German Americans of Cleveland

Cleveland Press Articles

3,000 Germans Here by 1850

"100 Years of Nationalities in Cleveland"
Eighth of a Series
By Theodore Andrica
Cleveland Press, October 6, 1950

The decade ending in 1850 concluded the first phase of German immigration here. By that time there were about 3,000 Germans in Cleveland proper and on the West Side, then known as Ohio City.

When 1850 came around, there existed in Cleveland several German Protestant churches and organizations catering to the spiritual needs of the Germans living here.

The City Directory of 1837 listed a "German Society," organized in 1836, but nothing is known about this first German lodge. It was not listed in subsequent city directories.

The First German Evangelical congregation, formally organized in 1835, erected a modest church known as Schifflein Christi at Hamilton and Erie (E. Ninth) streets in 1842.

A year later, in April 1843, a group of German Lutherans withdrew from Schifflein Christi Church and established Zion Lutheran congregation under the leadership of the Rev. David Schuh.

Religious services were held in Concert Hall, on the third floor of the Miller block, on the north side of Superior, between Seneca (W. Third) and Bank (W. Ninth) streets.

Build New Church

This congregation soon outgrew the facilities of this hall and on Jan. 20, 1848, ground was broken for a new church building at Hamilton Ave. and Division Alley, under the pastorate of the Rev. August Schmidt. Today the church is at Prospect Ave. and E. 30th St.

In the spring of 1843 a group of German Protestant families in the Brighton community were organized by the Rev. Carl Allardt into St. Luke's Evangelical congregation.

For $80 they purchased an old school building and moved it to the corner of Broadview and Schaaf Rds., where it was used as a church. Ten years later, part of the congregation built another church on a site that remained the location of St. Luke's Evangelical Church, Pearl Rd. and Memphis Ave.

In 1846 Edward Hessenmueller launched the "Germania," the first German language newspaper in Cleveland. Hessenmueller came to Cleveland in 1840 and soon became a leading figure in German circles and prominent in Democratic politics.

Ernest Kaufholz, a German foundry foreman, brought together a little German prayer group known as the Congregation of the Brethren, and they raised a small house on Tracy St. to be used as their church.

Dedicated on Sept. 17, 1849, this was the first chapel on the West Side in which services were held in the German language. Today the congregation worships in an impressive building at Warren Rd. and Alger Ave., Lakewood.

Seek Other Pursuits

As the tide of German immigration rose, an appreciable number of Cleveland Germans sought other than religious activities to take up their free time.

To vary the tempo of their life here and to kill some of their homesickness, some Germans gathered for singing.

In 1835 some German farmers living outside Cleveland County came to the city and held a festival.

"They not only drank beer, but entertained with songs and instrumental music, which greatly impressed the local Americans," said a contemporary German report.

According to Weachter and Anzeiger, the first German "gesangverein" in Cleveland, was the "Frohsinn." It was founded in 1848 and was directed by a man named Heber.

When rumors of the California gold reached Cleveland, Herber hit the westward trail and the Frohsinn Gesangverein was left, musically speaking, leaderless.

Gottlieb Votteler took over the direction of the Frohsinn but somehow the old spirit was gone, or perhaps some of the members followed Heber to California. At any rate the Frohsinn ceased functioning in 1850.