First a short film told us about the original 800 emigrants who left Holland because of religious repression and moved as a group to Iowa in 1847. They had earlier purchased the land as a group and found only a few completed cabins and had to make do with sod huts for the first few years.
Mereah Scholte the wife of Dominee (Minister) Hendrik Scholte the group's leader, had been used to servants and fine quarters in Holland--when she saw the log cabin that was to be her home she broke into tears and cried for days. Fortunately the other new-comers handled the situation with more aplomb and made the transition to even living in sod houses successfully.
The historic village is in honor of the hardships these and follow up Dutch immigrants endured and the success they made of their new lives here in America.
Scattered among the 22 buildings in the historical village were flower gardens with several ladies carefully tending them. We looked at the sod house that was a model of what many of the newcomers lived in and mostly had to build as their first abode. To make one they dug up blocks of sod with thickly rooted prairie grass and piled the blocks on top of each other. The roofs were often made from intertwined tree branches that were then covered with more sod blocks, making a grass surface.
All of the artifacts inside this sod house dated back to 1847 including the large wooden trunks from the Netherlands that were used as tables and benches.
The log cabin that represented the first permanent homes built here looked a bit more comfortable and probably didn’t have the same problems with mice and bugs the sod house did. It took a while to move beyond cabins and soddies to build a community of wooden houses because the wood had to be brought in from Minnesota.
Metal tulips were for sale in the blacksmith shop. The woodworker’s shop introduced us to some very artistic wooden shoes that were not for sale. In another shop visitors could buy wooden shoes but they were unadorned.
Heritage Hall has a variety of historical items on display, with costumes of the period on a variety of manikins. We stopped at the puppet theater and practiced a bit with the puppets.
Aside from the Dutch history buildings one house is given over the Earp family who lived in Pella for a number of years. One of their sons Wyatt became a famous lawman in Dodge City, Kansas and Tombstone, Arizona. Most of us have probably seen at least one movie revolving around the gunfight at the OK Correl. Artifacts from the Earp family are on display in five rooms of the house.
A special treat was the top floor of the visitor's center where there was a miniature Dutch village with great detail given to the different kinds of houses and shops and the miniature people who inhabited the village. Outside the door was a wood carved forty horse team that had actually existed as a show item because it took a great deal of skill to manipulate this many horses since each horse had to have reins connected to them.