Cullman was founded in 1873 by Colonel John G. Cullmann, a German immigrant from Frankweiler in what is today Rhineland-Palatinate. As an active supporter of the German Revolutions of 1848–49, Cullmann faced financial ruin after the defeat of the revolution, and never managed to recover. He came to believe that his political viewpoints were incompatible with Germany, and decided to emigrate. He first settled in London, UK as he feared to be drafted into the ongoing American Civil War, and eventually moved to Alabama in 1871. In 1873, he negotiated an agreement to act as agent for a tract of land 349,000 acres (1,410 km2) in size, owned by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company, on which he established a colony for German immigrants.
Five German families moved to the area in March 1873; in 1874, the town was incorporated and named after Colonel Cullmann (with the town name being Americanized to 'Cullman' with one 'n'). Over the next 20 years, Cullmann encouraged around 100,000 Germans to immigrate to the United States, with many settling in the Cullman area. He drew on his military engineering training in laying out and planning the town, and the town grew quickly. German continued to be widely spoken, and Cullmann himself was the publisher of a German-language newspaper. When Cullmann died in 1895, at the age of 72, his funeral was marked by the attendance of Governor William C. Oates. The site Cullmann selected for his headquarters is now his gravesite.
German immigrants also founded St. Bernard's Monastery, on the grounds of which is the Ave Maria Grotto, containing 125 miniature reproductions of some of the most famous religious structures of the world, and the town's main tourist attractions. The city’s German heritage established a legacy of farming culture that remains relevant in its economy today. The actor Channing Tatum is a native of Cullman.
Cullman, AL, USA