Family donates historic horn to SD university - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Family donates historic horn to SD university

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BATTLE CREEK, Iowa (KTIV) -

Do you have a priceless family heirloom, left over by a long gone relative? Would you ever part with it? One Siouxland family did, but they say it was for the better.

More than 130 years ago this hallowed horn belonged to Civil War Veteran Benjamin Whitehouse.

"He was a crusty old man," said Ben's grandson, George Whitehouse. "He didn't care too much for kids. He was an adventurous guy." 

George says his grandfather got the horn after shooting at a noise, while on guard duty one night.

"It turned out to be one of the Army mules. The Captain of the Guard took him off guard duty and made him a musician," said George.

From there, Ben traveled the nation. Fighting in, not just the Civil War, but Indian Wars too. Ben and his bugle even served under General George Custer, but were discharged just four days before the massacre at Little Bighorn.

Since then, this instrument of warfare has had a chance to sound, just not on the battle field. Try Battle Creek, Iowa. It's wound up in the hands of Benjamin's five grand kids, who've always been fond of it.

"Oh yes. I've played that bugle many a time. I didn't play taps or anything, but I blasted it," said Evelyn Mooney.

But Evelyn, George, and the three others feel their time with the horn has hit a decrescendo. The family has agreed to sign-over Benjamin's belongings to Northern State University, in Aberdeen, South Dakota. It's only a few miles from Frederick, where Ben spent most of the later years of his life.

Besides the bugle, the family's also giving up Ben's gun, fife, compass, letters and more. They say the university will guarantee it'll stay together, and in great condition.

"We figured that the best thing to do would be to put it into a museum," said George.

There scholars can study it. Future generations can appreciate it. And even though it's hard to say goodbye, this family will never forget the items, and the man behind them.

"It's like we're sending him home again. Back to South Dakota where he spent so many years. That to me is what it is. We're sending him home," said Evelyn.

So what's next for the artifacts?

Robert Russell runs the Beulah Williams Library at Northern State University. He says they'll be placed on exhibit in the center gallery there. Things like the bugle and gun will be placed in protective enclosures. Photos and documents will be scanned and turned into copies, to protect the originals.

Russell says he's thrilled to have the items.

"It's clearly exciting. As some of his ancestors have mentioned, he lived a very interesting life," he said.

Russell says the exhibit should be up by September.

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