A community newsletter serving New Melle, Defiance, Augus​ta, Marthasville, Dutzow​​ a​nd surrounding areas.

The History of the New Melle Seal

By Kathy Miller

I recently met with Ernest Arteaga, a long-time resident and former three-time mayor of New Melle, to learn about the origin of the New Melle City seal. The story begins with the Melle, German settlers who founded New Melle in 1839. In 1982 (143 years later,) Frank and Alberta Toedabusch of New Melle went to Melle, Germany and returned with representatives from Melle.

A ceremony was held during that visit at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and included a German tradition of offering a Wappen (pronounced weapon) or a coat of arms as a thank-you. The visitors presented a gray felt banner with a red four-spoke wheel on a white background, the Melle seal.

The Melle Burgermeister (Mayor) was one of the visitors and wanted to meet the New Melle Burgermeister. Ernie said, “The Burgermeister was quite shocked to meet Ernest Arteaga; he was not expecting the Mayor to have a Spanish surname.” Ernie explained to him, he grew up in St. Louis and moved to New Melle in the early 70s. The two officials hit it off and talked in depth about the sister city concept that Alberta Toedabusch was promoting at the time.

Ernie said as soon as he saw the Melle seal, he had a perfect idea for a seal for New Melle. He approached the Burgermeister and asked if using the Melle coat of arms with one change would be okay. The Burgermeister looked at Ernie very quizzically, and Ernie explained that he wanted to add a blue tire around the circle to make it red, white, and blue to represent the United States. The Burgermeister smiled and thought it was a great idea.

Ernie began on the new seal concept immediately and, on February 18, 1983, presented a rendering to the Board for approval. It took some time, but a proclamation was passed on May 3, 1984, approving the seal and on June 16, 1988, it became official that Melle and New Melle would become sister cities.

Ernie and I also discussed his background and history. He moved from St. Louis to New Melle in 1971 because New Melle had the small-town appeal he sought. Ernie found that the former German Methodist Church on Schutzen Street was for sale and purchased it. Years later, Ernie and his wife, Diane, ran New Melle Antiques and Tea Room for many years at this location. Mr. Arteaga is a retired architect who built the business addition onto the church and transformed the inside. It still appears to be a church from the outside, but it showcases antiques, paintings, pictures, and memorabilia when you walk inside.

After 52 years of living in New Melle, Mr. Arteaga has collected many stories and collectibles from the area. I wanted to thank Ernie for allowing me to tour his home and for sharing this history of New Melle with the readers.


Ernie Arteaga with the New Melle Seal rendering.



Ernie Arteaga with the New Melle Seal rendering.



Some of the history of New Melle that Ernie shared.