Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Part IV from Wanamingo: Touring Trinity Church March 24, 2016

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Trinity Lutheran Church, 301 Second Avenue, Wanamingo, Minnesota.

Trinity Lutheran Church, 301 Second Avenue, Wanamingo, Minnesota.

THE LUTHERAN CHURCH STANDS solid on a corner lot a few blocks off Wanamingo’s Main Street. Brick strong. Enduring strong. In the faith strong.

The cornerstone of this ELCA church is dated 1922, to the left in this photo.

The cornerstone of this ELCA church is dated 1922, to the left in this photo.

A cornerstone on Trinity Lutheran Church simply notes LUTHERAN CHURCH 1922. I know nothing more about the history of this congregation, of this building.

The beautiful sanctuary as photographed from the balcony.

The beautiful sanctuary as photographed from the balcony.

That matters not. For I appreciate churches like this which are lovely houses of worship. For these truly are houses to the families of faithful. Therein, worshipers, if not related by blood, are related by the commonality of faith and lives shared. They truly become family in joy and in grief.

One of my favorite stained glass windows in Trinity is this one of Ruth gathering grain to help support her mother-in-law. The window is partially covered by the balcony.

One of my favorite stained glass windows in Trinity is this one of Ruth gathering grain to help support her mother-in-law. The window is partially covered by the balcony. To me, this window symbolizes deep love and devotion to family.

This trio of stained glass windows rises above the altar.

This trio of stained glass windows rises above the altar.

One of the windows flanking the side of the sanctuary.

One of the windows flanking the sanctuary.

Within the walls of an aged sanctuary like Trinity, visual symbols of faith embrace those who enter therein. Intricate stained glass windows shine the light of grace and of Scripture.

One can only imagine the messages delivered from this sturdy pulpit.

One can only imagine the messages delivered from this sturdy pulpit.

The sturdy pulpit with its handcarved trim looms as a time-honored place for preaching of the Word, the wood dulled by the hands of many preachers.

Balcony pews.

Balcony pews.

Worn pews reflect the history of generations.

Another view from the church aisle.

Another view, this from the center church aisle.

Art, history and a heavenly presence prevail. It is here, within the walls of Trinity. Visually. And in spirit.

BONUS PHOTOS:

The risen Lord centers the trio of stained glass windows above the altar.

The risen Lord centers the trio of stained glass windows above the altar.

A basket holds church bulletins and other worship essentials.

A basket holds church bulletins and other worship essentials.

Church mail slots.

Church mail slots.

A final message for worshipers is posted on a window next to an exterior front door.

A final message for worshipers is posted on a window next to an exterior front door.

FYI: Please check back next week for more posts in my “from Wanamingo” series.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Part III from Wanamingo: The connection to a beloved hymn March 23, 2016

The Lars Larson log cabin sits next to the water tower in Wanamingo. The information center can be seen to the right

The Lars Larson log cabin sits next to the water tower in Wanamingo. The blue grey structure to the right is the information center.

IN THE UNLIKELIEST OF PLACES, beneath an aged water tower and next to an historic log cabin, an unexpected bit of Wanamingo’s history is revealed. It is typed on sheets of paper sandwiched under Plexiglas in a handcrafted case labeled Information Center.

The song: It Is Well With My Soul.

The song: It Is Well With My Soul. The writer and composer’s names are highlighted in blue.

It is the story of the beloved hymn, It Is Well With My Soul, and its link to this Southeastern Minnesota farming community of nearly 1,100.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.

My lips move in silence as I read the familiar words, the familiar melody chorusing comfort. It is well, it is well with my soul.

The story of the Spaffords and the hymn, along with images, is posted.

The story of the Spaffords and the hymn, along with images, is posted.

I’d never considered the story behind the words. But now that I’m reading about Horatio and Anna Spafford’s personal tragedy, I am deeply moved. The couple lost their four oldest daughters at sea when the Ville du Haure collided with an English sailing ship en route to Europe in 1873. Only Anna survived, cabling her husband, who remained back home on business, with two words: Saved Alone.

During his voyage to see his grieving wife, Horatio penned It Is Well With My Soul. Three years later, Philip Bliss composed the accompanying music.

This sign marks the log cabin.

This sign marks the log cabin.

But what does any of this have to do with Wanamingo? The connection begins about two decades earlier when 14-year-old Anna Larson journeys to Wanamingo Township from Chicago to be with her ill father. Lars E. Larson moved to Minnesota the year prior in hopes farming would improve his health. He died in the spring of 1857, within a year of Anna’s arrival. That same year, Anna, 15, met her Sunday School teacher, 29-year-old Horatio Spafford. In 1861, she married Horatio, a then successful Chicago attorney.

Within 10 years, the Spaffords have four daughters. And then those girls are dead, drowned at sea. Their mother, Anna, survives, kept afloat by a plank until she is rescued.

How many people drive by this log cabin on Main Street in Wanamingo and never stop? We were tipped off by a local to the story I've shared here, thus my husband and I stopped.

How many people drive by this log cabin on Main Street in Wanamingo and never stop? I was tipped off by a local to the story I’ve shared here, thus I stopped.

Having read this story behind the familiar hymn while standing in the shadow of the Wanamingo water tower next to the Larson log cabin, I am moved. I am moved by the faith of Horatio Spafford who, in sorrow rolling like sea billows, penned such profound and comforting words. It is well, it is well with my soul.

FYI: Check back tomorrow for another post in my “from Wanamingo” series. I will take you inside Trinity Lutheran Church.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Part II from Wanamingo: Lunching at Area 57 March 22, 2016

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A signature classy black awning showed us we'd found Area 57.

Area 57 Coffee Cafe lies in downtown Wanamingo, Minnesota, population around 1,100.

“JUST GET THERE BY 2,” Peggy Ryland advised.

There is Area 57 Coffee Cafe, an eatery that is anything but your typical small town Minnesota restaurant.

Located in the heart of Wanamingo, which sits along State Highways 60 and 57 (thus the name), Area 57 possesses a hip and urban feel. It’s totally unexpected in a farming community with a sprawling John Deere dealership on the west edge of town and grain bins at the north end of Main Street.

Ryland, who is from nearby Cannon Falls and who runs a custom embroidery, design and printing business in Kenyon, recommended the eatery when my husband and I stopped by her shop on a Saturday morning. We were on a day trip to wherever and were seeking a good place for lunch. Peggy assured us Area 57 fit our requirement of great homemade food as she praised the soup and sandwiches, the coffee selections and the pie.

A signature black awning and classy lighting grace Area 57.

A signature black awning and classy lighting grace Area 57.

With Peggy’s notations that the restaurant is small, busy and closes at 2 p.m. on Saturdays, we hurried through two thrift stores in Kenyon and then aimed east 10 miles to Wanamingo. Once downtown, we easily found the non-descript brick Area 57 building with the black awning, just as Peggy described.

Wanamingo's source for a burger and a beer.

Wanamingo’s source for a burger and a beer. This eatery rates good reviews on Trip Advisor.

Across the street we simultaneously spotted JB’s Tavern’s sign advertising Great Burgers and Cold Beer. I observed Randy’s hesitation as we walked toward the place with soup and sandwiches. I knew he was thinking burgers and beer. I suggested perhaps we’d need to dine separately. We did so years ago while in Henderson. But this time he obliged and accompanied me to Area 57.

Although a small eatery, Area 57 had plenty of space when we dined there on a Saturday around noon.

Although a small eatery, Area 57 had plenty of space available for us around noon on a recent Saturday.

Once inside, I knew we’d made the right choice. I liked the setting—the sage walls accented by black wainscoting, the comfortable cluster of cozy chairs around a free-standing fireplace, the chalkboard beverage board, the artful travel décor…

A welcoming spot inside the cafe to read, visit and/or relax.

A welcoming spot inside the cafe to read, visit and/or relax over a cup of specialty coffee.

I felt welcomed here. At home.

The daily specials are posted at each table.

The daily specials are posted at each table.

Perusing the menu before ordering at the counter, I eventually settled on the special of the day, half a Rachel sandwich with a cup of soup. I chose tomato soup with roasted red pepper and Gouda over beer cheese soup. Randy ordered a Philly Beef and Cheese sandwich, an atypical choice for him given the sauteed green peppers and onions. He assured me he could eat green peppers.

There are plenty of specialty coffee choices.

There are plenty of specialty coffee choices.

There isn’t a single burger on the menu. I later learned that Area 57 doesn’t want to compete with the bar and grill across the street in serving burgers. That’s small town nice.

My Rachel sandwich served with red pepper tomato soup, chips and a pickle.

My Rachel sandwich served with red pepper tomato soup, chips and a pickle.

Service was quick. My smoked turkey and sauerkraut sandwich oozed with melted Swiss cheese, the flavors blending well with the house dressing. It paired nicely with the tomato soup, a customer favorite. Randy liked his Philly sandwich and the accompanying chips. He didn’t even pick off the peppers or onions.

The homemade pies, like this Oreo cream, were mighty tempting.

The homemade pies, like this Oreo cream, were mighty tempting.

I contemplated dessert, eying pie choices like Oreo, coconut and banana cream in addition to mint chip and other over-sized cookies and Area 57’s bestselling homemade dessert, raspberry bread pudding with whiskey sauce. In the end, I decided I was just too full for a sweet treat. Next time.

A few doors away sits Wanamingo Meats.

A few doors away sits Wanamingo Meats & Catering.

Other menu items such as Crunchy Ranch Chicken with Strawberry Salad, Chipotle Chicken and Cheddar Panini with soup and more sound tasty. Area 57 is also known for breakfast. Omelette selections include a Farmer’s Omelette made from three eggs, cheese and fresh vegetables. That’s fitting for a community centered around agriculture, with Wanamingo Meats and Catering and grain bins within eyesight of Area 57 Coffee Cafe.

Area 57 is open 12 hours on weekdays. This artsy travel and time-themed setting is staged inside Area 57.

Area 57 is open 12 hours on weekdays. This artsy travel and time-themed setting is staged inside Area 57.

FYI: Area 57 is open from 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. Monday – Friday and from 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Check back tomorrow for my third post in this six-part “from Wanamingo” series. I’ll tell you about this community’s connection to a well-known hymn.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Part I from Wanamingo, a classic small town in Minnesota March 21, 2016

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Driving into downtown Wanamingo along Minnesota State Highway 57 on a Saturday afternoon.

Driving into downtown Wanamingo along Minnesota State Highway 57 on a recent Saturday afternoon.

ON THE CITY WEBSITE, Wanamingo is described as a classic small Midwestern town in Southeastern Minnesota. That seems accurate.

What then is a classic small Midwestern town?

Visiting early Saturday afternoon in downtown Wanamingo.

Visiting early on a Saturday afternoon in downtown Wanamingo.

It is a place where, on a Saturday afternoon in March, two guys lean on the back of a pick-up truck and converse outside a bar and grill.

Posted at a local park. I edited the phone number from the photo.

Posted at a local park. I edited the phone number from the photo.

It’s a place where a notice in the park information center requests help in finding Belle, a missing Siamese cat.

Walking the puppy downtown. Wanamingo still has an old style water tower.

Walking the puppy downtown. Wanamingo still has an old style water tower.

It’s a place where a friendly young couple walks their curly-haired puppy, allows a visitor to pet him and then wishes the out-of-towner a good afternoon.

 

Small town Wanamingo, 37 parts service

 

Small town Wanamingo, 40 insurance building

 

Small town Wanamingo, 36 grain bins

 

It’s a place with solid brick buildings in a downtown occupied by businesses like a meat market, a bar, a cafe, a garage, law and insurance offices, and grain bins banking the north end of Main Street.

 

I love the classic corner angled gas station.

I love the classic corner angled gas station.

Wanamingo has that small town rural feel, that sense of life moving at a slower pace. Traffic is minimal downtown, even though Minnesota State Highway 57 doubles as Main Street. And, yes, the main street is named Main Street.

 

Small town Wanamingo, 46 bike in yard

 

In this classic small Midwestern town, kids drop bikes in yards.

 

Beautiful Trinity Lutheran Church. I'll take you on a tour of the church in an upcoming post.

I’ll take you inside Trinity Lutheran Church in an upcoming post.

A life-long resident tinkers with a light post outside Trinity Lutheran, a stalwart brick corner church that holds the histories of so many local families. Births, marriages, deaths.

Wanamingo, platted in 1904, is not Utopia. No place is. But it is a community of about 1,100 that seems, from outward appearances, to care, to want to look its best, to be the kind of place folks want to visit or call home. It is a classic small Midwestern town.

FYI: Check back tomorrow for the second post in my “from Wanamingo” series. I’ll take you inside the Area 57 Coffee Cafe.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

When March springs into May-like weather in Minnesota March 13, 2016

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Visiting early Saturday afternoon in downtown Wanamingo.

Visiting early Saturday afternoon in downtown Wanamingo.

I NEEDED A DAY TRIP. A day to explore small town and rural Minnesota. A day to pull my Canon DSLR out of winter hibernation. A day to document life in this place I call home.

My husband, Randy, crosses the bridge across Shingle Creek in Wanamingo.

My husband, Randy, crosses the bridge across Shingle Creek in Wanamingo.

So my husband and I headed east on Saturday, through Kenyon and then on to Wanamingo for lunch, a tour of a church, a stop in Riverside Park and a short walk through the woods along Shingle Creek.

Water rushing over limestone. Sun shining. The smell of creosote on a bridge deck. Blue sky striped with thin white clouds.

Lovely.

Walking the puppy in downtown Wanamingo.

Walking the puppy in downtown Wanamingo.

Walking with the baby and the dog in Northfield.

Walking with the baby and the dog in Northfield.

And everywhere, people. Walking. Alone. In pairs. With babies and dogs.

Going fishing in the North Fork of the Zumbro River, Wanamingo.

Going fishing in the North Fork of the Zumbro River, Wanamingo.

Fishing.

Biking along Goodhue County Road 30 past Riverside Park in Wanamingo.

Biking along Goodhue County Road 30 past Riverside Park in Wanamingo.

Or biking.

This bike was parked outside the elementary school in Wanamingo on Saturday.

This bike was parked outside the elementary school in Wanamingo on Saturday.

From Faribault to Wanamingo to Nerstrand to Northfield and back home.

Two bikers stopped at Nerstrand Meats.

Two bikers stopped at Nerstrand Meats.

In the throngs of people outdoors, I saw spring. Glorious spring, here unseasonably early with temps nearing 70 degrees. Saturday was the sort of day that we Minnesotans think impossible in mid March.

Rollerblading near St. Olaf College in Northfield late Saturday afternoon.

Rollerblading near St. Olaf College in Northfield late Saturday afternoon.

It was a day for lying in a hammock stretched between trees on the campus of St. Olaf College in Northfield. Or walking hand-in-hand. Or for rollerblading back to campus.

Motorcycles were out everywhere, including this biker on Division Street in downtown Northfield late Saturday afternoon.

Motorcycles were out everywhere, including this biker on Division Street in downtown Northfield late Saturday afternoon.

It was a day for riding motorcycle. It was a day to do anything that took you outdoors.

A spring-like scene in Nerstrand.

A scene more like May than March in Nerstrand.

It was perfect.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling