Historical society to create exhibit on German and Latino immigrants to Lenawee County

This photo from the Lenawee County Historical Museum archives shows the Adrian Cardinals, a Latino baseball team from the 1960s.

This photo from the Lenawee County Historical Museum archives shows the Adrian Cardinals, a Latino baseball team from the 1960s.

The Lenawee County Historical Society has received an $18,000 grant from the Michigan Humanities Council for a new museum exhibit focusing on the German and Latino populations in Adrian.

The grant is part of about $600,000 awarded to 26 Michigan organizations through the MHC’s Heritage Grants program.

Ray Lennard, a member of the Lenawee County Historical Society board, said there are many interesting stories to tell about both immigrant groups, but the historical museum doesn’t have much material on either group.

The story of German communities in Lenawee County begins around the 1830s, Lennard said, with a strong influx to the northern part of the county. The area where the Adrian Post Office now stands was once called Dutch Hill, and it was a German-speaking enclave for many years — centered largely around St. John’s Lutheran Church at the corner of Church and Locust, which was originally called the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Adrian, Michigan. (That structure still stands today, and is now the home of the Reformed Baptist Church of Lenawee.)

Lennard said the height of the German community in Adrian was around the 1880s; there was even a German-language business directory published. The county’s German communities didn’t really start to Americanize until World War I, spurred by the anti-German sentiment of the time.

The story of Latino immigrants to Lenawee County begins in the 1900s and 1910s, Lennard said, with migrant workers coming to harvest sugar beets in the Blissfield area. A wave of permanent settlement came after the auto industry got a good foothold in Detroit, creating jobs with auto parts suppliers all across the region.

The Lenawee County Historical Museum’s files include a photo of the Adrian Cardinals, a Hispanic baseball team in the 1960s. Lennard said that’s the kind of information the museum is hoping to gather more of.

Lennard said he thinks the exhibit will be “eye-opening.”

“I think there’s a lot of things people don’t realize about the contributions people in both groups made,” he said.

The project will be led by Amy Johnson, a recent Adrian College graduate. Lennard said work will probably begin in June, with the goal of having an exhibit on display at the museum around early September.

Lennard said the museum is looking for any information or materials people might have that could be useful for the exhibit.

The Lenawee County Historical Museum, which is a nonprofit organization funded by donations, is located at 110 E. Church St. The museum can be reached at 517-265-6071 or lenaweemuseum@yahoo.com.