37 Old DeGarmo Road
Poughkeepsie, NY 12603

A German/American Club
Unit #167, Dr. Charles Gilbert Spross Unit of the Steuben Society of America
Unit #167
Dr. Charles Gilbert Spross Unit
Steuben Society of America

In May 1919, in the aftermath of the First World War, the Steuben Society of America was founded by patriotic Americans of German descent to foster good citizenship in the German-American community, to educate the public as to the positive role our ethnic group has always played in American society, and to preserve a sense of ethnic pride amongst German-Americans.

The founders chose to name the organization after one of the greatest German-Americans, Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben. A Prussian officer by training, von Steuben was recruited by Benjamin Franklin who persuaded the baron to offer his services to the Continental Congress. With the rank of Major General in the Continental Army, von Steuben became the first effective Inspector General for the US.
During the brutal winter at Valley Forge the Baron set about training the continental troops which training General Washington credited as indispensable to America’s victory in the Revolutionary War. After the war von Steuben remained in the US and became a citizen, helped to found Order of Cincinnati, and served as a charter member of the New York State Board of Regents.

While the Steuben Glass Corporation and Steuben County in western New York State are pronounced "stoo-BENN," the Steuben Society uses the German pronunciation "SHTOY-bin."

The symbol of the Steuben Society is a circle with alternating colors of red, white, blue, and black. The red, white and blue are repeated four times around the outside circle, in overlapping compass-point designs, signifying citizens from all parts of the country bound together in one patriotic ring. In the center is a black disc, which, with the white and red, represents the national colors of the pre-1933 German flag.

Unit #167 received its charter in 1966 in the Rathskeller of old Germania Hall in the City of Poughkeepsie. Our chapter was named for famous local composer, musician, and organist of the Congregational Church, Dr. Charles Gilbert Spross (1874-1961).

The portrait of Dr. Spross which hangs in Germania Hall, Poughkeepsie, New York.

Dr. Spross was well known in his day, and a catalog in the Germania music library lists nearly 1,000 compositions. A talented pianist as well, he often accompanied singers in performances of his own songs.

Dr. Spross' legacy has been re-established with the Dover publication Art Songs of the Turn of the Century, which features a reissue of his song "Will-o'-the-Wisp." Recordings of "Will-o'-the-Wisp" by Alma Gluck (with Dr. Spross at the piano), Rosa Ponselle, and Marian Anderson have recently been reissued on CD.

Another Spross song, "Let All My Life Be Music" has recently been released on the CD My Secret Heart ~ Songs of Parlour, Stage and Screen by Metropolitan Opera tenor Ben Heppner.

The Dr. Charles Gilbert Spross Unit is active in cultural and historical activities in the area. It presents an annual award for excellence in German language studies to a graduating seniors in Dutchess County high schools and, for years, sponsored a team in the Town of Poughkeepsie Soccer League.

October 10-12, 1969, the unit hosted the New York State Convention of the Steuben Society, attended by over 200 members from throughout the state. For the weekend, Main Street in Poughkeepsie was renamed Von Steuben Street in recognition of the activities in Germania Hall, a few blocks away on Church Street.

In August 1971, under the guidance of member Gunter Bahrenburg, the unit hosted the Neckersulm Double Quartet from Germany. During their visit the singers joined unit members and attended the Remsen Pilgrimage to the Steuben Memorial New York State Historic Site in Remsen and also performed at Germania Hall during their stay.

The Dr. Charles Gilbert Spross Unit designed and built a float honoring Inspector General von Steuben for the Dutchess County Bi-Centennial Parade in 1976. Two years later and two additional times after that the unit welcomed the Erlerkinderchor from Gelsenkirchen, Germany, during the group’s tours of the east coast of the United States, each visit including a concert at Germania Hall.

In 1979 the Dr. Charles Gilbert Spross Unit joined Steubenites from Maine to Virginia for a private tour and reception of the nuclear powered submarine USS von Steuben when it was in port at the Groton Naval Base in Connecticut.

In 1981 the national Steuben Society dedicated a plaque honoring Inspector General von Steuben at the United States Military Academy in West Point. Steubenites were honored by the Academy at a reception in the officer’s Club and were given a special tour of the Point, including restricted areas not usually viewed by the public. The Steuben Society presents an annual ward for excellence in German language to a graduating cadet. In recognition of this contribution, the Academy’s German Department welcomed the Society to the Point for luncheon and a special tour of the grounds in 1998.

The Steuben Society, with Germania of Poughkeepsie and the Kingston Männerchor, sponsored the Great German American Tri-Centennial Celebration of the Hudson Valley commemorating the arrival of the first 13 Mennonite immigrant families from Krefeld on October 6, 1683, who subsequently founded Germantown, Pennsylvania. Hudson Valley events included a pageant to crown Miss German America in Catskill, a two-day outdoor festival at Cantine Field in Saugerties, and a gala banquet at the Civic Center in Poughkeepsie.

Members of the Dr. Charles Gilbert Spross Unit also attended the Tri-Centennial Banquet in Philadelphia on October 6, 1983, at which the speaker was then Vice-President George W. Bush [who noted that this was one time he wished that there wouId be a "c" (Busch) in his name].

The national Steuben Society, with the German American National Congress and United German American Committee of the U.S.A., was instrumental in establishing October 6 as official German American Day in the United States. Congress, in a October 5, 1987 Joint Congressional Resolution authorized and requested President Ronald Reagan “to issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe such day with appropriate ceremonies and activities..." (SJ Res. 108/89).

During the 1980s and 1990s the Dr. Charles Gilbert Spross Unit held its September meetings at the Mount Gulian historic site, the Headquarters for General von Steuben in Dutchess County during the Revolutionary War. On 4 September 1999 member Herman Brill presented a talk on the life and impact of General von Steuben at a special event held at the site.

Through the efforts of the national Steuben Society, a statue of the general was erected at the Monmouth Battlefield State Park in New Jersey, dedicated on 15 May 2004. In the summer of 2007 the Charles Gilbert Spross Unit travelled to Monmouth to visit the statue and the battleground to honor the instrumental part General von Steuben played in the making of America.

Each year the third Saturday of September is the date of the Steuben Day Parade in New York City, honoring General Steuben and the heritage of German-Americans. Steubenites come together with choral groups, Schuhplattlers, soccer players, gymnasts, West Point Cadets, New York City Police and Fire Department Steuben organizations, and visiting German groups to march up Fifth Avenue.

Each May the Dr. Charles Gilbert Spross Unit joins with other Steubenites in varying locations to celebrate our Founders’ Day. The Unit celebrates its own anniversary with a dinner dance each fall. In October 2006 we celebrated out 40th anniversary.

Members of Unit #167 at the Grand Opening Gala of the new Germania Hall.

Unit #167 meets on the First Friday of the month. Membership is open to American citizens of voting age who descend from at least one ancestor whose native tongue was German. Check the Germania calendar for dates of other events.