Group looks to preserve connection to Frederick's sister cities

·2 min read

Aug. 21—Ronnie Osterman has been involved with the Frederick Sister Cities Association for about 20 years, but now she's just trying to keep the group going.

Osterman got involved with the association about 20 years through the group's chocolate gala. At its peak, the association had 20 to 30 people active, with even more helping with events.

But a meeting at the end of July to discuss the group's future drew single digits, and Osterman isn't sure if it will survive.

The association helps to promote interaction and cultural exchange between Frederick and its sister cities of Moerzheim and Schifferstadt, Germany. Frederick's connections to Moerzheim and Schifferstadt stretch back to the arrivals of Johann Schley from Moerzheim and Jacob Brunner from Schifferstadt in the mid-1700s.

Osterman has been to both cities, where she's seen the spot where Schley's house once stood, the plaque in Moerzheim's city hall commemorating the relationship with Frederick and the picture there of the Clustered Spires.

State Sen. Ron Young visited Germany in 1989 and went back to Schifferstadt about five years ago.

When he was mayor of Frederick in the 1970s and '80s, Young said he corresponded with the mayors of both cities and exchanged Christmas cards.

Frederick and the German cities also had exchanges of visitors and musical groups, traditions that have continued through recent years.

In 2017, the Frederick Chorale performed in Schifferstadt during a 10-day tour of Germany.

Young said the association's relationships add a cultural aspect and connection to the people who helped settle the area.

Current Mayor Michael O'Connor said the opportunity for cultural exchange provides a valuable connection with Frederick's past. He said Frederick has had visitors from Schifferstadt during his time as a mayor and aldermen.

"I think we owe them a visit," he said.

The Sister Cities Association's inspiration includes one of Frederick's most recognizable buildings, the Schifferstadt Architectural Museum.

Brunner and three generations of his family arrived in Frederick in 1736 after spending seven years in Pennsylvania following their arrival from Germany, according to the museum's website.

The home along Rosemont Avenue was built by the family in 1758 on part of the 300-acre farm that the family owned and worked.

Despite the time that has gone by, there are still plenty of ancestors of both Schley and Brunner in the area, Osterman said.

"We actually have loads of descendants all over Frederick County and even in the outskirts," she said.

She's hopeful that the association can attract some younger members who are interested in learning about their families' histories.

"Genealogy is such a big thing right now," she said.

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