Weekly Column: Preserving History, Preserving Community

The Center for Rural Affairs often emphasizes the importance of entrepreneurship in rural communities. For one rural community, entrepreneurship has kept the small town alive.

St. James, Nebraska was once a thriving farm community, but like many rural towns, found itself quickly dwindling. The town was struggling, and after the church was closed and the remaining building burned to the ground in 2000, the old school house and a few other establishments were about the only signs that a town existed.

Fearing that the loss of the church would destroy the community, five entrepreneurs -- Mary Rose Pinkelman, Vicky Koch, Jeanette Pinkelman, Violet Pinkelman and Louise Guy -- came together and purchased the old school house. With entrepreneurial spirit, hard work and determination the ladies renovated the school house and created St. James Marketplace. The marketplace now houses a farmer’s market, craft room, tea room, and a historical room.

The Marketplace provides a place for local vendors to sell their products and draws hundreds of visitors each year. Guests get a taste of local goods and learn about the history of early pioneers.

Not only did the ladies preserve the school house, but they preserved the rich history of that area, and they preserved their community.

Recently Readers Digest recognized the success of St. James and chose to do a piece featuring the marketplace.

The Marketplace will open its doors for the season on May 5. For more information on St. James and a schedule of events visit: http://www.stjamesmarketplace.com.

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