The Canal Era, during which the
14 mile long Miami and Erie Canal Feeder from Port
Jefferson through Sidney, Ohio, to Lockington was constructed, generated the areas first major economic stimulus for growth.
The construction of the canal offered communities the opportunity to attract
settlers and the area towns competed with each other for immigrants. New Bremen and Berlin
experienced a boom from the arrival of the canal. Since towns wanted to sell
as many land lots as possible, the name Berlin (now Ft. Loramie) was selected by town
organizers as a name that would certainly appeal to Germans.
The Miami and Erie Canal, which reached Shelby County in 1841, provided jobs for many
of the countys European immigrants. It also changed the way new immigrants traveled
to Shelby County from Cincinnati in the south and by 1845, Lake Erie in the north. The
actual construction provided the initial boost; the real benefit proved to be the
opportunity for increased commerce presented by this new transportation link. The canal
brought a business boom which in turn elevated farm product prices up to
previously unknown heights.
With German immigrants arriving to work on the canal, on the land, and in the shops,
business in Sidney and Shelby County began to expand. The German natives penchant for
thrift proved to be a valuable asset to the areas economic and social growth.
Sidneys population increased from 713 in 1840 to 1,284 by 1850. During this period,
the residents national origins went from being almost entirely English, or of
English descent, to at least fifty percent German and Alsatian French.
By the 1850s, these German immigrants would also establish the towns of Minster, New
Bremen and New Knoxville. In 1850, Auglaize County had the highest percentage of Germans
of all the counties in Ohio, with a population of a little more than 20%. As late as 1908,
more than 95% of Auglaize County children were taking the German
language in school.
German immigrants did not settle randomly but along strictly religious lines: the
Catholics settled in Minster, the Lutherans in New Bremen and the Evangelicals and
Reformed in New Knoxville. This stems back to Germany where these religious factions had
quarreled and did not socialize together. These townspeople would patronize businesses of
their own community to the point that the villages became self-supporting. Many were
skilled craftsmen and most were willing and eager to work. Turn-of-the century historians
Sutton and Howe both describe the German nationality of these areas. Sutton wrote, "After
settling here, the Germans strove to prevent the settlement of Americans in their midst,
and by different methods very nearly succeeded...they have preserved the characteristics
of nationality, religion, and politics up to the present time." Howe describes
the industrial nature of the Germans, from the clearing of the forest, establishment of
large, productive farms and well-run towns. "They have cleared excellent farms,
erected substantial buildings...while maintaining the integrity of all German
segment written in November, 1997 by David
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