Texas Town Speaks German

Many think of Pennsylvanian Dutch, those early colonists who came to America from Germany and settled in many regions of Pennsylvania. You see it in the language of German which was used for decades in those German regions of Pennsylvania. View some of the old cemetery headstones, written in German. That is true for parts of Michigan which had a large German population in the early 1800s.

Yet there is a present-day location, a small town in Texas, known as ‘Little Germany’ where many of the residents use the German language as their first and main language. The town’s official name is Shelby in Austin County, TX. It is located in the southeastern portion of Texas. The name comes from David Shelby, an early settler. It is not a purely German language they speak. Over the years, there is a blend with a Texas accent.

The town began after the revolution in 1848 in Germany. The first settler was Otto von Roeder who had arrived earlier in 1841. Then a larger group from Germany who left came in 1845 to settle in this small village between Austin and Houston, Texas. Those early settlers kept with the German traditions including speaking and writing the German language.

A singing society was founded there in 1852, and the first school was built in 1854. In 1867 the town was the site of a large singing festival (in honor of the Prussian soldiers who had died in the Seven Weeks War) that attracted German singing groups from around the state. By 1884 Shelby had some 75 residents, served by three saloons, three general stores, two cotton gins, two schools, a blacksmith, and a saddle maker. A Lutheran church was built in the 1880s, and a hotel was operating by 1896. The community continued to grow, and in 1904 it reported a population of 248.

There were some times in history, during World War One and then Two where the United States is fighting Germany, that anything appearing German by outsiders was disapproved. So the residents didn’t speak the German language during those times. This did hurt the businesses and the community.

By the year 2000, the population was about 175 still speaking German.

Photo: The long-time Shelby store.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

German Inventions

Using Family Search in German Research

German Immigrants

< Return To Blog Our books by Mr. and Mrs. Geue identify many of the early Germans to Texas, especially to New Braunsfels, between 1844 and 1861. You can check them out at this link: https://genealogical.com/store/?gpc_search=1&textinput_author_last_name=Geue
Joe Garonzik 17/09/21

Very good. Nice to have the resource. Thank you.
alice 17/09/21

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