A time capsule on the western edge
BEACH -- The Golden Valley County Museum in Beach is like a time capsule. It contains more than 2,500 artifacts from the western edge of North Dakota. "The museum preserves the way of life of the rural farmers and ranchers in particular, and also...
BEACH - The Golden Valley County Museum in Beach is like a time capsule.
It contains more than 2,500 artifacts from the western edge of North Dakota.
"The museum preserves the way of life of the rural farmers and ranchers in particular, and also features how the city of Beach looked early on," said Judy Ridenhower, president of the Golden Valley County Historical Society. "I think in order to appreciate where we live, we need to understand what life was like for the many pioneers who came through."
The main museum building was once the Schulz Chevrolet Garage. It features exhibits for the military, religion, the railroad, the town's Main Street and a typical pioneer home. The complex includes the Halstead machinery building, the Casey machinery building and the Little Beaver country school. The Historical Society also owns the Sentinel Butte Community Church.
The vision for the museum - open Memorial Day to Labor Day - goes back to 1970, when local residents organized the Historical Society and donated items from their family collections, Ridenhower said.
Among the novel aspects of the museum are a collection of 2-by-3-foot heritage cases, which families purchased to display personal memorabilia.
"They have been a real hit when people come back for reunions and celebrations," said Ridenhower, a Golden Valley native who lived most of her life in Beach, except some years when she was teaching.
Aside from the artifacts, there is a collection of oral interviews with 49 pioneers who talked about their prairie experiences. Those interviews are being converted from VHS to DVD this winter.
"We will have them for sale," Ridenhower said. "I want to get them especially to the families of folks we interviewed."
The museum has a collection of newspapers - including the Billings County Republican, the Sentinel Butte Republican, the Sentinel Butte Review, the Beach Review, the Beach Advance and the Golden Valley News - dating back to 1904. Often, Ridenhower is asked to do research from the newspapers.
"I spend hours and hours looking through them and I often get off track," she said. "I always learn something new."
As the granddaughter of homesteaders, Ridenhower has become a source of trivia about the county, such as where Golden Valley got its name.
"It's the wheat," she said. "We have a lot of wheat farming. Golva also is short for Golden Valley."
As for Beach's namesake, Ridenhower explains: "We have a railroad picture of Capt. (Warren) Beach guarding the railroad in 1879," she said. "Beach was named for him."
One of her favorite stories is about how Beach became the county seat.
"It was a big fight between Beach and Sentinel Butte," she said. "Everybody stopped at Sentinel Butte, but Beach promised Golva a spur line and so they voted for Beach. It was all about politics."
The museum features a life-size diorama of Main Street from the early days of Beach, with its assay office, doctor's office, dentist office, Bluebird Hotel, bank and barber shop. There's a collection of vintage saddles from the Sentinel Butte Saddlery and the window from the Golva Post Office.
A teacher by profession, Ridenhower said the Little Beaver School is one of her favorite stops, with its desks, pull-down maps, American flag, chalkboards and a mannequin of a teacher.
"The kids enjoy the desks, the books, everything," Ridenhower said. "I do a tour first and then a lesson. Of course it gets the kids interested and usually find they will bring back their parents."
The church exhibit features a large painting of the Good Shepherd by Einar Olstad. It was moved from the Sentinel Butte church to Beach for preservation reasons.
"He (Olstad) ranched next to (my) grandpa's land and did a lot of iron work down at the park here and at the Chateau de Mores," she said.
Retired farmers like to tell their own stories after they visit the machinery buildings, Ridenhower said. Highlights include a Hart Parr engine, binder, grain wagon and even a merry-go-round that sometimes appears in parades.
The museum's timeline traces back to prehistoric times when fossils were uncovered on Sentinel Butte.
"We have farmers who have found snails and a lot of Indian artifacts," she said. "We talked about adding more things, but we haven't had room to expand."
The Historical Society operates with a one-quarter mill levy from the county, as well as volunteers and benefactors.
Shirley Schulte serves as Historical Society secretary while her husband, Larry, serves on the board of directors. They travel 20 miles to Beach from their home near where Grandpa Schulte homesteaded to volunteer, Shirley said.
"Both of us really are interested in the history of the past and the different people who used to live here," she said. "We have a lot of books in the museum that tell the story of the people coming to the area.
"One thing that impresses me a lot is we had a lady who talked to all the pioneers about when they came here, their worst winter, all of that," she said.
Schulte said she can't decide which corner of the museum is her favorite - likely the library and its newspapers.
"It's funny, now that we are the older ones, that when the young people come for the history of their families, I can relate them to so-and-so," she said. "We know more about their families than they do."
Private tours are available during the winter months by calling Ridenhower at 701-872-4987.
Sailer is the lifestyles editor of The Dickinson Press. Call her at 701-456-1209.