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Finding bits of History in Siouxland, Smithland

28 Dec

Blossoming trees at the Fowler Preserve near Smithland in rural Woodbury County, Iowa, Sunday, April 24, 2016. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always like stumbling upon a bit of history when driving about Siouxland. That happened to me a couple of years ago when visiting the Fowler Preserve in Woodbury County near Smithland. Trees and other fauna was just beginning to bloom. There are a couple of trails there that take one to the top of a hill where you can get a view of the surrounding area and to rest a bit as you make your way of the hillside.

Benches are sprinkled throughout the Fowler Preserve near Smithland in rural Woodbury County, Iowa, Sunday, April 24, 2016. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Besides some normal accoutrements in parks like open space and picnic tables, I came across a large rock with a plaque. It made note of the fact that for 20 years, from 1856 to 1876, a stage coach trail passed through the area from Smithland to Sioux City. That century’s mass transportation which allowed small groups of people to get from one point to another on the western frontier without having to purchase their own horse, or wagon, or whatever might be available, until the railroads allowed even larger groups of people to move about. I was struck with awe the idea of standing someplace that 2 centuries earlier I could have spied the coach and its passengers making their way to a new place, seeing history unfold as people moved West, not knowing what to expect but hoping for a different, if not better life.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A view of a picnic area at the Fowler Preserve near Smithland in rural Woodbury County, Iowa, Sunday, April 24, 2016. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A stagecoach trail passed through the Fowler Preserve from the mid 1850’s to late the 1870’s near Smithland in rural Woodbury County, Iowa, Sunday, April 24, 2016. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

(Click image for larger view.)

Enjoying History near Siouxland, a Union Railway Station, Omaha, NE

8 Dec

The Durham Museum was formerly a Union Pacific Railroad station in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Nov. 7 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There are so many facets of history that sometimes its easy to overlook particular pieces of it, even when it’s not so easy to overlook once you are aware. On a recent outing to Omaha, NE with some friends, we visited the Durham Museum which used to be a Union Railway Station.

The entry hall or main waiting area of the Durham Museum, formerly a Union Pacific Railroad station, dwarfs visitors now as then, seen in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Nov. 7 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

To say the least, the place is magnificent and utterly gorgeous. We traveled to the Museum to see a current showing of a wildlife photographer’s work which was very impressive. But once one walked into the station it was hard to keep moving toward the exhibit housed there. A brochure says for a station to be a union station it required a train depot to serve more than one railroad line. And evidently during its heyday this station served the Union Pacific, Chicago & Northwestern, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, the Illinois Central System, the Missouri Pacific and the Wabash Railway. And small scenes of recreated history as well as plaques informing a visitor abounded about the place.

A few replica scenarios show what the Union Station’s original purpose are on display at the Durham Museum, formerly a Union Pacific Railroad station in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Nov. 7 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A few replica scenarios show what the Union Station’s original purpose are on display at the Durham Museum, formerly a Union Pacific Railroad station in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Nov. 7 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Displays tell the history of the former Union Pacific Railroad station, a hub of action during the Second World War, and now the Durham Museum, in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Nov. 7 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I find it hard to imagine the hustle and bustle that must have been happening in this station. I have not been to New York’s Grand Central Station or other still functioning railway stations so I have no sense of the enormity of the number of people gathered in one place just passing through.

Displays tell the history of the former Union Pacific Railroad station, now Durham Museum, in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Nov. 7 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Displays tell the history of the former Union Pacific Railroad station, now Durham Museum, in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Nov. 7 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The bronze scenes help give a sense of what might have occurred at the time and is a pleasant little scene for families to take photographs around while visiting. I would think it would in the day have been easy to have gotten lost or separated from companions. But not so much today. It’s a grand place to reflect on changing demographics and transportation modes but truly filled with history that anyone can appreciate.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A few replica scenarios show what the Union Station’s original purpose are on display at the Durham Museum, formerly a Union Pacific Railroad station in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Nov. 7 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Displays tell the history of the former Union Pacific Railroad station, now Durham Museum, in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Nov. 7 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Learning a little Photographic History in Siouxland, W.H. Over Museum, Vermillion, SD

6 Dec

It’s hard not to appreciate the great strides that has occurred in photography in the last 15 years. And even more so in the last couple of centuries when photography was first invented. I recently spent some time with members of the Sioux City Camera Club as they visited with Lynn Muller, a former instructor at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, SD, as he gave us a personal tour of his most extensive collection of Kodak cameras and memorabilia.

Members of the Sioux City Camera Club are given a tour by Dr. Lynn Muller of his extensive Kodak camera and memorabilia collection at the W. H. Over Museum in Vermillion, SD Saturday, Nov. 17 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Mr. Muller has been collecting cameras for quite some time, and his knowledge of George Eastman and his quest to supply everyone with a camera is impressive and almost overwhelming. I previously visited with Mr. Muller and learned a lot then about his camera collection. This time I paid more attention to what he said about Mr. Eastman building his photographic empire. Inventing roll film to replace glass plates that made photography something many more people could do without worrying about knowing chemistry and accumulating the necessary items for printing as well as developing film. Mr. Muller taught marketing at USD so is in a good area to understand Mr Eastman’s approach to selling his photo memory pitch to the average family, and how it changed through the years.

Members of the Sioux City Camera Club are given a tour by Dr. Lynn Muller of his extensive Kodak camera and memorabilia collection at the W. H. Over Museum in Vermillion, SD Saturday, Nov. 17 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Camera Club easily spent a couple of hours viewing the collection and listening to the history, and then spent more time talking about the craft of photography over coffee and cookies. Even though the craft of photography and its tools has immensely changed in the last few years, it wouldn’t thrive without willing participants who like those that came before them are trying to improve their own photographic skills and use their cameras to explore their world around them.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Members of the Sioux City Camera Club are given a tour by Dr. Lynn Muller of his extensive Kodak camera and memorabilia collection at the W. H. Over Museum in Vermillion, SD Saturday, Nov. 17 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Members of the Sioux City Camera Club are given a tour by Dr. Lynn Muller of his extensive Kodak camera and memorabilia collection at the W. H. Over Museum in Vermillion, SD Saturday, Nov. 17 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

‘Tis the Season in Siouxland, O’Connor House, Homer, NE

30 Nov

With Thanksgiving barely behind us, some local organizations and groups are already in the full swing of celebrating Christmas in Siouxland. But that’s understandable as people are less inclined to attend some celebrations the closer, and sometimes more hectic, it gets to the actual holiday.

The O’Connor House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and each year is decorated for a Christmas celebration in Homer, NE Saturday November 3, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Each individual bedroom in the O’Connor House is decorated for a Christmas celebration in Homer, NE Saturday November 3, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The O’Connor House in Homer, NE hosts two weekends where different groups or organizations each step up and decorate a room in the historical house with a Christmas effect. And the historical home of a first settler is staffed with volunteers to tell visitors about the family and life of the house and on the plains. One volunteer actually grew up in the house as a boy, after the O’Connor’s lived there in the late 1860’s, when his parents rented the place. Duane Harris tells some fascinating tales about the original owner, Cornelius O’Connor and life during the early settler days when the area was shared with the Native Americans who had lived there for generations.

Dakota County Historical County volunteer Duane Harris grew up in the O’Connor House and now tells visitors during a Christmas celebration about some of the home’s history and about the original occupants in Homer, NE Saturday November 3, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Each room of the home is staffed with people relating stories about that particular space, either something about the family, or related to those possibly in one of the many photographs that dot the home.

Visitors are greeted by Dakota County Historical Society volunteers in each room to share a bit of history about the O’Connor House and its first occupants during aChristmas celebration in Homer, NE Saturday November 3, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Photographs of one of the O’Connor children on display at the O’Connor House during a Christmas celebration in Homer, NE Saturday November 3, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Of course one important room is the kitchen where there are people baking cookies in a wood-fired stove with great success. Gingerbread cookies never tasted so good. And each room looks so homey one feels inclined to just sit, have some hot cider or chocolate and enjoy the ambiance.

Dakota County Historical Society volunteers busy in the kitchen baking cookies and gingerbread men cookies in a wood fired stove during the Christmas celebration at the O’Connor House in Homer, NE Saturday November 3, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Each of the bedrooms in the O’Connor House is decorated for a Christmas celebration in Homer, NE Saturday November 3, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The O’Connor House is decorated for a Christmas celebration in Homer, NE Saturday November 3, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Of course the one takeaway I enjoyed most was a small sign almost hidden in the pantry near the kitchen. Reassuring people to not feel guilty about the Christmas holiday or enjoying its bounty.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A sentiment of many holiday patrons is seen on a shelf near the kitchen at the O’Connor House during a Christmas celebration in Homer, NE Saturday November 3, 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Exploring History in Siouxland, Old Courthouse Museum, Sioux Falls

20 Nov

The Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The Old Courthouse Museum with clock tower in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There is an old saying that one never truly knows where he/she is going if you don’t know where you’ve been. Or something to that effect. Which is why for me when traveling about Siouxland and areas nearby I enjoy finding museums and other places that contain nuggets of history about the region. One such place is the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls. It contains a surprisingly large number of exhibits and gives a bit of history as its function as a former courthouse.

Historical displays are set up throughout the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Historical displays are set up throughout the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A movie projector from the early days is set up on display in the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Current displays contain information about the first World War that recently was celebrated in France, commemorating the 100th year of Armistice Day when a peace treaty was signed, and people had hoped it was the war to end all wars. But that didn’t exactly go as planned. Human nature being a funny sort of barometer in gauging how people will behave.

A current display shows the bunker set ups used during WWI in the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The museum though is a fine example of architecture and gives a visitor a nice sense of its place in the history of the territory doing the westward expansion of the country and before the Dakota Territory became two separate states. I enjoy spending the time to learn a bit more about the region and its place in history and look forward to finding other gems to explore down the road.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Informational displays help a visitor understand the function of the building in its former life as an acting courthouse at the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Historical displays are found throughout the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A buffalo is ensconced near a scenic painting near the entrance of the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Now an open space, this was a former courtroom seen in the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A mural on a wall leading to a former balcony seating area for a court room in the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD Monday, Oct. 22 2018. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying History and Creating images in Siouxland, Winnebago, NE

30 Oct

Recently I’ve been working on a project photographing a statue garden and attempting to create some imagery to showcase the small, park-like area. This statue garden is in Ho-Chunk Village in Winnebago, NE, home to the Winnebago Tribe.

the Winnebago Clan Statue Garden in Winnebago, NE, Wednesday, Oct. 3 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The Statue Garden of Tribe Clans in Ho Chunk Village in Winnebago, NE Thursday, Oct. 11 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I have been photographing at different times of the day and using a single light to help light some of the clan statues to being a little more emphasis to the subjects and thereby viewer attention to the park. Some days have been quite windy, others very brick and chilly to downright cold, but in the end, it seems worth it to help highlight a local culture in Siouxland and a proud people preserving their heritage and working toward a better future.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The Clan Statue Garden in Ho Chunk Village in Winnebago, NE Friday, Oct. 19 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The Statue Garden of Tribe Clans in Ho Chunk Village in Winnebago, NE Thursday, Oct. 11 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The Clan Statue Garden in Ho Chunk Village in Winnebago, NE Friday, Oct. 19 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Wet Day in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve

28 Oct

The Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve located in Siouxland  is just a few miles from Sioux City. Some days I go there to just enjoy nature, cloudy, sunshine, wet or dry. Many times one can walk about without others in proximity and you feel like you are enjoying the park by yourself. With the recent wet weather that never seems to end this fall, I have been photographing in black and white. A failsafe for an otherwise bland and blah kind of day.

A grey day at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Sept. Oct. 1 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A damp day at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Sept. Oct. 1 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Again, I look for tonal ranges and try to make an image I like that will also work in this particular medium. Sometimes I feel successful and other times not.

A grey day at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Sept. Oct. 1 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When teaching classes I tell students about using a gradated graduated filter that I use to control the brightness of the sky. This particular day I found it would also work controlling the ground area so my image of a tree would get a little more attention. Well, that was the plan. But as always, it’s just nice to be outside, enjoying nature and taking photographs. I tell students, what is a better way of enjoying a day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Sept. Oct. 1 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Sept. Oct. 1 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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