FRENIER — France is a notable part of Louisiana history and culture, visible everywhere from the local cuisine to the Cajun French language still spoken today. However, a lesser-known part of Louisiana history began in Frenier, a community once made up of German settlers.
Frenier, located in the parish of St. John the Baptist, was formerly known as Schlösser, after German immigrant Martin Schlösser.
“They came here in the 1700s and they landed on the east side of the river and they lived there for quite a while,” said Wayne Norwood, owner of the Louisiana Treasures Museum. “And then they split up and some of them moved to Saint John and settled along Lake Pontchartrain there.”
The Schlössers struggled to keep pace with the lumber industry and instead found another lucrative industry in which they had the upper hand: sauerkraut.
“They were going into the swamp and they were digging trenches, big trenches, maybe four or five feet wide, and all the water from the swamp was going into the ditches that they were digging, and they were pumping it out and that’s where they would grow their cabbage,” Norwood said.
In 1854, a railroad was built through the area, and the Schlössers were able to export their cabbage not just to New Orleans, but all the way to Chicago, Illinois.
“The train would stop and they would pick up all the cabbage and sell it in Chicago,” Norwood said. “They had a dealer in Chicago and he would send the money back to them.”
Frenier was a close-knit community of German settlers, and when the New Orleans hurricane of 1915 destroyed the area, much of the German heritage was lost there.
“When they arrived here, almost everything was in French. The newspaper, everything was in French,” Norwood said. “They spoke German, but they remained as a community and when the storm hit all the houses were destroyed except one.”
The Louisiana Treasures Museum, located in Ponchatoula, houses many objects from German families who settled in Frenier.
Norwood also wrote a book, “The Day Time Stood Still: The Hurricane of 1915”, which tells the story of a storm survivor, Helen Schlosser Burg.
“I know where each house was, who lived in the houses, the names of the people who lived there, the names of all their children and what they did for a living, and I have a lot of that in the book,” Norwood said.
The Louisiana Treasures Museum is located at 10290 LA-22, Ponchatoula, LA 70454. “The Day Time Stood Still: The Hurricane of 1915” is sold at the museum and can also be purchased online at https://www.amazon. com/Day-Time-Stood-Still-Hurricane/dp/1515309517.