Blaine County, Nebraska, welcomes visitors to Sandhills Heritage Museum | TSLN.com

Blaine County, Nebraska, welcomes visitors to Sandhills Heritage Museum

Terri Licking
for Tri-State Livestock News

A new museum in the Cornhusker State opened its doors Memorial Day weekend and currently has volunteers present Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, 1-4 p.m.

"When families come to church, they are in town, so having a chance for them to come, we felt it was important," said Kathy Martindale, chair of the SHM board.

She, Linda Teahon and the other members of the Sandhills Heritage Museum want to thank the donations of time, labor and materials to make the dream a reality.

Dave Masek, his construction crew, and Teresa Goedke, who in July opened another new business in Dunning, donated their time to the cause. Through her new enterprise, Sandhills Blessings, Goedke offers custom quilts and other items, as well as her husband's welded home decor items. She did the curtains that hang in the museum.

“We want to collect, document and preserve the history and heritage of Blaine County.” Kathy Martindale, SHM board chairwoman

Martindale said she and her friends hope to someday be a research center for genealogy.

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"We want to collect, document and preserve the history and heritage of Blaine County," she said. "We hope to offer educational seminars. We are not done renovating. We have space for a bathroom but with no sewer, running water or funds to acquire those yet, we make do. The board is also proud of the fact that the hitching post used during the bank's days of business has been revitalized and has been used by the locals after we opened."

The group even has gone outside their county borders and includes the village of Halsey in Thomas County to the west part of their preservation.

The Sandhills Heritage Museum and Sandhills Blessings will have ribbon cutting ceremonies Aug. 5 during the Blaine County Fair.

"The governor was invited but cannot come, but the Lt. Gov. Mike Foley will be here," Teahon said.

The residents of Blaine County are proof positive, and with faith, a lot of elbow grease and a determination of where there is a will there is a way, they indeed will continue the process of making Blaine County great again.

The museum will be a place to collect, document and preserve the history and heritage of Blaine County. It will be utilized as a research center for genealogy and historical purposes. And the museum can serve the Blaine County communities, as well as the surrounding area, by having seminars.

The residents of Blaine County, Neb., refuse to become a community of dwindling businesses without a fight. The county ag society that puts on the annual county fair even has gone so far as to borrow President Donald Trump's campaign slogan by theming this year's fair "Making Blaine County Great Again."

Three communities sit within the county's boundaries: Brewster, Dunning and Purdum. Brewster is the county seat. With no post office and just 17 people according to the 2010 census, one can assume it is among the smallest county seats in the U.S.

Purdum's residents have fun with their status as just prior to entering, a visitor sees the road sign "Purdum — Next 5 Exits." Not sure of all five, but some include the main businesses in town — Harsh Mercantile, which offers a wide array of supplies and feeds for the ranchers and their livestock, Western Nebraska Bank,and the UCC church.

Dunning is the largest community in the county with just over 100 listed in the 2010 census. It once had a thriving business community including a store, a bank and a lumber yard. It is where the combined high schools of Halsey and Dunning consolidated years before it was trendy and formed Sandhills High School, building a new school in the village. Today Sandhills High School and Thedford, 27 miles to the west, have consolidated their sports so they can continue to play eight-man football, but they continue to operate as separate schools.

Today's businesses include Norm's Sinclair station which started in 1958 by Norval VanDiest and his bride, Marlene. Today it is owned by their son, Norm. Marlene put Dunning on the map worldwide years ago with her one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted pottery.

"All my pieces are functional, not just for show," she said.

Marlene, now 80, is still filling orders in her shop that is adjacent to the family business. She used to have a gallery in her home to sell her items, but now uses the service station and area galleries.

In her younger days she was one of a few who tried to keep the town vibrant. She was on the village board, was one of the charter members of the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway organization, Friends of the Forest, and one of Dunning's Junk Jaunt coordinators among others. JeanAnn Teahon is= another octogenarian who was active in the community, helping acquire USDA grants for a new water line, which now has meters in all residences.

These two ladies still volunteer their time but have handed the reins of organizing and fundraising to others who with the village board and the Ag Society/Fair board are working hard to revitalize their community and their county.

The fairgrounds, just southeast of Dunning along the Dismal River is home to one of the oldest youth rodeos in the state on July 4th every year. The fairboard has been sprucing up the fairgrounds which was noticed by many of the rodeo goers this year.

Inside the community another group of volunteers has seen a 20-year-old dream come to fruition this year when the old Home State Bank, built in 1918, gained a new lease on life by becoming home to the Sandhills Heritage Museum.

The vision of a museum for Blaine County began in 2000. The school let the newly organized SHM board use the old superintendent's house. When remodeling was almost complete, lightning struck damaging it beyond repair. The Two-Rivers Wellness center then offered the SHM board use of a portion of their building for a temporary home. They had their first fundraiser event there during the 2001 holiday season. Early in 2002, the McMullen family who owned the bank donated it for the permanent home of the museum.

"It has been a true labor of love and hard work for the few volunteers and workers," said Linda Teahon, one of the newest members on the SHM board. Teahon owns a ranch by Purdum passed down from her parents. She commutes between there and Chadron where she lives and worked for the Chadron Record prior to retiring. Her husband and high school sweetheart, Larry Teahon works at the uranium mine outside of Chadron.

Linda is on a new board, Hereford Crossroads, which has a vision of a museum dedicated to the Hereford breed in Nebraska. She brought up the subject of allowing a display area in the Sandhills Heritage Museum to house Hereford memorabilia she and others have been collecting. A contract between the two was signed and as the saying goes, the rest is history, for a few years anyway.

Linda's parents, Donal and Pauline Clouse, raised and sold registered Hereford bulls for almost 20 years. She was the Nebraska Jr. Hereford Association queen in 1971. She is in the process with her son Tyler's help, of renovating her parents' home. Tyler has his own business, TT Tree Service. He and some of his equipment came in handy for hanging the outdoor banners and flag on the bank building as well as putting up inside displays at the museum. F

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