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Ocheyedan museum shows early prairie history

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Ocheyedan museum shows early prairie history
Barbara Block, left, joins Lois Glade in the kitchen of the Tracy House in Ocheyedan, Iowa. (Photo by Rhonda Keller)

OCHEYEDAN, Iowa -- There is a place in this town of 536 that brings to mind struggles endured by prairie settlers.

The Tracy House Museum is full of items used by Iowa settlers. The house is small: a kitchen, sitting room and two bedrooms.

In the kitchen is an old wood-burning stove and washing machine that agitated only the top half of the tub. The laundry had to be turned over with a laundry stick so that items in the bottom half of the tub could be cleaned.

Butter churns are on display, as is a loom used for making rugs.

Barbara Block, museum secretary-treasurer, and museum president Lois Glade grew up on farms near Ocheyedan. The museum brings back childhood memories for them.

"As a child, I didn't realize it was a hard life because my parents provided for everything we needed," Block said. "We always had food and clothes."

Both women said farm life provided their food needs through the raising of chickens, hogs, dairy cows, vegetable gardens and fruit trees. Everything that could be was canned. The only items purchased in town were sugar, flour, coffee or tea.

Glade remembers gathering corn cobs from the field to put in the cook stove, and going to the grove to gather kindling.

One of six children, Glade said their mother baked bread twice a week -- four or five loaves at a time for the large family.

"Growing up in the early '30s, it was during the Depression," Glade said. "By today's standards, I suppose we were poor, but everyone else was going through the same thing."

Block recalled the winter of 1936 when she said the temperatures remained below zero for six weeks.

"I was about 5 years old and I remember how my sister and I played on my parents' bed all day long. They had moved the bed from the bedroom into the dining room where the only stove was. There was no school for six weeks, and it was too cold to play on the floor. When we got up in the morning the water in the kitchen would be frozen because the fire in the stove had gone out overnight. There was lots of snow and wind. When the men went into town, they went on a bobsled, but couldn't take the road because of the drifts. They went over the fields. A calf was born and my father had to bring it in and put it behind the stove to keep it alive."

In addition to the Tracy House, there is the agricultural building that has old tools, the first desk used in the Osceola County Courthouse, and some safes used in the first Ocheyedan bank.

The Tracy House, built in about 1884, was bought by Mr. and Mrs. Romey Tracy and was moved to its current location in 1902. The family lived in the house until 1954.

In 1976, a group of interested citizens decided the house should be restored and preserved for future generations.

The Osceola County Historical Society maintains the Tracy House and the McCallum Museum in Sibley, Iowa. Those interested in more information may call (712) 758-3276.

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