Silent Guide on Stone Man Hill strengthened

Ready to stand watch for another century ... M.R. Hansen, upper right, David K. Hansen, left, young Willow Hansen, upper ladder, and Barbara Hansen put in several days of hard work in breezy 100 degree weather replacing much of the mortar in the historic landmark known as the Silent Guide on Stone Man Hill. They also replaced the rope and the American flag.

by Del Bartels

Approximately nine miles dead west of Philip stands a stone obelisk that is so much a part of the history of area residents that it is often taken for granted.

The Silent Guide stone tower has stood as a marker for, first, shepards, then over the last century for all travelers. Built on top of Stone Man Hill in 1900 by W. S. Jones, the landmark was designated in 1950 as a U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey reference marker. High peaks on the horizon seen from the vantage point are many, many miles distant. The hilltop, on its own, is distinguishable in the ranching country of southwestern Haakon County. The historic pillar adds to that distinction, and the American flag snapping sharply in the South Dakota wind distinctly draws the travelers' eye.

In 1924, the people of this rural area rebuilt the monolithic pillar. In June of 1999, a community effort renewed the entire foundation. On August 19 through August 22, 2010, the crumbling and disappearing mortar between the fitted stones was brushed away and replaced. New mortar was tuck pointed in between the stones through the efforts of people with strong family ties to the area.

M.R. Hansen, Rapid City, and David K. Hansen, Fort Pierre, are sons of Vivian Hansen, who grew up in Grindstone, the historic town closest to the tower. M.R.'s wife, Barbara, and their granddaughter, Willow, aided in the restoration of the upper part of the landmark. The two men first worked together in one of their garages to construct portable, aluminum scaffolding that would work around the project on the rocky and windblown hilltop. The four then traveled back to the place of the men's' younger days to strengthen a physical part of their past.

The landmark, with its tangible signs, markers and etchings and its intangible history, should stand for many more decades as a silent guide over the Grindstone area.