Meet the Author
Dena has been an American history and genealogy buff for more than 50 years. During the last 25 years, she has authored several family research books; served as a passionate Find A Grave volunteer and administrator for two major cemeteries, a mausoleum, and an abandoned cemetery; shared her tips with others; researched 100s of family lines; and carried on a legacy of personal family history work.
You could say she inherited the genealogy gene from her mother and aunts who throughout their lives were avid, old-school researchers (before today’s vast online records). They, with Dena in tow, would walk the cemeteries, collect oral family history from elders, attend family reunions, scour the courthouses for records, gather and label photos, travel to historic places, and painstakingly hand document the information.
A Passionate Endeavor: Throughout her life, Dena has traveled to many places and met a lot of people that left enduring impressions, including the Civil War battlefields, archeological digs, out-of-the way museums, ghost towns, mines, historic monuments and ships, and small town America.
Bloomington Cemetery: The event that perhaps was most influential in her life-long passion for genealogy, happened in 1971 while she was just young schoolgirl and Girl Scout.
In an Iowa cornfield, hidden behind a densely wooded Girl Scout camp, were the remains of the Bloomington Cemetery. The dilapidated cemetery was overgrown, nearly plowed under because of a lack of a fence, and scattered with partially broken or discarded monuments —some dated pre-Iowa statehood.
Adventurous pioneer settlers arrived in the rural area in the early 1850s. The town of Bloomington was laid out in 1857 in the central part of section 25, Franklin Township, about two miles north and one east of the business section of the present city of Ames. It hoped to become an important railroad town, but the railroad passed 2 miles south of Bloomington, and the town of Ames, Iowa, was established instead in 1864. Its post office (1858-67) was called Camden. In March of 1909, the town of Bloomington was vacated.
As I recall, in the early 1970s there were only a few remaining remnants of Bloomington, a crumbling power dam that crossed the Skunk River, assorted brick and masonry foundations, old schoolhouse, portion of a grain storage building, and an old hitching post.
Dena’s mother was a Girl Scout leader and got the notion to have her troop take on the cemetery as a community preservation and betterment project. The clean-up was laborious and difficult in the steamy summertime. The troop documented every monument and reassembled the broken pieces as best as possible. Monuments that had tumbled over were re-erected. Depressions in the earth from deteriorating burials were filled. The troop then applied for a small grant from the county to install a fence around the cemetery.
Years later Dena would research, document and then link to family members on Find A Grave those interned there. All of which lead to amazing discoveries about the diverse people that settled there (even for the short time the town existed), as well as their perseverance for a better life and future for their families, all while enduring devastating hardships.
An historically important character in the town’s history was George Washington Carver, agricultural scientist and inventor. When he was living in Ames, he frequently used the woodlands around Bloomington and bluffs above the nearby Skunk River as a natural laboratory. He usually walked up through the woods from Ames on Sunday morning, and took a seat in the Methodist Church in Bloomington.
The last sign of the Bloomington was the schoolhouse, which collapsed during a winter storm in 1990.