A shared respect for the past

As Diakon’s unofficial historian for both the Tressler Lutheran Home for Children and the Topton Orphans Home, I am concerned about the ultimate preservation of the artifacts that remain from these orphanages, particularly when you consider one is now 150 years old.

For example, our “history closet” contains the painted portraits of Col. John Tressler and his son, Capt. David Loy Tressler—the founders of the classical academy and then soldiers’ orphans home purchased in 1868 by the Lutheran church, creating the Tressler Orphans Home. I assume the paintings date to the late 1800s.

When I brought out the portraits last year to photograph for our anniversary video, I found some of their paint was flecking, the image of Capt. David with a slight tear in it.

To my amazement, I found a nationally recognized art conservationist in nearby Carlisle, Pennsylvania, so one day soon, I will be loading the two large portraits into my vehicle and transporting them for repair.

Eventually, we hope to display these and a number of other portraits and photographs in a “history center” on the third floor of the recently refurbished Old Main on The Lutheran Home at Topton campus.

One person delighted to hear about those potential plans—dependent, of course, on the availability of funding—is the great-great-great-granddaughter of Col. John Tressler. The Maryland resident recently emailed me about her interest in her family’s past and in sharing information with younger members.

Her father, she wrote, “was dedicated to sustaining the orphanage through his donations and visits. He shared information about the orphanage with our family until his death in 1996. My brother … and his son … as well as our daughter … carry the Tressler name. We are very proud to continue this tradition.”

Two decades ago, she added, “my husband and I visited the [Commonwealth-operated Youth Development Center] in Loysville, where the orphanage started. The director there was most accommodating, giving us a tour of the Old Main building and even giving me a copy of my great-great-great grandfather’s writings about the orphanage.We also found Tressler (Dressler) graves at a nearby cemetery, dating to the mid-1700s.”

She was fortunate to have a photograph, shown above, of Col. John Tressler preaching at Rupp Lutheran Church in Manorville, Pennsylvania. Her grandmother is sitting in front of him “and the Rev. Tressler’s name is in the stained glass over the doorway to the other room.”

One more instance of preservation of the past.

 By William Swanger, MA, APR
Senior Vice President
Corporate Communications & Public Relations
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