Tag Archives: westfield iowa

Visiting the Departed in Siouxland, Hancock Township Cemetery, rural Plymouth County

21 Aug

A headstone from the late 1800’s at the Hancock Township Cemetery (now known as the Bella Vista Cemetery) in Plymouth County north of Sioux City, Iowa Saturday, July 16, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As I continue to drive about Siouxland I continue to find locations with older cemeteries, many with grave sites of those departed who probably first settled the area, or arrived shortly thereafter. Many of these resting places also have “current” residents recently departed in the last few years.

A former family burial plot with missing headstones at the Hancock Township Cemetery (now known as the Bella Vista Cemetery) in Plymouth County north of Sioux City, Iowa Saturday, July 16, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Two guests check out a headstone from the late 1800’s at the Hancock Township Cemetery (now known as the Bella Vista Cemetery) in Plymouth County north of Sioux City, Iowa Saturday, July 16, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A caretaker I met while visiting told me that upon his last visit it seems that some headstones are missing from certain graves which is sad. He speculated that maybe a visiting relative took them with them but it leaves the grave(s) unmarked and visitors without knowing who may laying this peaceful conclave of residents. I always find that even if I do not know any of the occupants of the cemetery, I have no less respect for those who have gone before and seen this area and countryside when it was first settled by white settlers. I imagine that many a Native American had passed through living their lives as hunter/gatherers and may have traveled an extensive area of Siouxland looking for sustenance from their Creator while living off the land.

Cemeteries by their very nature are peaceful places which is one reason I like to visit them. The occupants hold no judgement of those visiting, and I no judgement of those departed. Just a quiet time to think, contemplate and wish there was more peace in the world.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A grave stone from the late 1800’s at the Hancock Township Cemetery (now known as the Bella Vista Cemetery) in Plymouth County north of Sioux City, Iowa Saturday, July 16, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A broken head stone at the Hancock Township Cemetery (now known as the Bella Vista Cemetery) in Plymouth County north of Sioux City, Iowa Saturday, July 16, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Newer grave sites at the Hancock Township Cemetery (now known as the Bella Vista Cemetery) in Plymouth County north of Sioux City, Iowa Saturday, July 16, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Many early burial sites in rural areas had trees planted around the headstones to shade the departed seen at the Hancock Township Cemetery (now known as the Bella Vista Cemetery) in Plymouth County north of Sioux City, Iowa Saturday, July 16, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A view of the surrounding rural countryside at the Hancock Township Cemetery (now known as the Bella Vista Cemetery) in Plymouth County north of Sioux City, Iowa Saturday, July 16, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Passing Through Siouxland while Blinking, Westfield

17 Aug

A flower planter at a park in downtown Westfield, Iowa Saturday, July 16, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A lot of times when I am driving about Siouxland it tends to be doing the week and most times there are not a lot of people about. Sometimes when attending an event in a small town there will be more folk. But I enjoy seeing what architecture is still in place and it always makes me wonder how a community has changed through the years, most always thriving at first with the railroad passing through or nearby and then slowly evolving and changing over the decades, century as life and work revolves less around agriculture and small towns and more about industrialization and larger cities.

A former hardware store in downtown Westfield, Iowa Saturday, July 16, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A view of downtown Westfield, Iowa Saturday, July 16, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A former gas pump decorates the outside of a bar and grill in downtown Westfield, Iowa Saturday, July 16, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Westfield has been in existence for a long time but searching online doesn’t net one a lot of information. Like so many smaller communities it seems a quiet place to live and come home to away from a busier world outside of the community. Although some necessities may seem lacking, one would guess the residents are content and enjoy the quiet and solitude they have come to embrace.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An antique agricultural implement at a park in downtown Westfield, Iowa Saturday, July 16, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A former U.S. Post Office in downtown Westfield, Iowa Saturday, July 16, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A former business gets a make over in downtown Westfield, Iowa Saturday, July 16, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

City hall in downtown Westfield, Iowa Saturday, July 16, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Small towns in Siouxland, Westfield

25 May

Going out for a drive one day I headed north in the Siouxland area and found myself driving some backroads until I ended in Westfield, Iowa. It has just over a 100 people living there. A woman I met while walking around the small community told me the town’s school had closed in 1981 and consolidated with another small town north of of them. She said it was sad to see all the children being bussed to another town, but that it was inevitable. A quiet community when I visited, established in 1856, prior to the American Civil War, according to a metal sign in a park. According to a historical posting online the small town was originally located someplace else as the most western community at the time in Iowa. And the original town vacated during an Indian scare, and then platted again where the current community is now located.

There are a number of small communities dotting the Iowa landscape, which were home to new immigrants looking for a better life in those days. And many of these communities flourished if they were near a railroad line or river that enabled people to travel more easily to that destination. But even now by car, I would guess not many people make a point of visiting Westfield, more likely finding it like myself while taking a drive and happening upon it while cruising a backroad.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Siouxland’s large prairie reserve, Broken Kettle Grasslands

13 Jul

This weekend was the annual Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve bison day near Westfield, Iowa. This preserve is part of Nature Conservancy and is the largest prairie area in the state of Iowa for the organization and contains the largest remaining prairie in Iowa. The buffalo herd or bison were started in northwest Iowa five years ago with 28 animals from the Wind Cave National Park herd in South Dakota, and are as genetically pure a descent of those former bison that roamed these prairies when Europeans first began exploring the area. This was the fourth annual bison day and a variety of activities, geared for children, but educational for adults as well. Naturalists talk and show living bird species that include a bald eagle and raptors and and owl. Then there is the hayrack ride out into the area where the bison are currently roaming. The volunteers and members of the conservancy are great in answering questions as well as trying to get their visitors as close as possible to the wary animals. This weekend was a little soggy, as rain continued to make its presence intermittently. But that didn’t dampen the excitement when the bison came into view and both adults and children oohed and aahed with delight. 

 

After seeing the bison visitors were then treated to some treats that volunteered had cooked via the Dutch oven method, an oft used way of cooking that campers still use, but was in vogue with the pioneers. Around the home base are fields that visitors can explore and climb some small hills that give an extended view into the Loess Hills area and enjoy the vistas, imagining what the Native Americans saw when they roamed this open land, and what early settlers had seen when they first arrived.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Siouxland’s Nature Conservancy, Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve

19 Jul

This past weekend The Nature Conservancy‘s Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve in Plymouth County, Iowa, celebrated its 20th anniversary. It is the largest grassland prairie site in the state, just south of Westfield. And is home to a breed of buffalo that could easily have roamed the area 200-300 years ago. It was a nice day out in Siouxland checking out the preserve. Fun to see the buffalo herd, listen to people with expertise in various fields talk about prairie habitat and then walk around the area to see for yourself. I have driven by it a number of times and finally had the opportunity to visit. When it becomes a bit cooler this fall, it would be a nice day hiking, minus the current wild flowers that are blooming, but the cooler temps would make it possible to linger longer and soak in the views. More images here.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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