Saturday, May 27, 2017

A Journey, A Camera & A Companion: 1880 Museum: Western Town

A Journey, A Camera & A Companion: 1880 Museum: Western Town: 1880 Town Museum (Western Theme) An opportunity presents itself one must take it. On way home from the last road trip I came across t...  #thewriteshotnb

1880 Museum: Western Town

1880 Town Museum (Western Theme)

An opportunity presents itself one must take it. On way home from the last road trip I came across this old town outside of Murdo, SD. It intrigued me so much that I ended up taking the next ramp and going back to see what the story was. To my surprise it turned out to be a museum, an 1880 museum. At the time, I wasn't able to tour it but I was able to take a few shots from the road and make note of the location.

When I returned home, I had the privilege of touring and photographing a local 1880 Town Museum and after that, I was hooked. This is an era I wouldn't mind going back in time to and visiting, not to mention the energy and enthusiasm that is shared by the town and the volunteers who work there. I made plans to head back to Montana and made sure to include this Museum along the way.

This museum offers many similar buildings as the Barron County Museum, with one little exception. It has a bit of a Western Museum, with a bit of an emphasis on the movie Dances With Wolves. Most of the shooting for this movie was done in South Dakota near Pierre and the Badlands. It did a little shooting in Wyoming as well but most of it was done in South Dakota. The town of Pierre is not too far away from this museum's location.

You enter in to the main entrance of the building and are welcomed by the volunteers, with a gift shop off to the right. 

Once you have paid the fee, you enter through a small door which opens up to various items that were use during the 1880 era as well as some items that are available to sell. 

As you walk around you will see a set of stairs near the back. As I approached the stairs and began to walk up, one of the volunteers said to me, “Don't mind the ghosts up there!” I couldn't help but smile and respond, “I welcome them.” Which I do, and even though I never experienced anything, the energy of the past was felt all around me and within every building I went in to. This is why I enjoy walking through these towns, it allows me to walk the steps of those who did so many years before.

As you walk up the stairs, you are welcome by actual letters and photos that were taken during the filming of Dances With Wolves. One of the letters even writes about how Kevin Costner's favorite horse “Buck”. Buck lived out the remainder of his time at the 1880 museum where he died in 2008 at the age of 33. There is a memorial that has been made for him at the 1880 museum. Among the items up on this floor are the different props that were used in the movie as well as Kevin Costner's actor chair.

Walk back down the stairs and at the bottom on the left is door that will lead you out to the town of 1880. There are 51 places to see on this self-guided tour and below are just a few of the places you will see along the way. A lot of the buildings will only allow you to the front door and from there you will looking through wire guards to see the set-up inside. The towns have areas that are in need of repair which is why they are blocked off to the public, even so, you still get a great experience of what the museum has to offer.

In 1852 two men by the names of Henry Wells and William Fargo came together and created a financial services company for the American West. They had originally presented the idea to American Express, but they didn't want to go to California, and as a result they created the company Wells Fargo and began serving the western frontier.

Wells Fargo, known for its red and gold Concord stagecoach, carried passengers and express across the country. This helped bring communities from across the region closer together. The stagecoach was guided by skilled drives and pulled by a team of four or six horses and would ride up to speeds of five miles an hour. There was a stop every twelve miles to change horses and every forty five miles there was a stop for passengers and drivers to stretch their legs and grab a bite to eat.

Continue the walk over to the Emporium and Doctor's office. 

Stairs going up to the Doctor's office are located on the side of the building. 

As you enter in to the Emporium you will find the various clothes, merchandise and medicine that was used during that time period. 

As you walk towards the back there is a small table with chairs that has a game board on it. This was also a place for people to gather, play games, talk or wait for their loved ones to finish with the doctor.

Next to the table are stairs that go up to the second floor which is where the Doctor's office is located. As you climb the stairs you will see a small waiting area that also has a bed, which was often used by the Doctor. The area also includes a check-in desk, medical equipment and an examination room with an examination table. 

As in most towns during that time period the Doctors were required to carry a black bag that had everything they would need to make a diagnosis and cure the illness. They would often ride hours if not days out to homes and farms to attend to the sick. It was also a time when a simple illness could lead to death because medical treatment wasn't easily available.

A building that is still seen today is the Hotel. A small establishment that provided lodging to travelers passing through. 

This would also provide a common area for people to gather, socialize and enjoy a meal all in one location. As you look around you will see the narrow steps that lead up to the second floor where the rooms were, a kitchen where meals were prepared, a cash register that was used as well as the key boxes where room keys were kept as well as notes for the guests. In today's hospitality industry this Hotel would be known as a Bed and Breakfast.

Another place to find accommodations could be in the Saloon. The first Western Saloon was established in 1822 in Wyoming for fur traders. The establishment became known as place that specialized in beer and liquor with food and lodging as secondary concerns. 

This particular saloon was also home to gambling and stage entertainment which included singing, plays and dancers. As time rolled on saloons in West became known more for gambling houses, brothels which is often what the rooms were used for and opium dens.

As you walk into the building you pass through the swinging western doors and enter in to an open lounge with a well stocked bar in the back, stage to the right and gamblers to your immediate right as you enter. 

There are steps that go up to the second floor where brothel rooms were located as well as tables and chair to watch the show on stage or any show that is going on at the gambler's table. As you walk through the building you can almost picture the ladies gathered on the balcony and the men on the lower floor drinking, smoking and gambling.

Walk back out to the town and see another common form of transportation, the train. This museum includes a train depot that was also used as a Western Union Telegraph and Cable Office. 

As you walk towards the train you will see that it sits on a railroad track and the depot has benches outside for people waiting for loved ones to arrive, a cobble stone walk and inside large benches where people were waiting to leave or the arrival of the next train.

The museum also includes the mayor's office which is attached to the town hall where meetings would take place. 

The mayor's office includes a desk, small sitting area for those meeting with him as well as equipment that he would have used.

Next is the fire station where the steam engine would be pulled by horses and was invented in 1829 but wasn't used until 1860. The first full-time paid firefighters weren't established until 1850 and even then, there was a fight over territory. Fights would break out between the runners and the fire companies over who owned the fire and would collect the money from the insurance company. In April of 1853 the Cincinnati Fire Department became the first full-time paid professional fire company as well as the first to use the steam engine.

Near the end of the tour is the one-room schoolhouse. The set-up may differ a little but the principle remains. One teacher, teaching first through eighth grade with the small desks for the younger children and as the children grew and moved up in grades so did their desks. The sizes ranged from six to forty depending on the area and were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, history and geography.

This school was set up to have a small entrance where they would keep their coats and lunches and within another step you were in the classroom. Desks faced the front with the entrance behind them and the teacher facing them looking out the main door.

Other places to see along the tour include the Vanishing Prairie Exhibit which as items of the time period.

Barber Shop & Bath

US Marshall's Office

St. Stephen's Church

and Timmons Freight Wagons from “Dances With Wolves”.

During the season the museum offers guided tours, events and costumes in period clothing for guests to dress up in. This museum is worth taking time out to visit and experience the 1880 through the West's eyes. For more information about the museum, as well as rates and hours please visit their website at:

Photography & Writing By: Nettie B

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Journey, A Camera & A Companion: 1880 Pioneer Village Museum: Barron County Histori...

A Journey, A Camera & A Companion: 1880 Pioneer Village Museum: Barron County Histori...: There is a coolness in the air as the sun shines bright into the dew covered car windows. I drive through a small Wisconsin town known a...  #thewriteshotnb

1880 Pioneer Village Museum: Barron County Historical Society

There is a coolness in the air as the sun shines bright into the dew covered car windows. I drive through a small Wisconsin town known as Barron, where the modern day continues to grow and people are busy starting their days - a typical scene in today's era. I turn off U.S. Highway 8 and onto a side road known as Museum Road or County Highway W that leads to residential homes, high trees and open fields. I'm not on it long before turning off onto a narrow paved road marked “Museum Main Gate.” I follow it around a twist and a turn and am greeted by open steel gates into the parking area, which is big enough to accommodate school buses. I continue forward and am once again greeted by the sun's blinding rays, which force me to a crawl as I temporary lose sight of the road, but a large tree has swayed to block out the sun, and before me are the old buildings of 1880 that make up the small 1880s Pioneer Village Museum.

Today I'm given the special treat of being able to walk, view, and photograph the museum before it officially opens to the public. I pull in next to the other workers and volunteers of the museum, gather up my camera equipment and step out. The cool breeze flows through my hair, and as I look around the small town I can't help but feel the calm, quiet energy that surrounds this place. It is now time to go back in time, and see how life was over 125 years ago; a time when generations lived together, school was a privilege and working farmland was a way of life for those who lived in Barron County.

The two towns that are closest to the museum are Barron and Cameron, Wisconsin. Barron was established in 1860 and before then was home to thousands of Native Americans. It was home to vast wilderness; a logging camp was set up, and the building of the town began in 1874, which provided a hotel and a company store to provide supplies for the workers. As the years rolled by, the building continued to include a courthouse, jail, dam, mills and eventually a railroad. Today the town is known for its largest industry, Jerome Foods, which was founded in 1922 and still towers high over the town as you drive through on Highway 8. For more historical information about Barron please visit

Cameron was started in 1879 by a small group of pioneers who settled on the edge of a bluff which today is known as Holmen's Crossing. This area was known by a wealthy Chippewa Falls lumberman who knew the Northern Railway would pass through the settlement. For more historical information about Cameron please visit the Cameron Public Library. It is here, on the outskirts of Cameron, you will find the Pioneer Village Museum.

The Barron County Historical Society was established in 1960 and created the Pioneer Village Museum to preserve the history of Barron County. It contains 40 buildings within the museum that include authentic 1880 buildings for visitors to explore and see how pioneers established their dreams through rice, farming, and lumber. Here are a few of the buildings you will see as you stroll down Pioneer Street when you come to visit the outdoor museum, as well as some information about them.

We start off at the Blacksmith Shop. Back in 1880, blacksmiths would make tools and objects out of metal by heating it up in the forge. This would make the metal soft, and the blacksmith would then hammer it into shape. Coal was used to heat the forge, and bellows would be used to intensify the burning of the coal through forced air. During the age of horse, this position was a great source of employment, but as the horse age gave way to more modern transportation, the industry began to disintegrate and eventually was no longer needed.

Here at the Blacksmith Shop you will be able to view and learn more about the many tools the blacksmith used such as: bellows, trip hammer, cooling barrel and an energy wheel stand, just to name a few. The blacksmith would also carry on several roles in town, and one of them included holding important office positions, and as church warden, some of these gatherings would take place here. 

As you continue on the tour you will come to the Meeting House. A Meeting House was usually the first home or building that was built as a new village was starting. Clergymen would go from town to town to preach in homes like this one. This would eventually become a place for town meetings and religious gatherings, but sometimes only for religious gatherings.

This Meeting House was originally built in 1877 for the Town of Maple Grove, Wisconsin. The building has since been dismantled, relocated, and rebuilt twice, with the second time being in February of 1975 here at the museum.

The journey continues to an extremely common building in most towns during this time period, the church, or in this case, the Ebenezer Lutheran Church. This was a place for townspeople to gather and give thanks or find solitude during hard times.  

This church was originally build in 1908 by Andrew Peterson of Poskin and the church community on donated land. As you walk in, you will notice the first pews on either side of the aisle; these are the original pews of the church. Once the church had disbanded, it was donated to the Barron County Historical Society and moved to the museum on March 11, 1972.

A church can heal our spiritual ailments but not always our physical, which is why, even though limited, there is need for a doctor. We continue the walk over to the Doctor's Office. Back in the 1880s doctors would often find themselves traveling long distances on foot, horseback, or buggy to rural farms on unmarked trails, to offer medical treatment. 

 A simple injury or illness could quickly turn to death in those days, because medical treatment was so far away. Doctors were required to carry a bag that would withstand weather and travel as well as carry all of the tools for the trade. They were well-renowned within the community as well as the most valuable.

The building was originally in the Village of New Auburn and was donated to the Barron County Historical Society and brought to the museum in November of 1974. Inside you will be able to view all the tools and equipment used during that time period as well as a waiting room. On the walls of the waiting room are pictures displaying the different methods that were used to diagnose and treat patients.

We continue on to the local Post Office which was a way of communicating to family and friends around the country.

 At that time, everything was done by hand and would take 1-2 days to sort and distribute the mail to the town and country folks of the area. Today, that takes machines a matter of minutes to not only sort but organize mail down to the order and point of delivery.

This building was in the Town of Cedar Lake in 1905 and was used as a home for the Lande family for many years. It was donated to the Barron County Historical Society and moved to the museum in December of 1973 and is now used to represent an 1880s post office. 

Inside you will be able to view the post office boxes, distributing and sorting equipment, as well as the window used to give and receive mail from the townspeople.

A place not loved by many is next on the list as we head over to the Dentist Office. If you think going to the dentist in today's era is bad, think of it back then. The dentist chairs didn't even become comfortable until 1958 when they were able to be reclined. 

Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas) wasn't used until the mid-1800s and Novocain wasn't created until 1903. After World War II the push to brush and floss became more persistent, and the biggest improvements to dental hygiene didn't occur until after soft drinks became popular - one of the biggest offenders of our time.

The building used for this display was originally the headquarters for the Anderson Lumber Company in Joel, Wisconsin and was moved to the museum in June of 1972. Inside you will be able to see a dentist's desk, dental cabinet, an old x-ray machine, and sterilization equipment, just to name a few. Some of these items were used by Dr. Capener who was the first resident dentist in Chetek, Wisconsin from 1900-1903.

A common sight in towns and countryside is coming up next on the tour, and that is a Farmstead Log House. Log homes were build with logs that interlocked at the corners by notching; this one on display used the “dove tail notch.” 

This one room home would often accommodate as few as two, a married couple, and fit up to four all living in the one room that was used for sleeping, cooking, washing, and school work.

This log home was build in 1920 in the Town of Prairie Lake, Wisconsin along the banks of Brown's creek. The items inside were given by Bob Adkins of Chetek in memory of his wife.

Near the log home is, of course, a log barn which served the same purpose as most barns do today: a place to store farm equipment, livestock gear, and a shelter for animals. Some of these old barns can still be found in and around Barron County, although most are falling under disrepair and will be torn down soon.

This barn was originally build in 1918 in the Town of Prairie Lake and was moved to the museum in July of 1973.

A common mode of transportation in those days became the railroad, both for transportation of materials as well as passengers. We come up on the railroad depot which is called the Soo Line Depot. 

Wisconsin wasn't a major link in the Atlantic-Pacific rail system but did provide farmers with better prices, marketing opportunities, and more reliable transportation. The railroads also assisted immigrants and settlers from the East Coast looking to relocate and establish a living in the farms and towns located in Wisconsin.

In the Soo Line Depot you will be able to view the railroad whips, stop sign, railroad lanterns, and a telegraph machine that was used to send messages via Morse Code.

As you continue the journey through 1880 you will come across several buildings that are known as Exhibit Buildings. Each building displays a different collection of items as well as information about the items and when they were donated to the museum.

Law Office
Norwegian Home
Travel Luggage
Clothes "Washer"

Continue on and find yourself in front of the Joliet School, a one-room school that was used to educate several different grades, all by one teacher. 

One-room schools were common in this area; here, a single teacher would be in charge of students in grades first through eighth grade. There could be as few as six or as many as 40 in each school; the younger ones sat in front in the smaller desks while the older students were in back in the larger desks. Teachings were usually of reading, writing, arithmetic, history, and geography.

The Joliet School was built in 1905 near the Red Cedar River in the Town of Stanley. Unfortunately, there was no bridge for the east side children to cross and attend school. Eventually a suspended bridge was built that consisted of one or two planks and a rock pier in the middle for support. The school closed in 1962 and moved to the museum in 1964. 

Inside you will see the hallway where kids hung their coats and kept their lunch pails. Continue on into the classroom, where the teacher's desk sits looking out at the different desk sizes and grades, chalk boards on one side, books on the other, as well as maps and a piano for music lessons.

Next door to the Joliet School is the town Jail. Outside is a metal jail that would normally be inside but is on display to show you what the “drunk tank” looked like. 

The outside jail is constructed with local sandstone quarried from the Dallas area. The jail was built in 1903 in response to the Soo Line Railroad starting its route through the village and the rowdy construction workers who came with it. 

The old jail was donated to the Historical Society and dismantled in October of 1972, transported, and reassembled for the museum in 1973.  As you walk around the side of the jail you will notice these steps near the entrance.

These steps were used by women who were brought to jail.  Instead of having them jump down from the wagon.  It would pull up along side these steps and the woman could step down and out of the wagon before being escorted in.

On the outskirts of the town is a building called Jerome Hall which houses several displays about different time periods and events that took place.

Curling Iron In Beauty Salon

Fur Traders


Native American

Lastly, no museum is complete without a Gift Shop. 

Here you will find many souvenirs, such as hand crafted items, woven rugs, and clothes, to help remember the past as well as your present experience at the Pioneer Village Museum.

As you walk down Pioneer Street of the Village Museum be sure to slow down and enjoy the past as it speaks to you with the unexplained cool breeze, a flicker out of the corner of your eye or an extra creek on the wooden floor. Let the sights and sounds of the past remind us of how we got to our present day...

The Museum also has an entertainment pavilion for public use, picnic and rest areas. The Cultural Arts Building serves food during special events and has seating inside and outside. They are open to private tours, weddings, family reunions, company picnics, class reunions and tour groups during non-public hours. They are a Blue Star Museum that offers free admission to active military and their families. Tour buses are welcome!

The Pioneer Village Museum is open to the public from June 2 – September 10; Friday & Sunday, 1-5p and Saturday 10-5p. Special arrangements for visits outside regular business hours can often be made by calling the Museum in advance. For more information about admission fees, events, tours, and directions please call the Barron County Historical Society at 715-458-2080, email: or visit their website at

Photography & Writing By: Nettie B