Tag Archives: history

Enjoying a Literate History in Siouxland, John G Neihardt and Bancroft, NE

18 Oct

People attend the John G Neihardt Day celebration at the Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The John G Neihardt Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Every year citizens and literary fans of John G Neihardt get together to celebrate his life at a small museum dedicated to him and his writings. Scholars attend and extol his virtue and foresightedness plus his friendship with another culture at the time of his life, Native Americans living in the area.

Pathways of understanding and turmoil in a garden site at the John G Neihardt Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Pathways of understanding and turmoil in a garden site at the John G Neihardt Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The study that Niehardt wrote in is preserved and one can gaze into it and wonder about this person who didn’t dislike his aboriginal neighbors but rather embraced and learned from them. Writing tomes about his friendship and their beliefs. In today’s crazed society to publish every little nuance and inkling at first blush of thought, this man was more introspective and deliberate in putting his thoughts to paper and sharing those insights. Something which seems a little quaint these days.

The John G Neihardt study where he did much of his early writing at the Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The John G Neihardt study where he did much of his early writing at the Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I can’t really assume that simple times meant simpler thoughts. It’s just that maybe folk took a little longer to ponder and consider before engaging. Life was hard then as it is now. It may just be hard in a different fashion. But taking time to reflect and think is something that never really goes out of fashion but seems often overlooked in today’s society.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

People attend the John G Neihardt Day celebration at the Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

People attend the John G Neihardt Day celebration at the Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The John G Neihardt study where he did much of his early writing at the Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The John G Neihardt study where he did much of his early writing at the Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

History in Siouxland and not on the Prairie, Storm Lake

6 Oct

The Prairie Log House built by a homesteader in 1871 and originally located near Rembrandt now forms part of a historical area in Storm Lake, Iowa Saturday Aug. 17, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The Prairie Log House built by a homesteader in 1871 and orginally located near Rembrandt now forms part of a historical area in Storm Lake, Iowa Saturday Aug. 17, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes dropping into a small community in Siouxland one finds interesting places, but timing prevents further exploration. I have seen this log cabin house and one-room school house numerous times visiting Storm Lake, but have not stopped to explore. This time I did, as much as I could, peeking inside to see what life appeared like that the homesteader who built this house lived in. It’s good I think to ponder life before modern conveniences if only to appreciate more of what is now available. Life today is possibly no harder than settlers on the prairie given the times then, it just depends on one’s situation at the time for each individual. Without technology now I couldn’t share my photographic musings and trips with others who may not have an opportunity to see this area, much like I view other people’s travels, near and far, and enjoy what they share.

A look inside the Prairie Log House built by a homesteader in 1871 and originally located near Rembrandt now forms part of a historical area in Storm Lake, Iowa Saturday Aug. 17, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A look inside the Prairie Log House built by a homesteader in 1871 and originally located near Rembrandt now forms part of a historical area in Storm Lake, Iowa Saturday Aug. 17, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A look inside the Prairie Log House built by a homesteader in 1871 and originally located near Rembrandt now forms part of a historical area in Storm Lake, Iowa Saturday Aug. 17, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Life definitely was much starker then, but for the times modern conveniences provided pot-bellied stoves for cooking and winter warmth and by today’s standards a more humble adobe. But it was no less a home than its owners appreciated and maintained and enjoyed. The same can be said of the one-room school houses dotting the midwest and other outlying areas as the young country expanded west. An opportunity for children to gain at least rudimentary knowledge that had been accumulated and passed on to them, with parents understanding the fundamental necessity of such an education. Small reminders of gained through simple technology. A place to find a blackboard and someone willing to share for a meager salary information acquired from over the generations of those who had come before.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The Elk Township County School is similar to many early 19 century schools constructed to provide an education to rural Iowa children now sits in a historical area in Storm Lake, Iowa Saturday Aug. 17, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

in Storm Lake, Iowa Saturday Aug. 17, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Visiting a Small Siouxland Community, Bancroft, NE

26 Sep

The community of Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When I get out and about I like visiting small towns in Siouxland. Getting a chance to stop and walk about and see what is there. Although the times I visit may not be ideal in that if it’s a weekend, there may not be much activity. And generally speaking, in small towns these days activity is limited unless there is a community-wide event occurring.

The John G Neihardt Nebraska state historic site is located in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The community of Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Then there is the matter of taste. I like finding what I consider interesting subjects to photograph which does not reflect the nature or character of some places I visit. But visually it appeals to me whether it’s a doorway with peeling paint, brick structures built in the mid to late 1800’s or some other quirky attribute that is what I gravitate to photograph.

The community of Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And I have found visiting a number of these smaller communities these days they all generally have grain elevators anchoring one end of the downtown. A tribute to the agricultural industry that is important to so many Siouxland communities in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota. And sadly businesses that may have thrived for a period of time but run their course.

The community of Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But exploring the area one lives in is an interesting pursuit I believe and knowing and understanding a bit more about one’s community is not a bad thing. Plus so many times one meets people that makes it all worthwhile and helps in appreciating what one finds.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The community of Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The community of Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The community of Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Visiting Spirit Mound in Siouxland, Vermillion, SD

18 Sep

Spirit Mound is seen in the background behind some sunflowers at the Spirit Mound Historic Prairie near Vermillion, SD Saturday, September 7, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Spirit Mound Historic Prairie is one of the place and stops taken by Lewis and Clark’s Expedition researching the Louisiana Purchase for then President Thomas Jefferson. For Native Americans at the time it represented a place of foreboding, as a website states: “Long before white men came to what is now South Dakota, the little hill known by the Sioux as Paha Wakan was held in awe by tribes for miles around. The Omaha, the Sioux, and the Otoes believe that the mound was occupied by spirits that killed any human who came near.”

The trail head at Spirit Mound near Vermillion, SD Saturday, September 7, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A trail marker pinpoints a spot visited by the Lewis and Clark Expedition as it explored the “New West” for then President Thomas Jefferson seen at Spirit Mound near Vermillion, SD Saturday, September 7, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The day I visited there were going to people out on the trail helping visitors to learn a little more about the Mound and other aspects of the area. But a morning rain”washed away” the volunteers as the event was postponed to the following day. But I don’t always let a little water dampen my enthusiasm or gear. And I missed the rain, and the informational pieces as I didn’t attend the following day, but enjoyed the short walk and look at Spirit Mound again as I had visited previously.

Rain puddles fill a walking trail at Spirit Mound near Vermillion, SD Saturday, September 7, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Rain drops cling to a sign at Spirit Mound near Vermillion, SD Saturday, September 7, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But there are now informational plagues erected along the trail to give a visitor some background and information one would have to research later, which still wouldn’t be a bad idea to understand more about Lewis and Clark’s expedition and the Native Americans who lived in the area centuries before. History can be fascinating and sometimes it seems surreal to walk in an area visited a century or two or more by explorers and others who lived in an entirely different world.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An informational plague talks about the history of Spirit Mound near Vermillion, SD Saturday, September 7, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Storm clouds appear on the horizon nearSpirit Mound near Vermillion, SD Saturday, September 7, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Learning History Outside of Siouxland, the Waterman Area Heritage Society, Waterman, IL

16 Sep

Travel can always be an educational experience. If one decides to do that. I came upon a small town museum that packed a lot of local history within its walls and two women who were happy to share it. The Waterman, IL, Area Heritage Society had only a few large displays but tons of stuff to peruse.

A local barbershop is created in the Waterman Area Heritage Society in Waterman, Illinois August 31, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While taking a few photographs and browsing artifacts, the two volunteers began telling me about the area and sharing stories of their growing up. The museum had quite a collection of “antique” phones, mostly rotary dial but also some push button ones, which they remarked that school children can not imagine using. Let along hearing stories about country “party lines” where maybe 10 families used the same line to talk with another and others and at times had to be vigilant about that one busy body who liked to listen in on other’s conversations.

Volunteers share a funny story about local history in the Waterman Area Heritage Society in Waterman, Illinois August 31, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I was lucky as well in that I happened upon the small museum with 10 minutes left before it closed. So I didn’t spend a lot of time perusing items on display but did learn about an area family that built a scale replica of a ship that was placed over a vehicle and the family traveled the United States participating in various parades.

A tribute to the Eakle Family that traveled and participated in many municipality parades across the country during the 20th Century seen in the Waterman Area Heritage Society in Waterman, Illinois August 31, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Recorded history via a photograph in the Waterman Area Heritage Society in Waterman, Illinois August 31, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

One item of note the volunteers pointed out were broaches that were created in probably the 19th Century. I had seen something similar at another museum I was visited and the broaches were made with human hair collected over a period of time and probably done over the winter months when going outside might not have been an option then as streets snow removal was probably not what it is today.

Fine craftsmanship broach pins done with human hair seen in the Waterman Area Heritage Society in Waterman, Illinois August 31, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

So many small museums, so little time, but serendipity can be one’s friend if a person does nothing more than simply look and push open a door to see what lies on the other side.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Items of note on display in the Waterman Area Heritage Society in Waterman, Illinois August 31, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Graduates of a former community school seen in the Waterman Area Heritage Society in Waterman, Illinois August 31, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Poetry and Literature in Siouxland of John G. Neihardt, Bancroft, NE

2 Sep

Poetry is one form of literature I never really embraced and have read sporadically. Even in college where I was probably more exposed to poetry through courses there, it was something that never gave me pause and made me take a second look. But that doesn’t mean it’s something that doesn’t resonate with many of folk and I had forgotten about an early 20th century writer who lived in Siouxland that is renowned for his poetry and early ventures at bridging divides with local Native Americans.

Inside the John G Neihardt Day welcome center at the Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The John G. Neihardt Center is located in Bancroft, NE and celebrates the author’s life and life’s work he did through literature and his friendships with local Native Americans. The Center’s website states:”

But Neihardt himself pointed to a “fever dream” he had at this age, in which he saw himself floating through space and felt the presence of a “spirit brother,” as the event that determined his life work as a poet and inspired the content of that work.

Neihardt graduated from Wayne Normal College at 16 and taught country school for a short time. He’d been writing poetry since age 12 and, upon moving to Bancroft in 1900, turned to that vocation, working also as an owner-editor of the Bancroft Blade, and as a clerk for a trader on the Omaha Reservation.

His acquaintance with the Omaha and Winnebago Indians led him to an interest in the Sioux, their customs and traditions. He traveled the plains and lived the land first hand.”

Inside the John G Neihardt Day welcome center at the Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Inside the John G Neihardt Day welcome center at the Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Neihardt wrote books and poetry reflecting his knowledge of his Native friends and a kindred spirit they shared and time spent together. Impressing early Nebraskan state officials and legislators that Neihardt became the state’s poet laureate at one point, in 1921. As mentioned at a number of online sites for people interested in exploring his life and writings more thoroughly, Neihardt authored the book “Black Elk Speaks,”  interviews he did with the Lakota chief Black Elk in which the chief shared his knowledge of oral history and the cultures of Native Americans.

The John G Neihardt Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The John G Neihardt Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

These little gems of places tucked away in Siouxland still amaze me and I keep hoping to find more of them as I continue to wander about. While I may never truly appreciate the genre of poetry, I can appreciate the dedication Neihardt gave to his life’s works in helping foster a better understanding between two cultures.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Inside the John G Neihardt Day welcome center at the Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Inside the John G Neihardt Day welcome center at the Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Inside the John G Neihardt Day welcome center at the Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Pathways of understanding and turmoil in a prayer garden site at the John G Neihardt Nebraska state historic site in Bancroft, NE, NE Sunday, August 4, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

History in Siouxland, Kirchner Park Museum, Peterson

23 Aug

The Christian Kirchner house seen on the grounds of the Kirchner Park Museum complex in Peterson, Iowa Saturday, July 27, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes timing is everything as one drives about Siouxland checking out what lies over the next hill. A few times I have driven through Peterson and each time I was never lucky enough to find the Kirchner Park Museum open. Only to learn later that it’s by an appointment situation and entails a little more planning on my part next time. The home is of a pioneer who settled the area and built one of the firsts, if not the first, wood frame house. A small museum next door houses various artifacts and farming implements as far as I know. There is even a one-room school house situated on the grounds, all of which most likely holds interesting history of the area, and someday, I hope to learn what some of that history is. And better plan my next trip there.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A look inside one room of the Christian Kirchner house on the grounds of the Kirchner Park Museum complex in Peterson, Iowa Saturday, July 27, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The porch area of the Kirchner Farm Machinery Museum on the grounds of the Kirchner Park Museum complex in Peterson, Iowa Saturday, July 27, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The Rock Forest Schoolhouse on the grounds of the Kirchner Park Museum complex in Peterson, Iowa Saturday, July 27, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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