WE CONSIDERED WHETHER WE SHOULD take the tour, expecting that we’d likely visited all of the historic places featured in “Cruising Rice County History,” the first ever cruise of historical sites in our county. But, in the end, because Saturday was beautiful weather-wise and COVID-19 has left us with few leisure options, Randy and I opted to attend the event sponsored by the Rice County Historical Society.
First on the tour, Prairieville United Methodist Church, founded in 1870; existing church built in 1902; and congregation dissolved in 2019.
Vintage tractors added interest to the stop at the Prairieville country church.
A cornfield snugs right up to the Prairieville Cemetery behind the church.
We joined 84 other vehicles on the tour, which took us east of Faribault, then north and west and, finally circling back to the RCHS in Faribault. Only one of the seven featured spots—Prairieville United Methodist Church and Cemetery—was a new to us point of interest, although we’re certainly familiar with the country church along Minnesota State Highway 60.
First stop: The Rice County Historical Society to pay our $20/vehicle tour fee and pick up our map and other info.
Many volunteers worked the event, including this guy who welcomed tour participants at the historical museum.
Before heading out of town, the tour took us through historic downtown Faribault, where I thought we were going to see a display of historic brewery items at a local bank. But apparently we are supposed to view this on our own sometime. Anyway, I photographed this banner outside the State Bank of Faribault.
Yet, at each stop, from two country churches to flour mill ruins to an old schoolhouse and an historic town hall, we learned new information, both from site hosts and from educational hand-outs.
The Nerstrand City Hall (tall brick building)l, built in 1908, is on the National Register of Historic Places. After three wooden buildings were destroyed by a major fire in 1904, the city required all future buildings in the business district to be made of brick or stone and with firewalls between.
Nerstrand City Hall, up close.
A plaque marks the Nerstrand City Hall as an historic structure.
Peering in the windows of the locked city hall.
On the back of Nerstrand City Hall, bars cover a window, a reminder that a jail was once housed here.
We were disappointed we couldn’t get inside some of the historic buildings, but expect safety concerns factored into closed doors. Participants in the Saturday event were asked to mask up and social distance. And they did. So we felt comfortable.
One of the two historic churches at Valley Grove, near Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. Randy and I have been to this site many times, thus didn’t linger here. It’s one of our favorite spots in rural Rice County. So peaceful and beautiful atop a hill. The woodframe church pictured here and a stone church directly across from it were built by Norwegian immigrants.
Two couples, including friends of ours (left), visit outside Nerstrand City Hall. This alley runs between the hall and the fire department.
We also chatted from a distance with friends, either hosting site stops or on the tour. What a joy to see familiar faces after months of minimal social interaction. Even if their smiles were hidden behind masks.
Driving toward Nerstrand.
Driving through rural Rice County, we saw lush fields of towering corn and acres of soybeans among farm sites.
The route followed only paved roads, with plenty of gravel roads to see alongside.
I also enjoyed the rural route given my love of the country. There’s something freeing about traveling along paved back roads bordered by acres of cropland, intersected by gravel roads, punctuated by farm sites.
Young and old attended the “Cruising Rice County History” tour. This photo was taken at Valley Grove.
Thank you for joining my photo tour of “Cruising Rice County History,” Part I. Check back for Part II tomorrow.
© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling