The city of Cullman is the county seat and largest city of Cullman County. It is located between the cities of Birmingham and Huntsville in the north-central section of Alabama on Brindley Mountain, part of the Cumberland Plateau. Cullman and Cullman County are unique in that they are the only locations in the United States that bear this name. The city of Cullman is known for its rich German heritage, early agricultural success, widespread industry, and the famous shrine, the Ave Maria Grotto. Cullman is run by a mayor-council form of government, with five council members who, along with the mayor, are elected by popular vote every four years. Actor Channing Tatum was born in Cullman.
Cullman was founded in 1873 by Bavarian native Colonel Johann Gottfried Cullmann (1823-1895). Cullmann came to America in 1866 and settled in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he dreamed of establishing a place for other German immigrants to settle. According to historical records, in 1871 Cullmann leased or purchased 349,000 acres of land in what was at the time Blount County from the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, which had just built a line through the wilderness from Decatur to Montgomery. By January 5, 1873, Cullmann had convinced 15 Cincinnati families to move to the South. Arriving by train from Cincinnati, the first five families came to the area now known as Cullman by April 1873, and Johann Cullmann continued to travel northward for supplies and to bring more and more settlers back with him. Although Cullman's first settlers were American, German immigrants soon began to move into the area as well.
As the settlement expanded, Cullmann served as doctor, preacher, judge, ticket agent, and real estate dealer. He chartered the North Alabama Land and Immigration Company, with a capital stock of $2.5 million, and also organized the Wine Company of Cullman, which marketed wine made from grapes grown by the settlers. Cullmann founded a German and English language newspaper, Der Nord Alabama Colonist, which helped to bridge the gap between the German and the English-speaking peoples in the town.
The settlement grew so quickly that in 1877, just four years after the city was founded, the state legislature passed a bill creating a new county around the town. It was decided that the town and county would both be called "Cullman" after the town's founder, but with only one "n." The town was laid out in half-acre lots with streets and avenues 100 feet wide. One estimate is that Cullmann was responsible for bringing more than 100,000 immigrants from Europe and other parts of America to the South from 1871 to 1895, though not specifically to Cullman itself. During these years, the language heard in Cullman stores and churches was mostly German. However, as more and more English-speaking Americans began to settle in Cullman and the number of new German settlers decreased, English became the primary language, especially for trade and communication purposes.
Largely as a result of the conflict between the United States and Germany during World Wars I and II, Cullman citizens lost touch with their German relatives and downplayed their German heritage. In the 1960s, however, with expectations of celebrating Cullman's centennial birthday, its residents became interested in recovering the history of Johann Cullmann and their German culture. As part of this rediscovery effort, the town of Cullman began a "sister city" program with Frankweiler, Germany, Cullmann's hometown, in 1987.
On April 27, 2011, a massive storm, causing numerous powerful tornadoes, struck the southeastern United States. More than 250 people were killed in Alabama, including one person in Cullman.
Cullman’s population at the time of the 2010 Census was 14,775. Of that number, 93.4 percent identified themselves as white, 8.2 percent as Hispanic, 1.1 percent as two or more races, 0.9 percent as African American, 0.9 percent as Asian, and 0.3 percent as Native American. The city's median household income was $35,529, and per capita income was $23,258.
Cullman began as an agricultural center, in large part because of its good climate, and was known for producing corn, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, tomatoes, pole beans, lima beans, and pimiento peppers. At one time, Cullman produced a large majority of the pimiento peppers grown in the United States. In the late 1950s, however, poultry became Cullman's leading industry. Cullman's citizens eventually recognized the need for more diverse industries to help advance their city. Some of the first industries in Cullman were the King Edward Cigar Plant, the King Pharr Canning Plant, Cullman Lingerie, and the Cullman Products Corporation, founded in 1959, which manufactures rolled metal molding and stamping.
The workforce in present-day Cullman is divided among the following occupational categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (21.6 percent)
· Manufacturing (19.1 percent)
· Retail trade (13.3 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (9.0 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (6.0 percent)
· Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (5.9 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (5.2 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (5.2 percent)
· Construction (4.9 percent)
· Public administration (4.4 percent)
· Information (2.2 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (1.6 percent)
· Wholesale trade (1.6 percent)
Cullman is served by U.S. Highway 278, which runs east-west through the city, and U.S. Highway 31, which runs north-south. Highway 278 connects the town to I-65 to the west. Cullman Airport-Folsom Field provides services for general aviation in the area.
The Cullman City School System consists of five public schools, enrolling approximately 2,700 students. The Cullman City School System employees 157 teachers. The school system also hosts a city Head Start Program.
Events and Places of Interest
The Ave Maria Grotto, also known as "The Scenic Shrine of the South," is a popular destination in Cullman. Located on the grounds of Alabama's only Benedictine abbey, St. Bernard Abbey, the grotto is a park that covers more than three acres and contains more than 125 miniature reproductions of famous churches, shrines, and buildings from all over the world set in niches throughout the grounds. The collection was created by Brother Joseph Zoettel, O.S.B., of the Community of Benedictine Monks, between 1918 and 1958.
Other places of interest include the Clarkson Covered Bridge, which is one of the longest covered bridges in Alabama and was the site of the Civil War Battle of Hog Mountain in 1863; the Cullman County Museum; the Cullman Depot; and Weiss Cottage, Cullman's oldest house, which was bought from the Louisville and Nashville Railroad by Dr. Weiss on February 24, 1875. Cullman's two historic districts, the Betz Addition Historic District and the Cullman Downtown Commercial Historic District, contain numerous structures from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Both are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Chesley Oaks Golf Club is a Scottish links-style golf course open to the public.
Every year since 1977, the city of Cullman has hosted an Oktoberfest, now a week-long festival that features concerts, German
food tastings, and a Miss Oktoberfest contest. Until recently, Cullman's celebration had no alcoholic beverages, unlike all
other Oktoberfests around the world. Instead of beer, participants enjoyed Oktoberzest, a sparkling apple cider. In November
2010, however, the city of Cullman voted to allow alcohol sales, and the Executive Board of the Oktoberfest then determined
that in the future, the official organizer/sponsor of each year's event will decided whether to allow alcohol sales at the
Jones, Margaret Jean. Combing Cullman County. Cullman, Alabama: Modernistic Printers, 1972.
Published May 4, 2009
Last updated December 5, 2012