By Margie Wuebker
MINSTER -- Fifty posters covered with protective plastic tell the story of this Auglaize County community once known far and wide as Stallostown.
Visitors to the 31st annual Minster Oktoberfest will have an opportunity to view the display Saturday and Sunday at the Minster Elementary School gym.
The ambitious project, completed by members of the Louis and Rita Hoying family, took root in 1973. The Rev. David Hoying, then a high school senior, created a display commemorating the 125th anniversary of the construction of the present-day St. Augustine Catholic Church. Memorabilia filled the rectory windows and drew considerable interest from parishioners.
Plans were laid two years later for a festival saluting the rich German heritage of the community and its residents. The Rev. Joseph Pax felt the parish should be part of the celebration with a display and a German Heritage Mass.
"We had information and pictures available so my son's anniversary display grew to 20 cardboard posters," Rita Hoying says with a chuckle. "It kept growing over the years as new posters were added." The display, appropriately called A Walk Through History, occupied a tent at the north end of the festival grounds for many years.
Posters charted Indian paths through the area as well as the Miami-Erie Canal that brought settlers and goods in later years.
"We had some interesting times in the tent," she recalls. "A storm with strong winds came up during the night. I went to the grounds the next morning expected to see the tent down and the contents scattered. Everything was as I had left it."
Rain moved in another year and the tent sprang a leak. Water trickled over the posters and ran across the carefully printed text. A subsequent proposal to relocate the display to the school gym within walking distance of the festival grounds prompted little resistance.
Each poster bears a number denoting its place in historical order. Arrows -- actually the hour and minute hands from an early church clock -- point visitors in the right direction.
Posters share information regarding early settlers who set sail from their native Germany bound for America. Others offer glimpses of what life was like in another era and the growth of St. Augustine from a mission parish to its current twin-spired home.
Another reveals the local ties shared by Kroger Co. founder Bernard H. Kroger, hotel owner Conrad Hilton and Impressionist painter John Joseph Enneking.
Photographs show the church standing at street level prior to a 1922 reconstruction project. Workmen installed flights of Bedford limestone steps due to major alteration of the Hanover Street grade.
Among the more unusual offerings is a raffle ticket from August 1838. The list of "capital prizes" includes a Champion selfbinder valued at $138 and a Kreitzer surrey worth $125. Folks shelling out a dollar per ticket also had an opportunity to win a buggy, farm equipment, a 7-year-old cow and a Durham bull calf. Proceeds were earmarked for church renovations.
The newest addition is an August letter signed by Dr. Reinard Lettmann, bishop of Munster, Germany, on the 120th anniversary of his diocese. It was home to Franz Joseph Stallo and others who left Westphalia to settle in what is now Minster.
"Don't ask me where all of this stuff came from," Hoying says with a sigh. "Some came from relatives and friends; the rest just fell into our hands along the way."
Hosts and hostesses will be on hand to greet visitors during the weekend, as will Hoying.
"I get so busy talking to people I sometimes forget to eat," she admits with a smile. "I like hearing their stories and sharing some of my own."