Lyman County Museum

Lyman County South Dakota's Genealogy

Lyman County Museum

Since 1961

Trash or Treasure ... Memtoes and Memories

by lonis wendt

        "When you venture into our Lyman County Museum do you see what I see; do you remember stories grandpa and grandma told you;  do you imagine as I imagine  or do you conclude that it is just a conglomeration of 'old stuff' or 'trash' or 'junk' that folks have casually just  thrown away?" Is it our "House of Dreams," our "House of Memories," an irreplaceable "treasure" or is it trash?

        When I visit our museum the first thing I notice is the smiling, congenial, friendly attitude of the folks working and volunteering, ready at a moments notice to help us find that special item, locate an old homestead, guide us to a unique exhibit or offer a tour.
      As we step inside, I brush by the huge bank safe and wonder, "how much money did they keep in there, how many notes, patents, abstracts, war bonds and legal papers were safely protected every night!"
        I glance up and see a striking pioneer woman, likening her to Edith Ammons Kohl posing beside a tiny claim shack  with only essentials: a stove, a tub, an axe  and the utter lack of any comforts and wonder, " how did she survive, where did she find wood for warmth, water to drink, a friend to talk with, how often did she go to town and where was the printing press used for printing claim notices."
        We shall not forget Dr. Newman and Ida Mallet who had brought so many of us into the world.

         Next, I examined the old Cavite post office and speculate, were there letters from home, from Germany, Norway, Illinois, or Iowa, from a lover or friend, how many folks received checks from the government?
The desks, which while governing South Dakota, M.Q. Sharpe and A.C Miller dug their elbows into as they studied the law or argued with lawmakers concerning the merits of this or that proposal.
        Nearby is the replica of Ward Dittman's snow plane. How many cattle did it save during the blizzards of '49 and '52? I hear the sighs of relief from the snowed-in families when Ward, Mel or Deb dropped off the mail which hadn't been delivered for two or three weeks. Mel Dittman has written a book called "Gumbo Underfoot" which tells the story of the Dittman family and their many neighbors growing up in northern Lyman
County in the 30's, 40's and 50's. A multitude of familiar names are interspersed into this wonderful tale.
        Pausing, I can almost smell the fresh baked bread from the Sehnert-Garnos bakery. Someone said, "Hey, look over here."  Here, alongside our collection of political memorabilia was the old Vivian State Bank vault showing the scars and gaping hole cut into two-inch steel by thieves during Lyman County's most successful bank robbery.
        My eyes tear a bit when seeing the military uniforms, remembering the sacrifices made by all those who served our country in times of strife, and silently  wonder what their thoughts must have been as they faxed a dangerous, desperate enemy.

      Just a few steps later my spirits rise as I view the assorted wedding dresses happy young brides wore so many years ago. How they must have scrimped and saved to buy the material and how Mom and Grandma must have spent hours sewing and re-sewing so it fit just right. I wonder if the dads viewed the grooms with anxious skepticism  or did they breathe a sigh of relief?

     Reaching up, I try on a few of those Stetson hats, mindful of how much each man loved the land and cattle, and his many contributions to the community. What were their thoughts when drought left empty dams and no green grass? What was it like in the days of no fences, the "Last Roundup" of 1902, cattle rustlers, the elation when the railroad came and the satisfaction  felt when the railcar door slammed shut behind the last doggie? Or perhaps, they just wore their Stetson to the Presho Livestock Auction bull sale or as Sunday-go-to-meetin' attire.

        Alumni records remind me of the good friends I've known and the great teachers I've had.

        I move on past the old kitchen and see pa and ma and their eight children cheerily having breakfast at sunup, talking, teasing and giggling before hurrying out to milk the cows, feed the horses, pigs and chickens, carry wood and coal for the stove, dump the ashes, wash clothes and dishes, iron and sweep, all done with a smile, this was the way of life on the plains for half a century..
        I tiptoe past the parlor and see a young couple sparkin', just about to hold hands when the music from the Victrola stops, the young lady shyly asks her beau if they could take turns winding up the music box. Mean-while, mom is keeping a wary eye on the starry-eyed couple.
        I inspect the Indian teepee and artifacts, marveling at their inventiveness, and silently wonder, why don't they adapt to our ways, should they maintain their heritage, shouldn't they have become self-supporting after 125 years?
        Appearing both imposing and chilling stands the old jail cell from the Kennebec courthouse, was this the cell in which Judge Bartine ordered the ballot boxes locked following the disputed 1922 Courthouse Removal election at Oacoma, or was this where they held one of my friends for safekeeping after a night of too much partying?
        Across the yard, we quietly peeked into the Sweeney Catholic Church, everyone present is decked out in their Sunday best and I hear the echoes of the priest chanting the mass in Latin and the soft musical strains of the old organ. We then proceeded to walk out and appraise the teams and wagons tied nearby. Just around the comer the first Model T car I had ever seen, sat glistening in the bright sun, wow! I sensed that we probably couldn't afford one that cost $399.00, but it was fun to just look it over.
        Next we entered the old schoolhouse, we notice there are no lights, only extra long windows, the kids vary in age and size, and the stern, young, school marm is conducting math class, a couple students are scribbling numbers on the blackboard while the others are huddled together in their desks to keep warm. All behaving properly, for if not, they would be in more trouble at home.
         Remembering that I should pick up some salt, flour and tobacco to take back to the claim, I ambled over to the country store to make my purchase. While paying for my supplies I overheard a couple young men discussing the qualities and virtues of the young school marm, reminding me again of the good old days.

            Yes. there are many treasures in our "House of Memories and Dreams". Come and visit us.


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This page last edited Thursday, November 17, 2005 08:07 PM