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A fight over a bucket-sized chunk of rock got started 125 years ago today. The final punch wasn’t thrown until two years later.
The fight was over a meteorite that fell on Iowa on May 2nd of 1890. A big space rock slammed into Earth’s atmosphere, blazing across the late-afternoon sky with brilliant sparks and a trail of smoke. The pyrotechnics were seen from more than a hundred miles away.
High above the ground, the rock shattered into thousands of pieces, which pelted several square miles near the town of Forest City. Residents quickly began scouring their fields for the fragments.
The state universities in Minnesota and Iowa sent representatives to try to bag some pieces. The Minnesota rep bought a 66-pound fragment from a farmer. Before the Minnesotan could board the train for Minneapolis, though, the owner of the land that the farmer was renting got a court order turning it over to him. A hearing confirmed that the meteorite belonged to the land owner.
That didn’t stop the University of Minnesota, though. After posting a bond claiming ownership, the university’s lawyer grabbed the stone and scurried back home with it.
The Iowan who owned the land then sued, saying he should own any rocks that fell on his property. The Iowa supreme court agreed with him. Minnesota refused to give it up, though. It paid the original bond it had put up in Forest City, and held on to the meteorite — winning the rock fight by default.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2015
The University of Minnesota alumni magazine published this detailed account of the legal battle over the Forest City meteorite.