Freedom Rock honors veterans, unites Clayton County

Work continues into 2020

Early in 2019, the Clayton County Foundation for the Future awarded a $1,000 grant for the creation of artwork honoring area veterans. Led by a dedicated group of volunteers, the Clayton County Freedom Rock project has drawn support from veterans and business owners across the county and beyond. 

The artwork is part of a larger project, The Freedom Rock, which is a unique, 99-piece mural that includes one large, painted rock in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. Artist Ray Sorenson completed the painting of Clayton County’s rock, located in Guttenberg, late last summer. 

“The Clayton County Foundation for the Future was proud to award a grant to the Clayton County Freedom Rock Project in 2019. We recognize the unique opportunity to honor and thank all Clayton County veterans with a one-of-a-kind piece of art located on a beautiful site,” said Emily Sadewasser, foundation coordinator. “We commend the organizing group and all of the project collaborators for their efforts and care in bringing a Freedom Rock to Clayton County.”

Guttenberg resident Stan Blair initiated the project in 2015, convening a group of local veterans with representation from each of the county’s military organizations: American Legion, AmVets, VFW, Northeast Iowa Vietnam Veterans and the Guttenberg veteran’s monument committee. Today’s team includes Carson Palmer, Bob Moser, Dick Eilers, Jim Eglseder, Nancy McClellan, Wendy Kuhse and Owen Sylvester. 

The committee worked with the artist to determine the subject of the painting. It features Sam Merrill, a McGregor resident who served as the seventh governor of Iowa. Merrill signed a bill to provide for the construction of Iowa’s current state capitol building, also part of the painted scene. “Beside the Governor and Capitol is an eagle, which are numerous around Guttenberg and Clayton County,” said the artist. “In the eagle’s mouth is our state motto, which I thought fitting to fly next to Gov. Merrill.”

The Foundation also maintains a project fund for the Clayton County Freedom Rock, which has grown thanks to volunteers going door-to-door and sending mailings to veterans countywide. Individuals and businesses have donated cash, materials and labor, uniting in support of the project. 

Fundraising is ongoing as organizers continue work to make the site surrounding the Freedom Rock welcoming to all. The rock stands on land in the center of the aptly-named Horseshoe Pond, and a bridge to the site is being raised three feet to provide visitors better access by land and allow paddlers on the water to easily pass. Once the shoreline is stabilized, engraved pavers will recognize donors and veterans, sidewalks will be poured and railings will be added. Landscaping, flag poles, lighting and a gazebo roof over the rock will complete the project. 

To make your contribution to the Freedom Rock project, visit