Friday, November 30, 2012


Gluckstadt, located between Madison and Canton, is a growing community. Housing developments, new schools and businesses are moving to the area at a rapid pace. This is not the first time folks have moved to the area from someplace else, however. In fact, Gluckstadt was originally settled by German immigrants seeking a better life. Their story – and how the land became available – is tale of hard work and perseverance.

The area now known as Gluckstadt was originally called Calhoun Station. As it was located on the Jackson, New Orleans and Great Northern Railroad, Calhoun attracted the attention of Union forces during the Civil War. During the Siege of Jackson in July,  1863, a Federal column composed of both infantry and cavalry moved up the railroad toward Canton. On July 16, the infantry, commanded by Col. Charles R. Woods (left), captured the depot at Calhoun and destroyed about one mile of track and a railroad bridge. The depot was burned, along with whatever supplies were stored there. Ironically, Woods’ brigade consisted of several German-speaking regiments from Missouri. Organized chiefly through the Turner Society, which was a German-American athletic and social organization in St. Louis, the 3rd, 12th and 17th Missouri (U.S.) regiments were so heavily German in their makeup that the brigade was known as the “German Light Brigade.” 

Forty years later, German-Americans returned to Calhoun, although no longer as combatants. In 1905, several immigrants, including members of the Klaas, Kehle, Fitsch, Schmidt and Weilandt families, came to Madison County, Mississippi, from Klaasville, Indiana. Klaasville is located in Lake County, Indiana. Founded in 1837, Lake County is so named because it borders Lake Michigan. Situated on prairie land only a half-mile from the Illinois state line, Klaasville was founded by Heinrich Klaas in 1850, who was the first German immigrant to the area. Within ten years, ten or fifteen families had settled in Klaasville, where they erected a church (the Church of St. Anthony) and established a cemetery in 1860. A common frame building, the church was constructed at a cost of $500. In 1878, an addition was made to the church and a steeple added. Unable to build a house for the priest until 1866, the first few priests at St. Anthony’s lived with the Klaas family. The little town itself included a store, schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, a carpenter, a wagon maker, shoemaker and a tailor. Heinrich Klaas, born in 1800, died in 1882 and is buried in the St. Anthony Cemetery (above right). 

Back in Mississippi in 1896, two Chicago investors named Edward M. Treakle and Gorton W. Nichols purchased land from James B. Yellowley, who had come to Madison County in 1853 from North Carolina. With the land they purchased, Treakle and Nichols formed the Highland Colony Company and began marketing the property to northern settlers. After surveying the property and dividing it into lots, the developers established what is today the town of Ridgeland. Enticed by the promise of good farm lands in the sunny south, immigrants began moving into the area around the beginning of the 20th Century, among them several families from Klaasville. At a cost of $22,000, nine families initially purchased land and moved all of their household goods and farm equipment, including livestock, to Madison County in 1905 and named their new environs Gluckstadt, meaning “Lucky Village.” Not only were they lured by the good soil, but were likely escaping an area that was increasingly anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic. Within a few years, Indiana would explode with Ku Klux Klan activity, and most of the violence was aimed at Catholics. Through the 1920s, the Klan frequently targeted Catholic churches and schools. At the height of the Klan’s influence in Indiana, the secret society claimed over 250,000 members, and was the largest KKK organization in history.

After moving to Madison County, the first wave of immigrant families worked hard to make it in their new land. Three years after arriving, though, they discovered that they did not own the land they thought they had purchased, as the Highland Colony Company  never actually owned the property they offered for sale, having only taken an option on the land. After hiring a law firm in Jackson to try and work something out, in the end the families had to purchase the same land twice. It is not readily apparent if the problems with the Highland Colony Company were a result of fraud or negligence, but there is some indication that other legal difficulties followed the investors in other states as well. Despite these difficulties, more German immigrants arrived (above), including the Miller, Minninger , Carr, Aulenbrock, Haas and Weisenberger families from 1914 into the 1920s.

Within a few years, a Catholic Church was established by the community. Served by German-speaking priests, the first church building was constructed in 1911. The building also functioned as a school. By 1917, a new church, St. Joseph, was constructed at a cost of $1,750. The church was destroyed in a fire and was replaced in 1929. The first priest for the mission parish, the Rev. A.P. Heick (left), died the same year. In 1968, the second church was also lost in a fire. After several years of harvest festival fundraisers, a third church was constructed in 1975. Today, the parish of St. Joseph includes approximately four hundred families and the annual German Festival attracts thousands of tourists. Gluckstadt, founded more than a century ago, continues to grow, perhaps finally earning the nickname “lucky.”

1 comment:

  1. Howdy Jim, You may already be aware of this but so many Germans served the Union in Missouri that the Southerners in Missouri took to calling the U.S. flag that "Damned Dutch flag". The Germans were also quite fond of torchlight parades in St. Louis very similar to the Third Reich. The native Missourians were not thrilled.