The Germantown Colony was founded by a group of Germans who originally belonged to the utopian Harmony Society but took issue with the society’s demand for celibacy. So a fraction of members, led by their charismatic leader, Bernhard Müller aka the “Count de Leon,” splintered off and went to form their own slice of religious paradise.
The group landed at a site just northeast of what would later become Minden, Louisiana in 1835. The colony site was chosen to align with the latitude of Jerusalem. There, they planned to await the Second Coming of Christ.
The Count already had a following when he left Germany for the U.S. fleeing religious persecution. He claimed to be a prophet in possession of the Philosopher’s Stone, and said God had chosen him to be the shepherd who would watch over a newly united world after its current leaders relinquished their power. However he died of yellow fever while he and his group were en route to their new destination after leaving the Harmony Society. His wife, who was known as the Countess of Leon, took his place as a leader among the people.
The Germantown colonists found a fair bit of success in their small utopia. Everything within the settlement was communal, and unmarried men had to live in their own separate dormitory. The group ran a cotton gin and the Countess taught piano lessons within the wallpapered walls of her house.
Unfortunately for the residents, the Civil War complicated life in their little utopia, though the colonists did not take sides in the war. Its aftermath left the area in financial distress, and eventually the colony disbanded in the 1870s.
Now, the Germantown Colony and Museum offers a glimpse of rural America 200 years ago. It was opened to the public in 1975. The property still contains some of the original buildings, like the Countess’ house, and artifacts of the settlement as well as some replicas. The small Germantown Cemetery is nearby, which shows that many of the settlers were born in Germany. The town of Minden is still invested in its German roots and holds German festivals, such as Fasching, every year.
Know Before You Go
Located a short drive north of Minden off Interstate 20.