DNR wants to question man who found huge Petoskey stone

Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News

Some people’s luck can plummet like a rock.

After a Copemish man finally fished a 93-pound Petoskey boulder from Lake Michigan near Northport, he’s now in hot water with the state Department of Natural Resources.

Michigan law prohibits removing more than 25 pounds of rocks or minerals per year from state-owned lands, including Great Lakes bottomlands. Violation could bring a civil fine of up to $500.

Tim O’Brien told the Grand Rapids Press that he took three trips to the site where he found the huge state stone before finally dislodging it from the lake bottom Tuesday. Then, he says, he had to carry it up 114 steps before putting it in his pickup.

DNR spokesman Ed Golder says the agency wants to talk to O’Brien and decide how to handle the matter.

While 93 pounds of fossilized coral can be hard to dismiss, some people, such as Betty Bailey of Bailey’s Place — Petoskey Stones & Stuff rock shop in, of course, Petoskey, wasn’t impressed.

Bailey has a 300-400 pound Petoskey stone squatting in her front yard.

“I don’t want anyone to think I’m trying to rain on this other guy’s parade, but a 93-pound stone isn’t that huge,” she said. “But as a rock gal, I can say that what he has isn’t even a pure Petoskey stone — it’s a conglomerate. The black you see in his stone is a matrix of mud, silt or minerals that has some Petoskey stones mixed in with it.”

According to Bailey, her stone is Pure Petoskey all the way.

“My stone is a solid piece of coral top to bottom, side to side,” Bailey said. “I purchased it from a man about 15 years ago. He found it and brought it home but his wife made him sell it because it was always in the way.”

Bailey said she’s not afraid anyone will take the monster stone resting in her front yard.

“You can’t pick it up, so I’m not concerned that someone would steal it,” Bailey said. “It just sits there, and we mow around it.”

Bailey also has another claim to fame: It was her shop that sold a palm-sized Petoskey stone that basks on the desk of President Obama’s in the Oval Office.

So how did a Petoskey stone — fossilized coral often found in the northern Lower Peninsula — from Petoskey end up as the “pet rock” on the desk of the president of the United States?

“A woman came in and said she wanted to buy a Petoskey stone for a friend’s 50th birthday,” Bailey said. “She wanted a Petoskey stone because she grew up visiting around here. I sold her a nice one. A few months later she came back to buy some Sterling and I asked her how her friend liked the stone.”

At that point, the woman told the rest of the story.

“She smiled and said it was for the president,” Bailey said. “I thought, ‘yeah, right.’ It turns out that her fiance was Pete Souza, the president’s official White House photographer.

“Souza and his fiancee — Patti Lease — were invited to the president’s birthday party at which she gave him the stone. He liked it so much that he put it on his desk.”

According to Bailey, Souza and his new wife (they were married at the White House) have since visited the shop and verified that the Petoskey stone on the Oval Office desk came from her shop.

Just a stone’s throw down the road from Bailey’s is another Petoskey stone roughly the size of Andre the Giant’s head, but this one is behind glass at Petoskey City Hall.

“It’s probably 20 inches tall by 18 inches wide,” said Parks and Recreation Director Al Hansen, who added that he has no idea what the rock weights other than “a lot.”

“It was donated to the state by a local resident and it ended up in the basement of the state Capitol. We built our city hall in 1988, and it was returned to the city.

“It’s unpolished, but it’s all Petoskey stone.”


(313) 222-2023

The Associated Press contributed.