Sharing Living History

March 26, 2024

“I grew up hearing my grandmother’s stories. Her mother and grandfather experienced the battle of Gettysburg and the days following. I grew up learning our nation’s history through family stories,” says Lou Ann Miller, a Garden Spot Village resident since August 2020. Lou Ann grew up in the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where history surrounded her.

Those early conversations and stories shaped Lou Ann’s perspective.

“When you grow up hearing all of that history, it stays with you,” Lou Ann says. “I’m proud to be an American. Men in my family fought in every war since the Revolutionary War. Talking about their lives and the sacrifices they made and the sacrifices the women in my family made gives me a sense of purpose and appreciation for our freedom.”

Lou Ann’s passion for history followed her as a junior high teacher. She diligently brought history to life for her students.

A career educator and administrator, Lou Ann still brings history to life. Today, she shares the story of Maria Margaretha Kretcherin Kinzer through first-person storytelling. She assumes Maria’s persona and shares New Holland’s history through this young mother’s eyes.

Lou Ann says, “Maria was a typical German-speaking woman who immigrated to the New World in the 1700s. She’s nothing special; she’ll never be in a textbook or in a movie. She endured a strenuous journey—five to six weeks on a boat. One of her young children died on the boat. That’s pain, that’s suffering, but she persevered. She and her husband settled in New Holland. She died in 1800 at the age of 89. She saw tremendous change in this area. She endured the hardships of moving here, settling in this vast land. She survived! By the time she died in 1800 we were a nation. Her story is the story of us.”

The first time Lou Ann told Maria’s story was part of a cemetery tour with the New Holland Area Historical Society. Lou Ann was one of several storytellers who told the stories of people who lived and died in New Holland. After the event, Lou Ann continued her research on Maria and was delighted to discover that she was a distant ancestor.

“It almost took my breath away when I found out she was related to me,” Lou Ann remembers.

Because she had all the costumes and props, Lou Ann began to share Maria’s story with others. She did presentations for the New Holland Women’s Club, the National Society of the Daughters of the American Colonists, Daughters of the American Revolution and other historical societies across the region.

She presents for free, only asking to be reimbursed for her travel expenses. “I don’t do this to make money,” Lou Ann says. “I do this because I want people to appreciate the people who founded our nation. They were human; they made mistakes. Maria wasn’t perfect. I don’t want her to be perfect. She was human, like the rest of us. Her story is the story of us – who we were and how we got to who we are. Telling her story is a way to honor her and all the other women – whether they were French, English, or German speakers. They came over, they survived, and they built our country.”

If you are interested in meeting Maria or scheduling a time that she can present to your group, contact us.

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