Tag Archives: jerry mennenga photographer

Siouxland’s Irish history, O’Connor House, Ponca, NE

9 Nov

This weekend and a previous weekend was the annual open house in Siouxland for the O’Connor House, a preserved piece of history in Dakota County, Nebraska. Catherine and Cornelius O’Connor, the original homesteaders, both arrived in America as children from Ireland after the great famine there. The two moved to the area and settled near St. John’s City, an Irish settlement, now known as Jackson, Nebraska. The residence, completed in 1875 by Capt. Cornelius O’Connor, was restored and is run by the Dakota County, Nebraska, Historical Society. Visitors can tour the O’Connor House two weekends in early November as the holiday season kicks off. The house is decorated for Christmas by various people from around the area.  Another blog entry by an ancestor of Capt. O’Connor who visited relatives in the area talks about her trip to visit the homestead that is listed with the National Register of Historic Places.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Siouxland Sleepout, attempt to raise homeless issues awareness, Sioux CIty

8 Nov

The 10th anniversary of the Siouxland Sleepout, an attempt to elevate the awareness of homelessness in the Siouxland area occurred over a Friday night. Unlike the previous year, the temperature was cool and even chilly, but not downright cold. But what seemed to previously draw a large number of individuals and organizations such as church groups and scout troops, the numbers seem to be dwindling, although the enthusiasm of those participating more than made up for those not attending.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Wandering Siouxland’s Loess Hills

29 Oct

Last week I had a couple days where I could wander about in the northern and southern areas of Northwest Iowa, affectionately known as Siouxland. There is a land phenomenon and area called the Loess Hills, a formation of wind-deposited loess soil in the westernmost part of Iowa and Missouri along the Missouri River. The only other area this type of land formation occurs is in China.

It is a nice drive to wander among the farm country and small communities that dot the area. To get lost among the rolling hills and not worry about the time, but to take the time to find photographic moments on a nice autumn day with a light wind and blue sky. One doesn’t often get these opportunities, but when they occur, Carpe Diem.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A small Siouxland community that gave a lot, Castana

27 Oct


While out driving around the Siouxland area in the Loess Hills region of Northwest Iowa, I passed through the small community of Castana, which in its heyday, like a lot of other now smaller Iowa communities, was bustling when first settled.

The Monona County Economic Development website lists this information: ” Population 147, Castana was platted on July 24, 1886.  When a branch of Chicago Northwestern Railway connected Castana traders with the latest goods and services.  Castana was named by the founder, for what he believed to be the Latin word for chestnuts. “Geocaching” fans will find Castana at a latitude of 42.074N and  longitude -95.908  Castana is loaded with attractions and recreation areas.  Western Iowa Experimental Farm near Castana was established in 1946 for the development of agriculture in the Loess Hills.  Loess Hills Wildlife Area and Sylvan Runkel Preserve is the location of the annual Loess Hills Prairie Seminar.  Composed of approximately 3000 acres of native prairie and woodland area it offers the best hiking, bird watching, and primitive camping. The Loess Hills Ranch & Winery is located at the Timber Ridge Recreation area in rural Castana.
Castana City Hall, 103 Pine St., Castana, Iowa 51010,Phone: 712-353-6747.


The City of Castana has this information on its website: “In the summer of 1866 A. G. Hammond of Hartford, Conn., purchased two hundred acres of land, on sections 23 & 24 of James M. Kelsey, and engaged J. B. P. Day to build a store building and a hotel the following spring. However, during the winter Mr. Hammond died and Messrs. Day & Co. (F. A. & J. B. P.) purchased the land and lumber, and during the summer of 1867 built the store and dwelling combined which was the Old Castana headquarters. The building was completed by July 4, and a big crowd gathered there… A first-class violinist traveling west in company with S.C. Hoadley could play any tune and the party held out until morning.  The Castana post office was established September 11, 1865, with A. J. Hathaway as Postmaster. It was moved to the store in 1867 and F. L. Day appointed Postmaster, who was succeeded in 1869 by F. A. Day. In 1872 there were the following businesses in Old Castana; a blacksmith shop, two stores, and an agricultural implement depot of Penn Bros. & Co. Also mentioned is a Methodist parsonage with Hathaway’s mill close by.  The first baseball club was organized here by Geo. W. Penn in 1872. On July 4, 1873 the “Grange” had a big gathering here. A six-pound cannon was brought for the occasion and the day opened big with a heavy shower about 1 O’clock and broke up the meeting.  In connection with the A. G. Hammond purchase, the American Emigrant Company had made a donation to the county of $2,000 for school purposes and the board of supervisors selected the bench on section 23, as a site for an academy. The movement at this point awoke the jealousy of parties interested in Belvidere and other points and the result was the abandonment of the whole matter and the funds diverted to other projects.  Castana is one of Monona County’s most enterprising towns, located near the center of the county in Kennebec Township, on land purchased by the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Company by the Western Town Lot Company in the early summer of 1886, the survey being completed by July 15, the deed of dedication and the platt bearing the date of July 24, and filed for record July 29, 1886. The town is a distance of about 12 miles from Onawa, the county seat, and about 50 miles from Sioux City, the nearest jobbing point.  The first building erected was the warehouse of Day & Co., just back of their store. This was put up in July, 1886. It is located on the rear of lot 1, block 6, and was put up by J. B. P. Day. The railroad track was laid past the depot grounds April 12.

It was a little after lunch and so I pulled into a park area to eat something I had packed. At the park is a war memorial. A wooden wall held in place by two by fours planted into the ground behind it. A former archway into a local bank (there are no banks there now) sets the memorial off with its marble columns and brick walls. The memorial wall lists all service people killed beginning with the Civil War, and through the Gulf War. There are a lot of names, too many names for a place this size to have sacrificed so many of its sons. I didn’t see anyone there that day so didn’t get a chance to ask questions about the memorial. But however plain it might appear, the long list of names tells a very humbling story.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa



Siouxland history and Westman College, Le Mars

25 Oct

While driving about looking for fall color, I drove into Le Mars, Iowa, last week and meandered through a few streets until I came upon a park in that small town. I had been by this place in the early 2000’s just after moving to Sioux City, but had forgotten about it. It was the Westmar Memorial Park, situated in the area that was formerly Westmar College, a former college of the United Methodist Church which served the Le Mars community for 107 years. The small campus has since undergone some revitalization with former dormitory rooms converted into apartments and businesses renting or purchasing former college buildings. The trees in the park were absolutely gorgeous though for the fall season, with a rain storm closely following me into town. The colors and darkened sky created a more dynamic and dramatic look making the trees’ color come more alive.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa


Fall in Siouxland’s Iowa Lakes region, Okoboji

21 Oct

I traveled last week up to the Iowa Lakes region in Siouxland that includes Okoboji, West Okoboji, Spirit Lake and other small communities clustered around that area. It was during the week and quiet. The summer crowds had left. The summer residents have left their summer homes and local workers were prepping them for winter. The resorts and businesses that catered to them were closed. One could see leaves turning on trees around the lake and in amongst the homes. The air was cool and crisp in the morning then turned warm in the afternoon. I had a quiet walk around the place, talking to a few local residents and just enjoying the solitude. Something that at times seems in short supply.

I like fall. A good time for contemplation over a cup of coffee as the sunlight comes and goes more quickly. The quality of light in the fall is just very nice. It has a crispness to it that isn’t as harsh as summer light, but softer, and also a shorter time span. And just makes being outside more enjoyable.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Siouxland’s political season line up, Indianola

26 Sep

This week Iowa became one of many states that allows early voting before an election. The mid-term 2014 election is mostly local and state candidates, although there is always Congressional districts that sometimes become of interest nationally. This year there is again a race between Iowa’s fourth district Congr. Steve King (R-Iowa) who often times says outlandish things, creates tension with his remarks, but is never seen trying to work out a solution. He is a flash point both in Iowa politics between Republicans and Democrats and nationally, a darling for the Tea Party and conservative talk show hosts.

Then there is the open seat that retiring U.S. Sen.Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is leaving and there is a contentious battle between the Republican party and the Democratic party. I attended for the first time, and probably last time, the Tom Harkin Steak Fry held in his home town of Indianola, Iowa. I say the last time because with his retirement, the steak fry event will probably cease. This year’s special guests included all of the the state and national Democratic candidates running for office, as well as Pres. Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. With these two attending, one knew that the political season is underway in no small order and with the Nov. 4, 2014 election just around the corner, one knew the 2016 presidential election is not far off, even with a couple of intervening years. One can only wait and see what transpires between this upcoming mid-term election and the next presidential election when the candidate field could be wide open.

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