Archive | History RSS feed for this section

Grand Architecture in Siouxland, Louis E May Museum, Fremont, NE

26 Jul
A grand estate, the Louis E. May Historical Museum is on the National Register of Historic Places in Freemont, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As I continue driving about Siouxland I surprise myself at finding unexpected pleasures like the Louis E. May Historical Museum in Fremont, NE.

Sadly, the museum is currently closed because of the pandemic, but am hoping it might be reopening this coming fall for a chance to see the interior of the former home.

The Louis E. May Historical Museum is on the National Register of Historic Places in Freemont, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Louis E. May Historical Museum is on the National Register of Historic Places in Freemont, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It was difficult to find much information about the history of the museum and former home online. With just a brief mention about it on two official sites:

The home was built in the Italianate Revival style by Fremont’s first mayor, Theron Nye, in 1874. Nye’s son inherited the home in 1900 and remodeled the home from 1901 through 1912. The current style of the home is Georgian or Classical Revival and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is art of the Dodge County’s Historical Society. The home’s grounds are a Nebraska Arboretum Site, a grassroots membership-based nonprofit that believes environments matter and provide a better sense of place and social interactions as well as improving one’s health.

Another blogger wrote about the historical house in 2013 after a visit. I look forward to actually touring it when it reopens.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The Louis E. May Historical Museum in Freemont, NE seen Saturday, May 22, 2021 was originally built in 1874 by Fremont’s first mayor, Theron Nye. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Louis E. May Historical Museum in Freemont, NE seen Saturday, May 22, 2021, has a perennial Victorian garden and a rose garden on the grounds. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Louis E. May Historical Museum in Freemont, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Built in 1874 by Fremont, NE’s first mayor, Theron Nye, the Louis E. May Historical Museum is now listed with the National Register of Historic Places seen Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Living History in Siouxland, Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park, Ft. Calhoun, NE

28 Jun
The canon is fired during the living history day at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft Calhoun, NE Saturday, June 4, 2021. Built in 1819 and serving through 1827 this fort contained approximately 1,200 soldiers, almost half of what then was the extent of the standing army for the U.S. During the Lewis and Clark expedition it was noted that this location would be a perfect place to erect a fort.(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always enjoy the chance to see re-enactments of history, even a scaled down version as the state parks of Nebraska was still being cautious because of the pandemic, even though the state’s governor has pretty much declared the pandemic passed.

Because of ongoing concerns about the coronavirus visitors during the living history day at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park still have limited interaction with re-enactors seen in Ft Calhoun, NE Saturday, June 4, 2021. Built in 1819 and serving through 1827 this fort contained approximately 1,200 soldiers, almost half of what then was the extent of the standing army for the U.S. During the Lewis and Clark expedition it was noted that this location would be a perfect place to erect a fort. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A small company of men perfect their parade ground routine during the living history day at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft Calhoun, NE Saturday, June 4, 2021. Built in 1819 and serving through 1827 this fort contained approximately 1,200 soldiers, almost half of what then was the extent of the standing army for the U.S. During the Lewis and Clark expedition it was noted that this location would be a perfect place to erect a fort. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently the Nebraska state parks have again providing programs such as the living history day at Ft. Atkinson in Ft. Calhoun, NE. The people portraying folk from the early frontier period before much of the part of the country became a state helps one understand their lives better and gain an appreciation of what these people experienced and endured at was once the farthest western settlements during that time period.

A military officer re-enactor greets visitors and gives them background information about the fort and its role in history during a hot 92 degree living history day at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft Calhoun, NE Saturday, June 4, 2021. Built in 1819 and serving through 1827 this fort contained approximately 1,200 soldiers, almost half of what then was the extent of the standing army for the U.S. During the Lewis and Clark expedition it was noted that this location would be a perfect place to erect a fort. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two young girls try to stay cool during a 92 degree day during the living history day at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft Calhoun, NE Saturday, June 4, 2021. Built in 1819 and serving through 1827 this fort contained approximately 1,200 soldiers, almost half of what then was the extent of the standing army for the U.S. During the Lewis and Clark expedition it was noted that this location would be a perfect place to erect a fort. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A young re-enactor portraying an early pioneer daughter of the fort’s shop keep exemplifies what many young people of any century might, boredom, during the living history day at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft Calhoun, NE Saturday, June 4, 2021. Built in 1819 and serving through 1827 this fort contained approximately 1,200 soldiers, almost half of what then was the extent of the standing army for the U.S. During the Lewis and Clark expedition it was noted that this location would be a perfect place to erect a fort. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Talking to the people at the historical park everyone seems to enjoy what is offered and those who take the time to share their love of history with others and spend some time not in the present and thinking about today’s problems, but what came before, the brave men and women who pursued some kind of dream coming west to a new place, making their way however uninhabitable or unfriendly it might have seemed. Pioneers who wrote their own stories, some of which we may never know.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Military re-enactors each lunch at a camp site during the living history day at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft Calhoun, NE Saturday, June 4, 2021. Built in 1819 and serving through 1827 this fort contained approximately 1,200 soldiers, almost half of what then was the extent of the standing army for the U.S. During the Lewis and Clark expedition it was noted that this location would be a perfect place to erect a fort. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A tin smith re-enactor talks about his trade to visitors during the living history day at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft Calhoun, NE Saturday, June 4, 2021. Built in 1819 and serving through 1827 this fort contained approximately 1,200 soldiers, almost half of what then was the extent of the standing army for the U.S. During the Lewis and Clark expedition it was noted that this location would be a perfect place to erect a fort. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
1st Lt. Gabriel Field served with the 6th U.S. Infantry at Dt. Atkinson when he died in 1823 and was buried at the post’s cemetery. A headstone of Field’s was first discovered by a farmer in 1954 and later in 1956 began a large excavation of the area of which the living history day at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park is based on, seen in Ft Calhoun, NE Saturday, June 4, 2021. Built in 1819 and serving through 1827 this fort contained approximately 1,200 soldiers, almost half of what then was the extent of the standing army for the U.S. During the Lewis and Clark expedition it was noted that this location would be a perfect place to erect a fort. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Fort Atkinson State Historical Park is a replica of the actual fort located in Ft Calhoun, NE Saturday, June 4, 2021. Built in 1819 and serving through 1827 this fort contained approximately 1,200 soldiers, almost half of what then was the extent of the standing army for the U.S. During the Lewis and Clark expedition it was noted that this location would be a perfect place to erect a fort. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Visiting the Netherworlds in Siouxland, Durham Museum, Omaha, NE

20 Jun
A visitor watches film clips of director James Cameron seen in the “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Even though I live in Siouxland, a region that is part of what is affectionately or not affectionately known as flyover country, there are a number of museums, large and small, which one can visit and enjoy traveling exhibits, both visually and educationally stimulating.

Currently at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE is the exhibit James Cameron — Challenging the Deep. Film director Cameron put together various crews to explore the worlds under the sea including the Titanic and the battleship Bismark allowing Cameron to share his passion and interest with the deep ocean by creating an immersive exhibit using large video screen displays to show visitors what he and others saw beneath the ocean depth, in some place 10,000 meters deep, or almost 10.5 Empire State buildings stacking on top of one another.

A visitor watches a film of deep sea exploration from film director James Cameron at the “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An informative and elaborate set sets the stage for the James Cameron “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Costumes from the movie “Titanic” seen juxtaposed with film of the actual Titanic that director James Cameron filmed during a deep sea exploration and seen at the “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There is a model of the Titanic as it appears underwater on display that is seen in some of the videos showing the exploration of the ship that Cameron and others recorded. The director’s fascination with the deep ocean evidently started when he was a young child and he nurtured that desire to explore as he followed his career path as a film director. Some of the problem solving in filming movies, such as the Abyss, helped Cameron realize what might be possible as he collaborated with experts in the field of under water exploration.

A mock version of the “Titanic” on display at the James Cameron “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Informational panels explain that director James Cameron held a long fascination since childhood about the sea and is told in the “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Items on display used in filming some of the deep sea exploration seen at the James Cameron “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Through the use of underwater recording technology and deep ocean submersible vessels Cameron and others explore the deep, and film themselves exploring the deep which gives the exhibit viewer an idea of how this was all made possible at such incredible depths, with Cameron narrating what is being seen and how it was made possible.

And the exhibit in some ways becomes more interesting by the fact that its entire area is bathed in deep blue light or blackness, resembling what the various individuals must have encountered themselves as they dove deep to explore areas of the ocean not seen by many but now accessible to all through this exhibition.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An informative and elaborate set sets the stage for the James Cameron “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Visitors watch film of deep sea exploration from film director James Cameron at the “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Revisiting History in Siouxland, Heritage Village, Sioux Center

14 Jun
Earthen mound prairie house at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

From time to time while driving about Siouxland I like to revisit places, even if it’s off-peak for any activity that might be going on. The Heritage Village in Sioux Center is one such place. A small replica village that celebrates the history of the early settlers and the agricultural aspect of the Midwest. The place has a different look during different seasons, even without the activity of its fall festival celebration.

Inside the earthen mound prairie house at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Inside the earthen mound prairie house at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Early settlers traveled very light, or as light as they could if going west by wagon and any other means of transportation. Some of the early plains settlers lived in sod houses. The wall thick with cutouts for windows, the small abodes kept folk cool in the heat of summer and warm in winter. But with very little room to move about, it’s safe to assume most activity, weather dependent, took place outdoors. And in those days I am sure there was no lack of work to survive and hopefully to also enjoy themselves in simple pleasures, like a nice day with sunshine, light breeze and a decent temperature.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Inside the earthen mound prairie house at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Getting Jailed in Siouxland, The Squirrel Cage, Council Bluffs

29 May
Lots of metal at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Being incarcerated is not for the faint of heart. And hopefully most folk will never encounter such an ordeal whether in Siouxland or elsewhere. The Squirrel Cage in Council Bluffs had been in operation for a few decades. Visiting such an inhospitable place as a museum gave me pause for those who spent time there for supposed crimes until each’s trial. One of only a few such places built in the United States it opened for “business” in 1885 and was in use until 1969.

A former county jail, the Squirrel Cage Museum is located in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Jail time was not to be envied at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Minimal accommodations at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Every manner of “criminal” from juveniles to adults were housed in the jail which used a rotating 3-story cell system, which history shows escaped any major catastrophe such as a fire since there would have been no way for a jailer, who lived on site with his family, could have safely gotten all prisoners out. In early days criminal offices for getting locked up included adultery, which could probably fill many a hotel these days, both famous and not famous. Those folks were also jailed with arsonists, domestic abusers, murderers and children who ran afoul of the law.

Docent Kat Slaughter gives tours at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Docent Kat Slaughter gives tours at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Docent Kat Slaughter gave a nice 45-minute tour about the jail, its history and the good, bad and ugly aspects of the jail. Originally she said the rotating cells were operated by an underground water system which was later replaced. And there was only one boiler, and summers were extremely uncomfortable because heat rises and prisoners places within metal confines throughout and at the top of the jail could not escape the heat.

But evidently, for some, that was not enough of a deterrent as even evident today, to keep on the straight and narrow.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Jail time was not to be envied at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A sneak peek into the past visiting at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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©)

%d bloggers like this: