Pipestone, Minnesota

Hey everyone,

I’m back from a quick trip up to North Dakota to attend my Aunt Wilma’s funeral. She and my Uncle Marvin were my Godparents, I’m sure they didn’t know what they were getting into when they took on that role. Probably her only failure in life! She was an accomplished artist and painter in her day, doing mostly landscapes and farm scenes on canvas, saws, and bottles. RIP, dear Aunt Wilma.

After lots of posts on foreign travel, this article is about Pipestone, Minnesota. We were in Pipestone for our niece’s wedding at the end of June.  Pipestone is a farming community of about 4300 people located in Southwest Minnesota and near the Minnesota/South Dakota state line. It is home to the Pipestone National Monument that is under the care of the National Park Service. The Plains Indian tribes would travel long distances to quarry “pipestone”to make ceremonial pipes used in religious and other ceremonies. The quarry was considered “neutral” territory and sacred by most of the North American tribes. Eventually, the quarry was claimed by the Sioux tribes through a treaty with the US government and later the Sioux sold their rights to the government and was designated a National Monument in 1937. The rights to quarry pipestone were also granted solely to Native Americans, so there is still a little pipestone quarried each year. The Monument has a very interesting visitor center that leads to about a one mile trail through the quarry. The following are some photos of the Monument.Pipestone-3645Pipestone-3648IMG_1187IMG_1186Pipestone-0219Pipestone-0223

The following photos are of two Native Americans demonstrating how the pipes and stems were made using vintage hand tools.Pipestone-0230Pipestone-0237

For 60 years, the residents of Pipestone put on the a pageant in a natural amphitheater near the National Monument. This pageant was based on the famous poem “Song of Hiawatha” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Over two hundred community members were involved in the pageant each year that ended in 2008. One can almost hear the words of Longfellow from the 12th and final verse echoing through the trees and rolling hills:

“By the shore of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
At the doorway of his wigwam,
In the pleasant Summer morning,
Hiawatha stood and waited.”

Here’s a photo taken in Pageant Park near the amphitheater.Pipestone-3010

While we were in Pipestone, the annual Watertower Festival was being held. This festival commemorates the restoration of the city’s old concrete water tower as a community landmark as depicted in this photo. As good an excuse for a celebration as any!Pipestone-8906

This festival included a parade and an old car show. The parade had lots of farm implements, some green (John Deere) and some red (Case/IH) always a point of discussion/argument wherever farmers gather!Pipestone-8744

And some restored tractors such as this one. As an aside, this was the happiest guy in the parade, he has a perpetual smile and seemed to be thrilled to show off his restored John Deere tractor.

No parade is complete without at least one band. In this parade there were several. Here’s a few photos of those bands.Pipestone-3163Pipestone-3169Pipestone-3149

And floats by businesses and organizations, old cars, a livestock semi and a dog riding in ease!Pipestone-3178Pipestone-3156Pipestone-8749Pipestone-3144Pipestone-3157

After the parade ended, the old car show began.Pipestone-8755

The historic Pipestone County Courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s of very unique architecture, well preserved and still in use.Pipestone-3632

On the courthouse grounds, there is a memorial to Civil War and Spanish/American  War veterans who served from Pipestone County. It was interesting to me how many served in the Civil War from this area. I’m guessing many of the solders were recent settlers and immigrants from Europe. The things a person learns when they look underneath the surface!Pipestone-3630IMG_1184IMG_1185

Then there was the old Army tank likely from WWII.Pipestone-3639

The Main Street of Pipestone is typical of many Midwestern rural communities. A wide street lined with businesses in older brick buildings.Pipestone-3640

One of the businesses is what we call Monk’s Junk, a place to purchase a used toaster, silverware, collectibles and antiques. Always worth a stop so see whats new at Monk’s Junk!Pipestone-3642

The restored, historic Calumet Inn is also on Main Street. Built in 1888, it is still a functioning hotel and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I think you’ll agree that it’s interesting architecturally. Pipestone-8908

While we didn’t rest our tired bodies at this hotel, we did stay at the nearby Split Rock State Park. While all the campsites are good, I’d recommend site 5E, nice and level and more importantly, close to the bathhouse!Pipestone-3654

Agricultural activities are the mainstay of the area surrounding Pipestone. Corn, soybeans, hay, and some small grains are main crops. Lots of livestock raised in the area, sheep, hogs, beef and dairy cattle. It’s a virtual bread basket of agricultural commodities. The local elevator is the tallest, most prominent building in town as well as one that makes a huge economic impact.Pipestone-3653

Here’s a photo of the Marlin and Donna Berg farm a few miles south of Pipestone where they raise sheep and hay. They are the parents of my sister Laurel’s husband, Phil who also live nearby and raise Red Angus cattle plus work full time jobs. They are typical of the people of most rural residents, hard working and industrious.Pipestone-8911

I hope you’ve enjoyed your short visit to Pipestone. This town merits a stop on any driving or historical tour of the Midwest.

Until next week,


6 thoughts on “Pipestone, Minnesota

  1. Beautiful photos, Tom. I used to travel down to Pipestone when I lived in Minneapolis. Always good photo ops and you have shown.

  2. This collection of photos makes a strong show; I get a real sense of the town, the people, and the celebration. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Connie, Thanks for you kind comments. I really enjoyed writing and curating the photos for this post. Tom

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