Dozens of Christmas trees on display at Altenburg museum

Monday, December 5, 2011
A scrap ornament from the late 1800s that was made with recycled items from the previous year decorates a tree for the sixth annual “Luther’s Indoor Walk in the Woods” at the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum in Altenburg, Mo. (Fred Lynch)

ALTENBURG, Mo. -- The Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum in Altenburg is celebrating its sixth-annual Luther's Indoor Walk in the Woods this Christmas season with over 40 trees on display.

Among the trees exhibited at the center this year is a German immigrant tree celebrating the 1839 Saxon German immigration; a Scherenschnitte tree featuring German paper ornaments created by the local librarian Kathy Schlimpert; a Perry County tree displaying antique local postcards in German and English; and a "freedom tree" which sits on the corner stone of the now defunct Mack's Chapel, one of the first African-American churches in Missouri.

In addition to the trees, antique toys and collections, most featuring some aspects of German heritage, also fill the museum at 75 Church St.

There is a display of cast iron wagon toys from the collection of Altenburg Postmaster Steve Meier of Jackson and a 1882 one-horse open sleigh. Several other German heritage collections are on display throughout the center.

Visitors also have an opportunity to visit the Altenburg 1885 church/school building attached to the center. Inside is a Chrismons tree featuring ornaments that reflect symbols of Christ. Also a unique blackboard, with chalked drawings of Christmas, is on one wall of the building. When the building was used as a school, children would decorate the blackboard with Christmas scenes each year and this tradition has been carried for over a hundred years.

Carla Jordan, director of the center and owner of C.L. Jordan Preservation Work in Jackson, said visitors to the center have come from all over the world and from every state in the United States.

Gerard Fiehler, a descendant of the original German Saxon immigrants that settled in the area and owner of Altenburg Garage, said seeing the reaction of people when they enter the center at Christmas is "just a fun thing to watch."

"Christmas is a big thing in the German culture," Fiehler said. However, he emphasized, the Christmas season is not the only time they receive visitors. "There are lots of cities bigger than this and don't get this many visitors. One Tuesday last summer we had people come in from seven different states."

One factor that draws people to the center is the newly-created Zion Roots library which is housed in the center. The library is a reading and research room that enables descendants of the original German Saxon immigration to trace their families back to German Parish records. It also helps families find their surnames and locate their German hometowns. Ken Craft of Atlanta created and founded the library.

The center is open every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and admission is free, with the Walk in the Woods display open through Jan. 15, excluding Christmas eve and Christmas Day. Guided tours are available on request, and group meetings can be held there free of charge.

The center and Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg will be part of the Perry, Cape Girardeau and Bollinger county churches on display in the Christmas Country Church Tour from 3 to 9 p.m. Dec. 15 and 16.

Handel's "Messiah" will be performed Jan. 15 at the center.

For more information about the center, call 573-824-6070 or visit

Pertinent address:

75 Church St., Altenburg, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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