Welcome to Agincourt, Iowa

Siobhán McKenna [1889–1948]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

McKENNA, Siobhán (1889–1948)

Paris Street Scene


oil on paper / 9.8 inches by 9.5 inches / #204 of an unstated edition

Siobhán McKenna Montplaisir was born in Cork, Ireland and studied at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin prior to settling in Paris. This Parisian street scene is representative of her late Impressionist tendencies on the eve of World War I. She continued to paint during the war years, while devoting herself to husband and family, and returned briefly to Ireland following establishment of the Republic in 1919. Her work is little known outside Ireland.

“Paris Street Scene” came to Agincourt with Kurt Bernhard when he married Grace Tabor.

John Ivor Stewart [1936-2017]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

STEWART, John Ivor (1936-2017)

Vétheuil” [top]

oil on board / 11 inches by 11.2 inches

“Blackthorn Wind” [center]

oil on board / 9 inches by 9.2 inches

“Abstract Landscape” [bottom]

acrylic on board / 10.9 inches by 11.1 inches

all ca1970

Maureen and William Bendix built a mid-century Modern home in the Riverside Addition on the west edge of the city and furnished it with pieces which quickly became classics. Today their home would be featured in Modern magazine as a de facto museum for the period—were it still intact. The Bendixes have passed away and their daughter Estelle Bendix Morreau lives elsewhere. But we have the benefit of four mid-century Modern artworks she has given in her parents’ memory.

How the Bendixes became aware of British artist John Ivor Stewart (a near contemporary of Maureen Bendix) is a mystery. They became enthusiastic collectors of his work, however, acquiring more than these three small pieces, each less than the size of a long-playing record jacket (a comparison for those with an equally long memory). “Abstract Landscape” is particularly representative of a later mid-century color palette and aerial landscape distilled but still clearly recognizable.

“[John Ivor Stewart] studied at Belfast College of Art 1956-60, Reading University for his ATD in 1960, and later the Cardiff College of Art for his ADAE 1973-74. He was a founder member of the Society of Botanical Artists 1982, and was elected a member of the Pastel Society in 1987. He won the Major Prize as a non-member in 1986 and twice again as a member in 1992 and 1997.”


Stanisław Raczyński [1903-1982]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

Raczyński, Stanisław (1903-1982)

“Barbakan” (from the Kraków Series)


monochrome woodcut on paper / 5 inches by 7 inches

Woodcuts and other print media form a significant part of the Collection, perhaps because they are comparatively affordable. This woodcut by Polish artist Stanisław Raczyński comes from a series based on Kraków, an historic city in the southern part of the country and also the home of the artist’s wife.

Stanisław Raczynski studied painting at the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts in Poland, in 1920s. Before World War II his artistic interest focused on graphics and, in particular, wood-cutting, lithography and similar techniques. His early works were influenced mainly by the modernistic style in painting and wood-carving. His admiration for Salvador Dali was notable, though he did not follow the surrealistic style in graphical art. Among more classical authors, he was en enthusiast of El Greco and Albrecht Durer. He was also influenced by Polish groups of artists like Skoczylas and Pronaszko. Between late 20s and 1939 he was a successful young artist with great expectations. He married Bronislawa Gawin, a girl from an old Krakow family, who went on to become his great partner and supporter in all his life. The World War II dramatically interrupted his career.

A barbican (in English) is the outer defense of a castle or walled city. Large portions of Kraków’s medieval fortifications remain.

William Overend Geller [style of]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

GELLER, William Overend (in the style of)

Portrait of Gaudeamus Tennant


oil on board / 12 inches by 9.85 inches

Geller was a British painter and engraver active in London during the first half of the 19th century. As a printer, “…he was an accomplished master of mixed-method engraving which included various printing techniques such as mezzotinting, aquatinting, engraving and etching. He engraved both works by other artists such as Sir Joshua Reynolds and also his own work, spanning a variety of genres.” Portraits such as this study of Gaudeamus Tennant (born 1793) form the bulk of his own artistic output. Though unsigned, this preliminary study is purported to be from Geller’s hand.

If the Tennant brothers Horace, Pliny, and Virgil were the “fathers” of Agincourt, Gaudeamus Tennant (born 1793) was its grandfather. His own origins are cloudy and checkered, a typical early American story: a rise from humble origins, emigration to the United States early in the Republic, and making financial success in the Delaware River Valley. So, this is not only the oldest work in the Collection, it is also the piece closest to our shared heritage.

Those involved with the C.C. on a frequent basis have called this portrait “Rochester” after the Orson Welles role in “Wuthering Heights”.

[Just noticed this is post #1300!]

Otto Eckmann [1865-1902]


[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

ECKMANN, Otto (1865-1902]

“Nachtreiher” / “Night Herons”


lithographic reproduction of original woodcut /

Otto Eckmann was an important contributor to the German “Jugendstil” movement. Were this one of the original woodcuts, it would be valued much higher. Eckmann and other European artists of his time, however, were frequent contributors to The Studio: An Illustrated Magazine of Fine and Applied Art, a fine and decorative arts journal published in London from 1893 until 1964. Early issues included fine art reproductions, such as our copy of “Night Herons”. So, although unsigned, it was authorized by the artist — no doubt in the spirit of self-promotion.

“Nachtreiher” — sometimes subtitled “Drei Philosophen” or Three Philosophers) — was a contribution by Amity Burroughs Flynn to the G.A.R. Exhibit she organized in 1912, foundation of the Community Collection and a quiet testament to Flynn’s elevation of local artistic standards.


Missing 1.1

It’s astounding how easy the internet has made background research. If I find it useful to write an entry on missing people, newspapers.com has given me the tools to write something with period conviction, i.e., the flavor of the time. The search phrase “missing child” led me to a series of articles about a child who disappeared from her Terre Haute, Indiana, newspaper route one Sunday in 1929, and the ensuing two-month search. Adapting their language and the details gender, geography, etc.), and adding an introductory article of my own concoction, has generated these four news items from three local newspapers:

From the Daily Plantagenet:

MISSING CHILD // Dierdorf Boy Has Disappeared. // Massive Search Underway. //  AGINCOURT, Ia., Jan 28.— Harry Dierdorf, 10-year-old son of Abner and Thelma Dierdorf, of rural Nimby, is reported missing. Fennimore county sheriff’s deputies have instituted a search in the area between Agincourt and Nimby. At the present time, there is no reason to assume foul play. // When last seen on his way to a paper route in Agincourt, Harry was wearing blue corduroy pants and white shirt. He is three feet tall, thin, and has brown hair and eyes. If seen, call the Fennimore sheriff at Agincourt 1234.

From the Fort Dodge, IA Plaintiff:

FAIL TO LOCATE MISSING CHILD // Small Party Still Seeking Iowa Boy Who Disappeared. // AGINCOURT, Ia., Feb. 1.— Persistent searchers again tramped the dreary region call the Barrens seeking Harry Dierdorf, 10-year-old boy, who has been missing since last Sunday. // Young Dierdorf left his rural Nimby home early that morning for the eight mile walk into Agincourt, the county town, where he had a paper route to help the family’s financial situation. What should have taken no more than five or six hours, and brought him home for Sunday dinner, dragged on. By six o’clock, the Dierdorfs joined hands in prayer. At eight, Mr Dierdorf walked to a neighbor’s house to telephone the sheriff. // By Tuesday, nearly five hundred volunteers had assembled, scouring Harry’s usual route and one mile on either side. By Thursday, a pilot from the Tri-County Crop Dusting Service was searching from the air. // Rewards totaling $2,500 have been offered.

From the Daily Plantagenet:

NO TRACE IS FOUND OF NIMBY CHILD // Harry Dierdorf Vanishes Completely—His Newspaper Bag Is Blood Stained. // AGINCOURT, Ia., Sat., Feb. 2.— Harry Dierdorf, 10-year-old rural Nimby newsboy, has vanished as completely as some of the characters in “Alice in Wonderland”, a book he was fond of reading. // Fennimore county sheriff Joe Pyne admitted today they were without a clue, except for the boy’s blood-stained newspaper bag, which was found by a deep water hole Thursday afternoon. //  The citizens of Agincourt have subscribed a reward of $2,000. // Nearly 500 searchers have combed the countryside, first in the swath of open land between Agincourt and the boy’s home near Nimby, and then outward. The NITC interurban tracks, ditches, and the Barrens received special attention, without finding a trace of the missing child. // Dr. Henk Cuijpers, county coroner, has announced his analysis of the stains on the newspaper bag, concluding they were human blood. The stain was approximately four inches wide and unlikely to have been accidental. Strands of hair matted with the blood clot indicated, police said, that the bag might have been used to cover a wound in the child’s head and to stifle his screams.

From the Storm Lake, IA Patriot:

BODY OF MISSING CHILD IS FOUND // Believed That of Harry Dierdorf of Nimby, Iowa. // EVIDENCE OF A MURDER // The body of a boy about 10 years old, believed by police to be that of Harry Dierdorf, of Nimby, Ia., was found in The Barrens, fewer than three miles from his rural Nimby home, this afternoon. The boy disappeared last January 27th. // The body was found using the keen sense of smell of Poppy, the golden retriever of Dr Henk Cuijpers, M.D., of Agincourt. //  Once the crime scene had been generally established, heavy equipment lent by the NITC traction company excavated the marshy site. The body was recovered only two or three feet below the surface. The boy’s feet were bound with bailing wire. // Young Dierdorf was located two miles from where his blood-stained newspaper bag was found. But the bog had filled with water from melting snow and recent rain, obscuring tracks and other traces. Harry still wore the corduroy trousers he had on the Sunday of his disappearance.


Hetty Pegler’s Tump

The day I ran across Hetty Pegler’s Tump on a British ordnance map, I nearly pissed myself laughing. Hetty has her very own wikipedia entry, so there’s no longer any mystery (I first ran across “her” about twenty-five years ago, while scanning at an actual ordnance map, which is the British equivalent of our USCGS maps), and its more proper name is the Uley Long Barrow, a “partially reconstructed Neolithic chambered mound”. However authentic that nomenclature may be, it is and will always be, for me, Ms Pegler’s Tump.

There are similar earthen mounds throughout the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio river valleys of the United States; fewer along the Missouri. The best known is one I’ve actually visited at Cahokia, a pre-Columbian settlement on the Illinois side of the Mississippi near St Louis. Cahokia was once a city of considerable size, with an earthen pyramid whose base is equal to the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan. Much less impressive now, but the visitor interpretive center is worth a visit, should you find yourselves in the vicinity. Some day, I’ll visit Ms Pegler’s landform, if for no other reason than 19th and early 20th century Fargo architects George and Walter Hancock were born about two miles from there. That’s a story in its own right.

The church of St John, Uley, was the Hancock family’s home parish and several members are buried in its churchyard, including the brothers’ father David Hancock. Oddly, I’ve been to the church (and to Owlpen Farm, where the Hancocks lived) but not to the tump itself. Don’t know why I missed the opportunity. It won’t happen again.

The Uley Long Barrow came to mind today because Agincourt once had its very own earth mound, though far newer, called, not surprisingly, The Mound. Sitauted near the intersection of Third Street SE and Alcott Avenue, the mound predates Agincourt’s founding, and in fact interrupts the orderly grid of the original town plat, necessitating a half block of the Third Street right-of-way being vacated. Fortunately for archeological purposes, it partially occupies the southeast school lot and merely forced the reorientation of three residential lots, so no harm no foul.

Archaeologists from the University of Iowa examined the site some time during the Great Depression and the city erected a modest interpretive kiosk on the school property — but without much impact on the neighborhood, except for Elie Munro, that is, who grew up next door and was sufficiently fascinated to become an amateur archaeologist herself. Elie’s story has its own twists and turns, but that’s another tale for another day. For the time being, some explication of The Mound seems in order.