Many of the homes on Wilson, Walpole and Bullard Streets were populated by immigrants from Gottschee, Krain, Austria-Hungary Empire. This was a German-speaking enclave in Krain, a Duchy of the Austrian-Hungary Empire called a “Deutsche Sprachinsel.” Originally settled in the 14th century by Germans from several different German and Austrian towns, it was an unpopulated mountainous forest. For over 500 years it was like “an island surrounded by Slavic speaking towns.” In Gottschee the people maintained their own customs and over time their language developed into it’s own unique dialect. Gottschee was approximately 330 square acres, a little smaller than Norfolk County in Massachusetts. It consisted of 176 villages organized into 18 parishes and 19 townships.
Today what was the Gottschee District is all but gone. After WWI it became part of Yugoslavia and in 1991 it became part of Slovenia, known as Kocevsko. Most of the Gottscheers left before WWI, but during WWII the Nazi regime wanted to repopulate the region with so-called Germans to become part of the greater Reich. Most of the Gottscheers wanted nothing to do with the Nazi regime and after holding out and protesting, they were forced off their farms to work in factories as repatriated Germans. After WWII many Gottscheers immigrated to America to join those who had left before WWI; they settled mostly in the large Gottschee communities in Cincinnati OH or Brooklyn NY. Those that remained in Europe immigrated to Austria or Germany. Today, what was once Gottschee is now part of Slovenia. Though these unique immigrants spoke their own dialect they learned to speak, read and write German in their schools. They had no trouble assimilating into the society and culture of Norwood’s Germantown.
Norwood and Walpole’s Gottsheers arrived between 1890 and 1910. There was very little opportunity in Gottschee – mostly subsistence farming. Those who arrived here were seeking a better life. The 1900 census shows about a dozen Gottscheers in Norwood and Walpole. The 1890 Norwood Business Directory lists only four – Brothers John and Joseph Eppich and cousins Anton and Mathias Eppich. Seeing as Anton and Mathias arrived in New York the previous fall, it is highly likely that John and Joseph, who had been in the US for several years, were the first Gottscheers in town. The next largest influx of Gottscheers to the Norwood area was around WWI, and the last influx, which were only a few families who were expelled from the area after WWII. Some came to the Norwood area via Brooklyn, but most came directly to Norwood, through Ellis Island. The bulk of Gottscheers who settled here were from the Tiefanthal area, and most likely knew one another, especially as many listed their final destination (once they started to record it) was Norwood. The land from about the Turnvenrien on toward Bullard Street on both sides of the road, was land owned by Joseph P. Hamlin. He began selling (house) lots of land to some of the Gottscheers that had settled in the area, who eventually built homes. Thus, these Gottscheers became neighbors, but most were related…siblings, cousins or in-laws.
These families were: Eppich, Verderber, Pfeiffer, Knaus, Sigmund, Palsic/Polsic, Lobisser, Koestner, Hoegler, Erker, and Bisdnack. Today, many descendants of these original Gottscheers still live in the neighborhood.