Col. John G. Cullmann - City of Cullman
Col. John G. Cullmann (Founder)
John G. Cullman
- July 2, 1823 - December
"After traveling around the country and arriving in North Alabama the
impression was made upon my mind that if this country was filled up with
good farmers it would be the garden spot of America. I found here all that I
had been looking for, all that I regarded as necessary to make good homes:
there was here combined these things to an extent not equaled by any other
place I had seen."
- Col. John G. Cullmann, 1877
John Gottfried Cullmann was the founder of Cullman. He was born in
Frankweiler, Germany, a small wine village, on July 2, 1823. His family had
lived in Frankweiler for five generations and served as the village
schoolmasters. Frankweiler was then in Bavaria, which at that time was an
independent country. It is now in the Pfalz, a state in the Federal Republic
of Germany. John Cullmann graduated from Zweibrucken Polytechnic College
and worked as a merchant in Neustat until the 1850's. During this time he
met and married Josephine Loew and had four children.
- In or about 1855, Cullmann became involved in a revolution and was
forced to leave his country because of certain political convictions.
Bankrupt and almost penniless, he roamed the European continent, fleeing
from the wrath of Bismarck. At last he made his way to America by working on a freight
boat. His wife, two sons and daughter remained, largely because of the poor
health of Mrs. Cullmann's mother. John Cullmann hoped to find a place to
settle and later bring his family to America.
- After arriving in the U.S. around 1866, John Cullmann, took a job as a
clerk in a book store in Cincinnati, Ohio. While employed at the bookstore,
John Cullmann began formulating ideas of a special colony of working people,
specifically a place for immigrants from countries such as his native
Germany. He dreamed of bringing his friends and family to the U.S. so that
they could live in freedom and flee the control of the Kaiser in Germany. America had just begun to settle down from a revolution of
its own - the Civil War. In 1869, he began reading about the vast unsettled
lands in the South. Reconstruction had begun and the South was to become the
place in which John G. Cullmann could realize his dream.
- Early in 1871, Cullmann finally made the journey to Alabama and began
searching for the perfect place for his new colony. Finally, after meeting
with Lewis Fink, the land agent for the great North-South Railroad (later
the L&N Railroad), Cullmann purchased an option as land agent for much of
the land on each side of the railroad in what was to become Cullman County.
During his tour of the land, Cullmann found the area to be perfect for the
establishment of his dream colony. The land extended from Decatur to
Montgomery, fifteen miles on each side of the railroad. He then boarded a
train for the North and started advertising for immigrants.
The first five families moved to Cullman in April of 1873.
Growth of the community during the years that followed was steady and far
above the expectations of John Cullmann. News of the great opportunities in
Cullman spread afar and Cullmann even made a trip to Europe to establish
agents for the purpose of getting more settlers to come to North Alabama.
The City of Cullman was incorporated in 1874 and by 1877 the settlement had
enough population to become a county.
- John Cullmann was very active in the life of his colony. He founded
Vinemont, Garden City, Bangor, Berlin, Bremen and several other areas of the
county. He attempted to start a winemaking business here and encouraged the
development of several industries, such as lumbering, furniture making,
cooperage, basket making, hotels, restaurants and ice-making. He helped
start the first state chartered savings and loan in Alabama and the German
Bank. Besides laying out the town with wide streets and creating
parks on each side of the railroad, John Cullmann gave the land for the
first three churches in Cullman and was a founder of St. John's Church. He
gave land for cemeteries and the first public school. He never held public
office, but always took an active interest in the affairs of the town.
- Establishing the town and other North Alabama colonies was not easy for
John Cullmann. He met with opposition from many state politicians who were
against the idea of immigration. Many in the South opposed immigration
because they were fed up with Carpetbaggers and the Northern political
thieves who had occupied the land since the end of the Civil War. Because of
this, very little cooperation was given Cullmann by the State of Alabama. During Governor Huston's administration, John Cullmann was
invited to formulate an immigration plan. His plan was sent to the
legislature and Cullmann even appeared in its support, but it was defeated
in the Senate.
- On one occasion in 1874 Cullmann met with serious physical violence.
When he set out to incorporate the City of Cullman, the idea met opposition
from squatters who lived nearby. The argument went on for several days. One night following a meeting, Cullmann was struck with a
Bowie knife. As he started down the steps, an assailant threw the knife
which wounded him in the right side of his forehead. His assailant fled. When the man was apprehended in Blount County two years
later on another charge, Cullmann was given a chance to press charges, but
he refused to do so. He carried a huge scar on his face to his grave. All
portraits of him now in existence show a left profile.
- Cullmann was not without other hardships, as well. His eldest son, who
joined him in Cincinnati and had been with him during the exploration of the
land, died in 1873. He is buried in Cincinnati. Another son, Otto, joined
him in Cullman a few years later. Otto worked with his father in the early
days of Cullman's settlement and probably did as much as anyone to assure
its success. However, he died in 1884 at the age of 29 having never married.
For many years Cullmann had wanted his wife to come to
America, but after the death of her two sons she decided to remain in
Germany. His only other relative to come the U.S. was his niece, Julia
- John Cullmann died of pneumonia on December
3, 1895. He had a large
funeral, attended by the governor of the state and many leaders who had been
his friends. He was buried next to his son, Otto, in the Cullman City
Cemetery. His last gift to the colony was money he left to dig a
cut through the center of the town and place the railroad below ground
level. This was not accomplished until some 20 years after his death.
- As time passed, Cullman began to forget her founder and the German
nature of the town was suppressed, largely due to the two World Wars. Many
people lost touch with their German relatives and their German heritage. In the 1960s, however, people began to realize that they
would soon have a centennial birthday and interest in Col. Cullmann and his
German background was reborn. This finally culminated in the present
partnership with his birthplace,
fact about our founder: There is no
record anywhere of Colonel John G. Cullmann ever being
commissioned a colonel, so it was probably just an honorary title.
For more information on our founder,
call the Cullman County Museum at (256) 739-1258 or
visit their site.