Museums preserve history, prepare the future

Ray Spitzenberger

Just a few weeks ago I became a member of the Dime Box Heritage Society and Museum.

The Dime Box Heritage Society opened the museum in 1998. As one who loves history and my personal ethnic heritage, I’m surprised I was so late in joining. After all, I’ve been a member of the Texas Wendish Heritage Society since not long after it evolved from the Texas Wendish Culture Club into the Texas Wendish Heritage Society, sometime after 1971, with its museum.

I can’t remember when I first became a member of the Wharton County Historical Museum, but I’ve been a member for a reasonably long time; the museum having been founded in 1979 and having moved to its present location in 1990. I moved to Wharton in 1966 and to East Bernard in 1975, so I’ve been a Wharton County resident longer than the museum has existed. I love our county museum, and I am very proud of it. After all, I’ve lived in Wharton County 56 years, 33 years longer than I lived in Lee County.

With my fervent interest in history, I would become a supporting member of every museum in Texas if I had the financial means, but I don’t. So I have chosen to support, as much as I am able to (which is not very much) the three museums that mean the most to me. I love the motto of the Dime Box Heritage Museum: “Preserving yesterday and today for tomorrow.” The past is vitally important because it determines today and the future.

The Dime Box population has remained just under 500 folks for many years, so I think it’s amazing that they have done such a good job creating a heritage museum. I’m sure the same people were involved in preserving and permanently displaying the famous Moses Bridge (also called the Black Bridge). The museum is open several days a week, and tours can be scheduled by phone. They are getting bigger and better. Some of the happiest history in my life happened in Dime Box.

The population of Serbin, Texas, hasn’t grown much either, but the Texas Wendish Heritage Museum located there continues to expand. Its purpose is to preserve the history of the Texas Wends (aka Sorbs), Slavic immigrants from Lusatia, Saxony, who established a town and a Lutheran church in the 1800s. The museum is housed in a splendid structure, with a library, bookstore, and permanent exhibits, log buildings, and St. Paul Lutheran Church grace the grounds.

Two of my great-grandfathers immigrated to Serbin in 1860 and 1870, so the museum contains not only Texas history but also the history of my forebears.

Life in Wharton County completes the history of my life, so a county that holds a very special place in my heart.

The Wharton County Museum was founded in 1979, moved to its present location in 1990, grew and improved enormously over the years, but hit a setback in 2017 when Hurricane Harvey slammed the Gulf Coast. Although there was terrible damage and destruction from flood waters, folks of Wharton County did not let the museum die.

This superb museum (which also houses the 20th Century Technology Museum) was restored and then reopened to the public on June 17, 2021. It is now back in full swing, and the Wharton Garden Club is once again having their regular meetings there. So thankful for the great comeback!

My mission these days seems to be to convince people of the great importance of preserving and learning from history. Museums are a good place to start.

Ray Spitzenberger is a retired WCJC teacher, a retired LCMS pastor, and author of three books, It Must Be the Noodles, Open Prairies, and Tanka Schoen.

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