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SMALL TOWN MATTERS: Noble (rose) rocks!

Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report
Joe Stine working on a sculpture in the atelier.
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NOBLE, Okla. – The city of Noble, just a 15-minute drive south of Norman, could be like any other small town in Oklahoma except for the city's welcome sign, proclaiming it as the “Rose Rock Capital of the World."

Rose rock (Barite Rose) is not just another rock- it has been the official state rock of Oklahoma since 196. However, the legend of rose rock goes even further into the past.

In the 1830s, President Andrew Jackson ordered the removal of the Cherokees and other Indian tribes from their Eastern homelands to Oklahoma on the Trail Of Tears.  According to E.L. Gilmore, a Cherokee storyteller, folklore states, "God, looking down from heaven, decided to commemorate the courageous Cherokees. As the blood of the braves and the tears of the maidens fell to the ground, they were turned to stons in the shape of a rose."

The best way to learn more about rose rocks is to stop by the Timberlake Rose Rock Museum along Main Street. Founded by Joe and Nancy Stine in 1986, the museum has welcomed many visitors to Noble.

Sign at the entry of the Timberlake Rose Rock Museum. (Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report)

Joe Stine, 89, a native Oklahoman knows the legend surrounding the rose rock very well. Cherokee war chief Ostenaco, who fought during the French-Indian War, accompanied Lt. Henry Timberlake and Sgt. Thomas Sumter to England where he had an audience with King George III. Lt. Henry Timberlake lived with the Cherokees for sometime. Lt. Timberlake and Sakinney, Ostenaco's daughter, were the parents of Richard Timberlake, beginning the Timberlake lineage of which Stine is a descendant. The Timberlake Rose Rock Museum name pays tribute to this lineage. 

Stine, a former geologist, has always collected rocks like the barite rose rock. It was only years later that he thought he could make sculptures from it. After studying metal work at Swest, located in Dallas, and at the Firehouse Art Center of Norman, Oklahoma, the Stines decided to work with rose rock full time. They created their first tree called “The Cherokee Rose” in 1971. 

“I just go into this accidentally practicing these things,” he laughed.

The Cherokee Rose sculptures made by Stine. (Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report)

According to Stine, people from around the world have stopped by the museum during the last 30 years, thanks to the age of the internet coupled with the rarity of rose rocks. Central Oklahoma is known as the best place in the world to find it, with Noble and Norman hotbeds for the rocks. 

Additionally, Oklahoma officially recognized Noble as the Rose Rock Capital of Oklahoma. Since there was no competitor, later also recognized as the Rose Rock Capital of the World in May 1983. At the same time, Noble started to hold a yearly Rose Rock Festival on the first weekend of May. Today, about 15,000 people (tripling the city population) come to enjoy the parade, car show, poker run, art and craft vendors, food vendors, carnival, and concert annually. 

According to the Rose Rock Festival Chairman John Stokes, it is the biggest event of the year for the city of Noble.

“We make the festival to promote the city,” he added.

As the Timberlake Rose Rock Museum is the only location in Noble where one can buy and learn more about rose rocks formations, it begs the question of who will succeed the Stines in operating the museum after they retire. 

“I never really think about that,” replied Kim Adams, executive director of the Noble Chamber of Commerce.

Stokes was more optimistic, saying he believes someone will keep the museum open or the local Noble museum will open a new section dedicated to rose rocks. 

“As they retired I am sure somebody else will pursue the business,” Stokes said.

If you are on the hunt to find your own rose rock, Stine explained one of the best locations to look is Lake Stanley Draper, southeast of Oklahoma City.

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Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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