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Trunks to be featured at museum

Staff writer

A trunk brought to America from Crimea by Heinrich and Maria Froese in 1875 is one of 18 that will be on display in the historic schoolhouse at the museum complex in Hillsboro.

As immigrants prepared to leave their homes in the Old World and move to the New in the 1870s, they carefully packed trunks with their most important possessions.

Built as a dowry chest for a young girl, the Froese trunk is made of varnished and grained fir with dovetail joints. With molding along the base and lid, the trunk has forged iron strap hinges, lock, and handles and has brass bolt caps on the lid.

The exterior is decorated with Corinthian columns at the corners and two red roses on the front. It is the only one in the collection with a traditional five-footed swagged base.

The Froeses lived near Buhler. The trunk was donated to Tabor College in 1930 and given to the museum in 1958, when Adobe House was moved to Hillsboro.

Another trunk was brought from Ukraine to Kansas in 1874 by Peter and Elisabeth Lohrenz. They and seven married children came along with 1,500 members of the Alexanderwohl Church group.

The Lohrenzes bought a section of land and divided it among their children, each family getting 80 acres. Their grandson, H.W. Lohrenz, was the first president of Tabor College.

In the book “Mennonite Furniture,” an immigrant named Abraham Claassen wrote about how the trunks were handled when a family got to America.

“Until now most of the chests had stood up quite well,” he wrote, “but here every worker had an iron hook with a wooden handle, and chests were thrown end-over-end.

“Our chests arrived in pretty good shape. On my wife’s chest the bottom was jarred loose somewhat. On mine, the strip on top got a mighty jar, and the ornamental plates on top are dented, although bound in a horse blanket, the blue robe, and a double-canvas cover.”

When the museum unveils the collection at 10 a.m. July 1, Mayor Delores Dalke will welcome guests. Refreshments will include roasted zwieback to dunk in milk and eat, just as Mennonite immigrants did on ships. Grand opening admission will be by donation.

Information about families, including photos of some original owners, stories about their voyages, passenger manifests, their poetry, and census records will be provided.

Activities for families and kids will include packing and decorating a trunk to imagine their own trip to the New World.

Most trunks come from Hillsboro, but others are from Durham, Lehigh, Goessel, Buhler, and Inman. One even comes from Henderson, Nebraska. Most of the owners were Mennonites, but some were Lutherans and German Baptists.

One trunk was owned by Heinrich and Diantha Goertz, parents of Norton Goertz, longtime owner of a funeral home and furniture store in Hillsboro. Also on display will be several trunks used by the William and Ida Schaeffler family in travels to Europe.

Visitors will see craftsmanship including fine dovetail joints, handmade hinges, exterior painting, and pictures and letters pasted inside the trunk as decoration.

The David F. Wiebe Memorial Fund is supporting the exhibit. It will run through September.

Regular museum hours are 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays.

Tours may be arranged for other times by calling (620) 947-3775. Other than the grand opening admission by donation, regular admission rates are $5 for adults and $3 for students. Pre-schoolers are admitted free.

Hillsboro Museums Visitors Center is located at S. Memorial Drive and W. D St.

Last modified June 22, 2017

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