Archive | museum RSS feed for this section

Seeing History in Siouxland, Marcus Historical Center

3 Oct

When I attended a fair earlier this summer at Marcus, Iowa I also stopped in at the Marcus Historical Center.

The Marcus Historical Center sits across from the Marcus Community Fairgrounds in Marcus, Iowa Saturday Aug. 12, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Most small communities have their own museum, or at least a place that is a repository of historical information about the community. It’s a great place when visiting somewhere new to learn more about the history of that place and get a better understanding of the community and area. At the time I was in the museum there were more older people looking and reminiscing about the “good old days”. Which to me always seems to be a matter of perspective and what side of the divide you happened to be on during that earlier period.

But there were some families there with children in tow. Taking a break from the fair and “seeing” some history. And every place has different items and events to tell. Many have yearbook photos from early and later days as well as newspaper clippings depicting certain memorable events that took place.

Visitors of the Marcus Historical Center look over exhibits in Marcus, Iowa Saturday Aug. 12, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The old saying of “If you don’t know where you’ve been so how do you know where you are going?” always comes to mind when I visit these museums. A lot of smaller communities were more robust in their early years when the railroad was first making its way across the nation. Communities sprang up, thrived, and then began to scale back a bit as businesses ceased and residents left and larger communities started attracting younger people who moved for opportunity. And in some cases, the railroad left as well, leaving behind memories but no clear direction of where the community would be headed.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Learning about Siouxland History, Sioux City

24 Aug

Recently I went on a walking tour in Sioux City sponsored by the local public museum and hosted by Tom Munson, an archivist and historian with the Sioux City Public Museum. After a walk through the Peirce Mansion, a historic home in Sioux City, Munson talked about John Peirce and other early settlers and “movers and shakers” of Sioux City history. Siouxland is replete with history throughout its region having been settled in the mid-1800’s by those looking west from the East Coast for another start in life. John Peirce was one those early settlers and land speculator in the early days of Sioux City.

A portrait of John Peirce hangs in a formal sitting room as visitors explore the Peirce Mansion and talk with volunteers about restorations and the history of it in Sioux City, Iowa, Thursday July 13, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Munson took his group of about 150-200 people through a walking tour of Peirce’s built home in which he never actually lived throughout the neighborhood and talks about the interconnecting lives of those early financiers who helped build Sioux City. The 2-3 block walk showed off changing styles of architecture as well as come colorful history of the city’s founder’s and those who helped propel it to success in it’s early days.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Siouxland History in Harrison County, Welcome Center Missouri Valley

12 Aug

A few weeks back as I was getting out exploring some new areas to me in Siouxland, I finally visited the Harrison County Welcome Center outside of Missouri Valley. The Welcome Center and its museum originally started as a personal project of a Preston Niles who moved there and started an orchard and then a store and finally a small museum as it was situated on the Lincoln Highway, Route 30, that travelled across the country from east to west. The Welcome Center and its small village and museum has so many items and pieces of history that it’s easy to spend a couple of hours reading about all the items.

The Welcome Center and Harrison County Historical Museum near Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, June 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Situated outside is a long wooden culvert that was used during the WWII era when metal was in short supply for drainage for communities. Talking with a docent she informed me that when more recent work began around the museum area, the culvert was discovered. And rather than throwing it into the landfill, added it to the other historical items, such as a Bible from the Civil War era, that is from the local area surrounding Missouri Valley.

A Bible from the Civil War era on display at the Welcome Center and Harrison County Historical Museum near Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, June 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Docents at the Welcome Center and Harrison County Historical Museum explained that during WWII with a short supply of metal because of the war, wooden culverts were used for drainage in the area near Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, June 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

During a massive flood of the Missouri River during 2011 the docent told me some structures were lost and items from those individual displays were put together in a newer building that is more flood resistant than the former wooden structures, although not as historic in nature. And on a hot day, as this particular day, visitors can also try out some cider that is made there. Evidently part of the original owner Niles had an orchard and beside selling its fruit, also made non-alcoholic beverages from the fruit.

The Welcome Center and museum area is certainly a nice place to spend half a day acquainting oneself with local history and understanding some more of Iowa’s development in Siouxland.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Living History, or seeing it, in Siouxland, Wisecup Farm Museum

6 Aug

While visiting southern Siouxland this summer, I came upon another little slice of historical memorabilia. I find it surprising but also wonderful that there are so many museum’s of all stripes in western Iowa. Some in cities and small towns, but others created by people trying to preserve the past and help people understand what pioneers and early settlers lives were like prior to this 21st century. The Wisecup Farm Museum outside of Missouri Valley has a number of restored pieces of farming equipment as well as a one-room school house, a small chapel and homestead. A lot of stuff “stuffed” within the confines of a small space.

A variety of “antique” or former period farm machinery is found at the Wisecup Farm Museum in Missouri Valley, Iowa Wednesday, June 21, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Antique Minneapolis Moline tractors form a line at the Wisecup Farm Museum in Missouri Valley, Iowa Wednesday, June 21, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I appreciate the aged and no longer viable farm equipment I encounter because it was in use and the tech of the day while I was growing up on a farm. Farming today is as high tech as a number of other industries with satellite guided tractors and sensors to help farmers get the best yield from their tillable fields.

But it’s nice to know the what and how farmers got to this point. But it’s also nice that individuals find it important to share the past and help educate those of today. It’s been written that people are condemned to the past if they don’t know it. But that is another discussion for a better philosopher than myself.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Finding more History in Siouxland, Algona

28 Jul

On a trip to eastern Siouxland I stopped in the community of Algona. It was surprising to find so much history in a small area and I didn’t have the time to do it all justice and will need to return. I came upon a small museum concerning WWII concentration camps in Iowa that I previously wrote about. The community also has a county historical museum that has many, many items detailing its past.

The Historical Museum Kossuth County in Algona, Iowa Friday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The couple there the day I stopped by were helpful and insightful about the community’s past pointing out a variety of items all of which I wish I had more time the day I visited. But that just gives a person the impetus to visit again and spend the time learning about an area near where they live.

As the saying goes, “It’s always good to know where you have been so one knows where you are going.”

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Harrison County History in Siouxland, Missouri Valley

4 Jul

I have visited a few museums over the years as have many people. One gets a pretty good sense of an area and the facility by what is displayed and information given by docents present. A recent trip to southern Harrison County led me to the Iowa Welcome Center on Highway 30 just outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa and to the Harrison County Historical Museum. It was a nice trip. I found so much information packed into this facility that I will probably revisit it a few times over the next few weeks and show different aspects.

The museum itself is situated on land previously owned by one Preston Niles who moved to the area in the 1930’s. The docents said he had started an orchard and grew different fruit trees and sold the products to locals. But evidently after the “transcontinental” Highway 3o or the Lincoln Highway was built, Niles built a small stand and sold his produce and other products like cherry juice to travelers.

Preston Niles is the former owner and founder of the museum for the Welcome Center and Harrison County Historical Museum near Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, June 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Niles sounded like quite the entrepreneur. He then conceived the idea to create a museum through which he showed various artifacts he collected along with paintings he did of the surrounding area. The museum began in a log cabin built in the late 1853 near Ames, Iowa, and later that land was purchased by Niles’ father. This cabin was disassembled, numbered, moved and reassembled at its current location.

The early log cabin that Preston Niles, former owner of the site had moved to Harrison County and now park of the museum complex at the Welcome Center and Harrison County Historical Museum near Missouri Valley, Iowa Friday, June 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Over the years Niles prospered, recorded the local history as he collected items and displayed them for people to see. At some point the Harrison County supervisors purchased the land and the museum from Niles and continued the display of early Iowa in this part of Siouxland. It’s easy to spend a couple of hours looking at all the artifacts and then take a walk on a short nature trail overlooking the the surrounding area.

It’s nice to see history preserved for future generations to learn about their local history.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

History in Siouxland, Algona

2 Jul

Exploring some of the outer reaches of Siouxland I ventured into Algona, Iowa. A small community bustling with activity. I have been told about it and stopped in enroute to another destination so I didn’t spend a lot of time. But I did stop by the POW Camp Museum located in the community’s downtown area. During WWII a number of German and Italian prisoners of war were shipped back to the U.S. via the ships taking supplies to the troops overseas. The U.S. camp administration in Algona oversaw a number of of prisoners (10,000 from April of 1944 to February of 1946 according to its website) along with other camps in the region.

Intern Allie Baker gives a history of the POW Museum and its significance during WWII that is located in Algona, Iowa Friday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The museum details this information and puts faces to a number of POW’s who were hired out as laborers during their incarceration.

Photos of prisoners of war at work in the POW Museum in Algona, Iowa Friday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

So many decades ago but the museum puts into perspective the fact that the POW’s were not so dissimilar to those who homesteaded Iowa and became citizens during the late 1800’s. It was well worth the stop and definitely worth another visit the next time I visit the area.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

%d bloggers like this: