History and music converge as area organizations meet to enjoy priceless fellowship, timeless songs
Members of the Nederland Historical Society gathered at a Christmas meeting and celebration Thursday, Dec. 5, at the Marion & Ed Hughes Public Library to enjoy refreshments and sing Christmas hymns and carols with music performed by the Southeast Texas Dulcimer Friends.
The Nederland Historical Society, which meets four times a year, was formed in 1986 to preserve and maintain appropriately historical facts, artifacts and research, and promote Nederland’s history as displayed in the Windmill Museum and the La Maison Acadienne Museum in Tex Ritter Park at 1500 Boston Ave., said Bobbie Greene, president of the organization.
Nederland is the Dutch name for “The Netherlands” or “lowlands” and was founded by Dutch settlers as a repayment for financial services of Dutch bankers who financed the Kansas City Southern railroad line that runs through the center of the city, according to the Nederland Historical Society Facebook page. As a tribute to their heritage, in 1969, citizens of Nederland erected a replica of a Dutch Windmill in Nederland, which now serves as a museum on Boston Avenue. Artifacts from the museum include a trunk brought from Holland before the turn of the century, wooden shoes, the 1952 Gold Medal won by W.F. “Buddy” Davis, a native son; and mementos of the late Tex Ritter, a country and western music star who called Nederland home.
La Maison Acadienne Museum is a French museum, paying homage to the many French settlers who migrated to Nederland from Southern Louisiana soon after Nederland was settled in 1897, according to the Nederland Historical Society.
The museum is a replica of an early Acadian home in South Louisiana.
Museum hours are 1-5 p.m. Thursday-Sunday; in March, the museums are open Tuesday-Sunday, 1-5 p.m.
In addition to sharing the rich history of Nederland, the society presents four $500 scholarships to Nederland High School students to help pay for higher education, Greene said, and also donates funds to the Marion & Ed Hughes Public Library in memory of a society member when they die.
Some members of the Nederland Historical Society, which manages both the Windmill Museum and the La Maison Acadienne Museum, work as docents at the museums and are paid by The Nederland Chamber of Commerce, Greene added.
Green said the society is always looking to add new members, and those who might be interested in joining should contact her at (409) 727-7138. Membership dues are $10 per individual and $15 per couple, she said.
According to its website, the Southeast Texas Dulcimer Friends was founded in July 1994 to foster an appreciation of music as played on dulcimers and other acoustic instruments and to offer opportunities for fellowship with others having similar musical interests, as well as provide service to the community.
Regular club meetings are held on the second Saturday of each month at 1:30 p.m. at the Rosedale Baptist Church, 7110 Concord Road in Beaumont. Membership dues are $15 per year for an individual or household, the Southeast Texas Dulcimer Friends website states.
The dulcimer is a fretted string instrument generally played on the lap by plucking and comes in different variations, including the most typical, the Appalachian dulcimer. Others variations include the banjo dulcimer, the resonator dulcimer, the hammered dulcimer — a freestanding trapezoidal with horizontal strings struck by handheld hammers — and the bowed dulcimer.
Houston Weaver, music librarian for the Southeast Texas Dulcimer Friends, said the organization tries to keep the old-time Appalachian music alive. Dulcimer instruments first appeared in Scotts-Irish immigrant communities in the southern Appalachian Mountains in the early 19th century and is in the zither family.
“They built them by hand and actually invented the mountain dulcimer in the U.S.,” Weaver said “It was invented or designed from a zither, which is a German instrument. The Scot-Irish adapted that sound and the shapes of their instruments. They (dulcimers) come in the shape of a square, in a rectangle and the hourglass. It is the fret pattern that makes it dulcimer.”
Weaver said many of the songs the Southeast Texas Dulcimer Friends play are pre-Civil War era.
The Southeast Texas Dulcimer Friends has members from all different cities ranging from Liberty to Lake Charles and everywhere in between, including many cities in Southeast Texas including Lumberton, Rose City and Beaumont. In addition to playing for the Nederland Historical Society, the Southeast Texas Dulcimer Friends play at dulcimer festivals, churches, nursing homes, and other events. The organization also teaches young people how to play the dulcimer, Weaver said.
“At the club meetings, anyone who wants to listen is invited; if anybody … thinks they might want to learn how to play, we have dulcimers there and people that can teach. It’s absolutely free.”
For more information on the Southeast Texas Dulcimer Friends, visit www.setxdulcimerfriends.com.
“We enjoy being together and the camaraderie and learning of the songs,” Weaver said. “A lot of the stuff we play is very, very old,” Weaver said, “so we try to keep our music alive.”