A part of Duff’s landscape which has served as both a church and a museum has its days numbered.
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, built in 1919 and dedicated in 1921, is for sale and when and if it is sold, it will be removed from the spot it exists in presently.
It is many years removed from the days when Duff was a thriving community on Highway 10 when stockyards, a Coop store, a Red and White store, lumberyard, cafe, two garages and a blacksmith shop were all in business.
Watching her hometown decline in population over the years from over 330 at one point to only 43 recently, has been a sad process for Rita and Norman Schick who now reside in Melville.
“We used to have come-and-go teas and wiener roasts and barbecues out there,” Rita says.
“Nobody got paid, it was all done by volunteers. Everybody just chipped in and did their share.”
“I would say the church had a fairly strong congregation,” says Norman who served as mayor of Duff for 26 years while Rita filled the role of village secretary for 33.
When St. Peter’s was closed as a church is 1967, it had hosted 246 births and baptisms, 252 youth and adult confirmations, 73 marriages and 53 burials with Rev. W. Krahn the first man of the cloth to stand at the pulpit.
The second life for the church, originally built for a cost of $5,000, was as the Duff Community Heritage Museum which held its first organizational meeting in June of 1985 with Walter Gessner as president and Shirley Ulmer as secretary/treasurer.
“Everybody put stuff in the museum,” offers Norm. “It had anything and everything to do with living in Duff in it. There was a kitchen and a woodbox and coal pail. It even had an old phone with the old dialer.”
Paul Barbeau, who served as the museum’s last secretary/treasurer under chairman and current Duff mayor David Hollinger recalls his favorite part as the choir loft.
“They set up the loft as a school room and everything was in it, maybe even a strap,” chuckles Barbeau.
The museum officially closed May 31, 2011 with the funds raised by it donated to the Duff Cemetery and Duff Community Association when the board of directors felt raising funds to repair a damaged foundation simply wasn’t feasible for the village.
The Schicks still feel for their old hometown and Norm has a theory as to why other centers like Lemberg and Neudorf are thriving while Duff is on the decline as far as population is concerned.
“Places like Neudorf and Lemberg are on the way up because of the location. Over the years, Duff just got to be too close to Melville so people left,” he explains.
“It’s sad, no doubt about it,” Rita says. “First the schools went and then the elevator went with it and it really just seems like it faded away.”