Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

September 26, 2011

Historical adventures with the late Bill Heusinkveld

By Curt Oden - Exline correspondent
Daily Iowegian

CENTERVILLE — I hope everyone enjoyed the official last days of summer. The weather sure has been nice.

The corn is drying on the stalk and so are the soybeans in the fields, plus the leaves are beginning to dry and fall off of the trees. I wonder why some trees do not change colors in the Autumn season? They just drop their leaves.

The recipe this week, is from the state of Maine, for an old fashioned type of cookie.


Molasses Cookies



½ c. sugar

½ c. shortening

¼ tsp. salt

1 egg

½ c. molasses

¼ c. water

2 tsp. baking soda

2 Tb. of hot water

2-¼ c. flour

½ tsp. of cloves

½ tsp. ginger

½ tsp. cinnamon



Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the sugar and shortening and cream together. Then add the salt, the egg and the molasses and blend together. Add the water, baking soda and the hot water and mix until well blended together.

In a separate bowl, add the flour, cloves, ginger and cinnamon and stir together.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until well blended.

Drop the cookie dough onto the cookie sheet by spoonfuls and bake for approximately 15 minutes.

When the cookies are done, remove from oven and cool on cooling racks.

I do not know if you saw it in the paper this week or not, but a local historian and friend, Bill Heusinkveld, has passed away.

For quite a few years, Bill wrote an article for this newspaper on various historic people, places and events that occurred in this county, over the years.

I got to know Bill back in the mid 1990s. We were both on the Sesquicentennial Committee together that was organized back in 1994. The committee met for two years, gearing up for the big county celebrations that were held on the 150th anniversary of Iowa statehood in 1996.

Bill was in charge of the Commission and I was appointed to head up the History Committee, with Bill as one of that committee’s members, along with quite a few other members from across the county.

Also at that same time, a separate  group was formed to investigate the history of the Mormon Trail historic sites within our county, because the trail was also celebrating its 150th anniversary in 1996.

It was to commemorate when the Mormons made their famous trek from Nauvoo, Ill. to Salt Lake City, Utah passing through Appanoose County along the way, just south and west of Exline.

The two groups were not connected and I was not a member of the Mormon Trail Committee but Bill Heusinkveld and Bill Burkland were two of the members who were in both groups.

A lot of the time, a few of us would go and research a historic site that had been mentioned in an old local history book. Then we would get together to try and find its exact location.

One day Bill Burkland, Bill Heusinkveld and myself set off to go find a spring that allegedly had been used by the Mormons as they passed through the southern part of this county.

We got permission off of the various land owners and set out on our trek. We made our way onto the Shoal Creek Bottom, west of Exline. To get to where this spring was, we were going to have to wade across the Shoal Creek.

That day it was kind of a sleepy, muddy stream. As we got closer to it, we realized its banks were steep and it was wider than we thought it was going to be. We had been prepared because we wore high top rubber boots, to make the crossing. As we eased our way down the steep, muddy bank it was hard to keep our footing. Then, we had to plunge into the creek, slowly testing each step as we went, so as not to step into a sink hole and fall in the creek.

The three of us struggled to get to the other side. Once there, we had to get up the other side of the creek. We found out that was not an easy task. The area on the other side of the creek was very muddy and steep. We had to struggle and grab onto tree roots and whatever we could, to try and clammer up the other side.

As  we were starting to make our way up, I reached back and gave Bill Heusinkveld a hand and helped him up out of the mud and got him on his way. Just as we were beginning to climb out, Bill Burkland hollered at us. He was stuck in the mud and could not go any further.

I had to find a long, slender, old stick and extend it down to him so he could grab onto it. He eventually got pulled to safety and we proceeded on our way.

The three of us walked across a pretty meadow that was surrounded in the distance by trees. On ahead we could see a small lone tree standing by itself out in the middle of this grassy area. As we walked closer, we could see a small circle of rocks on the ground, near this tree.

When we got up to it, you could see, it was the old spring that the Mormons had talked about using. It still had a pool of water in it and it looked fresh as if it was still a working spring. So, we had found the historic site we had been looking for.

We took a few photographs but we still had to get back to where we had started out from. In other words, we had to cross the Shoal Creek again. By that time, we were more experienced creek crossers. We chose a different crossing area and we all made it back across without incident.

Years later, Bill Heusinkveld and I were enlisted to take a new group to see that old spring. In the meantime, since our initial visit to that site, Bill Huesinkveld and I visited that site again but we used a different approach to get to it, although we still had to cross the Shoal Creek.

Well on this third try, there were quite a few people that wanted to go with us, but they did not want to have to cross the creek. So Bill and I discussed it and decided we could maybe get to it by land, approaching it from the east, west of Exline. We got permission from the land owner and all met down on a gravel road and we headed out across the field.

    Well, we had to crawl through a few barb wire fences and heavy brush, as we plodded along in the dense thicket of the woods. We trudged along, never really knowing where the heck we were, because you could not see out of the dense canopy of trees and brush that we were trying to get through.

Finally, we came to an open field but it was not where we thought we would come out. We wandered around and never did find the spring, or that meadow that it was in.

Eventually, one of the people that was with us, Becky Maxwell, the editor of the Daily Iowegian newspaper, recognized the area as a field her dad, Richard Oden owned.

So Becky and another historian that was with us, Enfys McMurry, walked out to a gravel road, forded a creek along the way and eventually made it to her brother, Brent Oden’s place, to get a vehicle.

Everyone else waited in the field for what seemed like a long time, but eventually they came driving up and picked us up. I think it took Becky a few trips to get us all hauled out of there.

Bill and I went on many treks like that together, sometimes taking people with us and at other times going by ourselves.

I also got to know Bill, as we spent time together at many meetings and various functions, as members of the Centerville Masonic Lodge. He was very good at being able to give degree work, when new members were taken into the lodge.

Over the years, when he was writing the historic articles for the newspaper and I when I was researching or writing something on local history, we would talk back and forth on the phone. We did not do this a lot but every once in a while. Sometimes we would exchange information or help each other locate the information we were needing for whatever project we were working on. He will be greatly missed by many people.

Just a reminder that the Exline Church of Christ is going to have their Homecoming this Sunday.

Following Sunday School and church, they will have a co-op dinner that will be held at 12:15 p.m. with table service and drinks provided.  

There will be an afternoon program that will begin at 1 p.m. The guest speaker for the afternoon will be Dan Schantz. These events are open to anyone that would like  to attend.  

The Exline Hose Company No. 1 Museum will be open on Pancake Day. Someone has volunteered to be there on Saturday, so anyone wishing to come and tour the museum may do so after the big parade is over in Centerville. There is no charge.

The museum in Exline, will be open from 1-4 p.m. that afternoon.

Someone is still needed to be at the museum on Sunday from 1-4 p.m. this weekend. If it is open this Sunday, visitors to the church homecoming could tour it if they would like after their program.  

If you would like to volunteer to be at the museum this Sunday, contact the Exline Old Country Store manager, Penny. You may either stop by or call her at (641) 658-2399. Your help would be appreciated. This will be the last weekend that the museum will be open for the season.