This is one of the reasons I’ve been working to document the German communities in Perry County. I showed up at the Altenburg Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum a couple of years ago with my laptop full of photos I had taken in Wittenberg and the area, including some aerials of places I couldn’t identify.
Wilmar Degenhardt happened to be in that day and started looking over my shoulder. Here’s his reaction when he spotted the Seeltiz home he was born in and where he lived until he left for the Navy during World War II.
October 8 is the 31st Annual Saxon Lutheran Memorial Fall Festival on the outskirts of Frohna.
To give you an idea what you might see, I’ll post a collection of photos I’ve taken from the mid-1960s up to the last couple of years. They’ve been taken at different seasons and at different times of day, so even photos of the same building will look different.
Ferry story brought me to Memorial
The Wittenberg Ferry Dedication was coming up, so The Missourian sent me up to Wittenberg and Frohna to shoot things that people might see. I remember thinking that the log cabins (thought to be slave quarters) were interesting, but looked liked they’d fall down if the termites quit holding hands. (By the way, all of the black and white photos date back to 1966.)
Much restoration done in 40-plus years
This photo, taken Nov. 13, 2010, from about the same angle, shows the restoration that has been done to the buildings.
Germans didn’t waste anything
My eye was drawn to the window in this upstairs bedroom when I was there in 1966 – the window panes were glass negatives. Someone thought they might have come from Lueders Studio in Frohna.
Three were in good shape
Three of the six panes had negatives that appeared to be in pretty good shape.
Thanks to the miracles of Photoshop, I was able to make positive images of the negatives. Considering that this was taken from a handheld photo of a window frame, filed away for over 40 years, then digitally inverted, it’s pretty darned good. Based on the clothes, I’m going to guess we’re looking at a family portrait that’s nearly 100 years old.
Alas, glass has been replaced
When I met Curator Lynda Lorenz in 2010, the window was one of the first things I asked about. She hadn’t heard the story of the glass negatives and didn’t have any idea what had happened to them.
Lynda said her husband and other volunteers salvaged as much of the mill as they could before it was hauled off.
Cats and chickens abound
There are cats and chickens everywhere. Lynda said the cat population averages about three to 17 cats, depending on the season, how many sneak into tourists’ cars and how hungry the hawks are.
Check out Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum
While you’re in the neighborhood, you should swing over to Altenburg to check out the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum. I don’t know if they have their Christmas Tree exhibit up yet this year, but it’s worth seeing.
Saxon Lutheran Memorial photo gallery
Here’s a gallery of photos taken in 1966 (black and white) and recently. Click on any image to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.
I stopped in at the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum in Altenburg this Wednesday afternoon to talk with museum director Carla Jordan about a possible project. I noticed folks like Lillian Fiehler buzzing around getting this year’s annual Christmas Display ready for the weekend.
Dressing for Christmas
Many of the trees are themed, like this one entitled Dressing for Christmas, which is decorated with gloves and hankies. This is a great place to get decorating ideas that are simple and not expensive.
Top ornament came from Walmart
I was admiring the red ornament that topped the tree Carolyn Schmidt was working on. “It came from Walmart,” she confided. They’re not afraid to mix the old and the new if the overall effect works.
“I’m glad there’s a label on this thing,” I told Carolyn when she introduced me to the Scherenschinitte – Scissor Cutting Tree. “If that wasn’t there to back you up, I’d think you were trying to trick me into running some kind of German cuss word.”
Why the donkey is brown
Autumn Hughey was doing a masterful job of coaxing beautiful colors out of chalk to draw a Nativity scene. “In case you were wondering, the donkey is brown because I didn’t have any gray chalk.” To be honest, I hadn’t even noticed, but that’s the answer in case YOU were wondering.
I’ve never been to the museum when I haven’t run into an interesting character. Wilmar Degenhardt, 85, looked at an aerial photo I shot in the 60s and exclaimed, “That’s the farm I grew up on until I was 18-1/2!” For the next hour, he lectured on the early German settlements and German history in general. He crammed in more information than you’d get in a college class. I was afraid he’d hand me a Blue Book and make me write an essay on what he had covered.
Here’s a sneak peek at the early stages of the Christmas display before all of the trees were up. Click on an image to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the photo to move through the gallery.