolen, that I can tell you.”

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Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

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