Independence Day 2013: A Time to Honor Family, Friends, Country and Heritage

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, 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.

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.

Betty Herring Store 1922
Herring Iowa, circa 1929 with the Armistice flagpole in the background.

It’s been more than 90 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. It is the same hill, but, the town has changed. Ralph, Alice, Dorothy and Shirley have since passed away. The town is empty.

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.

Last fall, 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.)

Next Friday July 12 we are going to dedicate the flagpole on the Herring Hill.
herring invite
Rep. Steve King will join us at the dedication.

If you are in the area stop on by. We’d love to have you.
It ought to be the biggest celebration Herring has seen in a few decades.

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