Tag Archives: history

Variations on a Theme in Siouxland, Sheldon

13 Oct

When I visited a community in Siouxland a couple of years ago I came across a farm homestead on the outskirts of Sheldon. I don’t know if it was still an active farm or if the land it once cultivated had been sold off for housing and the homestead was all that remains.

A farm homestead still within the city limits of Sheldon, Iowa, Thursday, August 6, 2015. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Having grown up on a farm I am always fascinated with the outbuildings or barns. Once I moved away from home on return visits I always did some photography of the buildings. They change over time and in my estimation gain a little character from the elements of the weather.

This homestead had nice buildings and provided a glimpse of what a farm earlier in the decade looked like. These days, metal buildings are more the norm probably because of cost effectiveness. But the large metal structures take away the charm of a farm.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

 

Celebrating Fall Harvest in Siouxland at the Heritage Village, Sioux Center

7 Oct

An annual event in Sioux Center is the Heritage Village Harvest Festival that celebrates early pioneer life in Siouxland. The Friday of that particular weekend local schools generally bring some of their school children to visit to see what life was like one or even two centuries ago without the modern convenience of grocery stores or indoor plumbing.

School children try their hand at pumping water during the Heritage Village Harvest Festival in Sioux Center, Iowa Friday Sept. 15, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Heritage Village volunteer Dave Schelhaas gets a young volunteer to help dig potatoes in the garden during Harvest Festival in Sioux Center, Iowa Friday Sept. 15, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Volunteers dress up in period outfits and help to explain to the children and visitors alike the types of life and “appliances” previously used by settlers who first arrived in the immediate area in which the children live and the kind of life they encountered.

Visitors wait their turn to look inside a small sod house which was a normal dwelling during early pioneer days during the Heritage Village Harvest Festival in Sioux Center, Iowa Friday Sept. 15, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Heritage Village volunteer Gloria Hoekstra shows young students from a local school how butter is made during Harvest Festival in Sioux Center, Iowa Friday Sept. 15, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Children are rightfully amazed at how people lived decades ago and how much progress has been made. So many, even living within an agricultural area such as Iowa, have never been to a farm and their parents probably don’t have a garden. So a little dose of history and the understanding of so many things we take for granted today is beneficial to them and other visitors too. When I hear of people talking about “simpler” times I must consciously keep from rolling my eyes and asking which times? Before air conditioning or after it. And for whom. Not all people enjoyed the benefits of progress as they were first introduced and so I wonder how much simpler times were then.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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

Community of History in Siouxland, Granite

27 Sep

While visiting the Gitchie Manitou State Preserve earlier this summer I also stopped in the community of Granite.

A sign pokes a little at itself as a community that has more residents previously in Granite, Iowa Thursday Aug. 3, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s remaining residents have a sense of humor and have created a small town square to remember its local history, a community created with the coming of the railroad. And it seems the community is best known for its annual threshing bee held in July.

A sign outside of town advertises the THreshing Bee that takes place every summer in July at Granite, Iowa Thursday Aug. 3, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I brieftly talked with one resident, inquiring about his metal roof since I was looking at having my house’s roof replaced. He gave me a little overview of the community and its history.

Resident and contractor Gregg Beldin, left, speaks to another resident about a project she needs done in Granite, Iowa Thursday Aug. 3, 2017. Traffic congestion is not a problem and neither is standing in the roadway talking. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The pace is slow but the residents seem to enjoy that and the space they have surrounding them in this northernly portion of Iowa. The community erected a plaque detailing the history of community, its prominence during the early boom railroad days, which have tapered off like a lot of smaller communities that thrived when the railroads touched more rural lives.

A plaque which sits on a town square detail the history of Granite, Iowa, Thursday Aug. 3, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A plaque which sits on a town square detail the history of Granite, Iowa, Thursday Aug. 3, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It will be fun to revisit the small community during its two-day festival and see how difficult it will be to find parking and to see the place bustle with activity like it did in its early days.

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

Former Railroad Days in Siouxland, Wall Lake

10 Aug

I have found driving around Siouxland that many small communities sprung up in the state’s early days, the late 1800’s and early 1900’s primarily founded on the railroad passing through the community as others continued their trek west and the country expanded. One of those communities is Wall Lake, with a population roughly around 800 people that was tallied in 2014.

With most small communities the railroad was a lifeline in and out. Fostering more growth, but inevitably taking away that growth once the railroad ceased its operation.

The former Chicago Northwestern railroad depot in Wall Lake Iowa Iowa Friday, May 12, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Esther Bielema, a local historian, explained that the railroad functioned in the Wall Lake area up until the 2000’s when after a flood and train tracks were damaged that the current ownerUnion Pacific did not do any repairs. Later local residents got together and refurbished the depot and turned it into a history outpost for the community informing visitors the railroad’s past presence locally.

Older photos displayed on a wall in the former Chicago Northwestern railroad depot in Wall Lake, Iowa, Sunday July 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A photograph on a wall shows patrons of the later 1800’s in the now refurbished former Chicago Northwestern railroad depot in Wall Lake, Iowa, Sunday July 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Brian Bielema formerly worked for the railroad for 37 years and recounted a wealth of history and information about the depot and events a bygone era.

Former railroad man Brian Bielema sits in the now refurbished Chicago Northwestern depot in Wall Lake, Iowa, Sunday July 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The sad thing though is that small communities in Iowa will one day lose these historians and the history that accompanies the communities may be lost as others do not learn about the place they live and the history of its coming into existence. A dilemma faced by many smaller communities as younger people move away and the towns shrink.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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