In 1893 Shane McCool's great, great, grandparents bought the Zolck
family farm from the railroad on which now sits Willow Creek. The creek
however has nothing to do with how the McCools came up with the name.
We’ll get to more of that later though. To this day there have been six
generations of family that have lived on the farm. Shane McCool even
recalls his Great Grandfather telling stories of traveling gypsies and
Indians coming through to water their horses in the creek when he was a
child. If the dirt from this farm could talk it would tell stories of
love, family, hard work and helping one another out in times of need.
The stories that the farm could tell truly are endless.
It was in
2002 that Gene & Peg McCool came up with the idea to construct a
wedding chapel on their family farm for couples to have a unique country
location to get married. They chose a spot nestled at the bottom of the valley of rolling hills right next to a creek. Shortly after deciding to go ahead with the
project is when construction began but of course they needed to come up
with a name to call the business first. Within a matter of minutes the
McCools came up with the name Willow Creek. When Shane played high
school basketball he used to play against a little town named Willow
Creek. It was a name that the family had always loved and it was at that
moment that they would be known as Willow Creek as the umbrella for the
Willow Creek Glass Chapel & the Willow Creek Barn as well as the
future Willow Creek Trails.
Gene, Peg and their son, Shane,
began construction on the bridal cottage first and then the bridge from
that building to the chapel. Soon after they poured the concrete for
the sidewalks. Peg was in charge of doing most of the landscaping with
flowers, trees, etc. Gene hired a construction company to construct the
majority of the chapel, although the McCools put their fair share of work
in on that as well doing finish work - even recycling & refinishing
old pews from a church in Missouri that are in the chapel to this day.
It was in 2009 that Shane and his wife Maritza took over running the
day to day operations of the business full time after Gene & Peg
took on a new business venture that took them away from the wedding
business. It was in 2011 that Shane & Maritza began construction on a
banquet hall which soon got a name change in 2012 to the Willow Creek
Barn. During construction of the barn, Shane & Maritza received a
hard hit when an early April 2012 storm came through, accompanied with
near 70mph straight winds that ripped a good portion of the roof off.
Six of the next eight days after that they received rain, and lots of
it, which poured inside the barn destroying the flooring. Although they
were down and out, they continued moving ahead with their project never
letting anything get them down.
The whole idea behind the Willow
Creek Barn started when Shane tore down some of a barn off of his
Uncle's farm years ago that was going to be bulldozed over and burned.
He constructed a couple of pieces of furniture out of the wood he
reclaimed and it got him to thinking that you could probably build
nearly an entire building out of recycled materials if you really put
the effort in to it. Shane began with tearing down an out building on a
friend's farm close to home. After that he was getting stuff here and
there and even spent every waking moment he could driving all the way
back and forth numerous times to Creston, NE reclaiming material from
old farm buildings. Eventually he had enough to finish out the inside
the way he wanted to and at the same time reclaim as much material as
possible to give it a second life. About half of all you see on the
inside of the barn is recycled/reclaimed material and is an accumulation
of eight different buildings ranging from Wiota, IA to Creston, NE.
Despite nearly having their dreams sidetracked by a bad bit of
weather, the McCools moved on and have not only completed this project,
but have added on another 2600 square feet of deck and a bridge that
spans across the pond to an open air outdoor area for couples to say
their "I do's". Couples now have two options of where to get married -
indoors or outdoors. They are now in the process of adding over two
miles of boardwalk pathways for closer access to nature throughout the
property that the business sits on. You won't find a location as unique
as Willow Creek and you won't likely find anyone quite as hardworking as the
When you come to visit Willow Creek you are in the
country and there is no doubt about that. There is dirt, dust, mud and
there are even things that could poke, scratch, sting or bite you. If
you're really lucky on just the right day, when the breeze is blowing
perfectly, you might even get a good whiff of pig manure in the air.
Along with all of those things though comes a great deal of beauty and
serenity on the property that you will not find anywhere else. Shane
& Maritza are a laid back couple that do nearly everything
themselves other than a few jobs that are necessary to hire out. They
believe that marriage should be based on love, helping one another out
in times of need, and a great deal of hard work. LOTS of hard work. With
that lies the foundation to begin a family. For those reasons is why
they choose to do what they do for a living.
Aside from the
slight possibility of something maiming you out in the wilds of the
country or getting your car a little dusty on a couple miles of gravel
roads getting to Willow Creek, Shane & Maritza hope that everyone
that spends their day with them has a remarkable time and they hope to
see all of you that visit come back again and again for many decades to