Publication: The Messenger
Article Title: Fort Dodge Remembered
Author: Bill Shea
Around Fort Dodge, Roger Natte is well-known for his knowledge of local history.
Some of that knowledge has been put into print in the form of two books that will debut this week.
One titled ''Fort Dodge 1850-1970'' will be available nationwide through Arcadia Publishing's Images of America Series.
The other, ''Picks, Shovels and Carbide Lamps: Coal Mining in Webster County'' will be available locally through the Webster County Historical Society.
Natte has contributed to other books, including the ''Dictionary of Iowa History,'' and articles that he's written have appeared in scholarly publications. But having two books printed at once is still a big achievement for him.
''It isn't new for me to have my things published,'' he said. ''Anytime you finish anything, it's a wonderful feeling.''
''Obviously when you have a larger publisher do it for you, it's pretty exciting,'' he added, referring to Arcadia.
''Fort Dodge 1850-1970'' is a 127-page collection of historic photos with captions. Natte said more than half of them have never been published before.
All of those photos were found among the 15,000 images owned by the Webster County Historical Society. Natte said he examined about 1,000 photos before picking the ones for the book.
Accompanying the photos are captions which Natte believes could serve as a brief history of Fort Dodge all by themselves.
''We wanted to tell a story about how the community developed rather than just have a collection of photos,'' he said.
The book's cover features a photo of John F. Kennedy in a Sept. 22, 1960, parade on Central Avenue when he was a Massachusetts senator running for president. Former Messenger photographer Fred Larson captured the image. Natte said he sent the publisher 10 to 15 potential cover shots and the JFK photo was selected.
''They picked it because it's someone everyone can identify with,'' he said.
The historian worked for about six months on the photo book.
Writing the coal mining book took a lot longer. In fact, it took so long that the first draft was written on an Apple II computer.
The last coal mine in the county stopped production in 1946, but Natte was able to interview some retired miners for the book.
''Mining is a good story,'' he said. ''You get everything from child labor to union activities to stories of rough coal towns.''
He believes there is a demand and a need for local history books.
''We really have such a rich history we ought to promote it,'' he said.