Tag Archives: omaha nebraska

Summertime and finding fun in and around Siouxland, Omaha, NE

29 Jun

On an earlier outing this summer south of Siouxland traveling down to Omaha, NE I came across a street fair that has been a recurring event there, Summerfest. Sioux City where I live also has an arts festival, generally occurring in early September. As I walked about it also happened to be an extremely hot day, but that didn’t seem to deter people from checking out what was there.

Artists stalls line a street at the Summer Fest arts festival in downtown Omaha, NE Saturday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A family poses for a street artist during the Summer Fest arts festival in downtown Omaha, NE Saturday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I found myself more interested in the canal flowing into the downtown area, maybe because it was shaded and I had already spent a good part of the day visiting the Lauritzen Gardens.

The Summer Fest arts festival borders a canal located near downtown Omaha, NE Saturday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A duck quietly sits in a canal that parallels Summer Fest arts festival in downtown Omaha, NE Saturday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

However it didn’t escape my notice that a couple of guys demonstrating black smith technique were taking a break working in the heat and putting their portable furnace to a different use, getting in a bit of lunch.

 

Workers demonstrating black smith techniques take a break during the Summer Fest arts festival to grill some lunch in downtown Omaha, NE Saturday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

That is the nice thing about traveling, even just down the road, one can always find something new, to oneself, and enjoy the day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Garden Surprise near Siouxland, Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE

27 Jun

On a recent trip with a south of Siouxland I visited the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, Nebraska. Although it was a very hot day, the gardens visit was truly wonderful. A few different gardens, some formal and others not, with a variety of plants. But what truly caught my eye was a model train setup in the gardens with tracks and wooden trestles made from twigs and branches with plants growing around and within the train tracks.

People watch a model train cross a trestle bridge overhead at the model train exhibit at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Saturday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

There are a number of trestle bridge configurations for the several running trains at the model train exhibit at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Saturday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The train master Bill Willis explained that the setup was commissioned and built by Paul Busse, a model railroad enthusiast, who has built other such models in other cities. Willis maintains and sees that repairs as needed are done as well as checking tracks for overgrown plants.

A plaque at the explains how the train exhibit originated at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Saturday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Bill Willis oversees the model train exhibit set up at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Saturday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Bill Wilis, trainmaster and dispatcher clears a track area of debris at the model train exhibit at the Lauritzen Gardensin Omaha, NE Saturday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Such a setup was thing I never really imagined finding in a garden setting. But it is so beautifully entrenched and appears almost out of nowhere until you walk right up on it. It was just a delight.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Visitors wait for one of several running model trains in an exhibit at the Lauritzen Gardensin Omaha, NE Saturday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

There are various trestle bridge configurations set up for the model train exhibit at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Saturday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

One of several running model trains crosses a trestle bridge at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Saturday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

There are numerous trestle bridge configurations at the model train exhibit at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Saturday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Besides the wooden branch and twig train track configurations, there are also a number of buildings representing different aspects of the city of Omaha built of wood at the model train exhibit display at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Saturday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Visiting a Big Boy near Siouxland, Omaha NE

19 Jun

As I continue exploring areas in and around Siouxland I always feel blessed that I keep finding interesting places to explore. Some I spend a little more time at than others, but it’s enjoyable to learn more history about an area that I know others have already had the opportunity to enjoy. So it was in visiting a piece of Omaha’s history, a Big Boy engine that sits above a freeway and is connected to the Lauritzen Gardens.

The Union Pacific Railroad’s Big Boy Engine in Omaha, NE Saturday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A history of the Union Pacific Railroad’s Big Boy Engine on a plaque at the display in Omaha, NE Saturday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This particular engine is one of twenty five that were built to help with the U.S> government’s WWII war effort. It looms large when driving up the freeway and even larger when encountering it in person. It was also fun to find a couple from California who have traveled the U.S. visiting each of these powerhouses.

Dwarfed in size while standing in front of this Union Pacific Railroad’s Big Boy Engine on display in Omaha, NE where it was built in 1944 is a couple who is traveling the United States and visiting each and everyone of these behemoths, seen Saturday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The rail service stills hauls a great deal of freight overland and many communities I have lived in and visited and crisscrossed with railroad tracks. When in a city, it seems forever for a train to pass by, but that’s to be expected when they are traveling slowly through crossings. But seeing them in the country slicing through the landscape it’s almost hard to imagine now the manpower and blood, sweat and tears expended to lay the track that helped propel this country into a business opportunity for some from coast to coast.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The walkway leading to the area for the Union Pacific Railroad’s Big Boy Engine is decorated with Midwest iconography seen in Omaha, NE Saturday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

This Union Pacific Railroad’s Big Boy Engine is on display in Omaha, NE where it was built in 1944 as one of 25 of the fastest locomotives in its time seen Saturday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

This Union Pacific Railroad’s Big Boy Engine is on display in Omaha, NE where it was built in 1944 as one of 25 of the fastest locomotives in its time seen Saturday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Walking Among History near Siouxland, Mormon Pioneer Cemetery in Omaha, NE

30 May

One day while driving south of the Siouxland area I headed to Omaha, NE and visited the Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters.

The Morman Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters tells the story of the Mormon people after they left Nauvoo, IL and headed west eventually reaching Utah and the gives an accounting of the people and the journey to their selected sacred site, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There was a lot of history packed into this facility, not only about the Mormon people and their journey west, but about history in general and what was going on during this time period.

Across the street is a pioneer cemetery for Mormons who ventured West, at that time Iowa and Nebraska was part of the western territory and frontier. The cemetery today a temple as well and is dedicated to those hearty souls who could not complete the physical journey to their home west in Utah. But ended their journey earlier and returned home to their heavenly Father.

A plaque commemorating the Pioneer Mormon Cemetery for those who died as they attempted to read a new promise land, and which now sits across from the Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A couple visit a memorial site in the Pioneer Mormon Cemetery and which sits across from the Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It sometimes gives me chills to think of others who have walked an area before from another century and the journey they were making in a land that now does not resemble that pioneer period at all.

An entrance into the Pioneer Mormon Cemetery which sits across from the Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A grave marker at the Pioneer Mormon Cemetery which sits across from the Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A remaining remaining grave markers in the Pioneer Mormon Cemetery for pioneering Mormons on their trek to a new promised land in Utah and which sits behind a Mormon temple and across from the Morman Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters which tells the story of the long journey west, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

People of all faiths have at some point in history made a journey to a promised land looking forward to a better life. And some people do not reach their intended destination but are called home to their Lord to begin another journey, one of peace and joy and unfettered by any earthly concerns.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Westward Ho, Siouxland, Mormon Trail Center Historic Winter Quarters, Omaha, NE

12 May

The Morman Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters tells the story of the Mormon people after they left Nauvoo, IL and headed west eventually reaching Utah and the gives an accounting of the people and the journey to their selected sacred site, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On a recent visit to Omaha, NE I came across the Mormon Trail Center, Historic Winter Quarters museum that tells the tale of the Mormons westward travels from Nauvoo, IL when residents there forced them to leave and look elsewhere to settle. I am always amazed at the pockets of history around and near Siouxland, although I shouldn’t be. At one time Iowa and the region was just a prairie and part of that westward expansion. Mormon missionaries guide you through the museum and exhibits helping you to understand their tale of reaching Utah and Salt Lake City which would become their mecca and a place of religious tolerance.

Sister Millet, 2nd from the right and Sister Price, right, are part of a group of Mormon missionaries doing their service by giving tours to those visiting the Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A bust of Joseph Smith on display at the Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. The photograph in the background shows the Mormon temple built at Nauvoo, IL because the Mormons were forced to leave. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A painting depicting the Mormon journey west hanging in the Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Like any settlers heading west the Mormon people encountered obstacles in reaching their destination. The Winter Quarters museum explains how the majority of people stayed put two to three years while Brigham Young and other leaders continued west looking for the place to settle that Young had seen in a vision. The missionaries put into context the travels along with what else was happening in the U.S. during that time period. The Kanesville settlement in what is now Council Bluffs, Iowa became a early provisions emporium which also helped outfit other settlers heading west, including a number of “49’ers” headed to California to find their reward in gold, as opposed to the Mormon’s spiritual reward.

Traveling from Nauvoo, IL and heading west, a brief description of the Mormon trek heading west and through Iowa seen at the Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A map showing the location of each of the camps of the Morman Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A display showing the settlement around Council Bluffs and Omaha during the Mormon trek to Utah on display at the Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

History to me is always fascinating. People’s spiritual beliefs are more in common than not, it’s just that sometimes in getting to the same spiritual heaven, we find ourselves on different footpaths getting there.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Siouxland as Western Frontier, Omaha, NE

10 May

In this modern age it is sometimes difficult to visualize Siouxland which encompasses parts of Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota as what was known in the mid to late 1800’s as the western frontier. This frontier was overseen by an Army commander stationed at Fort Omaha in current Omaha, NE, and it encompassed Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Utah and parts of Idaho. One of those commanders was General George Crook.

History of General George Crook , who oversaw the headquarters of the Dept. of the Platte, a territory including Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and parts of Idaho, is on display at the General Crook House Museum at Fort Omaha, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And now Fort Omaha is the campus of the Metropolitan Community College, the home of General Crook has become a museum and showcases his life and what life was like for a frontier Army commander and his wife. Crook was regarded as a successful Plains Indian fighter and was assigned his post and others on the frontier.

General George Crook oversaw the headquarters of the Dept. of the Platte from Fort Omaha. The territory included Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and parts of Idaho, on display at the General Crook House Museum at Fort Omaha, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

General George Crook’s bedroom in what is now the General Crook House Museum at Fort Omaha, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. Rounded walls created more space that could be used for closet space then. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The residence was built in the years 1878-79 and was occupied by the general and his wife, Mary. They entertained dignitaries from back east including presidents. The home was lit by gas light fixtures and while the furniture is of the period, it is not from General Crook’s own former furnishings that he and his wife used.

An extra bedroom where many notables of the day, including Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Rutherford B. Hayes, stayed overnight at the General Crook House Museum at Fort Omaha, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A formal parlor in the General Crook House Museum at Fort Omaha, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A music room in the General Crook House Museum at Fort Omaha, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When I visited there were no other visitors, and the docent left me to my own meanderings through the various rooms. It was quiet and easy to imagine bantering and conversations of individuals from the day enjoying themselves relaxing as the next day they could be leaving for parts in the west to face undetermined hostiles.

A formal dining room in the General Crook House Museum at Fort Omaha, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

What may be an usual piece of furniture today was not during the time period when General George Crook occupied this residence, now the General Crook House Museum, at Fort Omaha, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I am a bit of a history junkie and it’s fun to find so much history located in and around the Siouxland area. Places to visit during a transitional period in American history as the country continued to expand and push westward.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Long History and Remnants near Siouxland, Fort Omaha, Omaha, NE

24 Apr

Sometimes when driving about in Siouxland or areas nearby one unexpectedly comes across a gem of history. Some of these gems are more like nuggets with a brief glimpse into what was before. I visited Fort Omaha in Omaha, NE recently and found the set up and area very representative of a previous military establishment first founded in the late 1800’s that oversaw the expansion west and supervised an area that included Wyoming, parts of Idaho, Montana, Nebraska and Iowa. Soldiers stationed here covered a vast territory and interacted with a few Native American or Indian tribes in the area. Some friendly and some not so friendly.

General Crook’s headquarters seen here was constructed in 1879 at Fort Omaha, although the fort came into being in 1868. The headquarters oversaw the territory of what is now Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah Montana and part of Idaho. Now this headquarters is a campus library and the former fort is the Metropolitan Community College center, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The former fort is now home to the Metropolitan Community College. Many of the former fort’s buildings are still standing with some having descriptors near them informing a person of the building’s history. And walking the grounds, one can almost hear the sounds of a trumpet calling for assembly or sounding taps when the flag is retired at the end of the day.

More quarters seen at the former Fort Omaha created in 1868, now the Metropolitan Community College center, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The former parade grounds at Fort Omaha, created in 1868, now the Metropolitan Community College center, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s a little hard to imagine with the city of Omaha bustling about what the area must have been like two centuries previous. Only a few buildings and the rest prairie, on guard for unfriendly visitors and monitoring those hardy souls heading west to look for a new beginning. Help possibly nearby but maybe not always available. But it is nice that history and the buildings associated with it have been preserved and found a new life in a new century and helping others forge a new beginning through a community college now located there, overseeing those attending and looking at their own way forward.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A look at officer’s row at Fort Omaha where senior officers quarters were located next to one another when Fort Omaha was first established in 1868, now the Metropolitan Community College center, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. The buildings now house various departments associated with the college where department heads and professors have offices. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

In 1884 a large brick guard house for housing serious offenders of the military code were housed at Fort Omaha, now a help desk for information technology services facility for the Metropolitan Community College center, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Fort Omaha was created in 1868 and a number of buildings were constructed to help oversee the expansion of a new nation expanding west involved in various campaigns against Native American tribes which included the Norther Cheyene, Ute, Sioux and Nez Perce. This building is now an administrative computing facility for the Metropolitan Community College center, Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

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