By Teresa Jagodzinski
“It’s unique to McLeod County and to Lester Prairie,” explained Liz Schwarze of the McLeod County Historical Museum and Heritage Center.
Schwarze is referring to a display of five wedding dresses all from the same family, but all from different generations, which is currently on display at the museum.
The dresses were worn by the Weise and Kuhlmann families and their descendants.
The styles start with Victorian and go all the way to a present-day style.
The oldest dress was worn by Augusta Kuhlmann when she married Paul Weise in 1901. The dress is pale blue. A headpiece worn by Kuhlmann is also at the museum.
The second dress belonged to their daughter, Rose Weise, when she married Fred Baumann in 1923. Her dress was white satin.
In 1946, Rose’s daughter, Carolyn Baumann, married Bruce Birkholz, and her dress, made of white satin, is the third oldest in the display.
Carolyn’s daughter, Jane Birkholz, married Roy Bach in 1974. Her dress and headpiece were also donated to the museum.
Finally, Kali Bach married Nick Thompson in 2004. The dress she wore completes the display.
The four oldest dresses were donated to the museum, and the fifth one (Kali’s) was loaned to the museum to be included in the display.
The dresses are in very good condition considering the age of the older ones.
“Carolyn (Birkholz) took very good care of things,” Schwarze added.
After her death, her children decided to donate the dresses to the museum, Schwarze explained.
The display will be up until around the first of August.
After that, the four dresses that the museum owns will be packaged, archived, and put in a storage room to use in future displays or events, Schwarze explained.
All five of the couples were wed at the same church. The name of the church has changed through the years from the Evangelical Church of Lester Prairie for the first wedding, to what is now known as the Prairie Evangelical United Church of Christ.
Also, all five of the couples called Lester Prairie their home after they were married.
The Weise and Kuhlmann families are an important part of the history of Lester Prairie, and their name is remembered by many for their hardware business.
According to the Lester Prairie history book (through 1986), the partnership formed by Paul Weise and John Kuhlmann (Weise’s father-in-law) was very successful. They built up their hardware store, and the “business grew in leaps and bounds.”
Schwarze added that it was “the place to shop in McLeod County in the early years.”
Along with the hardware business, the men used their mechanical and inventive abilities to create a milk strainer and a cow stanchion. They worked at the stanchion design until they perfected the Weise and Kuhlmann lever stanchions.
For many years, the Lester Prairie area was served by the Weise and Kuhlmann hardware store, which today is Angvall’s Hardware store.
The museum is located at 380 School Road in Hutchinson. The hours are Monday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The museum’s phone number is (320) 587-2109.