Back to Herring, Iowa

On Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, the fighting from World War I ceased at 11 am. Around the world people celebrated the end to the final and greatest war the world had witnessed up to that point in history. The small town of Herring, Iowa joined in the jubilation. The town’s people and area farmers gathered at the bottom of the Herring Hill near the center of town. They took two long poles and spliced them together with wire. Later that night the Herring folk celebrated the end of the Great War by hoisting the towering flagpole and proudly flying Old Glory in the town center.


Dorothy and Shirley Dean (r to l) on a sunny day atop the hill in Herring, Iowa in 1928.

Many years had passed when Ralph Dean, my grandfather and one of the children there on that 1918 Armistice Day celebration in Herring, took over the Herring general store in 1931 and brought his family there to live. Herring at that time had a country store complete with post office, a grain elevator, a Northwestern Railroad Depot, a lumber yard, and a dance hall. The country school was down the hill by the train tracks. Herring was established as a trading town and at one time previously had a pool hall, a blacksmith shop, and a livestock yard for the railroad. But that was before Ralph and Alice Dean moved there to raise their 3 girls, Dorothy, Shirley and Betty and run the country store.

In 2005, the Dean girls returned to Herring, Iowa. There was no longer a train depot in the town. The country store burned down in the 1950’s. The dance hall was torn down after World War II by returning veterans to use the needed lumber in building homes for their families. The houses were no longer standing there.


(l to r) Shirley, Dorothy and Betty, “The Dean Girls” returned to Herring in 2005. The Herring flag pole stands tall in the background.

It’s been more than 80 years since Armistice Day, in 1918. A lot of water has trickled down that stream at the bottom of the Herring hill since that time. The Dean girls moved on from Herring and raised their families and lived their lives. Ralph and Alice have since passed away. Dorothy, the eldest daughter, passed away in 2009.

It is the same hill, but, Herring has changed. It is not the same country Iowa town.

In fact if you were driving west of Wall Lake, Iowa and didn’t know when or where to stop, you would drive right past Herring, Iowa. The only remnant of Herring left standing was put up on an Armistice Day nearly a century ago. The flag pole,… the one that was spliced together to celebrate the end of World War I, still stands tall in the town center, now a meadow.

Yesterday, I returned to Herring, Iowa with my sister Becky, my Aunt Betty and Catherine.

I met with farmer Leroy who owns this piece of farmland.
And I bought the Herring Hill.

(If you look close you can see the Herring flagpole behind my head.)

Comments