New passport program encourages exploration of Auglaize County’s history

WAPAKONETA — The Auglaize County Historical Society has created a new program to boost interest in local history as part of the 175th anniversary of the county’s founding. The history of Auglaize County is preserved and shared from several historic buildings in the county.

Visitors to the local museums can pick a “My Auglaize County In Motion Passport” at any of the participating county historical sites and museums. Once the passport has been filled out by visiting all eight locations, it can be returned to the historical society for the chance to win one of three gift baskets worth more than $150. The gift baskets have books, commemorative coins, gift certificates spices and more merchandise. The program will run from May to October of this year.

The Wapakoneta Museum is housed in what was the First Presbyterian Church of Wapakoneta. Many people from the community remember attending preschool in the building. The volunteer on duty, Linda Knerr, was one of those individuals who had that connection.

“All of my children attended preschool here,” Knerr said as she gave a tour of the exhibits on display.

Knerr also had a first-hand memory of the jail cell on display in the museum from the first police station in Wapakoneta. She had a relative who lived in the original police station with his family when he was sheriff.

“When I was younger, I asked my sister-in-law where the metal door in their home went. I was told it was the women’s cellblock,” she explained, “which was directly attached to sheriff’s family bedrooms on the second floor of the building.”

Knerr has been volunteering for about two years. In her experience, the typical attendance for an open Sunday at the museum is five to six people, usually couples. She said the new passport program might boost attendance.

Also on display at the Wapakoneta Museum is a locally built observatory and telescope. that belonged to Jacob Zink. Zink built the silo-shaped building on top of his garage. Knerr shared more information about the many industries that called Wapakoneta home in the past, including a toy maker and a buggy manufacturer.

Two other locations in the passport are the houses of the New Bremen Historical Society. The Pape and the Luelleman Houses are both on North Main Street in New Bremen and were open for the fourth Sunday of the month. Volunteers at both sites shared what they could about the new passport program with the hope that it will boost outreach and interest in the community for local history.

Mary, the volunteer and New Bremen Historical Society member who was working at the Luelleman House, said that attendance is pretty spotty, but that the New Bremen school system brings in classes of elementary students during the school year to see the town’s history.

The hope shared by all the volunteers at the open historical society sites was that the passport would be a catalyst to encourage the community to engage with their history.