History of the St. James Marketplace
In the year 2000, the Omaha Archdiocese decided to close the St. Philip and James Catholic church at St. James, NE. Following an auction of the contents of the church, the remaining building was burned to the ground. It is also a rural area where three Catholic schools consolidated 40 years ago and small towns get smaller each decade. The closing of the Catholic Church – which served as a corner post of the community – was another hit to this agricultural area already experiencing the market woes felt throughout the United States.
But then five women stepped forward: Louise Guy, Vicky Koch, Jeanette Pinkelman, Mary Rose Pinkelman and Violet Pinkelman. Their determination to take an adversity and create something fresh and positive succeeded almost immediately for by Mary of 2001, the Saint James Marketplace opened for the first time in the historical 1918 St. Philip and James Parochial School.
The St. James Marketplace is operated as a Farmer's Market. In our founding year, 2001, we welcomed 16 artisans. In 2002, we had doubled to 32 artisans, and in 2003, we again doubled our numbers to a high of 64 artisans. We now have in the area of 60 artisans annually. Our artisans sell all kinds of high quality, handmade, homemade products. Some of these products are: rugs, religious items, clothes, blankets, cards, history and cook books, to name a few as well as some of the best baked goods in the county. We are open 10-5 every Saturday and Sunday from the first weekend in May thru the first weekend in December. We try to have several large events per year with the Heritage Fest being the highlight of the season. The Heritage Fest is always held the last Sunday in September. The historical school not only houses the marketplace, but a licensed kitchen, history/school room and a chapel/tearoom/community gathering space. Plus a large hall in the basement that can be rented for special occasions.
In 2003, the core group purchased the St. Philip and James Parochial School, installed heating and air-conditioning, added a licensed kitchen, touched up the interior with 27 gallons of paint, added the history room, had the school placed on the National Registry of Historic Places, plus we were able to have the town of St. James placed on the official Nebraska map.
In 2005, with financial and physical assistance from the Modern Woodmen, we were again able to paint more of the interior, as well as move the tearoom. In our tearoom, we served many meals and have hosted numerous Red Hat, church and bank groups. The core group provides the service of catering meals for tours, conventions and other special events.
Along the way, the St. James Marketplace women depended on each other and on information and guidance assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development, the Center for Rural Affairs, the Nebraska Cooperative Development Center, Project Hope and local support. They received a USDA Value Added Development Grant for planning. St. James Marketplace used the funds to complete a business plan, feasibility study, and to pay for legal expenses associated with forming the market. They also received the contribution of time from many volunteers, especially from former St. James parishioners. New business relationship have grown out of these friendships of these five women. They have learned to work together in new ways and this, together with buying the building and committing to renovating it, have been their biggest challenge to date. The cost of putting heating and cooling upstairs, fixing three porch roofs, painting and repairing the building interior, and installing a state-inspected kitchen were all commitments made by the core group who had little financial assistance.
All of this towards what goal? According to these energetic women, it is to provide community because of the loss of their church community and to promote a value added market for local agricultural producers.
St. James Marketplace is a testament to more than survival. The women who established the marketplace in 2001 want to provide a community gathering place, bring value added profits for their community and to preserve the abundant history of the area. While the Catholic Church was closed, auctioned off, and burned to the ground a few years ago, this elementary school – which closed 40 years ago – continues to serve the community where only a cemetery and a bar/eating establishment and several homes remain.
The five founders of St. James Marketplace are
back row (L-R): Louise Guy, Mary Rose Pinkelman
front row (L&R): Jeanette Pinkelman, Violet Pinkelman, Vicky Koch
History of St. James Area
The village of St. James has a long and rich history due to the strength
and persistence of its forefathers, from the establishment of the town in
1856 to the present. The reason for settlement was the great artery of commerce
from the Missouri River. It was the first town and county seat in Cedar County
and so established itself as innovative and strong from the beginning. It
was moved twice, once from the Missouri River site to the Bow Creek site.
Then, when the train didn’t go through as expected, the center of St.
James moved to the top of the hill to the church site. One of the first permanent
settlers was Henson Wiseman from West Virginia but many others soon followed
from Iowa, Ohio and beyond. Buying land and government grant land started
the farming and the small town grew.
In 1863, with Henson Wiseman gone to the Dakota's with the Army and Mrs. Wiseman gone to Yankton to get supplies, the Yankton and Santee Souix Indians attacked and killed 5 of their children. The bodies of the children were buried at old St. James but later were moved to the present cemetery site south of Wynot. A monument in their honor was erected in 1926 by the Home Culture Club. They were assisted with funds collected from all over the county and the monument still stands today as a reminder in the area, now known as Brookey Bottom.
Even though the Wiseman family massacre frightened the community, they persisted. The scourges of grasshoppers, droughts and floods came, but they couldn’t stop these strong people and the land quickly became homesteaded. Businessmen established the St. James Mill, St. James Hotel, banks, churches, stores, schools, a saloon and dance hall and blacksmith, and more, as well as the addition of more farmers.
Without the train the township slowly diminished in size and population
till all of the businesses were gone except a restaurant / bar, an old parochial
schoolhouse and a few houses, but the spirit of the pioneers has not left.
Through the passage of time this farm community has taken steps to preserve
part of its heritage. The parochial school has been newly established in 2001,
as the St. James Marketplace, open weekends, from the first weekend in May thru the first weekend in December.
Some of the places to visit are the historical St. Philip and James School, the Wiseman Monument. It is a memorial to the five children of the Wiseman Family located off of Scenic Byway 12 just 5 miles east of St. James. Other things to see are the Wiseman Burial Site at Wynot, the 31 Civil War Veterans in the Cemetary located south of Wynot, Brookey Bottom Park, Bow Creek, the Missouri River and Rattlesnake Road all within a few miles.
We are looking not only for local folks to browse around, but also adventurous people looking for something different. We have it all here, COME AND TAKE HOME SOME OF THE GOOD LIFE!!!