By the Carver County Historical Society
Names can carry a mental image or stigma, and they can create an appearance that may or may not be accurate.
New Germany has had two names during its history. Tracking New Germany’s history can be a bit convoluted, as name and location changes make documentation dicey.
In 1886, the Great Northern Railroad arrived in western Carver County. If New Germany had been a “normal” community settlement, the depot would arrive at an already surveyed town site or would very quickly be followed by a survey of the community, with lots sold off in a planned manner.
The New Germany depot, however, was built 1 1/2 miles north and 1/4 mile west of where the railroad came through, near St. John’s Lutheran Church in Hollywood.
The three farmers who owned the land – Amand Bury, Christian Wolfrom, and Joseph Paul – sold off pieces of land and the new, unnamed town was on its way.
The community was eventually platted, but not until after it was already well-established. The village was officially organized and the first store opened in 1887.
The first issue at hand for the newly formed community was a name. The obvious choice was New Germany, due to the large number of German immigrants.
It should be noted that there is inconsistent information of whether or not a separate community of New Germany existed before the depot was built. By some accounts, a separate community of New Germany was located 1 1/2 miles from the depot, and its residents moved to the new location.
The most important fact is that the area around the new depot was named New Germany, and all was well until World War I. Pressure to separate themselves from the war in Europe drove residents to rename the town to Motordale in 1917. This stayed in place until 1922 when the name reverted back to New Germany.
Several other small settlements contributed to New Germany’s growth, notably; Purity, Camden, Hollywood, and the platted but never settled community of St. Claire.
Purity was a settlement three miles south of New Germany and consisted of a post office and a couple of stores. As New Germany grew, the need for a post office became apparent and the request was made to the Postal Service. The Postal Service response was to move Purity’s post office to New Germany. The problem with this was, that the post office retained the name Purity while in being located in New Germany.
The two names, of course, caused confusion, and it was determined that changing the name of the post office was easier than changing the name of the town. An application was made and granted to change the post office name from Purity to New Germany in 1890.
Four miles southwest of New Germany, where the Buffalo Creek enters the Crow River, was the location of a small community named Camden. The post office in Camden was established in 1856 and lasted for only a year. The end of Camden came during the 1862 Dakota Conflict. The buildings were burned and the town never rebuilt.
Hollywood was platted in 1856 and named Helvetia by John Buhler. Matthew Kelly suggested the name Hollywood after a shrub he saw growing was recognized as holly. After the name was adopted, it was determined that the plant was not holly, but a similar species.
Sources: Minnesota Geographic Names – Upham, Minnesota Historical Society 1969; Franklin Schoenke; New Germany 1887-1987 Centennial; “German founders settle on New Germany as city name,” New Germany Focus.
New Germany through the years
Throughout the years, the community of New Germany has been the source of some interesting memories.
In 1928, for example, Emil Burkowski and Elmer Beiersdorf decided to celebrate the 4th of July by discharging 11 sticks of dynamite at a time. According to the 1987 centennial book, the explosion shook the entire village and windows were shattered in many buildings.
In 1950-51, there was a snowfall record of 88.9 inches, and the 1962 75th anniversary celebration had the largest crowd ever to assemble in New Germany at one time, the centennial book reported.
When New Germany first started, city leaders were called “presidents” instead of mayors, and clerks were referred to as “village recorders.”
Here is a list of New Germany’s presidents and mayors:
• 1901 – Albert Groenke
• 1905 – Fred Hein
• 1919 – J. Schnobrik and William F. Stender
• 1922 – A.W. Hoese
• 1930 – William F. Stender
• 1931 – Henry O. Mielke
• 1935 – Otto Schoenke
• 1941 – August C. Mielke
• 1947 – Walter E Wodtke (the first mayor)
• 1954 – Art Schoenke
• 1958 – Alois Effertz
• 1962 – Herbert Schoenke
• 1970 – Leland Stender
• 1972 – Leonard Litfin, Jr.
• 1982 – David R. Becker
• 1984 – Gordon Miller
• 1994 – Mark Unglaub
• 1998 – Paul Engelhart
• 2003 – Franklin Schoenke
• 2006 – Pete Pederson
Here is a list of village recorders and clerks:
• 1901 – Andrew Leif
• 1905 – Henry Mielke
• 1919 – Charles Bierwagon
• 1922 – Andrew Mattison
• 1928 – H.L. Steinke
• 1947 – Howard Bennyhoff (the first clerk)
• 1954 – Ralph Stender
• William Stender
• 1964 – Ralph Stahlke
• 1998 – Sue Iverson
• 1999 – Shelly Quass
• 2006 – Joan Guthmiller