Night at the Museum with Catharine Poole

By Paige Nash

The Dorcheat Historical Museum hosted their first “Night at the Museum” for 2023 on Monday evening, March 13. Many guests arrived early with arms full of refreshments to add to the “Potluck” spread that was thoroughly enjoyed in between fellowship before the speaker made her way to the podium.  

Catharine Poole visited to speak about the Germantown Colony Museum and the rich history dating back to 1835, when colonists first arrived from Germany with their leader, Maximilian Bernard Ludwig, who also referred to himself as Count Leon and a self-proclaimed prophet. He was impelled by the notion that the second coming of Christ was near and that his “New Jerusalem” needed to be established on the same geographical latitude as Jerusalem in Palestine.  

“Many descendants of the colonists still reside in the Minden area and North Louisiana,” said Poole.  

Poole read the “Germantown History” previously written by Susie Lester, a Germantown descendant who dedicated her time to volunteering at the museum before her passing last year.  

The article retold the story of the Germantown Colony group’s travels by boat and raft, experiencing loss of valued possessions and life along the way due to floods and yellow fever. The survivors eventually found their way to Dorcheat Bayou where they traveled north to what was then considered Claiborne Parish but would later become Webster Parish.  

After purchasing and settling the land, the colonists erected many buildings, including a school and general store on the property. They grew crops and raised livestock. Following strict articles of the renewed Christian Church, each colonist worked daily to preserve their spiritual and bodily welfare.  

Poole said, “They believed the second coming of Christ was near, at least within the next two decades.”  

The community thrived for 36 years before they disbanded in 1871 following the Civil War and the financial troubles that accompanied it. The Krouse family were the only ones who remained to care for the older colonists that were too old to make another journey, until their passing. 

Descendants of the Krouse family made the decision to donate the Germantown Colony property to the Webster Parish Police Jury in 1973, which is now the Germantown Colony Musuem.  

Avid museum volunteer John Sanders also shared and passed around a framed handwritten letter from President Andrew Jackson to the Count de Leon proceeding his travels in September of 1831. Jackson expressed his delight in Count Leon’s plans to voyage to the United States and guaranteed prosperity, happiness and protection of person and property. 

Many books and items are on display at the museum including the letter from Jackson. Tourists who visit will be able to go inside original buildings that remain, including the Countess Cottage, Goentgen Cottage and the kitchen-dining hall. Replicas of the smoke house and blacksmith shop stand in place of the original buildings.  

The Germantown Colony Museum is now open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. They will be hosting the 2023 Bluegrass Festival that will be held at the Minden Fairgrounds on April 15. A trolley will be available to transport festival goers from the fairgrounds to the museum throughout the day. This amenity will be included with your ticket purchase.  

“Last year was the first year we had the festival in ten years, and it was a huge success,” said Poole. “It really is a lot of fun. I encourage everyone to come out and bring their families.” 

The Dorcheat Museum will be hosting their second speaker of the year on April 10, featuring Minden native and author Randy Grigsby.  

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