History and geology in the St. Croix River Valley
Mike Tibbetts is like the mad scientist of masonry.
There’s a very Einstein-esque vibe to his personality — or maybe it’s just the hair. Either way the longtime Marine carpenter, handyman, stone mason and jack of all trades is just finishing up a small project for Christ Lutheran Church that features some fairly unique stones.
Tibbetts is reusing sandstone from the foundation of a Marine home that was recently remodeled to build a head high sign holder for the church. The stones were added on to the foundation of the house as part of an addition around 80 years ago, but had been used in Marine long before that.
“That home was remodeled in 1938, that’s when this stone made its way there,” Tibbetts said. “But it’s obvious that it had already been cut for something else and then reused.”
Recycling stone isn’t all that unique, according to Tibbetts.
“In Europe it was done all the time,” he said. “Even the pyramids were robbed of their outer cladding to finish other buildings. That’s why they look as rough as they do.”
The interesting aspect of this sandstone in particular is its locality.
“There’s evidence of quarrying (along the St. Croix River),” he said. “There’s areas where you can see it was drilled. It was never really shipped anywhere though, it was just used locally. The stone in Osceola and Stillwater is the same way.”
The local sandstone seen from Osceola to Marine to Stillwater is a brand of the St. Croix River Valley. Past Sun editor Phillip Bock explored the history of the Valley’s geology in a 2012 article.
“According to geologists, much of the sandstone around Osceola dates back to the Cambrian period, roughly 500 million years ago,” the article read. “At that time, much of the area was covered by shallow seas, which deposited sand and sediment that, over millions of years, compressed into the sandstone we see today. Glaciers during the last ice age, too, shaped the valley and deposited silt and sand that eventually developed into the rock formations in the St. Croix Valley. Rivers, such as the St. Croix, carved through the soft sandstone over thousands of years, creating the valleys.”
Tibbetts speculates the sandstone for the church project originally came from the north side of Marine, although there’s no way to know for sure.
“The quarry it came from was probably down by where the Marine Landing restaurant is,” he said. “Right up above there there’s places where you can see drill holes and things like that.”
Tibbetts fascination with the stone is as obvious as his desire to avoid the spotlight, but there is such noteworthy expertise in his workmanship that ignoring his personal connection to masonry would be a disservice to him. He became interested in stone as a kid, and the curiosity bloomed into a lifetime passion.
“I think part of the inspiration was I grew up adjacent to St. Michael’s church in Stillwater,” he said. “I was just fascinated with that building, more with the building than with the faith frankly. I just started as a little kid, always putting stones on top of one another — and I just kept doing it.”