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Exploring History

February 17, 2011
by Jane Whitmore

Palo Alto County has talent. Through the years we have seen talent in the arts and talent in athletics, talent in the classroom and talent in the workplace. We couldn't be more proud of these great efforts.

In recent years, we have enjoyed the talent of several local authors who have self-published books and made them available throughout the area. They are all interesting and well written.

Ruthven author Al Oppedal dropped off a copy of his new book "God Saved This Place for Us." Here is a book filled with a history of a part of Palo Alto County that many of us did not know.

The first thing that grabs your attention with Oppedal's book is the cover: a color photo of side oats growing wild, field rocks and a tree stretching up into the blue sky. Inside, on the first pages, Al writes about the photo he took: "The western edge of the last glacier to touch Iowa left a rugged, rocky and uneven terrain in what would later become Lost Island and Walnut Townships in Palo Alto County, Iowa. Earlier arriving settlers passed it by in favor of more level land farther west. It looked fine to some Danes and Norwegians who found it shortly after the end of the Civil War. They regarded it as a place that God had saved especially for them."

Al Oppedal writes about the chain of events that led this group of Danes and Norwegians to form a unique community in Palo Alto County. He dedicates his book to "the pioneers who settled our great land, who performed labors others felt beneath them and endured hardships that would have defeated those with less resolve."

We are taught to write what we know. And Oppedal does that in writing about the unique aspects of his home community. He has included a letter from a frontier mother, photos of the early settlers and references to places that no longer exist in Palo Alto County, including Paoli and Fallow. He traces the lives and the actions of the Danish and Norwegian pioneers and their faith through the birth of South Walnut Church, Zion Lutheran Church, First Lutheran (now Bethel Lutheran) and Lost Island Lutheran Church. He shares the trials of the church from their beginnings to today.

Throughout the book, Oppedal takes a look at the evolution of farming, social networking, politics, the economy, the lay of the land and faith of the people during times of war and peace, in good times and times of trouble. There are names and faces that we recognize as the author introduces them and shares their memories.

Al Oppedal has penned a book that is interesting and easy to read. He recently attended a book signing at Arts on Grand. Hopefully he will be invited to other such events where people can hear his story and purchase his book.

Thank you, Al, for sharing this good bit of history of Palo Alto County.

 
 
 

 

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