Seelitz Valley

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.

Video of Seelitz

This will be part of my presentation in October.


Saxon Lutheran Memorial Fall Festival

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.

Century-old portrait

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.

Don’t look for the Frohna Mill

By the way, if you’ve been to the Memorial before and had used the Frohna Mill as a landmark to know where to turn, you’ll be disappointed. Demolition started in the fall of 2010 and was finished before the end of the year.

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.

Altenburg Museum Christmas Trees

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.

Scherenschinitte Tree

“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.

Display up through January 15

Carla said the display should be complete by this weekend. It will be up until January 15. If the first trees are any indication, it’s well worth the drive to Altenburg. To see another example of the quality of their exhibits, read my piece on the Vintage Hats of Perry County from this spring. There’s a map on the page, too.

The Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum’s website has more information.

If you go, tell them I sent you.

German history course

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.

Photo gallery

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.