Saving the village

Jim Goodman, Minot

I was surprised and saddened when I first heard of the possibility of closing the historical Pioneer Village at the North Dakota State Fairgrounds in Minot and eliminating it entirely due to the lack of a suitable and affordable replacement area, and not to mention, the cost of moving the buildings. I drove out there today to refresh my memory of the various buildings.

As a school teacher and administrator of Ward County schools since in the 1960s I became familiar with this excellent display of our history when we brought school children to the village to view how things had been in connection with their studies of North Dakota history, a requirement in both grade 4 and grade 8. As the sign beside the door of the entrance building, the Harmon House, states, “Our buildings are a series of snapshots in time. They represent several time periods to include early settlement, turn of the century migration, prohibition, the Great War, the Depression, World War II and the baby boom period. Insomuch, each building tells a different story …” For example, the depot is an actual depot from some small town nearby, I assume. All of our small towns had one in those years that our state was becoming a home to many.

I have attended a couple of weddings in the church in the Pioneer Village. It has been used for many weddings over the years for couples who wanted a church wedding but had too few relatives and friends in the area to warrant a wedding in a larger church. This church is a great example of those that were built in the rural communities. As a child, I remember sitting up front with the rest of the children, the ladies behind us dressed in their finest seated on one side of the aisle and the men in their boiled shirts and loud-colored ties seated on the other side of the aisle.

And what fond memories I had while visiting the “cook car,” the kitchen on wheels! Fantastic meals were prepared for the workers on the threshing crews in the remote farm fields.

Oh, and the Ward County original courthouse which sat in the town of Burlington, when it was the county seat of Ward County. Powerful history. The log cabin. Isn’t that a good example of what our ancestors lived in after staking their claim for their homestead? I didn’t live in one but my mother, as a child, lived in a homestead “shack.” Theirs wasn’t quite as classy as the model displayed since theirs was made of a timber frame covered with sod, very similar to the prairie Indian’s sod-covered earth lodges.

Pardon my reminiscences, but it is so important for our children and grandchildren to have some kind of experience with the type of living their ancestors had. How else can they know and see actual samples of those experiences?

I’m not an authority on the subject of the Pioneer Village, I’ve only been a visitor on the grounds and in the buildings. I appreciate what people are doing to keep these buildings presentable to the public. Much of the property was damaged by the flood of 2011, but it’s making a come-back, if allowed to do so.

Please go to your computer and type in ( and read about these buildings preserved in that small corner of the State Fairgrounds. There are 13 of them all together. Like the sign beside the door says, “… each building tells a different story …” I don’t know, maybe there is something more desirable that needs to be on that bit of State Fair property for nine days in July.