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Exploring Siouxland, Lyons, NE

30 Jul
Signage informs a visitor they are in Lyons, NE seen Saturday, May 22, 2021, which was founded in 1880 by one Waldo Lyons. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Driving about Siouxland gives one a sense of history as many of the smaller communities were founded in the latter part of the 1800’s driven by expansion west from families seeking a new life and the advent of the railroad crossing the country. Lyons, NE was founded in 1880 by one Waldo Lyons according to one online site. Another site those has the beginnings of Lyon starting much earlier by two brothers from Wisconsin who served in the Union army and relocated to Nebraska after the civil war. The website gives a brief history of Lyons from its inception until 1929.

A “towncrier billboard” is set in the middle of a 4-way intersection in Lyons, NE with notices posted for residents and visitors seen Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A modest city hall seen in Lyons, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Trying to fight out information about smaller communities throughout Siouxland is not always easy. Documentation is not always readily available and sometimes just a few are informed only because it’s of personal interest, possibly family history intertwined with the place they are seeking information about. The population of the community today, or from the latest census data is about 800 people.

Downtown Lyons, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Brick streets are still found in the downtown area of Lyons, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Artifacts in a window in downtown Lyons, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Many times when I am passing through or stopping in a community may not be ideal in finding local residents to chat with, or even those that might know the history of where they are living. The past is not always present on our minds during the day to day hustle and bustle we all find ourselves involved in.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Burlington Park is located near the main street running through Lyons, NE and pays homage to the history the railroad played in the community’s past, seen Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Visiting a Small Nebraska Town in Souxland, Winslow, NE

26 Jun
A train passes an entrance into the community of Winslow, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Driving about Siouxland the last number of years I come across many smaller communities whose heyday was maybe another century or two ago. When small towns are first founded, so many did so because of the railroad and the early frontier bringing people west. Winslow, NE might fit into this category.

But as time goes by demographics and situations change. Especially for the smaller communities as people leave the area, children move to larger cities looking for employment and the surround countryside changes in that many smaller farms in a farming community have fewer of them, for whatever reason. It was originally platted in 1906 and incorporated as a village in 1909. Trying to find historical information online about various places, especially small communities is not always easy, and in most cases, hard to find.

Downtwon Winslow, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A vacate building in Winslow, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A partially vacate, abandoned building in Winslow, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always have questions. But many times when I am passing through there are not all that many people out and about. And one really needs to find someone older who has a sense of history of the place. But many could probably not tell a visitor how the community began. What drew area residents there other than to work in small businesses that probably supported the local agricultural community, that is small farms. An article printed in a regional newspaper in 2019 tells the plight of this community and problems it has faced in the past. Which explains a lot to me about the state of affairs as I travel through, seeing it after an irksome flood destroyed or heavily damaged most parts of the community.

History exists for every place. But sometimes its known by only a few and those inquisitive about its existence.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Renovation is underway at a building in downtown Winslow, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Renovation is underway at a building in downtown Winslow, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Renovation is underway at a building in downtown Winslow, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying Early Morning Siouxland, rural Nebraska, Winnebago, NE

22 Jun
Two Canadian geese take off from a pond near Winnebago, NE Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Even though I do like to sleep in when possible, I also like getting out early to drive about rural Siouxland looking for nature, or other aspects of life when the “world” is still relatively quiet. Critters can be surprisingly forgiving when they see a visitor passing through their neighborhood, and probably wonder what the heck is that person doing up so early.

An Eastern Kingbird sits on a barbed wire fence near Winnebago, NE Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two Redwing Blackbirds sit on fence posts in a field near Winnebago, NE Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The light in early morning is so sweet to photograph in and creates interesting scenes via its angle to the earth’s rotation. Such early morning light becomes better as the seasons moves into fall, in that one doesn’t have to rise so early, but the light itself changes, a little softer, but still direct. Plus, one can always take a nap later to recoup that lost sleep, but one can never regain the time lost or the possibility of images that could be photographed, but never seen to start with.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A brown thrasher peeks through some brush in a field near Winnebago, NE Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Passing Through in Siouxland, Cedar Bluffs, NE

16 Jun
Main street in Cedar Bluffs, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some days driving in Siouxland I may stop in a small community, but not spend a lot of time there. Roads pass through, and so do I. The 2010 census says there are around 230 residences in Cedar Bluffs, NE.

There are days where I am headed somewhere specific and do not want to spare the time, and other days I might drive about a bit, then make a couple of photographs of what visually appeals to me, no reflection on the community. And then see it recede in the mirror as I look for another place to stop and peek at, and ponder.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Downtown Cedar Bluffs, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Trying to Beat Mother Nature in Siouxland, Winnebago, NE

16 Nov
Ho Chunk Farms, a subsidiary of Ho Chunk Inc., a Native American company, harvests a corn field northeast of Winnebago, NE on tribal land near the Missouri River Friday, Nov. 36, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Farmers throughout the Siouxland area and elsewhere worked feverishly getting their crops harvested before another blast of winter hits the area like it did a couple weeks earlier. Most soybean crops have been combined, but a number of cornfields were still standing waiting to be picked.

Ho Chunk Farms, a subsidiary of Ho Chunk Inc., a Native American company, harvests a corn field northeast of Winnebago, NE on tribal land near the Missouri River Friday, Nov. 36, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Ho Chunk Farms, a subsidiary of Ho Chunk Inc., a Native American company, harvests a corn field northeast of Winnebago, NE on tribal land near the Missouri River Friday, Nov. 36, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Ho Chunk Farms, a subsidiary of Ho Chunk Inc, a corporation of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska was working hard to complete its harvest on its tribal land. As a child I can remember my father harvesting late into the evening trying to pick as much of his crop as possible before the dew sets in and adds moisture to the corn which can become costly if the crop is harvested when too wet. Although the same is true if it’s too dry. Grain elevator operators like their “porridge” just right.

Ho Chunk Farms, a subsidiary of Ho Chunk Inc., a Native American company, harvests a corn field northeast of Winnebago, NE on tribal land near the Missouri River Friday, Nov. 36, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And the employees timed their harvest just right as Mother Nature delivered another early freezing rain and snow storm recently which surely would affect area farmers just trying to finish a year with debilitating tariff wars and summer storms and ill-tempered politicians who believe people’s lives are their own personal footballs to do with as they please.

As I know from watching my dad, farming is a hard job that while rewarding has sunny days and not so sunny days.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Snow covers an unharvested corn field near Sioux City, Iowa Sunday Oct. 25, 2020 as local weather prognosticators said Siouxland, or western Iowa, eastern Nebraska and southeastern South Dakota could expect anywhere from 2 inches up to 7 inches depending on location. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Halloween in Siouxland, Decatur, NE

31 Oct
The sun illuminates a cemetery in Decatur, NE creating silhouettes of grave markers Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It seems on Halloween cemeteries always get a bad rap. Horror movies have made them front and center for decades with scary scenarios involving them.

On a recent trip in Siouxland to Decature, NE, a setting sun creates a light play with the grave markers, illuminating the countryside around the hallowed ground. Rather than make the place spooky, it created a quiet solitude of peace. Something all souls look for when reaching that final stage while journeying to the next destination.

The sun illuminates the countryside as it begins to set behind a cemetery in Decatur, NE creating silhouettes of grave markers Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This particular plot of land sits on a hillside as many country cemeteries do, overlooking the community and surrounding area. Many of the markers have dates reaching back into the 19th century. A place of rest for early pioneers to the area. A place where they can rest and enjoy the area they traveled to to call home and begin a new life when the country was expanding west.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A setting sun near a cemetery in Decatur, NE silhouettes grave markers Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Little bit of Sweden in Siouxland, Oakland, NE

20 Aug

Historically populated by immigrants from Sweden who settled the area in and around Oakland, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Everyone comes from somewhere, even the people of Siouxland. The region is a bit of a European melting pot. I haven’t spent a lot of time exploring the smaller communities of Nebraska but finding some interesting places and people need to do a little more exploration.

Graduating seniors photos are displayed in the downtown area of Oakland, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Downtown Oakland, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Each community has its own charm and history. But the community itself is quaint and only requires a short walk about to see it the downtown area and some of the surrounding neighborhoods.

A colorfully painted scene on a building in downtown Oakland, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A colorfully painted scene on a building in downtown Oakland, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As fall gets closer it will hopefully become a little cooler and more inducement to walk about on a bright sunny day. And maybe other aspects of life will become a little safer as well for those wanting to explore a bit.

A posted sign in a grassy area in downtown Oakland, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Older buildings are getting some makeovers in downtown Oakland, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s always fun and nice to “see” what’s around the corner or up the road a bit. I do miss popping into small cafes for lunch or coffee, preferring these days to carry a thermos and snack, which doesn’t replace the sometimes homemade pies and other goodies one might find at a cafe and a chance to chat with the folk there and learn a bit more about their community.

 

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A boarding house in downtown Oakland, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Remembering Those Serving from Siouxland, Wakefield, NE

16 Jul

A war memorial park sits just off of the downtown area in Wakefield, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Most small communities in the Siouxland region have a small veterans memorial park dedicated to those who served in the U.S. military during one of the many conflicts that the United States has been involved in. That is true of Wakefield, NE, where a small memorial is set up just off of the downtown area.

A War Memorial Park with names on bricks of service members and when they served in Wakefield, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dedicated bricks to service men and women with their names donated by families for remembrance and also in support of the park. A sign post at one end notes the various places that U.S. personnel have served.

A sign post representing many theatres of war of local residents who served at the War Memorial Park in Wakefield, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Names on bricks of service members and when they served at a War Memorial Park in Wakefield, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Ideally many believe the world to be a better place if there were no wars or conflicts and if people worked more in getting along. But history reminds us that many individuals don’t share that sentiment. Those persons for whatever reason relish in conflict, or the need of power and dominion over others. And no matter the psychological implications or pathologies ascribed to these people, their intentions and actions still get people killed. Those who serve to protect their country from foreign folk intent on harm, a remembrance is a small, small thank you for serving.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A Vietnam-era attack helicopter on display in a War Memorial Park in Wakefield, NE Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

History in Siouxland, the Umo`ho (Omaha) tribe, Macy, NE

14 Jun

A replica of an earth lodge of the Omaha Tribe at the scenic overlook viewing the Missouri River near Macy, NE Friday, April 25, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As restrictions relax because of the coronavirus I look forward again in getting out and about in Siouxland and learning more about the area and its history. No matter where one lives, there are always little gems that pop up and present themselves to those interested in taking a moment to stop, look and listen.

History of the Omaha Tribe can be found at the scenic overlook viewing the Missouri River near Macy, NE Friday, April 25, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

An informational plaque informs visitors about the Omaha Tribe at the scenic overlook viewing the Missouri River near Macy, NE Friday, April 25, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Taking a highway I generally don’t drive  because of its out of the way location was this time one of those gems. A scenic overview rest area overlooking the Missiouri River between the states of Nebraska and Iowa also contained information about the history of the Omaha Tribe that has been in the Siouxland area for decades.

A replica of an Omaha Tribe earth lodge at the scenic overlook viewing the Missouri River near Macy, NE Friday, April 25, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A plaque contains information about the Omaha Tribe found at a scenic overlook viewing the Missouri River near Macy, NE Friday, April 25, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Learning history about places and people like the Omaha Tribe is so much different than when I was in elementary school simply because one can find more accurate, and less white-washed information concerning indigenous people than what was presented in the history books used when I was a child. The Old West and settling of these territories told from a perspective of Hollywood and a less than honest history by the government  of the U.S. at the time.

From a website of warpaths to peace pipes a timeline of the Omaha tribe:

  • 1541: Hernando De Soto, the Spanish explorer is the first European to encounter the Omaha

  • 1700: The first European reference to the Omaha tribe was made by Pierre-Charles Le Sueur

  • 1718: The French map maker Guillaume Delisle named the tribe as “The Maha, a wandering nation”, along the northern stretch of the Missouri River

  • 1801: A devastating smallpox epidemic decimates the Omaha people

  • 1802: The number of Omaha had declined to just 300 people due to sickness and warfare

  • 1803: The Louisiana Purchase

  • 1804: Jean Pierre Chouteau was appointed as the US Indian agent

  • 1804: Lewis and Clark expedition (1804 – 1806)

  • 1813: Manuel Lisa (1772 -1820) established Ft. Lisa, the most important trading post on the Missouri River, controlling trade with the Pawnee, Missouria, Otoe, and other neighbouring Indians from 1813 to 1822

  • 1831: The Treaty of Prairie du Chien in which the Omaha ceded their lands in Iowa to the United States

  • 1832: The artist George Catlin visits the Omaha tribe

  • 1836: They joined with other tribes in more treaties with the U.S. Government

  • 1837: Second great Smallpox epidemic kills many Native American Indians

  • 1837: The Council Bluff’s Agency supervised the tribe from 1837 – 1856

  • 1840’s: Series of bloody conflicts with the Sioux

  • 1854: The treaty of March 16, 1854 ceded all their lands west of the Missouri River and south of a line running due west

  • 1856: The Omaha Agency supervised the tribe from 1856 – 1876

  • 1865: On March 6, 1865, the Omaha sold part of their reservation to the United States

  • 1870’s: The buffalos had been deliberately slaughtered by the whites to the point of extinction so ending the lifestyle of the Great Plains Native Indians

  • 1876: Nebraska Agencies supervised the tribe from 1876 – 1880

  • 1887-1934: General Allotment Act (1887) began land allotment of Native Indian territory

But one needs to stop and take the time to learn about the history, as well as enjoying the natural beauty of an area while going about one’s life. So many twists and turns and speed bumps to sometimes getting to a destination. Life is all of that.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An informational plaque about the Omaha Tribe at a scenic overlook viewing the Missouri River near Macy, NE Friday, April 25, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A look at the Missouri River separating Iowa and Nebraska seen from a scenic overlook near Macy, NE Friday, April 25, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Passing Through a Small Town in Siouxland, Louisville NE

19 Dec

Main street downtown Louisville, Nebraska Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Although driving about Siouxland and similar places some folk might believe all small towns are the same, but one comes to know they are not. The offerings in such places might not be as extensive as larger communities, but places like Louisville, Nebraska has its own small town charm and a place residents enjoy calling home. Visiting in winter is a little different than when I come across places any other time of year. Depending on the weather and how much the wind is blowing, I might not linger much while walking about.

The remnants of a mural seen on a business wall in Louisville, Nebraska Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The Cornhusker Country Music Theatre where musicians get together and jam seen downtown in Louisville, Nebraska Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And different times of the year probably has more activity happening on the weekend than what I saw while passing through recently. One downtown place that stuck out is the Cornhusker Country Music Theatre, a venue where folk get together and play music (guess if you haven’t the style) and entertain themselves, friends and any guests that happen by. A trip back at some point during warmer weather is probably necessary.

There were hourly trains passing through the community so it’s safe to assume it has been and continues to be a railway hub of some description, most with railcars pulling coal and other items in bulk. A grain elevator sits just down from the downtown area, and like so many small communities I visit it becomes apparent that agriculture is a major employer of some sort with farms and other industry related businesses in the area.

Trains pass through hourly in Louisville, Nebraska Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A grain elevator has steam rising from its stacks seen in the distance from downtown Louisville, Nebraska Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It was interesting to find a shop espousing medicinal usage of marijuana along a side street and also the ubiquitous barbershop that actually looks like one and not just a more modern version of a stylist salon.

Progressive Nebraskans looking for an alternative medicinal option located in Louisville, Nebraska Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A barbershop closed on the weekend in Louisville, Nebraska Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

One never really knows any community unless you spend a little time becoming acquainted and it’s hard depending on one’s travel plans to be able to do so. The road in and out can beckon both ways to visitors and residents alike and time and circumstance dictate which it may be on any given day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A crossroad leading out of town from Louisville, Nebraska Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

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