I remember visiting Arlington National Cemetery when I was in middle school. My parents thought that it was important to see the sacrifice that countless men and women have made for our country.
I remember walking out to the hallowed grounds. I looked out over JFK’s gravesite at the countless bright white tombstones, as if in formation, along the hillsides. I was astonished at the sheer number of tombstones I saw. I walked along Arlington’s gravel paths, reading names that marked each site. And I walked. And walked. And walked. And walked. Everywhere I turned, more tombstones, as far as the eye could see. I didn’t see much of the 640 acres at Arlington. What I saw was simply a fraction of those buried under the 640 acres at Arlington. And now I think… Arlington holds less than one-quarter of those lost in combat alone…
This week marks the unofficial founding of the Frankenmuth Historical Association, the organization that preserves Frankenmuth’s history. In the 1960s, Frankenmuth residents were rediscovering their German heritage. The Bavarian festival increased in popularity, businesses adopted German “alpine” accents, Gunzenhausen was established as Frankenmuth’s Sister City, local residents met German cousins they never knew they had, and a small group of locals began meeting in the old high school, in each others houses, and even in basements to discuss the prospects of forming a historical organization. In 1963, the group formally organized the Frankenmuth Historical Association.
With no physical building to their name, the Association created and displayed artifacts in local businesses and at the school. In 1970, the Association created a campaign to raise funds from the local community. Thanks to the generosity of the town, the Association raised enough to purchase its permanent and current home at 613 S. Main Street, the former home of the Kern Hotel (1905-1942) and the Frankenmuth News (1942-1970).
Preparing to install a new exhibit is a lot of work, and prepping for our newest exhibit, The Great Lakes State Goes to War, was particularly draining for me. Not because of the amount of hours that went into the research and exhibit, but because of the words I read about soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
“Left behind his mother.”
“Left behind his two sisters.”
“Left behind his fiance.”
“Left behind his wife and daughter.”
In the Spring of 1850, a group of settlers set out from Mittelfranken, Bavaria to begin their 4-month journey to their new home. Most of the group lost heart in settling in unknown lands. Several families split off and left for Detroit and Saginaw. When they saw a chance at a new life and economic freedom, they took it. I recently said this to one tourist and she asked, "How important was religion to the early settlers?" This is a complicated question that is best answered by the settlers themselves. So, I dove into these early letters to understand this better myself.
Though Frankenmuth is probably the most well-known German settlement in the region, it wasn’t the only one. In fact, there were three other German settlements, one of those being Frankenlust.
If you ever drive North on I-75 or M-84, you may have noticed signs marking “Frankenlust Township.” Wait, why did Germans settle there when Frankenmuth was already fairly well established? Why would they choose to settle 25 miles away? I’m glad you asked!
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