In June of 1912, one of the campus’ most noteworthy and enduring landmarks arrived. It was the brainchild of three senior men – Frank Crites, Nofle Renneker, and Milton White.
In 1962, Crites recalled that members of the Class of 1912 wanted to leave a “most lasting gift,” so “it was decided that a rock as large as could possibly be transported would be a fixture for many years in the future.”
Thursday of graduation week, Crites and recent graduate Austin Marshburn ’10, who provided the horses and wagon, started for Sierra Madre at about 3 a.m. Renneker and White rode over later on their bicycles, an eighteen-mile trip one way.
In a canyon at the foot of Mount Wilson trail, the foursome picked out a one- or two-ton granite boulder on the hillside, and dug trenches beneath it for the wagon wheels. After stopping at noon to eat lunches they’d brought, they eased the rock down the hill and onto the wagon with:
. . . strains, grunts, and the sweating required to accomplish our desired end. At long last, the rock was atop the wagon, the horses hitched to their positions and we were ready for the first try of moving the load to our campus. [But] the first effort of man and horses failed to set the wheels of the wagon in motion.
After more digging and “many more grunts and groans by men and horses, the wagon was eased out and on solid ground and all ready for the start home.”
Unfortunately, it was already 7 p.m. They hadn’t expected to be there all day, had not brought dinner and quickly discovered, Crites said, “there was not even an eating establishment in Sierra Madre.”
So after Renneker and White headed home by bike, Crites and Marshburn started ponderously down the lonely, dusty road with the huge rock in the wagon.
“We were both very hungry,” Crites recalled. But both had farmboy skills, so when they saw a dairy herd in the dusk along a deserted road, they stopped, milked the cows into their lunch pails and drink their fill.
They finally arrived at the campus with their prized rock about 2 a.m.
“The other members of the daytime party were aroused from sleep, and after more hours of strains and grunts, the rock was deposited on the ground of the campus near the walk leading to Founders Hall.”
“The presence of the strange rock on the campus attracted many visitors the following day,” Crites recalled. “These onlookers were both appreciative and hostile. Some were envious of our success.”
Among the latter were junior men, who dug a hole and buried the unguarded rock.
“On Saturday morning, all that remained visible of our beautiful rock was the top of the smaller end, extending ten inches out of its grave.”
At midnight, after President Newlin’s reception for seniors, they changed into work clothes and used a hand-operated crane to position the rock and embed it in reinforced concrete.
“When the Rock was finally put in place where it now rests,” Crites recalled, “the women of the class – Hazel Cooper, Gertrude Cox, and Maude Starbuck – served a delicious never-to-be-forgotten breakfast. And we watched the sun rise over the hill, smiling very favorably on our successful presentation to our alma mater – the Rock.”
From Whittier College: The First Century on the Poet Campus, By Charles Elliot, Jr.