Tag Archives: rural america

Exploring Siouxland, Lyons, NE

30 Jul
Signage informs a visitor they are in Lyons, NE seen Saturday, May 22, 2021, which was founded in 1880 by one Waldo Lyons. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Driving about Siouxland gives one a sense of history as many of the smaller communities were founded in the latter part of the 1800’s driven by expansion west from families seeking a new life and the advent of the railroad crossing the country. Lyons, NE was founded in 1880 by one Waldo Lyons according to one online site. Another site those has the beginnings of Lyon starting much earlier by two brothers from Wisconsin who served in the Union army and relocated to Nebraska after the civil war. The website gives a brief history of Lyons from its inception until 1929.

A “towncrier billboard” is set in the middle of a 4-way intersection in Lyons, NE with notices posted for residents and visitors seen Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A modest city hall seen in Lyons, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Trying to fight out information about smaller communities throughout Siouxland is not always easy. Documentation is not always readily available and sometimes just a few are informed only because it’s of personal interest, possibly family history intertwined with the place they are seeking information about. The population of the community today, or from the latest census data is about 800 people.

Downtown Lyons, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Brick streets are still found in the downtown area of Lyons, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Artifacts in a window in downtown Lyons, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Many times when I am passing through or stopping in a community may not be ideal in finding local residents to chat with, or even those that might know the history of where they are living. The past is not always present on our minds during the day to day hustle and bustle we all find ourselves involved in.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Burlington Park is located near the main street running through Lyons, NE and pays homage to the history the railroad played in the community’s past, seen Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Grand Architecture in Siouxland, Louis E May Museum, Fremont, NE

26 Jul
A grand estate, the Louis E. May Historical Museum is on the National Register of Historic Places in Freemont, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As I continue driving about Siouxland I surprise myself at finding unexpected pleasures like the Louis E. May Historical Museum in Fremont, NE.

Sadly, the museum is currently closed because of the pandemic, but am hoping it might be reopening this coming fall for a chance to see the interior of the former home.

The Louis E. May Historical Museum is on the National Register of Historic Places in Freemont, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Louis E. May Historical Museum is on the National Register of Historic Places in Freemont, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It was difficult to find much information about the history of the museum and former home online. With just a brief mention about it on two official sites:

The home was built in the Italianate Revival style by Fremont’s first mayor, Theron Nye, in 1874. Nye’s son inherited the home in 1900 and remodeled the home from 1901 through 1912. The current style of the home is Georgian or Classical Revival and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is art of the Dodge County’s Historical Society. The home’s grounds are a Nebraska Arboretum Site, a grassroots membership-based nonprofit that believes environments matter and provide a better sense of place and social interactions as well as improving one’s health.

Another blogger wrote about the historical house in 2013 after a visit. I look forward to actually touring it when it reopens.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The Louis E. May Historical Museum in Freemont, NE seen Saturday, May 22, 2021 was originally built in 1874 by Fremont’s first mayor, Theron Nye. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Louis E. May Historical Museum in Freemont, NE seen Saturday, May 22, 2021, has a perennial Victorian garden and a rose garden on the grounds. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Louis E. May Historical Museum in Freemont, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Built in 1874 by Fremont, NE’s first mayor, Theron Nye, the Louis E. May Historical Museum is now listed with the National Register of Historic Places seen Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Lines and Shapes in Siouxland, Midland College, Wayne, NE

30 Jun
A building on the campus of Midland College in Wayne, NE Monday, May 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I enjoy visiting institutions of higher education. The idea of walking the same ground that so many have walked before pursuing dreams and hopefully a better way of life for themselves and their fellow citizens. The architecture is interesting and sometimes is a combination of a variety of styles depending on when the school was founded and when other buildings were later added to the campus to help with a growing student population.

Early sculpture piece depicting a nostalgic campus scene at Midland College in Wayne, NE Monday, May 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Avant guard signage at Midland College in Wayne, NE Monday, May 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I am by no means astute about architecture and the history of styles and such, but more appreciative in the lines, shapes, angles and other visual aspects which I enjoy. And photographing in B&W the shades of grey that occur within the frame of an image.

The school seemed closed between its spring and summer sessions, and I am not certain what protocols are in place at various institutions as each seems to dictate what is acceptable as pandemic restrictions are eased or altogether done away with. But one can always enjoy the grounds which are well tended and presentable in case a prospect might be passing through to take a peek and see what lies within.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A more classical building design at Midland College in Wayne, NE Monday, May 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Shapes and lines on the campus Midland College in Wayne, NE Monday, May 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An architectural feature of a building on the campus of Midland College in Wayne, NE Monday, May 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Visiting a Small Nebraska Town in Souxland, Winslow, NE

26 Jun
A train passes an entrance into the community of Winslow, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Driving about Siouxland the last number of years I come across many smaller communities whose heyday was maybe another century or two ago. When small towns are first founded, so many did so because of the railroad and the early frontier bringing people west. Winslow, NE might fit into this category.

But as time goes by demographics and situations change. Especially for the smaller communities as people leave the area, children move to larger cities looking for employment and the surround countryside changes in that many smaller farms in a farming community have fewer of them, for whatever reason. It was originally platted in 1906 and incorporated as a village in 1909. Trying to find historical information online about various places, especially small communities is not always easy, and in most cases, hard to find.

Downtwon Winslow, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A vacate building in Winslow, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A partially vacate, abandoned building in Winslow, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always have questions. But many times when I am passing through there are not all that many people out and about. And one really needs to find someone older who has a sense of history of the place. But many could probably not tell a visitor how the community began. What drew area residents there other than to work in small businesses that probably supported the local agricultural community, that is small farms. An article printed in a regional newspaper in 2019 tells the plight of this community and problems it has faced in the past. Which explains a lot to me about the state of affairs as I travel through, seeing it after an irksome flood destroyed or heavily damaged most parts of the community.

History exists for every place. But sometimes its known by only a few and those inquisitive about its existence.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Renovation is underway at a building in downtown Winslow, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Renovation is underway at a building in downtown Winslow, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Renovation is underway at a building in downtown Winslow, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Passing Through in Siouxland, Cedar Bluffs, NE

16 Jun
Main street in Cedar Bluffs, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some days driving in Siouxland I may stop in a small community, but not spend a lot of time there. Roads pass through, and so do I. The 2010 census says there are around 230 residences in Cedar Bluffs, NE.

There are days where I am headed somewhere specific and do not want to spare the time, and other days I might drive about a bit, then make a couple of photographs of what visually appeals to me, no reflection on the community. And then see it recede in the mirror as I look for another place to stop and peek at, and ponder.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Downtown Cedar Bluffs, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Revisiting History in Siouxland, Heritage Village, Sioux Center

14 Jun
Earthen mound prairie house at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

From time to time while driving about Siouxland I like to revisit places, even if it’s off-peak for any activity that might be going on. The Heritage Village in Sioux Center is one such place. A small replica village that celebrates the history of the early settlers and the agricultural aspect of the Midwest. The place has a different look during different seasons, even without the activity of its fall festival celebration.

Inside the earthen mound prairie house at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Inside the earthen mound prairie house at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Early settlers traveled very light, or as light as they could if going west by wagon and any other means of transportation. Some of the early plains settlers lived in sod houses. The wall thick with cutouts for windows, the small abodes kept folk cool in the heat of summer and warm in winter. But with very little room to move about, it’s safe to assume most activity, weather dependent, took place outdoors. And in those days I am sure there was no lack of work to survive and hopefully to also enjoy themselves in simple pleasures, like a nice day with sunshine, light breeze and a decent temperature.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Inside the earthen mound prairie house at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Neighborly Chat in Siouxland, Emerson, NE

10 Jun
Two neighbors chat one afternoon in Emerson, NE Monday, May 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s nice when visiting places in Siouxland to find neighbors taking the time to chat with one another while about and about. A cordial interaction is always a pleasure to see even as the residents check out the visitors to see what they are up to.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Enjoying the Light in Siouxland, Heritage Village, Sioux Center

1 May
Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when I am cruising about Siouxland without any objective in mind, I just enjoy the light that I come across. To me it seems early spring and then again fall, when the sun is slowly changing its position relative to the earth, I find the play of light in the mornings and again afternoons just a bit different. Strong light without being overly harsh as it will become as seasons move toward summer. Light play and shadows created are intriguing, at least to me. Shapes, designs, patterns, repetitions and such can be endlessly fascinating.

Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The images themselves can be somewhat like cotton candy, in that they look nice, kind of cool, sometimes, but like the cotton candy, without any meaningful nutrition or value, other than how it looks. But sometimes, that is enough.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Getting Numbered in Siouxland, Ireton

15 Apr
Mailboxes in a row in downtown Ireton, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

51027, the zip code for Ireton, IA. In a city, even a small city, this cluster of mailboxes would be replaced with a different type of mailbox cluster with individual key locks making it convenient for the postal service to deliver mail to one location, saving time in some residential areas. Here in the downtown area these mailboxes do the same.

The community was platted in 1882 with a post office operating there since that same date. Current census data has roughly 600 plus living in Ireton. When seeing these mailboxes a song from the 60’s by The Marvelletes came to mind.

Simple song lyrics spell out an unrequited love without any kind of resolution according to the lyrics.

“[Intro]
(Wait) Oh yes, wait a minute, Mr. Postman
(Wait) Wa-a-a-ait, Mr. Postman

[Chorus]
Please Mr. Postman, look and see (Whoa yeah)
Is there a letter in your bag for me?
(Please Mr. Po-o-ostman)
‘Cause it’s been a mighty long time (Whoa, yeah)
Since I heard from this boyfriend of mine>”

Maybe a young girl, from a small Iowa town, left behind, forgotten? The scenarios are endless. As is time.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Waiting for Spring in Siouxland, rural South Dakota

18 Feb
A snow covered gravel road off of Highway 4 in South Dakota not far from Akron, Iowa Tuesday, February 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Like many folk in Siouxland and elsewhere, I am waiting for spring and passable roads to again explore the area and places I have, and have not been. Some roads during winter I might not attempt to navigate without a pickup truck with real four-wheel drive. So looking over the hill to see what lies beyond will have to wait for a thaw and maybe some road conditioning for some places to be accessible without problems.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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