FORT LORAMIE — State Rep. Susan Manchester, R-Waynesfield, 84th District, presented a commendation certificate to Fort Loramie Historical Association president Jim Rosengarten and charter members Tom and Jan Busse Friday, July 23.
Manchester’s visit is part of her district work period, where she gets to meet with people in the district, attend local festivals and gatherings, and connect with the communities in her district.
“This area is so rich when it comes to its history, its connection to Ohio history, and my district is made up of towns like Fort Loramie — that small-town community that supports preserving its heritage and its history, and so I really love being able to come visit and learn more,” Manchester said.
The certificate is in honor of the Fort Loramie Historical Association celebrating its 50th anniversary. The association first began in January 1971 when four residents — J. Fleckenstein, George Martin, Anne Busse and Evelyn Busse — decided that it would be a good idea to make visitors to Fort Loramie more aware of the town and its history. The association was formed with Martin as president, Louise Raterman as first vice president, Evelyn Busse as secretary-treasurer, and Fleckenstein as curator. Also involved were Gary Grimm, assistant curator; Pat Fleckenstein, program and publicity chair; and Edmind Quinlin, site chair. Meetings were originally held at the American Legion, and on June 20, 1971, the association was incorporated with its first board of directors: Thomas “Tom” Busse, chairman; Grimm, Pat Fleckenstein and Henrietta Heckman. The association would move to a small log cabin donated by Mr. and Mrs. Karl Rethman in August of 1971, and then eventually find its home in May of 1973 at 37 N. Main St. in Fort Loramie, where the restaurant, Margaret’s Inn, was housed.
Today, Tom and his wife Janet remain original charter members of the association. According to Tom, the association has grown from 31 members in 1971 to over 120 today, and has evolved beyond its humble beginnings.
“A hell of a lot needed to be done painting-wise. I talked to my wife and we decided, we would buy the paint and I would do the painting. We couldn’t afford it otherwise. There was no kidding about it, to the point where for a little while there, we didn’t know how we were gonna get going,” Tom said.
The association relied on a lot of volunteer work and resources from members to get the Wilderness Trail Museum in shape for visitors; the annual Williamsburg Christmas Fare fundraiser, which has provided the association with 90% of their funding and draws in over 400 patrons every year, started as a Palm Sunday breakfast. Today, the association uses funding from the Christmas dinner fundraiser to maintain the museum; with COVID impacting the dinner in 2020, the association has been able to use funds from a tax levy that passed locally to work on upgrades.
While the association is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, no special events or programs are planned in conjuction with that anniversary in part due to the transition back to “normal” after over a year of the COVID-19 pandemic; the other part, according to Rosengarten, is due to the museum coming up on its 50th anniversary in 2023.
“By that time, all the COVID stuff, hopefully, should be in the past. We’re probably going to do more when it’s for the building, that way, people can come in. Plus, with the 50th anniversary of the museum and the organization being so close, we didn’t want to turn around and repeat it in just a year or two,” Rosengarten said.
The Wilderness Trail Museum is currently open to the public Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. through the end of September, and is open on Tuesday mornings for those doing geneaology research. The museum is also open to individuals or group tours at any time by appointment. To make an appointment, contact 937-295-3998.
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