This is a sampling of the evidence of Indiana’s German heritage that you can find as you drive through the state.
Southern Indiana abounds in German/Swiss heritage. Vevay, in Switzerland County, celebrates its Swiss roots a weekend in August with a Swiss Wine Festival at Riverfront Park.
Go west down the Ohio River from Vevay, and you may visit Tell City, in Perry County. This town is named for Swiss hero Wilhelm Tell. The town was formed in 1857 when the Swiss Colonization Society of Cincinnati purchased the land. This society was to locate fertile land where Swiss-German immigrants might have affordable homesteads. Schweizer Fest honors this beginning. This year’s festival will be held August 9 and 10th. The website http://www.perrycountyindiana.org has history of the area and some genealogical information as well as area attractions and events.
Another priest, Father Kundek, began Ferdinand, of Dubois County, according to the Ferdinand Chamber of Commerce. He bought 1360 acres of land in 1840 and named the village he envisioned “Ferdinand” after the Emperor of Austria. He advertised in newspapers of towns with large German populations such as Louisville, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh. A group of families landed in Troy, Indiana that is on the Ohio River. Scouts were sent to see the New “town”. All they saw was a plank nailed to a tree saying, “Ferdinand”. Some of the families continued on down the Ohio to Evansville while the more resolute carved out the a new town in the Hoosier forest. Join the town for the Heimatfest, June 20-22, 2003 at the Ferdinand Community Center. Ferdinand also has a traditional German Christkindlmarkt each November. Guided tours of Ferdinand’s Monastery Immaculate Conception home to the Sisters of St. Benedict are available on the weekend during the Christkindlmarkt. http://www.ferdinandinchamber.org
Northern Indiana's German Heritage
Amish carriages and farm equipment frequent the country roads of LaGrange and Elkhart Counties. The buggies are also found in Allen and Noble counties as well. This avoidance of modern transportation is part of the Amish pursuit of a simple life. It is a life centered on family and their interpretation of Biblical teachings. This life forbids violence, marries for life, avoids being proud, and values industry and honesty. Due to their faith they also do not use electricity or telephones. Dress is simple and unadorned. Education ends at the eight grade. Young men are taught a trade and young women skills for homemaking.
Mennonite families also live in this area. The Amish and Mennonite are very close in matters of faith. Mennonite families do use some modern amenities. They are part of the Anabaptists that began in Europe in 1525. Mennonites are named for Menno Simons who was a Catholic priest who left that faith to follow his Anabaptist beliefs. In the 1600’s a group led by Jakob Ammon broke away and formed the Amish.
The area is noted for furniture making and quilting. Industries locate here because of the pool of skilled workers. In the towns, you will notice the hitching posts with the horses tied to them. Shipshewana and the surrounding area is a mecca for horse and quilt auctions.
Menno-Hof is a Mennonite Anabaptist Interpretive Center located in Shipshewana, Indiana. Their website is http://www.mennohof.org
Amish Acres in Nappanee, Indiana lets you experience some of the Amish life through the threshers’ dinner, the historic farmstead, and the general store. The musical Plain ‘n Fancy shows some of the differences between the simple life and modern life. Their website is http://www.amishacres.com
Fort Wayne in Allen County is Indiana’s second largest city. Part of its growth stems from Fort Wayne actively recruiting Germans with skills needed by area industries. By the late 1800’s approximately 80% of the population was German! Fort Wayne remains a stoutly German city with about 50% of the residents claiming German ancestry. The Fort Wayne Männerchor/Damenchor Is the second oldest German Singing society in Indiana. It seeks to preserve and promote German choral music. It still sings all of its music in German.
German's believe that physical fitness leads to a sound mind. This is the basis for the Fort Wayne Turners Society. They have a planned recreational and social program for all members of a family. The Fort Wayne Sport Club was started in 1927. The members were soccer players who had come from Germany to Fort Wayne. The Sport Club today continues its soccer program and includes German culture in their social events.
There is also a German
Heritage Society. It established an exchange program with
Gera, Germany which has
become Fort Wayne’s sister city.
It also established an educational program to teach German in the schools.
It does many additional activities to preserve, promote, and celebrate
Fort Wayne’s German heritage. Learn about the calendar of events for Germanfest
which will be June 11 to 14, 2003 at their website
Berne, Adams county Indiana is named for the capital of Switzerland. Its first seventy residents were Mennonites from Switzerland. People of like faith were also attracted to the area. Growth of the town was assured when a rail depot was established in 1871giving area farmers ready access to markets. Swiss Days Festival is July 24-26, 2003. http://www.hernein.com
LaPorte County in the western corner of northern Indiana will be hosting Oktoberfest August 29 to Sept. 1, 2003 at the LaPorte County Fairgrounds.
Central Indiana's German Heritage
The most chronicled history of the German American experience in Indiana is Indianapolis in Marion County. From the harmonies of one of the nation's oldest continuously active singing organizations, to the presence of gymnasiums in public schools to the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument at the heart of the city, people of German descent have been responsible for countless contributions to Indianapolis culture.