History of New Ulm Texas
New Ulm is one of the premier German settlements in Texas. Such a small and tranquil place boasts historic legends. Richard King of the King Ranch passed through New Ulm and tried his hand at cigar manufacturing before heading south, and in the 1920s a New Ulm store was burglarized by one of the Newton Boys.
New Ulm, on the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway line at the intersection of FM 109 and 1094, in western Austin County, was first known as Duff’s Settlement, in honor of James C. Duff, who in 1841 acquired title to the tract on which the town was founded.
The community’s growth was spurred after 1845 by an influx of German-speaking settlers from nearby communities such as Industry, Shelby and Nassau Farm. In 1852, a post office opened in the settlement, which became known as New Ulm in commemoration of the well-known city in Würtemberg, Germany, the province from which most early inhabitants had originally emigrated.
During the 1850s, the agricultural community had six general merchandise stores, five blacksmith shops, three breweries, three cabinetry shops and a cigar factory. During this period, local residents organized both an athletic club, and a rifle club, the members of which sported light green uniforms.
The arrival of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway line in 1892 further stimulated the New Ulm economy, and the town shipped cotton, poultry, eggs and butter to markets in surrounding counties. It also caused the entire town to relocate one mile south of the original site. Many remaining homes and business buildings date to this turn of the century prosperity.
New Ulm had 225 residents in 1898. By 1930 its population had grown to 500, and the number of businesses had increased to 40, including a bank and an English-language newspaper, the New Ulm Enterprise, which began publishing in 1910. In 1916, 21 men in the community met to secure fire apparatus to protect local property, and the New Ulm Fire Company (now known as the New Ulm Volunteer Fire Department) was formed.
St. John Lutheran Church (211 Hickory St.) was built in 1913, and still serves the congregation today. All that remains of the New Ulm Cemetery at Highway 109 & Kingfiher Road is a decorative gateway.
The population declined to an estimated 390 by 1950. Growth resumed, however, during the 1960s, and by 1968 the population was estimated at 600, and New Ulm had 16 businesses. In 1990, the population was estimated at 650.
Its surviving 19th century buildings were featured in “Texas Public Buildings of the 19th Century” by Williard B. Robinson.
Winding country roads alive with nature bring visitors into New Ulm, which now boasts many restored historic structures, some serving as antique or specialty shops, plus a very unique commercial cottage garden. It is a picturesque place to browse on the weekends for those superlative gifts that are distinctive and one of a kind.
Source: “The History of the German Settlements in Texas, 1831–1861”; “The History of Frelsburg”; “Footprints of Five Generations”