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Students share artifacts with 3rd-grade class

Photo by Todd Lindahl Brenda Gelineau holds the bottom of a child's toy flatiron, something she found at Burlington Bay and shared with her class.

When Cindy Ortman's third-grade class began studying about archaeology and artifacts, Brenna Gelineau announced that she'd found one.

The proof is in the seeing, so the Minnehaha student was invited to bring her find to class. She explained that she'd found the oval-shaped object at Burlington Bay on a random expedition with her family.

Marge Lahti, a volunteer who listens to children read, saw the dark metal piece and recognized it as something from long ago, possibly a children's toy. At that point, Todd Lindahl was called in.

Lindahl, a local historian, suspected from the description he was given that the object was a child's toy flatiron. So, armed with other metal toys--including a flatiron--he visited the classroom to teach the students a little about times long ago.

He quickly confirmed his suspicions: it was indeed the bottom of a girl's toy flatiron.

"The bolt holding the top on had probably rusted through after the toy was lost, perhaps during some long ago picnic," Lindahl said. He explained that there once was a picnic area at that spot, where the old Stage Road crossed today's 1st Street.

Although there was a settlement of people in Burlington Bay prior to 1860, it isn't likely the toy came from such an early era, Lindahl said. His best guess is that the toy was lost sometime between 1889, when the power plant was put in near that site, and 1905, when a huge November storm wiped out that same power plant.

After that, the picnic area and the plant--now today's water treatment plant--were moved south.

During that same show-and-tell day, Amber Caron brought an unusual rock, an obsidian nodule, in the hopes that there might be something special about that. Lindahl said there was.

"If it was not transported here as a souvenir in more modern times, it could be of prehistoric origin," he said. "While this type of volcanic glass is very rare in this region, it has been occasionally found in archaeological excavations here and elsewhere around the state."

Lindahl said those that are found here have been brought through ancient trade networks from geological sources no closer than Wyoming or Montana.

"Regardless of its age, the object is still an interesting one and a good find," Lindahl said.

Lindahl had brought a selection of other old metal children's toys, which fascinated the room full of students. Lindahl himself was impressed with Gelineau's and Caron's reactions to their finds.

"They recognized that the item found were something special and out of the ordinary. This attention to detail resulted in a job well done," Lindahl said.