Dorcheat Historical Association's "Night at the Museum" is all about Minden's German heritage.
The event, which takes place Monday, March 10, will feature Webster Parish historian John Agan, Otto Krouse, LeVerne Kidd and Susie Lester.
"We will learn much about Minden's German heritage and influences that are still here today," museum executive director Schelley Francis said. "Most Mindenites have grown up knowing that Minden has a sister city Minden, Germany and most are familiar with Germantown Colony. Many are not aware of what it was like to be of German descendant in the United States during WWII. This subject will be the main feature of the talk."
The Germantown Colony and Museum is a historical preservation project north of Minden. It was among three sites in Louisiana founded by former members of the Utopian Movement called the Harmony Society in the early 19th century. The original colonists came from Germany having first settled in Harmony, Penn. in 1803, then in New Harmony, Ind. in 1814, and finally in 1825 in Economy (now Ambridge, Penn.).
About 250 former members of the Harmony Society, many of whom left Economy, Pennsylvania, during 1832, decided to leave because of disagreements over the society's customs. They followed a visionary named Bernhard Muller, who called himself "Count de Leon." The Count called upon all the heads of Europe to relinquish their crowns in a "new world to come."
Some community members would eventfully follow Müller and his family down the Ohio River via flatboat. They later started up again at Grand Ecore, twelve miles north of Natchitoches. There Müller died and was interred in Natchitoches Parish. When the Count died, a congressman obtained passage of a bill donating a tract of land to the colonists and to Countess Leon, the Count's widow. The roots of the Germantown Colony were hence established.
In 1835, the group, then led by Müller's widow, the Countess, settled seven miles northeast of Minden in what was then Claiborne Parish. For nearly four decades, the colony operated on a communal basis until it dispersed in 1871, when Webster Parish was created from Claiborne Parish.
The colony and cemetery thereafter was maintained by members of the Krouse family, including Dr. Francis Otto Krouse. In 1954, then Governor Robert F. Kennon unveiled a still standing historical marker of the Germantown Colony at the intersections of Broadway, Elm and East and West streets, across from the Webster Parish Library.
In 1973, Krouse descendants, including Chester Phillip Krouse (1899–1981) and his sister, Ruby Florence Krouse (1906–2005), donated an acre of land to the Webster Parish Police Jury. Three of the original buildings, the Countess' cabin, the kitchen-dining hall, and the Dr. Goentgen cottage, survive at the site.
The Germantown Museum did not open to the public until May 10, 1975, with then former Governor Ed Kennon, a Webster Parish native and a descendant of Germantown colonists, in attendance for the observation. In 1979, the colony was placed on the list of the "Cultural Resources Worthy of Preservation" by the United States Department of the Interior. As Germantown, the village was listed in 1979 on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2008, the Louisiana State Legislature under Act 847 declared it appropriate for the state to operate the Germantown Colony and Museum. On July 1, 2009, the museum switched from parish to state control. The Germantown Colony Museum temporarily closed on June 3, 2013, for the construction of a new visitor's center. The museum expects to reopen in 2014. The new visitor's center will provide a climate-controlled area to display artifacts used by the settlers. The renovation also includes restrooms and new office space.
Museum events are held in the Media/Learning room at the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum at 116 Pearl Street. Museum doors will open at 5:30 p.m., with first-come, first-served seating. The program begins at 6; admission is free with potluck desserts and snacks welcome.
For more information contact Francis at 377-3002.