|A Year of Indiana History - 2016|
From her home in Vienna, Austria, twenty-four year old Mother Teresa Haclkemeier traveled to the hills of Franklin County, Indiana to settle at the town of Oldenburg. During the nine years, she ministered to the town she would establish the Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg, a school and care for orphans.
German immigrants founded Oldenburg, Indiana in 1837, naming it after their native city in Germany. The first settler, William George, arrived with his brother in 1817. They blazed a trail across the southeastern Indiana forests until they arrived at a site on the East Harvey Branch creek. They settled there and for the next twenty years, little changed other than the trees they felled to clear their fields. The flow of German immigrants from Germany increased during this time and many found their way to the new community guided by Father Joseph Ferneding. Father Ferneding was a traveling Catholic missionary that would boats on the Ohio River and persuade German families to come to the developing town. Oldenburg was platted in 1837, with room left for the Catholic Church already under construction. The small log church was called St. Marys. It would form the nucleus of a growing Catholic population that would flavor the town with its unique Germanic culture. That culture lingers into the Twenty-First Century.
Fr. Francis Joseph Rudolf ministered the Oldenburg church and invited Sister Teresa Haclkemeier to come to the community and establish a school to teach and care for the children. A cholera epidemic had ravaged southeast Indiana in 1847, leaving many children as orphans. The young woman responded to the call and traveled alone across the ocean. She traveled from New York via the Erie Canal and the Ohio River. Father Rudulf met her at Lawrenceburg and brought her to Oldenburg. She opened her school in a one-room log cabin at the base of the Oldenburg hill.
Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg
Three other young women soon joined her. These were Sister Michaela, Sister Theresa Dreer and Mother Antonia. These women established a boarding school that housed six children and a school that taught twenty. They also founded the Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg. This Sisterhood established other schools throughout Indiana. The sisters traveled to other towns to teach. They returned each spring to their Oldenburg base for spiritual retreat and to continue their training.
A Year of Indiana History - 2016
© Paul Wonning