Note: Since most of yesterday was taken up with doctor appointments and then a long MRI that started at 6:30 p.m., I’m too tired to write a blog. So here is a repeat of one from 2012 that visitors to the Midwest might enjoy.
Tucked away on a back road just two miles north of busy Interstate 74 in eastern Indiana, the small town of Oldenburg is a charming escape from the fast food restaurants and generic traveler’s services along the highway.
Founded in the late 1830s by a group of German settlers who named the town in honor of their home, the province of Oldenburg in Northern Germany, Oldenburg is home to less than 700 people, and the strong German influence is still evident. Restaurants serve German food, the architecture of many of the buildings reflect an Old World style with their tin facades and cornices, and street signs are in both German and English.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Oldenburg is known as the Village of Spires because of the churches that cluster around the small downtown area. It is amazing how many large churches this small community has!
German Catholics coming from Cincinnati erected the first church, a log building, in 1837. Fr. Franz Joseph Rudolf was appointed Pastor of Oldenburg in 1844. He in turn, invited sister Theresa Hackelmeier to establish the Sisters of St. Francis Community.
At just 24 years old, Sister Theresa sailed from Vienna, Austria to New York, and then traveled down the Erie Canal and Ohio River until she reached Lawrenceburg, Indiana, where she was met by horse and buggy to be taken to Oldenburg. She founded the Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg in 1851, and became Mother Theresa.
The order would teach the German-speaking children of Oldenburg and care for children orphaned by a cholera epidemic that raged through southeastern Indiana in 1847.
The Sisters went on to open numerous schools in the Midwest. Their first school, St, Francis Normal School for Women, was formed in 1851 as a training school for teachers. It later became a four-year, state approved institution known today as Marian College, known for its strong professional programs. The order is still an important part of Oldenburg’s community.
It’s fun just to drive around town, admiring the old buildings. Of the roughly 115 homes in the historic district, 80 were constructed of stone or wood or a combination of the two. Brick structures were not built until after 1858, when the Gehring opened on the south edge of town. Following the Old World tradition, many of the buildings in the community combine a shop on the bottom floor with the owner’s residence upstairs.
Besides the church spires, Oldenburg’s other claim to fame are the 30 or so brightly painted fire hydrants around town that look like everything from farmers and nuns to cartoon characters. There are even posters in the local businesses displaying them. We spent another hour or so cruising around from street to street taking pictures of the hydrants.
The Freudenfest (“fun day”) takes place every year in July and is known as the biggest little German festival in Indiana. Activities range from a pie auction to a beer stein holding endurance contest, wine tastings, games, music, and food. All proceeds from the event go to help preserve Oldenburg’s historic heritage.
In December, during the Holidays Under the Spires Christmas celebration, Christmas cheer takes over the streets. Carolers sing traditional holiday songs, there are sleigh rides, wine tastings and goodwill for all.
There are only a handful of businesses in Oldenburg, but one we enjoyed during our visit was the Brau Haus. The service was very good and the food was excellent, especially the pepper-fried chicken and the sauerkraut balls.
Whether you go for the church spires, the fire hydrants, the good German food, or the festivals, the friendly people of Oldenburg will make you feel welcome anytime you visit.
Thought For The Day – Ignoring the red flags because you want to see the good in people can bite you on the butt.