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Finding History Nestled in Siouxland, Trinity Cathedral, Omaha, NE

25 Apr
The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska Trinity Cathedral is surrounded by newer and more 20th century architecture near downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Those communities and larger cities settled more than a century or two ago have what one might consider an odd conglomeration of architecture dotting its downtown streets and city core. Most U.S. cities downtown areas are dotted with European style architecture which makes sense since it was settlers of those countries for the most part that began a push westward in their newly adopted home. These buildings reminded them of their former home and parts there about.

But as cities grew and entered into the next century and generations of people tastes and styles of architecture also changed and became more modern looking. The Trinity Episcopal Cathedral of the Nebraska Diocese is the oldest church building still in use in the state.

According to its website: ” The community of Trinity has been worshiping in Downtown Omaha since the city’s earliest days. Founded in 1856 by Nebraska’s first settlers, Trinity came through a financial crash, a building fire, and the struggles of the frontier before moving into a beautiful building on the corner of 18th and Capitol in 1883. We’ve been there ever since, making Trinity Cathedral the oldest church building in Nebraska still in use.

That long legacy has given us a love of beauty and history, which shows up in our architecture, our music, and our worship. It’s also made us committed to serving the physical, spiritual, and social needs of our neighbors as an inclusive, loving community where everyone can find a home.”

The Fisst Bishop of Nebraska is buried at the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska Trinity Cathedral near downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska Trinity Cathedral is the oldest still in use church building located near downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska Trinity Cathedral near downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Cities’ downtown areas grew up around the core that began in some case two centuries ago and some of which still thrive as well in cities in the eastern U.S. which are even older than Omaha. In some ways these buildings tell folk a little history visually about a community. Pueblos and missions certainly do that in the western areas of the U.S. The architecture grounds a community in some respect linking to a past that almost certainly is overlooked these days until one stops and actually thinks about it.

A newer skyscraper peeks above the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska Trinity Cathedral located near downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska Trinity Cathedral near downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I am certain the inside of this church like many religious buildings is beautiful on the inside. Many times when I happen upon places they are not always open, certainly not these days during the coronavirus pandemic. But that might be something for another trip to enjoy the solitude and history one might feel inside the church. Certainly many footfalls have echoes within, both in joyous and sadder times. A rock in a community to anchor those who wish it. Whose doors are always, generally, open and welcoming to those who wish to visit.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska Trinity Cathedral near downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska Trinity Cathedral near downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating History in Siouxland, Old County Courthouse, Sioux Falls, SD

19 Apr
Background history of the Sioux Falls Municipal band is on display in an exhibit in the Old Courthouse Museum downtown Sioux Falls, SD, Friday, January 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

No matter where I might travel in Siouxland, history is always a draw for me, and learning a little bit more about a place or the people. Such was the case again in Sioux Falls at the Old County Courthouse Museum where a display of the history of the municipal band was on display.

A photograph of the Sioux Falls Municipal band is on display in an exhibit in the Old Courthouse Museum downtown Sioux Falls, SD, Friday, January 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
“Uniforms” of the Sioux Falls Municipal band is on display in an exhibit in the Old Courthouse Museum downtown Sioux Falls, SD, Friday, January 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I admit I have never heard this particular band play, even in its current iteration. Many times over the years various “organizations” and groups change. It’s only natural. But I can imagine hearing them play during a summer evening, music wafting out from a bandstand and people relaxed and enjoying a musical treat. It happens every summer in Sioux City when a local group performs 8 Sundays over the summer in a local park.

It is a very nice way to spend an evening, somewhat harkening back to remembrances of a certain era that evokes the play “Our Town“by Thorton Wilder about an imaginary place of innocence during an early Americana period.

Historical displays like this remind people of a snapshot in time about a place and the people. In this case hopefully happy memories to those familiar with the municipal band and a time when their only concern was hearing the music.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A photograph of concert, possibly summer, of the Sioux Falls Municipal band is on display in an exhibit in the Old Courthouse Museum downtown Sioux Falls, SD, Friday, January 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A portrait of an earlier Sioux Falls Municipal Band is on display in an exhibit in the Old Courthouse Museum downtown Sioux Falls, SD, Friday, January 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Some instruments used for the Sioux Falls Municipal band is on display in an exhibit in the Old Courthouse Museum downtown Sioux Falls, SD, Friday, January 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Feeling the Jailhouse Blues in Siouxland, The Squirrel Cage, Council Bluffs

13 Apr
Jail quarters for a prisoner at the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The thought of sitting in jail at any time, in Siouxland or anywhere is not very appealing. And probably isn’t to most people. Considering what jail conditions were like in earlier centuries here in the U.S. and elsewhere, most were not very accommodating. I would guess mostly by design. The merits of one being in jail I will leave for others to discuss at length.

One such jail was the former Squirrel Cage located in Council Bluffs. Formerly the Pottawatamie County jail from 1885 to 1969. It was a circular setup where jailers stood in the center on one of the three floors and the jail cells rotated about allowing access to those inmates needed for trial or other purposes.

The former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail indowntown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Jail quarters for a prisoner and a common area for them as well in the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Jail quarters for a prisoner at the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Heavy bars and uncomfortable bunks. Jails are not hotels or motels. Even the cheaper of the latter have normally better accommodations. But the design of this one of 18 ever built was for the benefit of the jailer who oversaw the prisoners spending time there.

According the the Historical Society’s website:

“The design and size of the Historic Pottawattamie County Squirrel Cage Jail make it a one-of-a-kind structure.  It was one of 18 revolving (“squirrel cage”, “human rotary”, or “lazy Susan”) jails built.  It is the only three-story one ever built.   Built at a cost of about $30,000,  our unique jail has three floors of revolving pie-shaped cells inside a cage.  The front part of the building had offices for the jailer, kitchen, trustee cells, and quarters for women.

The design was the invention of William H. Brown and Benjamin F. Haugh, both of Indianapolis, Indiana.  A patent issued to them on July 12, 1881, declared, “The object of our invention is to produce a jail in which prisoners can be controlled without the necessity of personal contact between them and the jailer.”  It was to provide “maximum security with minimum jailer attention.”  As one deputy put it, “If a jailer could count … and he had a trusty he could trust … he could control the jail”.

The cell section remains much as it did in 1969 when it was closed by the county.  The signatures and dates of many of its’ infamous prisoners remain scratched in the cell walls. It remains a well restored snapshot of an interesting era of our society.Today, only 3 revolving jails remain:  a one-story structure in Gallatin, Missouri; a two-story jail in Crawfordsville, Indiana; and the unique three-story jail here.”

The former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail indowntown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A look down from a cell at a common area for prisoners within the jail quarters for prisoners at the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A common area for prisoners in the background, left and jail quarters for a prisoner at the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The jail was not built for the comfort of those spending any time. There was even an area for juvenile offenders whose living area was only slightly improved in that the jailer’s quarters and his wife were only a few foot steps away. That said, even the the jailer’s quarters within the building were not impressive for him or his wife. Reminiscent of what was seen in the movie about the book by Truman Capote, “In Cold Blood” where the prisoners were in jail cells near the jailer’s quarters.

But life for those incarcerated was not to be pleasant as they were held for future trial or sentencing depending on that jurisdiction’s dictates.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Jail quarters for juvenile offenders at the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Jail quarters for a prisoner at the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. In the background is an entrance into the living area for the jailer on duty. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Names carved into a picnic table in the common area for prisoners at the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Prisoner log books and other information kept on file at the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Various notes of history are posted about the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The doorway into the living quarters for the jailer and his family in the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The entrance into the living quarters for the jailer and his family in the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A barbershop and infirm area for prisoners in the living quarters for the jailer and his family in the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A bedroom in the living quarters for the jailer and his family in the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A living room area in the living quarters for the jailer and ihs family in the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A small organ in the living room area in the living quarters for the jailer and his family in the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The kitchen area in the living quarters for the jailer and his family in the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Another view of the kitchen area in the living quarters for the jailer and his family in the former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail in downtown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The former Squirrel Cage jail, now a museum, was built in 1885 and operated until 1969 as the Pottawattamie County Jail indowntown in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, July 20, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Depicting History in Siouxland, Courage Park in Omaha, NE

7 Apr
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. According to a website by First National Bank, “Installed in 2005 and 2009, Sculptors Blair Buswell of Highland, Utah, and Ed Fraughton of South Jordan, Utah, created Pioneer Courage with four pioneer families and their covered wagons departing westward from Omaha.” (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While visiting in Omaha, NE just south of Siouxland I came across a park I had not seen before. Friends and I were exploring parts of the city we had not previously walked about and so it was a pleasant surprise to find this homage paid to those settlers that set out for the “new frontier” and a life apart from what they had known. Because this sculpture garden was created a few years ago it does not take into account current perceptions of events as “white immigrants” flooded the western plains obtained through the Louisiana Purchase and after the exploratory visit by Lewis and Clark’s expedition to map the newly obtained land.

A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While the westward expansion opened up new territories to current United States residents and immigrants, it also began a long history of a not so good relationship with Native American residents who had inhabited the land for many generations and millennia. Whether or not another downtown park will address that issue for future generations is for current and future residents of the Omaha community to address. The park though is a nice break within all of the cement buildings that surround this island oasis which probably looks more inviting for lunch time breaks during spring, summer and fall lunch times for surrounding employees working in the area.

A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A passerby checks out statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Still, for a photo expedition exploring a community it was a nice find on a rather pleasant early spring day. I always enjoy history, and realize that most times the history presented comes from a single source with possibly a single point of view. The park shows the fortitude and gumption of those early settlers who went west to find a new life and beginning for themselves, much like today’s modern immigrants and residents who can more easily, at times, travel the many miles to find a new life. Each era has its own obstacles and problems, which sadly never seems to have an easy solution. And it seems that those searching for a better life for themselves and their families, away from starvation (Irish), persecution (Quakers) and other life strifes such as war ( any number of countries) the desires, needs and wants have not changed, only perspective and “characters” of those now in need. Travel today is almost instantaneous when compared to that of a couple centuries ago. And these days there seems to be more NIMBY’s than those willing to offer a hand. I sometimes muse what might have happened and how my own and others futures looked much different had Native Americans then rebuffed the Quakers and other European settlers and conquerors who first set foot on this land. Rather than sharing a first Thanksgiving, there might not have been any history written about those lost souls who traveled the sea to seek a better life. No word ever returning to those distant shores. The strife, famine and others ills of centuries past have never ceased, nor likely seem to, and until as it’s said, the root of those evils or calamities are addressed, people will leave their homeland in search of a better life somewhere else where they think it might be safe. But the chance of those underlying problems being addressed seem of little concern to those making important decisions.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa


A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Statues in Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021 depict settlers moving westward during the westward expansion in the 1800’s after the Louisiana Purchase. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Learning History in Siouxland, Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs

28 Mar
Holiday Christmas lights at Bayliss Park in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. Col. Samuel Bayliss was born in Virginia and headed to California. He stopped in Council Bluffs on his journey and stayed on, later donating land to the city which eventually became a park. Bayliss in buried in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Visiting Council Bluffs a few times while roaming about Siouxland I have stopped by Bayliss Park a few times. An oasis in the downtown area. I often wondered why the name but never gave it much thought, until stopping by Fairview Cemetery recently to view the Black Angel, and there found a grave site of one S.S. (Samuel) Bayliss.

Col. Samuel Bayliss’ gravesite at Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa seen Wednesday, January 20, 2021. Born in Virginia, Bayliss was headed to California and stopped in Council Bluffs where he stayed on and donated land to the city which later became a park. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Col. Samuel Bayliss’ gravesite at Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa seen Wednesday, January 20, 2021. Born in Virginia, Bayliss was headed to California and stopped in Council Bluffs where he stayed on and donated land to the city which later became a park. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A story in the local newspaper explains a bit of the history about Bayliss and a donation of land he had hoped might become the then territory’s courthouse. On his journey to California in the 1850’s Bayliss stopped in the then fledgling Council Bluffs, not yet the city it would become but situated near Kaneville, a Mormon settlement that earlier came into being when Brigham Young set out west to discover his faith’s future settlement, and in the meantime had become a stopover for those headed to California for a new life either in business or for the goldrush.

Bayliss’s generosity didn’t benefit the city at the time, but later became the jewel it now is, realizing its destiny as a park. And in reading the newspaper’s article the community’s first park commissioner set about commemorating Bayliss’s gift.

A fountain sits ready to display it water spouts on a nice spring day in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Tuesday, April 23, 2019. Col. Samuel Bayliss was born in Virginia and headed to California. He stopped in Council Bluffs on his journey and stayed on, later donating land to the city which eventually became a park. Bayliss in buried in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Looking toward downtown Omaha, NE, the gravsite of Col. Samuel Bayliss’ gravesite in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa seen Wednesday, January 20, 2021. Born in Virginia, Bayliss was headed to California and stopped in Council Bluffs where he stayed on and donated land to the city which later became a park. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Reading the article, a sad end became Bayliss’ life achievement, but his generosity then has benefited many souls since, and one might like to think he takes a stroll from the not to distant resting place to come and sit and enjoy the beauty his generosity allowed as people over the decades visit this place.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A plane leaving Eppley Airfield flies overhead before holiday Christmas lights appear at Bayliss Park in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. Col. Samuel Bayliss was born in Virginia headed to California. He stopped in Council Bluffs on his journey and stayed on and later donated land to the city which later became a park. Bayliss in buried in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Winter Weather at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center, Washta

24 Mar
Snow covers the ground at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center near Washta, Iowa Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Out driving around Siouxland one cold February day I stopped at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center which is now a museum of sorts giving a nod to America’s and Iowa’s agricultural roots located in rural Cherokee County.

I had never stopped there during winter, and this winter has been different with recent bone chilling temperatures and more snow, or so it seems so late in the season. And what I found is a far cry to the festivals I have attended there in the past during the month of August.

A visitor walks through the basement of the former elementary and high school building that was built in 1921that contains an assortment of historical farming equipment collected over the years seen at the Grand Meadow Heritage Festival near Washta, Iowa Saturday Sept. 9, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A gentleman uses his smart tablet to film a demonstration of corn shelling at the Grand Meadow Heritage Festival near Washta, Iowa Saturday Sept. 9, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Snow covers the ground at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center near Washta, Iowa Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Snow covers the ground at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center near Washta, Iowa Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Looking at one scene with the windmill and barn and cabin made me pause, its reminiscent look of what the plains in the late 1850’s might have looked like during a tough winter then, located in the middle of nowhere that someone might have homesteaded, beginning a new life and working the land.

The museum/former school is full of historical memorabilia and antique farming equipment that was much more labor intensive by today’s standards. Technology may have improved people’s lives in a lot ways, but Mother Nature still calls the shots somedays with weather being something that was probably fierce when the state was first settled and still is today.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Snow covers the ground at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center near Washta, Iowa Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An “old timer” feeds corn into the auger of a shelling machine at the Grand Meadow Heritage Festival near Washta, Iowa Saturday Sept. 9, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A room in the former elementary and high school building that was built in 1921 is set up like a General Store that existed in many small communities in Iowa is see at the Grand Meadow Heritage Festival near Washta, Iowa Saturday Sept. 9, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Learning History in Siouxland, Queen Bee Mill, Sioux Falls, SD

20 Mar
The history of the Queen Bee Mill, located in Falls Park, is on display in the Old Courthouse Museum downtown Sioux Falls, SD, Friday, January 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On a visit to the Old County Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD there was a small exhibit telling about early Sioux Falls history involving various businesses. One of those businesses involved a flour mill at a small waterfall area now known as Falls Park. The mill provided jobs and a necessary industry for food processing which everyone needed as grocery stores or general stores didn’t always stock such “packaged” items. The Queen Bee Mill stood alongside the falls, construction began in 1879 and was completed in 1881.

A flour mill used to stand where the ruins are seen in the background at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, SD Saturday Sept. 23, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The former turbine house for the Queen Bee Flour Mill at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Wednesday, July 27, 2016. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A plaque commemorating the Queen Bee Flour Mill on its former site, now the Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Wednesday, July 27, 2016. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The mill operated until 1883 when owners found the water power wasn’t sufficient enough to power the mill and enable it to reach capacity. Its operation began again in 1911 and ran intermittently until 1929. From that time it served as a warehouse until a fire in 1956 destroyed most of the mill and surrounding structures.

The history of the Queen Bee Mill, located in Falls Park, is on display in the Old Courthouse Museum downtown Sioux Falls, SD, Friday, January 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The history of the Queen Bee Mill, located in Falls Park, is on display in the Old Courthouse Museum downtown Sioux Falls, SD, Friday, January 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The area is now popular as a park which people visit it and see the falls of the Big Sioux River throughout various seasons, often a destination for people shooting portraits.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The Big Sioux River runs fast over the rocks at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, SD Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A 21st century “Ansel Adams” creates images at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, SD Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Railroad History in Siouxland, Council Bluffs

10 Mar
An old locomotive sits on tracks at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Exploring in Siouxland is always a pleasure, even during cold winter months when some places are not open, but then gives one a reason to return in warmer weather when it is. The Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs is one place relishing in the rich railroad history that encompasses the area. The General Greville M. Dodge historical house is also located in Council Bluffs and he was instrumental in mapping out the railroad expansion westward but made Council Bluffs his home turf to work from.

The museum’s website states: “The restored depot was originally built in 1899 for the Chicago Rock Island and Pacific Railroad (the “Rock Island”), one of 15 rail lines serving Council Bluffs.  The last Rock Island passenger trained pulled out of the depot on May 31, 1970.  March 31, 1980 was the last day of operations for the Rock Island Railroad.  

Engineer Grenville M. Dodge surveyed the westward route of the Rock Island Railroad to Council Bluffs in 1853.  Years later, Dodge would survey the route west from Council Bluffs that enabled the city to become the eastern terminus of the transcontinental railroad.

The construction of the transcontinental railroad played a major role in the development of southwest Iowa, and vice-versa. The history of this era is well preserved in our depot and museum.   It is the last survivor of a half-dozen passenger depots which at one time dotted the Council Bluffs landscape.”

The depot at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A locomotive and some cars are seen at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

So this trip was spent looking at rail cars and a locomotive and cars sitting on a track without the chance of a tour but definitely might be something to explore when the facility again opens up and allows visitors in for a peek and to regale them in history of the railroad and its expansion west from Council Bluffs.

A peek inside the former depot at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A peek inside the former depot at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A peek inside the former depot at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

At least a sunny January day made it possible to linger a bit to look over the facility and try to glean a bit of its history with a casual look. Spring and summer will hopefully bring back those seasonal temperature expectations to make such an outing enjoyable.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A courtyard is dedicated to veterans from the area who served in the armed forces is located at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A look at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A look at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A look at the Railswest Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Understanding History in Siouxland and a “Black Angel” statue, Council Bluffs

4 Mar
A statue created for Ruth Anne Dodge known as the “Black Angel” sits at her memorial site in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Ruth Anne Dodge was the wife of General Genville M. Dodge, who settled in the Council Bluffs area of Siouxland after the Civil War in which he played an important part, not to be outdone with his work for furthering the expansion of the railroad system throughout the United States after the war. I learned about this statue by reading a story from a newspaper in Omaha that recounted the history of the statue and Mrs. Dodge’s part in its creation.

A stone dedicated to Ruth Anne Dodge at her memorial fountain in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A plaque explaining a statue created for Ruth Anne Dodge known as the “Black Angel” sits at her memorial site in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Mrs. Dodge had a vision or dream that included an angel which appeared to her prior to her death. And from an account of that dream a memorial statue and place was created in Fairview Cemetery In Council Bluffs, which overlooks downtown Omaha in the distance.

A statue created for Ruth Anne Dodge known as the “Black Angel” sits at her memorial site in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Downtown Omaha, NE can be seen from the Ruth Anne Dodge memorial fountain where the statue, known as the “Black Angel” stands above her memorial n Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The article and account detail the dream and subsequent occurrences in a better story telling fashion. Again, I always find it fascinating to find history so close at hand and then be able to visit it after reading about it. To many an inconsequential footnote in history, yet part of the history of Siouxland of just one resident of many who passed this way and made a home in the then wilderness and western frontier of the time.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A statue created for Ruth Anne Dodge known as the “Black Angel” sits at her memorial site in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Learning about Mythology in Siouxland, Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha, NE

28 Feb
The face of at large gnome in the Lauritzen Gardens fantasy “fairy land” which recounts various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always find it worthwhile as I travel about Siouxland to learn. About places, history, and other sundries of life. It was a pleasant surprise to see mythology on display at the Laurtizen Gardens in Omaha, NE, and done in such a creative way.

A walk through a fantastical fairy land at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE.

The Gardens touched on various mythological creatures from different parts of the world and ended with a walk through a magical and inventive use of plants in its display of some of these creatures.

The Lauritzen Gardens creates a fantasy “fairy land” recounting various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Information about various mythologies shown at the Lauritzen Gardens fantasy “fairy land” seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

For a cold day it was a pleasant way to spend time indoors learning in a fun setting and enjoying someone’s imagination. Since “timed entries” are required it was an uncrowded environment to explore.

Families look over an exhibit at the Lauritzen Gardens which creates a fantasy “fairy land” recounting various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A display about world mythologies seen at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With the coronavirus limiting various aspects of life, it’s nice to see some places behaving responsibly and giving people a chance to get out and take in a little “art” and enjoy a little time away from home.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Fairy housing at the Lauritzen Gardens fantasy “fairy land” recounting various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.With the umbrellas one could almost imagine Mary Poppins dropping in for a visit. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Fairy housing at the Lauritzen Gardens fantasy “fairy land” recounting various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Lauritzen Gardens creates a fantasy “fairy land” recounting various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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