Mountain Lake’s historical archives in 3-D

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2014’s 40th annual Heritage Fair takes center stage this past Saturday

It is important for the future to remember the past.

To that end, history is meant to be chronicled and archived; reflected on and lessons from which to learn.

At Mountain Lake’s Heritage Village – and especially on the second Saturday of September each year – those historical archives can be found – not just noted in the pages of a scrapbook, bound book or journal – but in 3-D, the three dimensions of length, width and depth.

In fact, at Utschtallung (which means “a gathering” in Low German) – or Heritage Fair, in an Englishized version of the name – that record of days from the past can be seen, heard, touched, smelled – and tasted.

The only dimension that cannot be bridged in reality is the fourth dimension – time.

Heritage Village, however, does its utmost best to make that leap. Its buildings, collections and displays give visitors a sentimental, albeit momentary, walk back in time – virtual, although not actual.

The 40th anniversary of the first Heritage Fair was held at Heritage Village this past Saturday, September 13. Throughout the Village’s 25 buildings and across its 40 acres – this area’s 3-D archival narrative was again revealed.

Below are photographs from this year’s Utschtallung.


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IT IS A given that at some point during a Heritage Village visit, I will seek out this trunk in the antique furniture back room of Dick’s Shoe Hospital. I do so because it is a part of my own roots, my personal heritage. This trunk, labeled: “Nordamerika” and “Minnesota” and “Mountain Lake” – and is also engraved with the name, “Gerhard Neufeld” – my great-great grandfather. It was into this trunk that the entirety of the family’s belongings were packed in order to make the trip from the Ukraine, across the Atlantic Ocean, through Castle Garden and eventually to Mountain Lake. That family of 11 set sail from Bremen, Germany aboard the S. S. Strassburg in 1878. The group arrived in New York City on July 2, 1878. Fortunately the trunk has been protected and preserved by its owners over the course of the intervening generations, and is now a part of the Heritage Village collection.


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A LOOK EAST on the Main Street of Heritage Village – from the homemade ice cream maker machine to the Big Shed, and building stops of interest along the way. Utschtallung is Low German for “a gathering” – and folks did come out to gather together to laugh, discover, reminisce – and eat.


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IN THE BACK of Ben Dick’s Shoe Hospital building, tucked back behind the shoe repair machines and shoe shine equipment and chair and the collection of shoes, ice skates and shoe forms from years past, and just beyond the handcrafted antique furniture and trunks is a little add-on “cubby” of a workroom dedicated to collectible wooden tools, including these rows of era wood planers. The Dick Shoe Hospital was donated to Heritage Village in May 1978.


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THE VIEW FROM the train depot’s main window, where would sit the stationmaster and telegrapher. And outside the window is a set of tracks on which sits a red caboose. The depot on the Village grounds is the original Mountain Lake Depot, which was once located along the railroad tracks along 10th Street, just to the south of First Avenue. It arrived at the Village in April 1973.


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THAT SAME VIEW out the depot window, but as how it would have been captured by a photographer and camera from yesteryear – in sepia. Sepia photography was popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Sepia toning, making a picture look old, weathered, rusty and antique-looking with a reddish-brown tone, is done when a photographer artificially washes over an image with a color to create a warmer effect. Sometimes the goal is to make the photo look like an old photograph — evoking a sentimental feeling, as if recalling a faded memory from long ago.


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IN THE CABOOSE, enjoying the view from the “high rise” seats, is Tyler Dick. This 20-ton caboose once served on the Burlington-Northern Railroad and was moved to Heritage Village in June 1977. It was listed in the Minnesota Railroad Guide in April 2001.


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THE MINNESOTA TELEPHONE Pioneer Association has designated Heritage Village as THE spot for the Minnesota Telephone Museum. The building was once used by he Mountain Lake Christian Day School as a music room. The telephone equipment was culled from across the state. Henry Kliewer’s telephone collection is also part of the display. A side room contains school memorabilia. The building was moved to the Village in May 1982, and designated in 2003. Above, once a telephone operator, always a telephone operator. “Number, please?” and the parties will be rung up and connected. No texting here – and the only social media connection would be if the telephone operator listened in to a particular conversation.


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IN THE CHAPEL can be found this antique metal basin and the authentic towels used during foot-washing services in the Carson Mennonite Brethren Church, which once served a congregation in the Delft area. Also inside are an antique organ, pews and Bibles, hymnals and wall signs in the German language. The Chapel was moved onto the grounds in August 1974.


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FORMER MOUNTAIN LAKE resident (now of Monument, Colorado), Becky Harder, kneels down to clean out the brick oven/store in The Mennonite Homestead. The house-barn combo is the former home of the Gerhard Dick family. It is more than 125 years old and its residence/barn connection is unique to the4 state. It is furnished with period antiques. The Homestead arrived in May 1973. When Becky Harder lived in Mountain Lake, she, along with Becky Epp, were instrumental in the Village’s early years, and were responsible for rehabilitating the Mountain Lake Depot after it arrived on location.


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REMINISCING OUT IN the Summer Kitchen was Edna Freitag, joined by Sophie Klassen (not pictured), both of Mountain Lake. The Summer Kitchen is actually part of The Mennonite Homestead display. There was no air conditioning around in he late 1800s and early 1900s, so, in order to keep he house cool during hot summer days, food was prepared in the building. All the necessary kitchen utensils were moved from the main house to the Summer Kitchen. Other work, like canning and candle-making was also done in the “out” building.


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MOUNTAIN LAKE NATIVE and noted children’s author, Nancy Loewen, shared her latest publication, “Frankly, I Never Wanted To Kiss Anybody,” The Story of the Frog Prince, as Told by the Frog, during a sharing time in the Visitor Center. She now lives in the Twin Cities area. Loewen was one the authors whose works were featured in the Center. Other area authors included Diane Dick of Mountain Lake and Elaine Kroeker of Bingham Lake.


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THE “CHILDREN’S TOY” row in the Jaeger General Store piques the interest of any children wishing on Christmas gifts. The Jaeger store (with furnished and decorated apartment up above) arrived from Darfur in July 1973. The Jaegers owned and operated the store for more than 70 years. Most of the furnishings found inside are original. In days past, the General Store was a place to shop for food stuffs and dry goods, as well as to pick up postal mail, a spot to leave children before school and pick them up after school, a place for men to sit around the old stove and play checkers (as well as catch up on the latest local news). The apartment above was remodeled and redecorated in 2012.


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CLAD IN APPROPRIATE attire for a proper Mennonite woman, Gladys Harder of Mountain Lake takes a walk from the General Store to The Red Buhler Barn to check on the chickens.


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A LOOK THROUGH the window of the Barber & Beauty Shop at the machine that was once used to give have permanent curls – with the use of electricity. The building arrived at the Village in fall 1975. It houses treasures from the former Ray Hyde Barber Shop in Bingham Lake, as well as the Olfert Barber Shop and Vivian Dehmlow Beauty Shop, both of Mountain Lake. Some of the items on display date back to 1912.


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SCHOOLMARM NORDIS OLSON (Mountain Lake Christian Oak classroom teacher for grades 3 and 4), standing left, directed the annual Spelling Bee for fourth-graders in the Schoolhouse. Winning the 2014 Bee was Brady Kleven, standing right. Finishing in second was Kaylie Baerg, seated left, while Brooke Naas, seated right, was third. The pre-1900 Schoolhouse was moved to the Village in fall 1975 from its country school location. In 2002, plenty of hard work restored the look of the original Schoolhouse.


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A LOOK OUTSIDE from the windows of the “residence” part of the Residence Granary from the dining table. This building, built by John H. Regier, was moved from the Peter Voth farm in January 1978. When immigrants first settled this area, farm buildings – like this granary – were of utmost importance, and were built first, ahead of a home. Families would live in it on the ground floor until the crops had grown, been harvested and sold. Then, money was available to build a home. The grain was stored on the second floor – which meant a constant “sifting” of grain dust between the second floor floorboards down into the living area. The granary also featured wide doors that let a wagon be driven inside for unloading grain.


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THAT SAME PHOTOGRAPH, this time in sepia, in an attempt to return the same setting to how it would have been captured in a photo from that time.


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WALDO STOESZ, RIGHT, of Mountain Lake, visits with Butterfield’s Laurel Leet about the “new” corn husker that was added to the Heritage Village collection this year. Full corn stalks, corn ears and silks can be placed on the feeder, sent into the machine and the corn ears are separated from the “trash.”


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INSPECTING THE INNER workings of “The Boss” – a guaranteed steel water purifier are Jim Harder of Mountain Lake, left, and Rick Hoek of Comfrey, right.


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DIANE (ESAU) PORTER of Spirit Lake, Iowa (and a Mountain Lake native), right, was in town over the weekend to care for her grandsons, Ezra Petersen, left and Sam Petersen, center, sons of Aaron and Nikki Petersen of Mountain Lake. Grandma was busy at Heritage Fair capturing special moments for memories – like this one of her grandsons sitting  the drive’s seat of the old red wagon – with the camera in her tablet.


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AFTER HER HUSBAND, Willard Dick of Mountain Lake, separated the cream from the raw milk, Margaret Dick used this hand-cranked butter churn to whip the cream into butter. She readily shared the freshly-prepared butter with Fair-goers, spreading a generous dollop on a saltine cracker.


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RENEE HERRIG, LEFT and her husband, Tim Herrig, right, of Mountain Lake, search through the old Bethel Hospital record books looking for their birth dates as officially recorded. In reality, the Village’s Hospital, which arrived in May 1981, was a one-room rural schoolhouse that had housed 4-H exhibits at the Cottonwood County Fairgrounds. It was restored to depict a hospital of the late 1800s and early 1900s. The inside wooden doorway is the original one from Bethel Hospital. In addition to the books of hospital records, there are many turn-of-the-century medical textbooks, old-time medical equipment and photographs. The bulk of the building’s furnishings came from the former Basinger Clinic, Bethel Hospital and Lehman Drug Store.


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IN THE LITTLE former concession stand, portzilke (New Year’s raisin cookies) and rull coka (otherwise called crullers) were mixed and deep-fat fried to golden perfection. Above Kathy Harder of Mountain Lake places the cruller “strips” into the hot grease – while on the sheet in the background – a mountain of finished cruller creations awaits being spread with jam of flavor choice and savored.


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WHAT MAKES VERENIKE (dough pockets filled with cottage cheese) – aside from the white gravy topping – is butter! Butter that is used to fry the pockets a golden brown. Put some ham and homemade mustard on the side and the delicacies become a stick-to-your-bones staple ethnic meal.


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ONE OF THE presenters in the Gazebo/Bandstand was author Diane Dick of Mountain Lake, whose book titles include, “Just An Ordinary House” and “True Pig Tales.” Dick shared the first-hand account of a woman who traveled to his new land of America, Minnesota and Cottonwood County from the “Old Country.”


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ANOTHER TO SHARE his talents in the Gazebo/Bandstand was Steve Pankratz of Avila Beach, California, whose first song centered on the theme that he “came home” (in this case, his Mountain Lake home stomping grounds).
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