Saving the Past
by Keith M. Heim
The Sunday morning memorial service on picnic weekends, now held in the Christian Church in Humboldt, is special, but sitting there in the still unfamiliar sanctuary last summer, my mind drifted back to the church at Dawson, now closed, and the services I attended there.
It could rightly be called “the family church.” Seven of the eleven charter members were ancestors of ours, and when I was young, most of the members, Sunday school teachers, trustees, and choir members were “family.” It was a “spiritual cocoon” which nurtured us during childhood and refreshed us during our visits “back home.”
The service last summer was indeed a memorial service for me, and in my mind I could see the beloved sanctuary of my youth— the massive pulpit and communion rail, my grandparents sitting down front on the north aisle (grandpa nodding off during the sermon), the far right front corner filled with elderly women (most wearing hats made of black straw), the choir loft filled with cousins (with Reuben Ulmer directing and True at the piano), my parents in a back pew (Dad, a chip off the old block, nodding off and my mother poking him in the ribs now and then), Charlie and Edna Heim sitting by the south windows, the morning sun streaming in. I heard the sound of the church bell, rung faithfully by the aged Sarah Ulmer, and the old hymns, “Faith of Our Fathers,” “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations,” “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder,” “Be Still My Soul”—they all came back to me fresh in my memory Sunday morning, but as the service in the strange church ended, I was faced with the reality that these people are gone, and the church is no more.
A poet once wrote that “Things have a terrible permanence when people die,” but I disagree. I think they can be a blessing, reminding of things, people, and events we held dear. We were fortunate to save a number of things from the old church when it closed—stained glass windows, the pulpit and its Bible, pews, the cross that adorned the front wall, a silver tea set, the cornerstone— among other things. They capture memories for us, and are preserved at the Penn Colony Museum along with artifacts donated by our families which help reconstruct the past.
The museum belongs to all of us, and it is off to a remarkable beginning with the restoration of the Henry Heim house now filling with the treasures of bygone years. It is a promising beginning, but if we are to continue collecting and preserving our heritage, we must now move forward with the construction of a building which will provide display areas, storage, meeting facilities, and security. Plans include the use of the items brought from the church to provide a chapel. Most recently we acquired the church bell. Here, some of the church’s cherished past will live on for us.
As the church was part of most of us, the museum and the things saved from it can continue to be a vital part of us and of our descendants. The new building, a memorial to those who have gone before us, deserves the active support of all of us.
Updated December 24, 2011
|Moving forward . . .A message from the President
With the closing of the Dawson Bethel United Methodist Church, the Penn Colony has acquired from the church many artifacts connected with family history, making the issues of display and storage now more pressing. The architect’s original conceptual drawing of the development of the Henry Heim farm property included a multi-purpose building. This has been downsized to a smaller version capable of being enlarged as necessary. The now proposed building would, among other uses, include a display area for artifacts (we have a large quantity of display cases), a sheltered area for the annual watermelon feed; the flexibility to convert an area to a chapel to hold the picnic weekend Sunday memorial service; and the eventual ability to host the Sunday reunion noon meal. The Penn Colony has obtained preliminary bids for the construction of this building. The building would be located just west of the summer kitchen and connected to the Henry Heim House via the summer kitchen. The present garage and attached shed would be relocated. The bids indicate the cost for the building, including rough-ins for plumbing for restrooms and a kitchen area, approximate $50,000. Based on the preliminary bids, the Penn Colony is undertaking a fundraising effort to secure funds or pledges of funds for at least 75 percent of the estimated project cost. We have obtained a pledge for the structural steel component of the building and for the cost of paving the covered patio area. A donation of $25 equates to approximately one square foot of the proposed building. Multiples of this amount would mean the Penn Colony can move forward to a realization of a museum building and a location for future memorial services. The acquisition of the Henry Heim House and acreage provided a rallying point for the Penn Colony organization. Your support of the restoration of that house was tremendous—an accomplishment all can be proud of. The recent setback with the water and furnace problems was overcome with your support. To keep moving forward, we are again asking for your support. Life memberships and memorial donations have helped the organization’s efforts to accomplish its mission. We look forward to this continued support. —Dan Pleiss
WANTED The Penn Colony Museum continues to accept artifacts of historical colony history to display. Pictures without frames are placed in albums. A large library table and book case are needed to display these books and albums. Farm machinery is being accepted and stored until construction of the addition to the Heim House is finished. Contact the museum directors for more information. Museum Directors: Marilyn Ogle 402 855 4225 – 1021 Ridge St. – Dawson, Ne. 68337Michelle Heim 402 855 2285 – 71329 638 Ave. – Dawson, Ne. 68337