At just 18, Hunter Heinrich is an old soul.

The Eureka High School senior has three great loves: dancing to polka music, playing accordion and local history — particularly that with ties to a 50-mile radius of Eureka.

With that passion for history comes knowledge.

Heinrich joined the Facebook group South Dakota History of Cities, Towns, places and people who made it great! It’s on that page that he shares his family’s history and more.

There’s the picture of the propelled sleigh his grandfather Alvin “Tuffy” Delzer built from a small airplane to help him deliver mail in the winter.

“It didn’t last. We’ll put it that way,” Heinrich said.

The sleigh was meant to ride atop snowdrifts, but it kept tipping over.

propelled sleigh

Hunter Heinrich’s grandfather built this propelled sleigh from a small airplane to help deliver mail.

“All of his mail got unsorted,” he said.

There’s the picture of his great-grandma, Katharina (Orth) Ackerman, standing in a cornfield, presumably doing chores.

There are images of the past businesses in Artas — population nine, per the 2010 census — and advertising memorabilia from Greenway, Hoven, Eureka, Mound City and more.

HH house in creek

Hunter Heinrich’s grandmother had these pictures of a house being moved that fell into Spring Creek, presumably in the late 1950s.

And then there’s the great mystery of a house that fell into Spring Creek near Artas while being moved in the late 1950s.

At least that’s the best guess.

“A lot of those pictures, nothing was marked on the back. I really had nowhere to go but that (Facebook) page. And I knew it had to be somewhere in our neck of the woods, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure,” he said.

The post garnered 42 comments, though Heinrich still isn’t certain the mystery has been solved due to conflicting stories.

While he shares what he can on the page, he one day hopes to share his actual collection.

He’s filled his bedroom at his parents’ house. There are five China cabinets in the living room, all stocked full of advertising memorabilia, he said. Combine that with two other shelves upstairs, a shed and boxes of items for which he hasn’t yet found homes.

And that’s all just from the last five or so years.

“We were cleaning out my grandmother’s house. I thought, ‘My gosh, look at how many (advertising items) we’re finding now. I wonder how many are out there,’” he said. “I would have never imagined there were a couple thousand items out there.”

His favorite? A dustpan.

“It was one my grandmother had. An old metal dustpan from William Jarhaus in Artas, South Dakota. He had a general store,” Heinrich said. “Every time I walked into my grandma’s house it was hanging in the entryway. I played around it when I was a kid. It brings back memories of my grandma.”

It’s from that grandmother that his love of collecting comes, he said.

Hunter Heinrich

One of Hunter Heinrich’s prized possessions is an Artas depot sign.

“She had saved stuff going back 100 years. She got hem from her folks. … It kind of runs in the blood, skips a generation,” he said.

Heinrich is involved with the German Russian Heritage Society and is a board member of the local museum, where he’ll likely eventually leave his collectibles.

“I’m probably going to do this until the day I die, and then it can go to the (Eureka Pioneer) Museum,” he said. “That was always my plan.”

In fall, Heinrich plans to attend Northern State University where, surprisingly, he won’t study history.

“Accounting,” he said. “I know that doesn’t go with the history theme. Everyone says, ‘You should be a history major.’ But ...”

Turns out Heinrich’s interest in history doesn’t span the country — just the county.

“It’s local history that catches my eye,” he said.

Follow @vlusk_aan on Twitter.

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