Germans have been immigrating to the United States, long before it became an established country. In fact, German’s are one of the largest ethnic groups to have immigrated to the United States. Germans began arriving in South Dedham in the 1840s. This first wave of German immigrants who came to town, were skilled artisans hired by the Everett Furniture Factory. When the factory relocated to Boston, the majority of local Germans followed them. A second wave of Germans began to arrive in Norwood in the late 1800s, where they found jobs working as laborers in local factories. By the year 1900, the census shows that they were living in Swedeville, and on Walpole Street and in newly built homes on Wilson Street, which eventually became the nucleus of Germantown.
Looking a the history of German immigration, may help to illustrate the reasons Germans chose to leave their homes in the late 1800s and start a new life here in Norwood. The reasons are three fold – political, economic and religious. In 1848 Germany experienced a series of revolutions, which failed to establish a democracy and replace the monarchy. It became apparent to the average person, that they may never gain any rights. Lawrence Kuld came to America and ultimately settled in Norwood as a result of the revolutions. He was one of over one million Germans who came to the United States in the 1850s. In 1872, German farmers, who had lived in Russia for decades, had their granted privileges revoked by the Tsarist government, causing thousands of the farmers to emigrate. Farmers in other parts of Germany struggled as the population of the country continued to grow, and land to farm became scarce and often too small to support a family. By 1870, German-born farmers made up one third of the agricultural industry in rural areas of the United States’ East Coast. In the 1880s, records show the greatest amount of Germans came to the United States during this decade. Another significant reason for Germans to emigrate was the religious persecution of the Confessional Lutherans, this resulted with entire congregations coming to America, in order to worship God without interference from the state. And the final reason for many young men to emigrate was forced conscription into the Army for up to five years. Thus, many emigrated illegally to escape this mandate.
About a dozen families who lived in Norwood’s Germantown actually came from Germany. By 1900, Lawrence Kuld was living on Walpole Street, and his son-in-law, Julius Balduf was around the corner on Wilson Street along with approximately ten other German families. One family, the Waldheims, came from Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) and the Herzog family was from Langenbielan (now a town in Poland). Those who came from what is today’s Germany, came from the country’s southern states – Bavaria, North Rhine–Westphalia, and the most came from Baden, specifically the town of Johlingen. There are some familial connections amongst those from Johlingen, but most appear to have been friends and neighbors in both their old country and their newly adopted country.
These German families who lived in the neighborhood were: Kuld, Balduf, Doderer, Koch, Abele, Eckhardt, Hauck, Groote, Schacht, Gleichauf, Gunthner and Schair. Most were nextdoor neighbors on Wilson but some lived on Bullard and Walpole Streets, and most of them worked in the Winslow Bros., & Smith Tannery.