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Century of history at Walnut Grove

LONG GROVE -- Step into the past and encounter a piece of history at Walnut Grove Pioneer Village.

File photo

This recreated scene is from Walnut Grove Pioneer Village near Long Grove. Originally a crossroads settlement that was preserved, the village now has 18 historic buildings. About 100,000 people a year visit the site.

Originally a crossroads settlement with just a post office, blacksmith shop, school and a few log cabins, the three-acre site at 18817 290th St., Long Grove, now has 18 historic buildings either built or relocated from endangered sites throughout rural Scott County.

``One hundred years of history are represented by this village,'' Nancy Schriefer, former site manager for the village, said. ``The log cabins that we feature are from the 1830s, and we also have structures that replicate buildings and artifacts all the way up to the 1930s.''

The idea of a pioneer village developed after the Scott County Conservation Board acquired the land where the original Butler No. 2 school and blacksmith shop were located. ``Because Walnut Grove was once a real place, we wanted to secure buildings that would replicate the kind of town that would have been there originally,'' Ms. Schriefer said.

``We have a master plan of what we want the village to encompass,'' said Dan Nagel, director of the Scott County Conservation Board. ``The buildings we choose depend on how moveable the structure is, as well as if we have the proper furnishings or equipment to create the finished look.''

The village includes two log cabins, a blacksmith shop and dwelling house, wagon shop, bank, train depot, saloon, apothecary shop, barber shop, doctor/dentist office, carpentry shop, general store, telephone office, firehouse, and the ``crowning jewel'' -- Olde St. Ann's Church.

Moved in 1985 from its original site two miles west, the church has become a popular attraction and the site for weddings, anniversaries and other special occasions.

Money raised at a recent auction is targeted for two more buildings -- a print shop and jail. ``We already have some working print-shop equipment that is in storage, but need additional funds before we will be able to build,'' Mr. Nagel said.

Time and materials already have been donated for the jail, which will be outfitted with old jail bars from the Scott County Jail.

About 100,000 people visit the village each year from all corners of the globe. ``We have a registry in the church that we ask visitors to sign,'' Ms. Schriefer said. ``Along with the several school groups and events that draw local individuals, people from as far away as Italy and Germany make the Walnut Grove Pioneer Village one of their stops.''

Walnut Grove Pioneer Village is open every weekend, weather permitting, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is free except for special events, including Heritage Days, Olde St. Ann's Reunion, the annual Civil War reenactment, and the Christmas Walk. For information, call (319) 285-9903.

-- By Elizabeth Trego (January 22, 1998)

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