NEW: Topgraphic map of Runestone Hill
One of the arguments against the validity of the Kensington Rune Stone has been based on an apparent error in the affidavits of Olof Ohman and his neigbor, Nils Flaten. In the affidavits, both Ohman and Flaten say that Flaten's house is 500ft from where the stone was found, however J A Holvik measured the distance and found it to be closer to 1000 ft, a figure which is mentioned with some delight by Whalgren in his arguments in throwing suspicsion on the earnestness of the affidavits.
Last week I examined the Platt books for Solem Township, Douglas County, MN from the years 1886 and 1912, and found that indeed one of the houses on Nils Flaten's land was indeed 1000ft away from the site of the finding of the Runestone. However, between 1886 and 1912, Flaten bought a piece of land directly to the south of his 40 acres, owned (in 1886) by John Erickson. Both Platt books show that while Flaten's farmhouse was located on the east side of his property, near the road, the Erickson house was located in the NW corner of his lot - and approximately 500ft from the place of the Runestone's discovery.
I don't know if that house was in use or not, but it seems evident that this was the landmark that Ohman and Flaten were referring to in their affidavits. It should be noted that Holand also makes the same mistake in locating Flaten's original residence as being the site of the house in the affidavit. I assume that the house was destroyed sometime soon after the 1912 survey - it does not appear in the 1940 Platt book - and the attention of investigators naturally shifted to the remaining house. Blegen seems to have realized this (there is a pencil marking, on one of the 1912 platt book with the location of the stone) as there is no record of this 'error' in his discussion of the affidavits, but likewise there is no refutation of Wahlgren on this point.
I had the opportunity to drive around the Runestone site a few weeks back, and found that the hill was visible from three different roads in the area. There is a short stretch north of the hill on the road that goes to the entrance to the Runestone park, about 1/2 mile away from the hill from which the hill is easily visible across the marsh. On the south and east sides of the hill, there are also roads which run along the tops of the hills surrounding the marsh. On the south, the road is again about 1/2 mile from the hill, and slopes from the road down to the marsh so that the south face of the hill is quite visible for a stretch of roadway for a good 1/4 to 1/2 mile.
Again on the road to the east, which runs past Flaten's farm, there is about a quarter mile stretch where one can see the hill, and the closest distance of approach here is about 1/4 mile from the hill. The platt books show that these roadways were in use at the time the Runestone was found, and a soil survey from the mid 1970s notes that the area was originally open prairie, and therefore the hill would likely have been visible to anyone walking or riding along these roads.
There is also another farmhouse to the SW of Runestone hill listed on the platt books as belonging to Christen Olson (1886) or Mary Olson et al (1912) which is 3/8 mile from the hill. I don not recall specifically if there is any blocking terrain, but the hill may also have been visible from this house, and was certainly visible from the eastern sections of their land.
It is difficult to believe that a person would try to 'plant' a forgery in such a highly open spot, when there were other places on his land that could have been chosen where the chance of discovery would have been much less.
PLAT MAP FROM 1886: The Runestone was found approximately where the L on Land is in the Section marked "Internal Improvement Land"