We are blessed in Lawrence County to watch the arrival of another beautiful fall.
Warm weather has lingered, even though the calendar told us autumn began September 23. A few days have been cool, but the morning of our average frost date, October 15, passed with no trace of iciness.
Science tells us that the increasing length of night is the first signal for trees and shrubs to begin their annual show; sunny days and cool temperatures heighten the color. Whatever the reason, it is a pleasure to watch it progress.
Spots of color are visible in our woods now. The low leaves of sassafras trees are a glossy pop of red against neighboring tree trunks, and locust leaves have turned a pure, buttery yellow. Most trees are just beginning to change, with a tinge of color on their outer leaves that will spread in the days to come.
You cannot get away from the sight of trees in Lawrence County. There are small forests within Lawrenceburg’s city limits and even the largest cultivated fields are surrounded by them. When colors are at their height, you can enjoy them anywhere, but try a drive through David Crockett State Park (where these photos were made); Laurel Hill Wildlife Management Area; or along the Natchez Trace. All are accessible from Highway 64 West.
In this community on the border of Alabama, we are accustomed to Tennessee orange and Alabama crimson competing for attention year-round. But when autumn arrives, every imaginable shade of those colors is plastered against a bright blue sky, stunning us with their unpretentious beauty. Yes, we are blessed in Lawrence County.
We are blessed in Lawrence County to still benefit from the 1870s immigration of German Catholic families to this area.
Thousands of migrants came to the U.S. between 1830 and 1860, the majority of them from Ireland (1.6 million) and Germany (1.3 million). New York was their principal port of arrival, and many stayed there or moved westward along the Erie Canal to Ohio. They found the cities crowded and lacking the economic opportunities they had hoped to find when they moved to America.
In 1868, The German Catholic Homestead Society of Cincinnati, Ohio, bought 25,000-30,000 acres in Lawrence County, Tennessee. The first fifteen families arrived November 14, 1870 with Rev. J.H. Heuser. Advertisements in German newspapers brought others from Kentucky, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa. They made the trip by train, by wagon, sometimes after coming by boat as far as Muscle Shoals.
Rev. Heuser and parishioners in Lawrenceburg set up a frame church and two-room convent that was also used as a parochial school. The priest then moved south to a community where other migrants had settled, known as Glenrock. He helped establish another church, school and cemetery, and changed the settlement’s name to Loretto. The name comes from a town in Italy, originally called Lauretana in Latin, where in the 13th century angels were said to have transported the Nazareth home of the Virgin Mary.
Rev. Heuser went on to establish churches, schools and Catholic cemeteries in St. Joseph and St. Mary’s in Lawrence County, and at St. Florian in Lauderdale County, Alabama. There were also mission churches west and north of Lawrenceburg, near Laurel Hill and in the Brace Community, respectively.
Today, Lawrence County is still home to three of those churches, and all are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
St. Joseph was built in 1883 and has the distinction of being the only consecrated church in the state of Tennessee. According to the Lawrence County Archives, “All churches are blessed before being used for divine services, but consecration, a rare and more solemn form of dedication, is restricted to comparatively few. Only those which are built of stone or other permanent materials with assurance that they will remain in permanent use can be consecrated. Also, the land and building must be entirely free of all debt.”
Lawrenceburg parishioners built a large church on Berger Street and it was dedicated in 1887. Bricks were made from clay found on the property, and the young Will Boulie helped with that work. He went on to establish the Lawrenceburg Pressed Brick Company, and “Boulie brick” is still prized today for its appearance and strength. Lawrenceburg Sacred Heart School is located immediately west of the church.
Loretto Sacred Heart was built in 1912 as a permanent home for that parish. Like Lawrenceburg Sacred Heart, it still maintains a parochial school for children through the 8th grade.
The influence of these German Catholic settlers on Lawrence County can’t be overstated. Many people active today in business, education, health care and government can trace their roots directly to those immigrants, with names like Beuerlein, Waltz, Rohling, Neidert, Lamprecht, Simbeck, Gang and Patt.
Businesses with German Catholic names attached continue to prosper: H. B. Brink Lumber Company, Remke Eye Clinic, Niedergeses Landscaping, Augustin Lumber Company, Kress Auto Parts, and Evers Construction Company, to name a few.
People of German descent have common personality traits that helped pave these residents’ way to success and benefit the community as well. Typically, according to JustLanded.com, they are efficient, disciplined, well-organized and punctual, and also appreciate ironic and cynical humor.
German people also appreciate and honor tradition. Sacred Heart Lawrenceburg recently hosted its 82nd annual Labor Day Festival and Loretto Sacred Heart School has sponsored a Fourth of July event for over 100 years.
This year, Loretto residents are celebrating their German heritage with the 27th annual Oktoberfest. This festival dates back to 1810 in Munich, and is celebrated by German people around the world.
The 2015 Oktoberfest in Loretto began Thursday, October 1 and ends Sunday, October 11. Daily events include a German meal with live music and dancing, naming of an Honorary Burgermeister, a Miss Oktoberfest pageant, jack o’lantern contest and parade, a fall fashion show and even a dachshund race. Dachshunds (“badger dog” in German) were bred in Germany to hunt burrowing animals.
For a schedule of daily events, visit “Oktoberfest in Loretto, TN” on Facebook.com.
Source: Lawrence County Archives
Photos by Howard ‘HoJo’ Johnston of the Lawrence County Advocate and Sedona Brewer