Countess Leon

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Elisa Heuser Leon, or the Countess Leon
Born 1799
Frankfurt, Germany
Died 1881 (ca. aged 82)
Hot Springs, Garland County
Arkansas, USA
Residence

(1) Monaca, Beaver County
Pennsylvania
(2) Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana
(3) Minden, Webster Parish, Louisiana

(4) Hot Springs, Arkansas
Occupation Established Germantown Colony
Spouse(s) Bernhard Müller, or Count Leon
Children Johanna Schardt, Joseph Maximilian, and Anna Stahl
The Countess' house at Germantown Colony north of Minden, Louisiana

Countess Leon, or Elisa Heuser Leon (1799–1881), was a founder and leader of the communal Germantown Colony established in 1835 north of Minden in the U.S. state of Louisiana.[1]

A native of Frankfurt, Germany, Countess Leon was the daughter of Johann and Anna Maria Heuser. She claimed to have married Bernhard Müller, a Christian mystic also of Germany, who was known as Count Leon, or Count de Leon. The couple had three children, Johanna Schardt, Joseph Maximilian, and Anna Stahl.[1][2]

In 1831, the Countess and her husband came to the United States with a like-minded group of believers. The Leons first joined a Rappite colony in Monaca in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, but because of a schism, they left that group and instead headed down the Ohio River southeast to Louisiana. They soon established their proclaimed "New Jerusalem" at Grand Ecore north of Natchitoches. When the Count and several other relatives died of cholera, the Countess moved some eighty miles north from that location near the Red River to present-day Webster Parish near Minden in northwestern Louisiana.[1]

For nearly four decades, the colony flourished under a communal arrangement until it began to decline after the American Civil War. It dispersed in 1871, when Webster Parish was created from Claiborne Parish to the immediate east.[3] The Countess then relocated north to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where she died in 1881.[4]

One of three Utopian Society settlements in North Louisiana, the Germantown Colony, located off Louisiana Highway 531, was the most successful and lasted the longest, having peaked at fifty to sixty pioneers but usually with fewer than forty followers. The settlement had been planned by Bernhard Müller, but he died at Grand Ecore on August 29, 1834, of yellow fever.[5][6]

The Countess is remembered for having maintained Old World grace and culture in rural Louisiana.[1][7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography". lahistory.org. Retrieved February 12, 2011. 
  2. ^ A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography does not clarify if the two daughters' last names are middle names or husbands' names, nor does it indicate if the son used the surname "Muller" or "Leon."
  3. ^ "Respect for the Past, Confidence in the Future", Webster Parish Centennial, 1871-1971, pp. 13-14
  4. ^ David James, III, "Germantown: Once Thriving and Socialistic", Minden Press, July 7, 1958, pp. 1-2
  5. ^ Brochure, Germantown Colony & Museum, 120 Museum Road, Minden, Louisiana 71055
  6. ^ A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography attributes Berhnard Müller's death to cholera.
  7. ^ Though it is believed that Countess Leon died in Hot Springs in 1881, A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, a publication of the Louisiana Historical Association, maintains that the death year is unsubstantiated. The publication uses two principal sources for its sketch of Countess von Leon: Pauline Jennings, "Elisa Leon: First Lady of the Germantown Colony," North Louisiana History, formerly known as North Louisiana Historical Association Journal, VIII, No. 2 (Winter 1977), and Rita Moore Krouse (1921-1995) of Minden, Fragments of a Dream: The Story of Germantown (1962).