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History of Bigelow to be presented

Ken Zylstra sits in his office with a PowerPoint about the history of Bigelow in the background. Zylstra will give the presentation Sunday at the annual Nobles County Historical Society meeting. (Alyson Buschena/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Ken Zylstra will discuss the history of Bigelow, showcasing a collection of photos at the Nobles County Historical Society's annual meeting Sunday.

While Zylstra didn't grow up in Bigelow, he said he had extended family who lived there.

"I grew up east of Bigelow six miles, but went to high school in Ocheyedan," he said.

Zylstra's interest started as a family project 12 years ago in preparation for a week-long family reunion he helped plan.

After that, a series of chance conversations led him to developing the presentation for the Nobles County Historical Society's annual meeting.

Many of the photos in the presentation are owned by Bigelow residents Grace and Roger Silvis.

When Zylstra first showed the collection to Nobles County Historical Society President Jacoba Nagel and board member Dave Benson, he said both were enthusiastic about the project.

"(Dave's) memories were clicking, and the questions and comments started -- he had a great time with that," he said.

Zylstra said he hopes more stories and memories will surface when he shows the collection Sunday.

"It won't take long to click through the pictures if nobody says anything, but if I get information and the conversation starts flowing and the stories start getting told, then we'll cut it off at 45 (minutes)," he said.

One mystery about which Zylstra is especially curious is a skinny dipping beach on the south end of Lake Ocheda mentioned in a note to his father.

"Do you remember on the south end we went skinny dipping after the ball game on a Wednesday evening?" the note said.

"I have not heard of anyone that has heard of that beach," Zylstra said, adding that he hopes someone in the audience will be able to shed light on the beach's location.

Many of the photos show unidentified men, women and children who Zylstra said he is hoping people in the audience will be able to identify.

"Who knows," Zylstra said, gesturing to a man in one of the photos, "he might be sitting in the audience on Sunday."

While the photos aren't dated, Zylstra believes they were taken in the 1950s because of the cars shown in many of the photos.

"I can tell this is a 1958 Chrysler -- I kind of knew cars back then" he said, pointing to a car parked on main street in a photo.

For Zylstra, learning about history is like "catching a great walleye," he said.

"When you're looking for something and you discover, it's like, boy, this is a real catch of history or catch of information," he said.

By presenting the history of Bigelow to the public and members of the historical society, Zylstra hopes he will gather more information and photos.

"The thing about this is, this will grow. If there are more photos or more stories, we can add more," he said.

Zylstra is also open to giving his presentation at other historical society events.

"I was thinking we could show this at Pioneer Village on the Fourth of July along with presentations about other communities," he said.

For Zylstra, the photos bring back boyhood memories, and he hopes they will be interesting for others, too.

"It has a lot to do with your maturity. If someone had shown me this when I was younger, I wouldn't be interested. But my interest got stronger after all our kids were gone out of the house," he added.

Bigelow is the first community to be featured at one of the Nobles County Historical Society's events, but Nagel said she hopes other communities will be highlighted in the future.

"We want to inform the people of Nobles County more about various towns within the county. We would like to have presentations on all of the small towns in Nobles County and zero in on Worthington later," she said.

Nagel has been a member of the Nobles County Historical Society for at least seven years, and she said the group of more than 170 is always looking for additional support.

"We're always looking for more members for the society and for more board members, too," she said.

Zylstra will give his presentation about the history of Bigelow at 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Nobles County Historical Society's annual meeting in the lower level of the Nobles County Library, 407 12th St., Worthington. For more information, contact the Nobles County Historical Society, 376-4431, from 12 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.

Alyson Buschena
Alyson joined the Daily Globe newsroom staff after spending a year in Latin America. A native of Fulda and graduate of the University of Northwestern, she has a bachelor's degree in English with a dual concentration in Literature and Writing and a minor in Spanish. At the Daily Globe, Alyson covers the crime beat as well as Pipestone and Murray counties, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and cooking. More of Alyson's writing can be found at
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