Odessa Historisches Museum was conceived in 1970 and incorporated in 1971 with the establishment of an historical society to serve the Southwest Lincoln County area.
As a physician, new to the Odessa area, Dr. John F. Gahringer was impressed by the historical accounts that patients and neighbors recounted to him regarding the settlement of the land by German Russian immigrants. He realized it was important that this special German-Russian heritage be preserved.
About this same time, Dr. Gahringer had purchased an empty building in which to store his own personal historical collections. Combining these two ideas resulted in the formation of the Odessa Historisches Museum and Historical Society, with Dr. John Gahringer as Founder and President, having as its mission statement the collection and preservation of information with reference to the settlement and growth of the Odessa Countryside.
This was done at the same time a committee was trying to originate a Festival patterned after the one in Munich with the additional qualities of a harvest fair. September was chosen because of the more desirable weather conditions.
As a result, the Museum opened in 1971 with the first Deutschesfest. It grew and served the community for ten years, when in 1981 the museum was set on fire by a drugged felon on parole. This resulted in a loss of 95% of the collections, artifacts and records.
Discouraged, but not defeated, the Historical Society members rallied and began to formulate plans to build a new museum. A new lot with room for good expansion, completion of blueprints and sufficient funds, made it possible to begin construction.
Groundbreaking ceremonies were celebrated on May 30, 1983 with Dr. Gahringer, Founder, breaking ground along with Henry Michaelsen, current historical society President and Delbert Cook; Construction Manager. Work proceeded so well that in May 1984 dedication of the completed building was celebrated.
Odessa Historisches Museum has continued to grow with the passing years. In 1994, St. Matthews Congregational Church, which had been constructed in 1916, but currently owned by Esther Schlimmer, was gifted to the Odessa Historical Society by her family. It houses as many of the original church furnishings as could be located. It has become a center for the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia meetings and a source of Genealogical information for the Society members. The church is also available for rental for weddings and other gatherings, such as Odessa Quilt Club exhibits during various times of the year.
The newest addition to the Museum complex has been the Big Red Barn. After ten years of many find raising projects and generous donations from Friends of the Museum, it was possible to realize the completion of a large barn patterned similar in style to turn-of-the-century barns found in the Odessa area. There are many restored pieces of farm equipment to be seen inside, as well as some restored automobiles, many photographs of early harvest scenes and many other artifacts used by pioneer settlers.
The Historical Society extends an invitation to everyone who is interested in getting a glimpse into the history behind this wonderful land of golden wheat, to come visit us and see what we are all about.