Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska, offers visitors a chance to look back through American history. The museum focuses on life in America from the mid-1800s to the mid-1960s.
I remember visiting Pioneer Village as a small child. My dad had borrowed a school bus that had been converted into a camper, and we loaded up the family for a couple of days in central Nebraska.
I recall walking through one section with my mom. I can’t remember the exact spot in the village, but I remember talking about the history there.
Each year since Lisa and I started driving out to take in the Sandhill Crane viewing near Kearney, I’ve mentioned wanting to go to Pioneer Village. This year, we pulled the trigger and scheduled it as part of a weekend in the area.
I was a little worried about being disappointed in the visit. I’ve read recent articles and reviews mentioning the place was run down, in need of repair and exhibits were very dusty.
Me thinks reports of its demise are extremely misreported. Do some items need paint jobs? Yes. Are some items dusty? Well, with 50,000 pieces of memorabilia, isn’t it realistic to expect some items may get dusty? So, yes, there were a few things that needed dusting.
Pioneer Village may not be the crown jewel of the Plains it once was, but it is far from a rundown piece of junk.
I enjoyed our visit. So did Lisa. I asked her what she thought about the reports I had read, and she agreed with me.
More than 25 buildings sit on 20 acres of land. Some of the buildings were relocated from their original locations in rural Nebraska.
The main building houses a display of different modes of transportation. From the early pioneer days, a covered wagon offers a glimpse of life in the day.
A stage coach is on display. It gives a peek into what early overland commercial travel would have been like.
A row of old cars welcomes visitors. We overheard a couple of older men discussing a few of the cars. It was interesting hearing them talk about what each car was like.
An old milk wagon reminded Lisa of when her grandma would have milk delivered to the house. Of course, that was by truck and not a wagon.
A row of antique dolls lined the top level of the building. There was a Mary Lincoln doll. The oddest thing we noticed in the exhibit was the Cabbage patch Doll, sitting amongst the antique ones.
Two more large facilities house other vehicles.
One is dedicated to Chevrolets.
The second building had a variety of cars.
One car that jumped out at me was an old Mercury Comet. We had one when I was a kid. We drove it to Montana when we visited relatives there. The thing I remember is getting passed by antique cars, such as a Ford Model T, on the interstate. I thought our car had not power. It turned out my dad drove slow his entire life. Ha!
There was a truck that was built like a snowmobile. It had ski blades in front of the hood area.
Farm equipment takes up a third large building.
We saw tons of farm implements. Plows, combines, etc.
Of course, I had to take a picture of a John Deere tractor. My dad loved John Deere vehicles.
The village has a nice small outdoor path that allows access to small buildings.
One is an “Indian stockade.” It was actually a fort building. It was a small building, but I guess five families lived in it at one time. They had to be cramped.
An old railroad depot features a train engine and caboose.
A rural schoolhouse shows what life was like in a one-room school.
A sod house replica was pretty cool to view. The one-room structure represents what many homes would be like on the prairie.
A working church sits on the grounds. The church was built in 1884 in Minden. It still has the original pews, pulpit and organ, among other items. A non-denominational service is held Sundays during summer months.
We both enjoyed the Hobby House. It has a huge collection of off the wall items, including glass pitchers, Civil war “action figures,” salt/pepper shakers, dolls, patches, as well glass items. There is a jewel-decorated alphabet lining the ceiling wall.
The village has a decent section on the Carl Curtis. The Republican represented Nebraska in the United States Senate for 24 years after 15 years in the House of Representatives.
I checked with the Pioneer Village management about future plans. They plan to increase the period covered into this century. The museum is about American progress, so they are working on obtaining items to exhibit.
They already have some. We noticed some old computers on display. There were some Commodores, as well as an Apple computer. Kids today probably cannot believe the size of some of the earlier computers.
Pioneer Village is about a 12-mile drive south of Interstate 80. It is worth the drive. It gives an interesting look into the history of America.
For more information on Pioneer Village, please visit its website at www.pioneervillage.org.