I was blessed with the opportunity to listen in on a fascinating discussion at the Lutheran Heritage Center & Museum today. We had a visit from Dr. Stan Sides and his wife, Kay. Dr. Sides apparently has a passion for studying geology and participating in the study of caves. He came to us with a question today. He was curious about the springs that are located in the area that was once called Seelitz. In the early years of the German settlement in this area, many people died in the area of Seelitz as a result of cholera, a waterborne disease. He was wondering where the Seelitz cemetery was located in relation to these springs, thinking that the possibility of disease-carrying corpses being buried near the underground water may have contributed to more loss of life there. As it turns out, he came to the conclusion that this was not the case, but the discussion was so very interesting.
First of all, let me remind you that the Seelitz community was one of the settlements begun when the settlers first arrived. Its pastor was Rev. Ernst Moritz Buerger, who was only in Perry County for a short time. The Seelitz community never did develop the way its first inhabitants had hoped, partly because so much disease and death occurred there. The surviving people eventually became part of the Altenburg community.
Our own experts, Lynn Degenhardt and Gerard Fiehler, took part in this discussion. Lynn and Gerard were able to add their many stories to the discussion. Lynn grew up in the Seelitz area, and his family owns the property where the springs are located.
Dr. Sides brought some topographical maps with him of this area. It gave us all a different perspective of our area which we do not often get. We so often focus on the history of this area, but do not often get to talk about its geological features. The area near the river is full of caves and springs that have been explored by spelunkers for many years.
And what would a discussion of Seelitz be without talking about Stephansberg. Stephansberg was a large hill located in Seelitz, on top of which Rev. Martin Stephan had hoped to build a magnificent palace from which to “rule” his new “kingdom”. He never saw his dream come true because he was exiled from this community as a result of scandal. Here we see Lynn pointing out the Stephansberg location on the map.
We have a few exhibits in our museum which highlight the Seelitz area. It is another reason for coming to our museum for a visit.