100 Years of the Rock

This Whittier Weekend, Whittier College’s beloved icon, the Rock, will be celebrating its 100th birthday in a new location.

Bright and early on Monday, October 15, a crew from Carty General Constracting began the excavation process that would bring up the Rock and transplant it 25 feet north of its original site. The goal in moving the Rock was to return it to its former stature on the campus landscape.

Upon excavation, the crew discovered about 24 inches of granite beneath the lawn. Then, during the relocation process, onlookers were given quite the jolt as the watched the Rock splinter into two large pieces.

“Years of corrosion, earthquakes, pranks, and exposure to the elements put quite a few significant cracks and fractures in our Rock, and in some cases it was literally ‘held together’ by paint,” explained President Sharon Herzberger. “When we attempted to place the Rock on its new base, [it] split in two. Fortunately, we planned for this possibility and disaster has been averted by a construction-grade epoxy.”

As expected, the Rock’s relocation received mixed feelings from the Poet community. Yet, many took the move in stride.

“The Rock is whole again,” reassured President Herzberger, “and we now will fill any additional cracks, and essentially make the Rock sounder than ever, preserving it for another century of use and lore.” Read more at the Quaker Campus.

The question remains – how did this one- to two- ton boulder arrive to Whittier College in the first place? Every generation of Poets has its stories, some of the most popular pointing to the hijinks of local college rivalries. Below, we debunk these rumors and share the true story of the Rock’s arrival to campus in 1912 – via horse, wagon, and the hard work of several senior classmates.

- Witness Whittier College history! We’ll be streaming live from the Rock’s 100th Birthday & Unveiling Celebration this Fri., October 26 at 6pm. -
Visit www.whittier.edu/live for the action.


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.”

In 1912, Crites said, there were:  . . .  many farmers who had horses and wagons with which they carried on their activities of farming. One such man was a recent graduate of Whittier College, and as his usual generous nature, Austin Marshburn [‘10] consented to drive his team and wagon for us and to assist in what labor would be necessary.

Thursday of graduation week, Crites and Marshburn started for Sierra Madre with the team and wagon “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.