Key Defining Moments in Frankenmuth’s History with Dan Haubenstricker
Every long standing company, institution, city is filled with key decisions that define who they are today. Frankenmuth is no exception. Dan Haubenstricker, of the St. Lorenz Heritage Committee, delves into three of these pivotal decisions that helped create the Frankenmuth that we all know and love today.
Subscribe to Our Newsletter to Get Great Episodes Delivered To Your Inbox!
Frankenmuth is one of the top tourist and family destinations in the state of Michigan. Known throughout the world, this exciting city is known for creating wonderful memories for generations of people from all walks of life. From retail shops, indoor dining to outdoor dining and outdoor sporting activities, there’s something for everyone at Michigan’s Little Bavarian. Start planning your next trip at Frankenmuth.org.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:00:12] Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the call of leadership podcast, where we talk to leaders in our Michigan community who answered the call of leadership. Well, hear their stories and get their advice so we can be better leaders for ourselves, our families, and in our communities. I am your host Cliff DuVernois.
And today I have the unique privilege and honor of speaking with somebody who really knows the history. Of Frankenmuth as a community, as a city, a his knowledge and the depth of what he can talk with us and share with us today truly is astounding. I’ve only talked to him for a half an hour and my, my job has been hanging open the entire time.
Ladies and gentlemen, please. Welcome to the show. Dan Haubenstricker. Dan, how are you?
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:00:58] I’m fine, cliff. Good to be here.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:01:00] So let’s talk a little bit about where are you from? Where did you grow up?
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:01:04] I grew up right here in Frankenmuth township on junction road.
So not even a mile away from the church here.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:01:12] Excellent. And what, what drew you to start to study the history of Frankenmuth.
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:01:20] It was always fascinating to me about German immigrants, about the native American culture that was here, that they interacted with. this is my congregation st. Lorenz that began as a mission here, which grew into a community called Franklin and moot or Frankenmuth in English.
And it just, it’s just always been my interest.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:01:43] Excellent. And you have you, you got involved with the Frankenmuth heritage
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:01:52] It’s the st. Lorenz heritage committee. So it’s it’s church related.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:01:57] How did you get involved with that organization?
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:01:59] Well, They’re always looking for younger people.
And again, this is something that fascinates me. I can read German, I can speak German. A lot of these early records and books are in German. So it’s, it’s fascinating to me.
And what is the purpose of the st Lorenz heritage committee?
So the heritage committee is to collect and preserve and display.
Artifacts relating to the settlers, their immigration to get here. the Chippewa culture that was here prior to them, the mission work that happened between the two groups and then how this grew into a community into a very large congregation called st. Lorenz Lutheran church.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:02:44] What I would like to do is, and I do want to spend some time really talking about the, the history.
Frankenmuth and I’d love to talk about some of the, some of the key pivotal decisions that were made, whether it’s by one person or whether it was by a city that really helped to shape Frankenmuth as what we know of it today. So to give us a little bit of frame of reference, why don’t you talk to us about the, the, the history, like when the first German settlers got here, take us back to that point.
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:03:18] Can I go before that point?
Cliff Duvernois: [00:03:20] Oh, please do.
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:03:21] So you have the 1840s were Ohio, Indiana, Michigan are being settled.
They’re still territories at this point.
Michigan became a state in 1837. I think it was a state or anything, but so among these settlers were people from the Eastern part of the U S but a lot of them were European immigrants.
A lot of them were German immigrants. These Germans were scattered all over. Didn’t have pastors or teachers that knew that German language to teach their children. And so they wrote letters back home to Germany saying. Help us. We want to teach our children the faith, but we don’t have anyone trained to do that.
And there were mission societies in Germany who took it on as their project to train people and come to the United States, often the Midwest to minister to these German immigrants and bring them together in the congregations.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:04:19] And so that was the, that was the precipice to start getting more of these, I guess the German missionaries to start to settle in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana.
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:04:32] Right. And so because so many people were leaving Germany at that time in the 1840s, this pastor in a little village called . Oh, pastor Lee. Who’s the name is on the street across from us. He thought, why not organize them here in Germany already so that they can immigrate together, traveled together by their land together and form a community and a congregation, right from the start rather than by accident.
And why not place that settlement near a population of native Americans? To have that first settlement serve as a mission.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:05:13] So it was that it was that basic idea led to moved to being founded.
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:05:21] Yes. Here. Yes. And, and so these, these, the German mission societies were communicating with immigrants in America.
On getting suggestions. How do we do this? Where should we go? And there was a pastor Schmidt in the Ann Arbor area who they corresponded with who’s who recommended this Saginaw Valley area of Michigan as being well suited for farming. And that the lands were now available for purchase because there had been treaties with the, with the tribe
Cliff Duvernois: [00:05:56] And also too, that this area here had a large population of the Chippewa Indians.
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:06:04] I wouldn’t say large, but there were, they were here. there was a village farther down this just go the road. But again, the, the, the chipper was, were nomadic. They weren’t, they were always moving with the seasons with the, with the harvests and the hunts and the fishing. But yes, there were scattered settlements on the, all of these rivers in this area.
The cast, Wasi the sack and on. So on.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:06:31] So as, as you and I are conducting this interview, we’re sitting inside of the church museum, just across the street from st. Lorenz.
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:06:40] Lorenz,
Cliff Duvernois: [00:06:41] Lorenz, sorry from st. Lorenz. I just saw that I saw Lorenzo and I’ve just been calling that every time from st.
Lorenz. So for our audience members, when this museum does open up, you really should make it a point to get over here and see it because this museum is steeped in so much history. You can, you can smell it. You can see it, you can touch it. It, it is truly, truly amazing. Why did the initial settlers pick.
That spot for the st. Lorenz Church.
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:07:10] So they bought a lot of land together, so that it was contiguous and. They followed.
so, so they got us for a Saginaw, which was a small settlement. The men left Saginaw to clear an area for settlement here. So you need to come with a land surveyor to show you where is your land that you’ve bought? there were Indian trails through the forest, and so they had all of this land and right away, they knew that they would allocate land.
For the church for the Chippewa mission for the congregation’s use as well as for the private settlers properties and farms that they would start.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:07:57] Now, you were also saying too, before this interview and this to me, I found absolutely fascinating to Scola road going up and down here that used to be a Chippewa trail,
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:08:09] As far as I understand. Yes. It’s parallel to the Cass river. So it makes sense. there was, an Indian village of the chip, or Tossin that’s farther to the East of Frankenmuth. And so it just makes sense that when you start with nothing, you, you use the trail that’s there just to start from, and, and you, and you settle where you’re near a river and you settled where you’re near up.
A stream for drinking water and you want some ground that’s up high so that it stays dry
Cliff Duvernois: [00:08:40] from there,
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:08:42] with
Cliff Duvernois: [00:08:43] The st. Lauren’s church, that’s, that’s being built in one of the conversations that you had. And again, this was something else that I found really fascinating is that there was seem to be a disagreement between the pastor and the parishioners between how to lay out the land. and it had to deal with how it was done in Germany, which the pastor, the first pastor of st.
Lorenz Church was. Fresh off the boat from
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:09:11] Germany
Cliff Duvernois: [00:09:11] versus a lot of the, the German settlers that were in the area. Talk to us a little bit about the dynamic of how houses were being settled around the church at that time and how farms were being set up.
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:09:24] So already before they emigrated the year before 1844, they had meetings in Noida and Dallas out to discuss their, their church constitution and regulations, how they would conduct themselves. And so the vision of the pastor had been that we would create or recreate our subtle. In a pattern similar to what they were familiar with in Germany, where the church is the center of the village, the farmers live in homes right around the church and then their lands and their animals are out beyond that.
and when the sutlers did all of their traveling to finally get to Michigan across the United States, they saw that the typical American farm subtle pattern was that each farm house. Was a loan on its own farm, which to the settlers made more sense because they had all this work to do to clear land and to plant crops and to, to raise animals.
And it would just be so much easier to do it when you’re living right on your land. So that was a disagreement between the pastor’s vision and the settlers. And ultimately the conclusion was. This isn’t a religious question. This is more of a community settlement question. and so I guess they agreed to disagree and, and, build their farm homes accordingly then on their own land.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:10:58] And one of the things that I want to make sure during this interview, as I, as I want it, I want to kind of showcase these, I guess you could say these decision points, even if it was something that the community made that has kind of really shaped Frank with, as we know it today that I would consider to be one there’s another event that took place.
Because as, as we all know, when you said before that the pastor of the church wanted the church, kinda like to be the center of town, And anybody who has looked at a map of Franklin with the van through Frankenmuth realized that that’s really not the case. The center of town is actually away from here.
So talk to us a little bit about what was going on that kind of started making everybody move towards a main street.
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:11:42] Sure. And of course there wasn’t a main street there. Right? This, this Indian path really was Franklin was first road. If you could even call it a road, but after just a few years, you had more skilled people immigrating here who could build.
Projects such as mills and stores and a dam for water power. And right here in the area of st. Lorenz Church, the river Valley is very broad. You can’t build a dam because of the broad flood, plain. It wouldn’t hold back the water efficiently, but where the city of Franklin with now is, and main street crosses the cache river.
There were two steep banks on both sides of the river that just made it a very logical place to put a dam there. And that gives you power so that you can do milling and sawing. And so you have the beginnings of some businesses there and it’s natural for other businesses to then grow in that area. Even though most of the population was still farming.
And there wasn’t really much of a town. You have some people living in that area near these first businesses.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:13:01] And what, what year, or what decade would you kind of put your thumb on and say that this took place during this time?
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:13:10] I think it’s still the late 1840s. It was, it was quite smooth.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:13:13] Oh, wow. Building dams. Oh, excellent.
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:13:16] Cause again, you had an 1846, the second year of the settlement. You had almost a hundred immigrants coming here and each year thereafter more and more are coming. And so there’s more opportunities for, for people with skills, such as shoemaking or dressmaking and, you’re brewing. And in things like that,
Cliff Duvernois: [00:13:40] so one of the things that I would like to talk about is we’re, we’re kind of talking about how first this was religious settlement, which kind of turned into, you know, decision by community. Now we seem to be having a commerce, which is now. Building up alongside of the river downtown, but anybody will tell you that the Frankenmuth that we see today is heavy on the tourism side, restaurants, hotels.
At some point, when you have all these people that are working down there, creating these jobs, we’re now, you know, for lack of a better term, starting to become industrial. So to speak, people are coming into towns. They’re given jobs, given jobs. When did we start seeing. Hotels restaurants, things of that nature, starting to appear down there by the businesses.
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:14:32] The Zehnder’s restaurant and the Bavarian restaurant date way back to hotels of the horse and buggy era. So the 18 hundreds, I think back to the 1850s, because back then roads were bad.
It was all by horse and carriage. You can only travel so far in one day. And at the end of your day, you need a place to stay overnight. You need a barn for your horse. You need to be fed, your horse needs to be fed. And then the next day you leave and continue your journey. And so we were a stop in the North South travel of Michigan’s pioneer era.
And so hospitality was here very early already, but it was a form of. what we called hotels, where the first floor was the, the bar, the, what you call a restaurant now, and then the rooms were all upstairs.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:15:33] with hospitality being so early on in the DNA of Frankie moot, as we. You know, as we know
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:15:42] it,
Cliff Duvernois: [00:15:42] is there another one of these points that you can think of that has really had an impact on modern day Frankenmuth? As we know it,
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:15:49] I would say education is also very important to the community and it began with this mission to the Chippewa Indians was the first school that the congregation set up.
Where was trilingual that was Chippewa German and English. And then as the population increased and more immigrants came, it turned into a system of one room school houses, which were church operated, but then you needed public school houses separated by state law. And so you had still left the Frankenmuth.
Children up through the 1930s, certainly were being educated in both German and English. And so I think it created a natural desire for education and education was very important. Certainly religious education, many local. People were encouraged strongly to become Lutheran teachers, Lutheran pastors, and then the public school of Franklin with the public school system and the st.
Lorenz school system, both, both grew in quality and in rec and in, recognition. And so that attracted more people to come to live here that weren’t German. That didn’t grow up here, but they found the community attractive. They found the spirit of festivals and, and community projects. They found that inviting and vape brought their own contributions to our community then as well.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:17:30] So it sounds like just based on our very brief, brief conversation here, that a lot of what has shaped and with today really has been in its DNA from the very beginning you’ve got. You’ve got the religious aspect.
On one hand, you’ve got the hospitality business that moved right in here very shortly thereafter. And then probably one of the primary reasons for the religious aspect was the educational system and making sure that that educational system was the best that it could be.
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:18:02] Sure. I would agree with that. Sometimes when you live here all your life, you don’t. See the big picture where as a person, like you might, it might be more obvious to
Cliff Duvernois: [00:18:12] you’re putting me on a pretty high pedestal right there.
Hey everyone. When we come back, we’re going to talk about the decision that seemed to really impact the city of Frankenmuth. As we know it today, including how to stop all that flooding that’s submerged over half of Frankenmuth, nearly every single year. But before we do that, let’s take a moment to thank our sponsors.
Freeway DecisionTell us a little bit more about some of the, some of the decisions that have kind of shaped from that point forward that you can think of that has helped to establish Franklin with, as we know it today.
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:19:44] Well, I would say first, first of all, when I, 75 was planned. As a highway, the area people here realized that now Frank with is not going to be on the main North, South route anymore.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:20:01] this would be probably what the 1950s? Yes. Okay.
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:20:05] This is my rough guess. And so these business people and their families, and so on start thinking, what will we do?
To get the traffic off of ice and in to little of Frankenmuth and visit us. How do we make ourselves special enough to do that? Well, so the idea was let’s have a festival let’s highlight our heritage. Let’s have the buildings reflect the German heritage of Frank and Louis settlers. Let’s let’s have a German menu at the restaurant, the Bavarian Inn.
And with that thought also, and I forget which air this happened, what, but a dam was built on the cache river, or I’m sorry, a Dyke mistake. A dike was built along the cache river to stop the annual spring flooding of downtown Frank and both because why invest in Morgan improvements if every year it floods.
And you needed a boat people into your business, right? So that was a major decision that the community had to invest in a dike to safeguard their early town settlement area. And the second choice or decision a big decision was how do we market and develop Frankenmuth? To keep people visiting us. Once I, 75 is taking the traffic past us.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:21:37] you know what, it’s interesting you say that because I remember reading, it was, it was an article from many moons ago talking about how that this was a problem that, and everybody knows route 66, but this is a problem that they faced along route 66, when the freeways came along, a lot of these little towns die. Because they were so used to having people stop it along the way, restaurants, hotels, whatever it is, shut down because people were taking the, the expressway because it was, you know, it was just faster. You get from point a to point B when you’re talking about the flooding and the Dyke, that was, I’m trying to get a visual in my mind.
Cause I, these days I don’t ever, I don’t ever think about Franklin with flooding. If you’re coming down main street in Frankenmuth, There’s a spot just past test. Scola where there’s, there’s a pretty good dip down in that area there where you have, where you have provosts and the Fisher Playhouse you’ve got the end you’ve got senders.
Is, was this area that you’re talking about that would flood,
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:22:34] that was all flooded?
Yes, that would, that would typically flood. And so there are old pictures where you see people in row belts who are ferrying in people to our restaurant. The floor is high enough, but the street is flooded. And so it’s almost like a little Venice going on there for a short time of, of, the spring season.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:22:56] who I would love to see those photos.
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:22:58] it’s pretty cool. And, and a lot of times people never took a picture of main street. Franklin was, but when it flooded, well, then you’ve got your camera out and you did take a picture of it.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:23:09] You know,
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:23:09] It looks different.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:23:10] Yeah. Yes.
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:23:12] If I, if I can digress a little bit to the decision with and the Frankenmuth showing off its heritage, that was somewhat risky because this is the 1950s.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:23:27] very popular in the
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:23:28] we just, we just had a devastating world war with Germany as our enemies. We just went through an era in our country where the German language and books and culture were not favored. They were, they were looked at, looked at as the enemy property. And so it took some guts. I think, to decide we can, we can make this work because we’re a German American community.
We have American values and German heritage. we S we are speaking German here. We have German services. and the other thing was you had a lot of American soldiers after the war stationed in Germany, and the, the part of Germany that the United States occupied was Bavaria. And so that is where Franklin was settlers came from.
So you also had that connection of, Former soldiers who could come to Frank with, to relive a little bit of the German experience they had while stationed,
Cliff Duvernois: [00:24:32] and be able to hear the German and
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:24:35] drink, some beer, sing, some songs, eat some German food..
Cliff Duvernois: [00:24:39] Excellent. Let’s talk a little bit about, let’s talk a little bit about this museum. And I would like to talk a little bit about the log cabin that’s out there. So talk to me just a little bit about, about the history here in the museum. What did this building start out as?
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:24:56] So we think it was built about 1880, which we know is the year that the church was completed, the brick church, in the era of the country, school houses, all the children walked to the closest school.
You had districts where each district had to support and maintain, support the teacher’s salary and maintain the school and the. House that the teacher lived in. And by the time the students were, I forget if it was age 12 or 13, let’s just say roughly eighth grade, they were near the end of their, of their formal education.
And confirmation was the final, right. That made them. Adult members of st. Lorenz con congregation. And so this building, which looks like a school house was the confirmation house or indirects house instruction house, where the pastor gave the confirmation class, their instruction in learning the faith so that they could, take it with them for their adult life.
And so this, this. Building had its wood fired stove and it would have had rows of desks and benches for the students to learn from the pastor here for the typically their final year of schooling.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:26:20] And this school here remained active until about
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:26:24] Okay. I’m not sure exactly because the country schools were gradually consolidated into one large central school on main street, near star of the West.
And so when that happened, then this building at some point was not needed anymore as a confirmation instruction. Once everyone was at a central school. Gotcha.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:26:46] About when did, was the decision made to turn this building into a museum?
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:26:53] certainly already by 1944, they were preparing for the hundredth anniversary of the settlement of Frankenmuth in 1945.
And I can imagine that during war years, you have a lot of men who are gone. You have a lot of war effort going on. So it’s amazing that they could also take on a project of creating a museum. And so I think they, they asked for donations from the members of artifacts related to the beginning of Franklin with, and it’s a congregation and schooling.
And so we have lots of family donations and portraits and Arrowhead collections in a furniture. Church furnishings industry. Excellent.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:27:42] Also located on this side of the Strait, there’s a very unassuming log cabin that you could, that you would probably miss driving by, unless you knew it was there. It’s obviously it’s, it’s built by hand. What’s. What is the idea behind that log cabin who built it? Why is it
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:28:05] there? Sure. It’s air replica. I believe built in the 1960s. The instigator was tiny Zehnder, the owner of the Bavarian restaurant. And I think, again, the idea was to show the, the heritage of what was life here when the settlement began. Can we give people a feel and let’s build that replica on the spot where we believe that first, permanent religious structure was built.
We think it was a combined parsonage and church and school, but that’s somewhat debatable, but again, that’s, so it’s on, it’s on an original spot and that’s why it’s set back from the road and a little bit hidden, but there. Right away then there were, tours of Franklin that you could take, which would then, debark, is that the right word or all are here and tour the st.
Lorenz Church and tour, the log house and see the, the bells that were brought by the settlers in 1845.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:29:09] speaking of which. The bells that are out there. Tell us a little bit, tell us a little bit about why they’re, why the bells are even here. Where did they come from?
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:29:18] Sure. there were mission societies in Germany that it’s definitely, we’re trying to encourage the, settlement of Frankenmuth as well as missionaries and pastors of teachers in the Midwest of the U S.
And so these two bells were cast in Nuremberg, Germany. Which would be the largest city of Franconia, the area that these settlers came from and they were, they were up present to these first settlers and the one bell has on it, a figure of the Saint, Saint Lorenz with a Latin inscription. And so these bells were rung daily, because that’s how people knew it was time to start walking to church for a service.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:30:04] all that’s totally cool. A gift from her there. And I couldn’t even. And when were these sent over here? Approximately?
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:30:10] They weren’t sent, they were brought over with the first 15 settlers, these besides their own personal effects that they had to bring over here. They also had, they had a crucifix that was given to them.
They had these two bells, So that was, those were heavy items to get from New York Harbor to a place called Frankenmuth that doesn’t even exist yet until you get there.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:30:37] And how much do you think one of those bells ways?
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:30:39] I have no idea,
Cliff Duvernois: [00:30:41] Probably hundreds upon hundreds of pounds. Then that’s really amazing. When you think about the fact that at the time, when this place was settled, roughly about back in the 1840s,
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:30:52] 1845 is when those bells in the first settlers arrived here at
Cliff Duvernois: [00:30:56] 1845 that those bells were shipped on a boat across the Atlantic. There’s no power boat, it’s all sail. So we’re talking months upon months, and then having to come down through
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:31:08] the great lakes and our river, and then finally a trail through the forest.
Cliff Duvernois: [00:31:13] That’s awesome. Dan, if somebody wants to learn more about the history of Frankenmuth, maybe they’re even thinking they’d like to get involved with the st. Lorenz st. Lorenz heritage committee. I got it right. What’s the best way for them to do that.
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:31:29] So let’s say you don’t live here, but you’re visiting with, I would say definitely visit.
Frank with historical museum on main street at the bottom of the Hill, that gives a great overview starting with the immigrant journey in 1845 and how the settlement changed from a mission to the Chippewas into a small town and, and how it kept growing to the present time. So for a visitor, that definitely is the place to start and get the full depth.
Of the experience. Nice. And then here at st. Lorenz, when we’re not in a COVID situation, we love to give tours to groups of people, whether they come in bosses or just a couple of people in a car, we have a committee that is set up to show them these historic parts and our present church building. When things are back to the new normal
Cliff Duvernois: [00:32:26] when things are back to the new normal. I love that.
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:32:29] Dan,
Cliff Duvernois: [00:32:30] thank you so much for being on the podcast today. I I’ve really learned a lot. It’s really opened my eyes to,
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:32:36] to
Cliff Duvernois: [00:32:37] to this, this community and my time spending it here with, with all these, these wonderful people in your community. it’s just added a whole new layer.
So. Thank you so much for being on the podcast today.
Dan Haubenstricker: [00:32:47] I’m glad I could be here to see where everything began.
Glad to be here.
About The Host
About The Host
Cliff is the host of “The Call of Leadership” podcast. He has published over 500 short stories over Facebook, Medium and LinkedIn. He is a passionate lifelong learner, marketer and philanthropist. He currently lives in Reese, Michigan with his fiancé Sherry and her two children.