Cullman was founded by Col. Johann Gottfried Cullmann, a German refugee from Frankweiler (which was then Bavaria) who came to America in 1866. While working at a bookstore in Cincinnati, Ohio, he began formulating ideas of a special colony of working people – specifically a place for immigrants from countries such as his native Germany. He read about the vast unsettled lands in the South, and bought passage on a boat to Florence, Alabama. There he met with Governor Patton and presented his idea. The Governor furnished men and horses for him to explore available lands in North Alabama.
He finally met with Lewis Fink, the land agent for the great South-North Railroad (later the L&N), which had just built a line through the wilderness from Decatur to Montgomery, After a careful survey, he contracted with the railroad for 349,000 acres with the stipulation that Col. Cullmann would pay for all advertising of the land and other expenses incurred in bringing the desired immigrants to the area. Col. Cullmann found the area to be perfect for his dream colony.
Cullmann then went back north and began to advertise for colonists. In April of 1873, the first five families came by train to the spot where Cullman now stands. Each was allotted a plot of ground. The colony quickly grew, with American citizens and German immigrants moving to the area.
In the middle of 1874, an election was held to incorporate the town. With thirty votes cast, there were twenty-three for incorporation and seven against. It was also decided that the town would be called “Cullman” after its founder, but with only one “n.”
At that time, the Cullman area was part of Blount, Winston, Morgan, and Walker counties. A movement was started in 1876 to create a new county, but the idea was met with opposition from the other counties. In that day, an area was required to have a population of more than 9,500 before it could be considered for the creation of a new county. With the population requirement being met, Cullman County was formed in 1877 by the state legislature.
For the next twenty years, Col. Cullmann was instrumental in the growth of Cullman and Cullman County. He would bring in groups of settlers, sell them land, and then use that money to send back to Germany for more settlers. Between 1871 and 1895, Col. Cullmann brought more than 100,000 immigrants to the South from Europe and other parts of the United States.
For more about Cullman’s unique history and German heritage, visit our Cullman County Museum site or call the Museum at 1-800-533-1258.
Mayors of the City of Cullman
TERM OF OFFICE = 1 YEAR
1st Mayor | 1874-1874 | Fred Betz
2nd Mayor | 1874-1875 | Thomas C. Wilhite
3rd Mayor | 1875-1876 | Charles A. Beckert
4th Mayor | 1876-1877 | Gottfried A. Prinz (1st of 2 Split Terms)
5th Mayor | 1877-1878 | John Langhoff
6th Mayor | 1878-1879 | Gottfried A. Prinz (2nd of 2 Split Terms)
7th Mayor | 1879-1879 | Julius Damus (Resigned to become Circuit Clerk)
8th Mayor | 1879-1880 | Asa Brindley Hays
9th Mayor | 1880-1881 | N. Mashina
10th Mayor | 1881-1882 | John Eisheimer
11th Mayor | 1882-1885 | H.L. Watlington
12th Mayor | 1885-1886 | Charles Plato
13th Mayor | 1886-1887 | G.P. Fruhauff
14th Mayor | 1887-1889 | Samuel H. Herrin
TERM OF OFFICE CHANGED TO 2 YEARS IN 1890
15th Mayor | 1889-1896 | George H. Parker (1st of 2 Split Terms)
16th Mayor | 1896-1900 | John F. Beyer
TERM OF OFFICE CHANGED TO 4 YEARS IN 1900
17th Mayor | 1900-1903 | George H. Parker (2nd of 2 Split Terms)
18th Mayor | 1903-1910 | George J. Beyer
19th Mayor | 1910-1932 | Maurice Lindon Robertson
20th Mayor | 1932-1948 | John A. Dunlap
21st Mayor | 1948-1956 | William J. Nesmith (1st of 2 Split Terms)
22nd Mayor | 1956-1960 | J.W. Arnold
23rd Mayor | 1960-1964 | William R. Griffin
24th Mayor | 1964-1976 | William J. Nesmith (2nd of 2 Split Terms)
25th Mayor | 1976-1984 | Robert McGukin
26th Mayor | 1984-1988 | Jack K. Sides (1st of 2 Split Terms)
27th Mayor | 1988-1992 | Therman Murphree
28th Mayor | 1992-2000 | Jack K. Sides (2nd of 2 Split Terms)