Tag Archives: early settlers

Historical Women in Siouxland, Ft. Atkinson State Park, Nebraska

25 Nov

Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park near  Ft. Calhoun, NE is a look at western frontier fort life as settlers and others were moving westward looking for a new or better life and the men who worked to safeguard that passage west. The fort, while not home to women in particular, was supported by women married to some of the soldiers or nearby settlers that acquired land to work and helped build communities. The park’s welcome center contains information that helps explain the times and the fort’s purpose.

The Welcome Center seen during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

“Conquering” the western frontier wasn’t only a job done by men, even though most of history would have people believe that. Men could not have accomplished as much as they claim had in fact that women were not involved. The simple fact, without women, there would be no men.

So it was fascinating and interesting to talk with women re-enactors at the Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park near Ft. Calhoun, Ne. Women in those days played the supporting role for men going West. They maintained the families and home fronts and saw to it that many basic needs were met. And in doing that also found ways that enriched their lives in small ways as well.

Marilyn Jones, center right, gives step by step instructions to a park visitor curious about the lace weaving technique she is demonstrating during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Marilyn Jones demonstrates a lace weaving technique during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Marilyn Jones demonstrates a lace weaving technique during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Women also provided a different skill set for practical means such as quilting, mending, weaving that applied to day to day life. They helped the new frontier much like the old frontier thrive. And made a rough existence a bit more palatable to men living there and raising their families. While women were not permitted on the fort grounds, they helped out in many ways that sustained fort life.

A view of the parade and mustering grounds during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Visitors even got the chance to learn about the mundane tasks of frontier living such as doing laundry during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Visitors even got the chance to learn about the mundane tasks of frontier living such as doing laundry during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Life must have been difficult for both sexes during those frontier days, much like it is today, although for different reasons reflecting the time period. Yet one makes do and tries to find some joy in life even in the little things. Making the best of what must have been impossible situations now and again, but still finding some joy in it all.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Weaver Donna Jones, right, talks with visitors about the 100 plus years old looms she is using for her weaving projects such as the rugs seen next to the young boys and what life was like in early frontiers day during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Park visitors take a break on benches outside of soldier quarters during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Visitors talk with a re-enactor at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park during July 4 festivities at Ft. Calhoun, NE Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Families and visitors explore the grounds and an “early frontier” garden plot during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Part of the grounds area and a tribute seen during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

History Comes Alive in Siouxland, Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park, Nebraska

19 Nov

Visitors head into Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park for July 4 festivities at Ft. Calhoun, NE Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The history of Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park at Ft. Calhoun, NE Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This summer I spent part of a day reliving history at a Nebraska Historical Park in Siouxland, Ft. Atkinson, which according to one living history participant and re-enactor, was the largest fort in the U.S. during its days of use on what was then the frontier.

I find attending such places and events informative and fun. As well as fascinating because of the people who help make history come alive for us regular folk who get the chance to understand a bit more about those folk who came before us. While those volunteering their time to portray actors can’t provide all the answers, they can help people appreciate what history says about a place and possibly give us direction where to find more information about a place’s history.

Visitors assemble for a program about the creation of the United States and a firing demonstration of muskets and canon as each state’s name is read and when it entered the Union during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Part of the display and honoring of territories becoming states included musket and canon firing salutes during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Part of the display and honoring of territories becoming states included musket and canon firing salutes during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And sometimes the people who portray historical characters are themselves rascals who give a nice dimensional look to an era we can only read about now.

 

Blacksmith Tom speaks with visitors during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Two “regimental officers” talk about life at the fort in early frontier days during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Visitors check out the Trading Post cabin outside of the Fort during Living History festivities at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft. Calhoun, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

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

Finding History in Siouxland in Plain Sight, Onawa

13 May

Driving back from Omaha, Nebraska the other day a friend and I stopped in Onawa, Iowa to get a snack. I have been to Onawa many times but this time the Hotel Monona was standing in bright light and I couldn’t believe I had never paid attention to it previously. It looks like a hotel from the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. Stately, and I would guess many people stayed there on their way to another destination, possibly into the Dakota Territory north and west. Such a fine building that looks like it is no longer in use. Another gem from another era that slips slowly, and visibly into the past right before our eyes.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The Hotel Monona in Onawa, Iowa Thursday, May 12, 2016.  (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Hotel Monona in Onawa, Iowa Thursday, May 12, 2016. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Siouxland’s Adams House Museum, Ponca, NE

2 Oct

I visited the Adams House Museum in Ponca, Nebraska, this summer and enjoyed a throw back into time in the Nebraska area of Siouxland. Located just down the street from the Cook’s Blacksmith Shop, Jackie King-Coughlin, Ponca Historical Society president, was giving tours of the house and filling in some of the history and background of the former family residence and artifacts within. Such as the crank washing machine, the “3-D” picture viewer and information about the Adams family, no relation to those of TV fame.

There are so many gems that we can find in “our own backyard” that I am always grateful in stumbling across them while just driving about, and sometimes doing a little search on the internet. I haven’t explored Nebraska as much as I have Iowa, but I need to do more. Seeing what life was in former times is always fascinating and helpful in understanding how people lived then. Reprints for the Adams House can be found here.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City

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