Bowman museum features 'all the different pieces that make up southwestern North Dakota'
BOWMAN, N.D.--Step into the Pioneer Trails Regional Museum for a lesson in history. You'll learn when the dinosaurs dominated North Dakota's prehistoric past, when the Native Americans hunted buffalo on the prairie, and when immigrants establishe...
BOWMAN, N.D.-Step into the Pioneer Trails Regional Museum for a lesson in history. You'll learn when the dinosaurs dominated North Dakota's prehistoric past, when the Native Americans hunted buffalo on the prairie, and when immigrants established homesteads and towns.
The museum, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in June, is a point of pride for the people of Bowman
"We did a party and open house," museum administrator Jean Nudell said. "We served pie and played games. We had a really great turnout."
Nudell, who assumed her duties a year ago, said the museum - founded by Bowman County Historical and Genealogical Society - was once a lumber yard located.
She wears many hats on a typical day.
"I'm in charge of the day-to-day running of the museum, I order and keep the gift shop stocked, I work with the board on new exhibits," she said.
A native of Hettinger, Nudell earned her master's degree in library and information sciences, with a focus on cultural and heritage information management.
"I always wanted to work in a museum setting," she said. "I spent almost four years in (Washington) D.C.-I liked that for many reasons, but I really was glad to come home to be close to family."
The museum tells a story, not only of Bowman, but of the region.
"It's all the different pieces that make up southwestern North Dakota," she said. "The Native Americans, the pioneers, the dinosaurs-we consider our reach to be 100 miles of Bowman and that's what's in our collection."
The museum is open year around, but summers are when the tourists stop by.
"We have a lot of tourists-a lot of people are trying to see all 50 states. They will visit the Hills and drive up to Montana, them make a U-turn and come back around."
Nudell manages the museum with help of two part-time employees, Dorothy Pearson and JoAnn Domagala.
"I love the genealogy part and it's nice to meet different people from different places," Domagala said. "I also file clippings of people's histories-weddings, funerals ..."
The museum's brochure is highlighted with a picture of a triceratops-the fossil that was found south of Bowman in South Dakota.
"The land owner sold it to another museum with the condition that we'd get the cast-it's easier to move," Nudell said. "People are surprised that there were dinosaurs in this area. The fact that they are local is usually a big shock to them. There's tons of fossils out there."
The Bowman museum is divided into three research departments-archaeological, genealogical and paleontological.
"The paleontology department probably has the best collection-there's a lab and a maze of storage rooms-we're running into space issues like every other museum," she said.
The paleontology department is headed by Dean Pearson, who also is president of the board.
"The group has collected tons of fossils-many are tiny," Nudell said.
When entering the museum, the first exhibits feature Bowman's rodeo legacy, ranchers and homesteaders.
"Merle Clark gave us a fair amount of rodeo items and we have a little replica sod house inside," she said.
The Native American exhibit honors the people who inhabited the area long before the first white settlers. Chris Fulton painted copies of the 8,000-year-old petroglyphs chiseled into sandstone cliff faces of Cave Hills. They tell traditional Hidatsa folk stories of successful hunts or battles.
The military exhibit tells the stories of local soldiers. Religion is documented by the Union Prairie Church that was moved from south of Scranton to the northeast corner of the lot.
"We actually were awarded a grant this summer to paint it," she said.
Kevin Buchholz, along with his wife, Debbie, serve on the board. He remembers being new on the board when the museum celebrated its 10th anniversary.
"We were amazed at the caliber of the displays and presentations; and when we celebrated our 25th, it only keeps getting better-it's my opinion we're second only to the (N.D.) Heritage Center," he said.
Kevin has been helping with the archaeological research for a new display of the trails that crisscrossed the county.
"There were so many trails that came through this area," he said. "Custer came through here to the Black Hills, Fisk came through with a wagon train connected with Fort Dilts, Fr. DeSmet came through here with a peace treaty for Chief Sitting Bull and the Medora-Deadwood stagecoach came through."
He referenced a little-known trail-the Tie Trail, used to haul logs from South Dakota near Ludlow to build the railroad by Medora. The Little Missouri was too low to float the logs, so they were hauled north.
"The neat thing is some of the trails at Fort Dilts are still here today," he said.
The genealogical group is no less proud of their research. The public is welcome to do genealogy research, using the Bowman County Pioneer records. Other county papers are available for research by microfilm, while city histories are available for Bowman, New England, Rhame and Scranton.
The museum also is sponsoring living history programs.
"We will have a pottery class in August, and we're partnering with the library this winter for book discussions," Nudell said. "Bowman is having its Summer Fest July 29, and we'll be part of that. We'll be introducing new scavenger hunts available to the kids and we'll have adult scavenger trivial hunts too."