Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

History comes to life at Rice County museum September 30, 2014

THE SCENES COULD HAVE AIRED on Little House on the Prairie:

Wash basin and water cooler inside the schoolhouse entry.

Wash basin and water cooler inside the schoolhouse entry.

Harsh clang of the bell summons students inside the one-room Pleasant Valley School—girls to the left, boys to the right.

Youth role-playing Pleasant Valley School students.

Youth role-play Pleasant Valley School students.

Lessons written on slate.

Lessons written on slate.

Girls in prairie dresses scratch chalk across slate.

Attendees and participants in A Night at the Museum filled the one-room school.

Inside the one-room school.

My friend Duane role-plays the Pleasant Valley teacher.

My friend Duane role-plays the Pleasant Valley teacher.

Teacher praises his students with “Good, very good.”

Kids loved trying to walk on stilts.

Kids loved trying to walk on stilts.

Outside, during recess, legs fly in a game of tag while others flail in attempts to walk on stilts.

Luke, 13 months, finds an apple outside the log cabin.

Luke, 13 months, finds an apple outside the log cabin.

Across the way, in an 1856 log cabin, the scent of baking bread lingers while a steady hand cranks a butter churn.

Mike and Pat bring their horses and wagon to many area events.

Mike and Pat bring their horses and wagon to many area events.

Wagon rides around the Rice County Fairgrounds proved popular.

Wagon rides around the Rice County Fairgrounds proved popular.

A team of Belgian horses pulls a wagon, not a covered wagon like Pa Ingalls’, but still, a welcome mode of transportation on a stunning autumn afternoon and evening in southeastern Minnesota.

Pleasant Valley School, left, and Holy Innocents Episcopal Church.

Pleasant Valley School, left, and Holy Innocents Episcopal Church at the Rice County Historical Society, Faribault, Minnesota.

Fast forward to July 15, 1944, and Helen Greenville walks the worn floorboards of Holy Innocents Episcopal Church as she prepares for her daughter, Lilas’, wedding. “Oh the Deep, Deep Love” slides from bow to violin strings.

A Night at the Museum attendees visit with Mrs. Morris, who was peeling apples in her kitchen.

Visitors chat with Mrs. Morris, who is peeling apples in her kitchen.

Next door, Mrs. Morris peels apples for applesauce.

Barber Tom with customer LeRoy inside the museum barbershop.

Barber Tom with customer LeRoy inside the museum barbershop.

In another building, Hopalong Tenacity taps out Morse Code and the barber razors hair and Civil War veteran and businessman John Hutchinson greets guests, all dapper in top hat and tails.

Friends.

Friends.

These scenes and more were part of the Rice County Historical Society’s second annual Night at the Museum, an event which brings history to life inside and outside museum buildings.

Kaylee, role-playing Katie, struggles to push an old-fashioned lawnmower across the lawn outside the log cabin.

Kaylee, role-playing Katie, struggles to push an old-fashioned lawnmower across the lawn outside the log cabin.

I loved it. This is how I learn history best—through voices and stories and action.

Dad and daughter enter the historic church.

Dad and daughter enter the historic church. A Night at the Museum is definitely a family-oriented event.

And, based on my observations, adults and kids attending and participating likewise embrace this style of sharing history.

Kaylee and William (AKA Katie and Jim for the evening) raved about the apples.

Siblings Kaylee and William (AKA Katie and Jim for the evening) raved about the apples.

I’d like to see more of these living history events in my community of Faribault, one of Minnesota’s oldest cities founded in 1852 by fur trader Alexander Faribault. Our historic downtown would provide an ideal stage as would the historic Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour and so many other aged buildings in and around town.

HOW DO YOU BEST learn history? How does your community share its local history?

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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22 Responses to “History comes to life at Rice County museum”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Fun. Our town just did a Dillinger Reenactment to show the bank robbery scenario but it pales in comparison to this event. 🙂 Fun photos.

  2. Dan Traun Says:

    Great photos. Love old country school houses and churches.

  3. Rena Says:

    East Grand Forks, MN, has a pioneer days event early Sept much like this one you’ve journaled. With a steam threshing machine, steam lumber mill, broom making, and printing press demos, and more. Many historic buildings were moved to the location and are being kept up for our appreciation and education. Events included hay rides, craft & bake sale, a straw scramble (finding money and candy in a freshly made mountain of straw after the threshing demo), and free square dance lessons. We enjoyed it very much! I love to learn about history by walking in the footsteps of those who have gone on before me, seeing and touching what they had. Maybe someday I’ll have the blessing of going to Israel and walking where Jesus walked and seeing the things He saw?

    • This sounds like a fabulous event. I love that square dance lessons are offered. There was no music at the Faribault event; that would be something to consider adding. And, of course, a printing press demo would draw my interest big time.

      To keep people returning every year, new attractions need to be added so it’s not the same old same old.

  4. treadlemusic Says:

    Love every part of this!!!! The pristine blue/white of the schoolhouse entry ‘hooked’ me immediately!!!! Giggled at Kaylee’s shoes!!! Ahhhhhh…..for those “simpler” days (which really are possible today if we just take a close look at our lives through the eyes of the One Who has an eternal perspective).

  5. Love this post. I wish I could have been there. I need to get my hands on one of those lawn mowers. Just think of all the energy my kids could burn off before bed. 😉

  6. Lanae Says:

    We just had a huge event put on by the Waseca County Historical society that was all about Herters. Which was hunting, fishing etc place to get all your items, much like Cabelas today. They also just received a nice grant to do time line displays. Congrats to the hard working staff! Come visit Waseca and see what our great city has to offer

  7. I love living history events and this one looks like a lot of fun – great captures – thanks so much for sharing 🙂 I love the girl with the manual mower and current trend tennis shoes. There was a manual mower on the farm I grew up on and it was a workout. My grandma also had me help her make homemade butter and peanut butter on her farm when I was growing up. I love the little guy discovering the apples too. Happy Day!

    • How wonderful that you made butter and peanut butter with your grandma. These are the parts of the past we need to hold on to. Those moments of generations connecting, that closeness to the source of our food…

    • I still garden and have two small gardens in the back yard. Plus Mr. Craves has pots and pots of herbs that he loves to use to marinate and cook with. I wish I retained how to can certain items, but freezing fruits and veggies works just fine for me right now. My being screams for the simple life and going back to the farm some days 🙂 I miss that connection too!

  8. hotlyspiced Says:

    What a great experience and that one-room school certainly does remind me of Little House on the Prairie. Children can learn so much from experiences like this and it’s such an interactive and fun way to teach history. I might add…I had stilts when I was growing up and spent hours going up and down the driveway practising to walk and then run with them xx

  9. chlost Says:

    Oh we loved to play with stilts as well. I’d forgotten them.
    We just took our granddaughters (ages 7, 5, and 3) to the Oliver Kelly Farm near Elk River. It is a homestead that has been maintained as it was originally built and run in the 1850s to 1870s. The girls loved it. The women in the house were making gingerbread. They needed water, so “helpers” retrieved buckets from the pump outdoors. The outhouse was a revelation, especially the fact that my father had grown up with that way of “doing things”. There are oxen and horses and pigs, a large kitchen garden, and best of all, kittens in the barn.
    It was well worth the price of admission—they run it all summer and through the fall, I think. Lots of work, but as you say, a great way to teach and learn history.

  10. westerner54 Says:

    Love this post. My husband went to a one-room school that actually looked a lot like this one!


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