Museum busy with visitors during State Fair

The Ward County Historical Society Pioneer Village Museum has been busier than ever during the North Dakota State Fair, said Sue Bergan, museum site director.

Bergan said it has taken a large number of volunteers to help clean up the buildings and artifacts after the flood of 2011, but the hard work has paid off.

“People say everything looks so clean and fresh and nice,” said Bergan. “That makes me feel good.”

The museum will be open between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day during the State Fair. Tours will also be available.

Bergan said the historical society board is particularly proud of its most recent exhibit, The Veterans Room, located in the Samuelson House. The display was started by Gary Huwe, a Minot State University history student and war veteran who is working as an intern for the historical society. On display are uniforms and other military artifacts and historical information about veterans from the area.

Also on display during the fair are a collection of historic military vehicles on loan from the North Dakota Military Vehicle Collectors Association.

Several of the museum’s historical vehicles were cleaned up enough to be used in a static display in the museum’s warehouse.

The buildings on the museum grounds are also open and filled with historic displays. People can tour the cook car, the antique post office, the McHenry Township School, a blacksmith shop and the general store, where children who view the historical displays will be given old-fashioned penny candy.

The historic Lutheran church on the grounds has also been restored.

“It’s so beautiful,” said one visitor.

A book of photos in the entryway to the church shows what the church looked like prior to the flood. The building was heavily damaged by floodwaters but has been restored to its former glory.

Also on display this week are tepees and a Red River Cart from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. There will also be storytelling during the Fair, said Bergan.

One issue still unresolved is whether a historic 1887 schoolhouse, given to the museum by the late Robert Sandstrom, will be moved to the museum grounds.

The footings for the building are ready and a sign in front shows a picture of the little red school house, which was the former Graham No. 1 in St. Mary’s School District and Ward County’s oldest school. However, the building is still sitting in a field near Lonetree. Bergan said Sandstrom’s family has thus far allowed the museum to leave the schoolhouse in the field while the estate is being settled. The North Dakota State Fair Board has thus far refused permission to the historical society to relocate the building.

Bergan said about 400 people during the first three days of the fair have signed a petition in support of moving the school house to the museum grounds.

Also in dispute is the future of the Pioneer Village Museum itself. The State Fair Board wants the museum to be relocated off the fairgrounds.

The State Fair Board’s master plan includes a plan to eventually build a large convention center on the fairgrounds in the location where the exposition and dairy barns, Jaycees Building and 4H Building are currently situated. The fair board also wants to relocate the road that currently runs by the Pioneer Village Museum on the fairgrounds, which would require moving the museum off the fairgrounds. Earlier this year, the Fair Board set a September deadline for the historical society to come up with a relocation plan. The historical society board contends that that they are under no obligation to move under the terms of a 1966 contract, which states that “the North Dakota State Fair Association will allow the Northwest North Dakota Historical Society to maintain and operate its building located on the fairgrounds.” During the first three days of the fair, supporters also signed a petition in support of permitting the Pioneer Village Museum to remain on the Fairgrounds.