ARRIVAL OF THE GERMANS
written by Ms. Evelyn Phillips Mantz
In 1830 the first German immigrants – all Catholics and mostly farmers – arrived in Detroit from Neustadt, a small country town of about 2,000. Led by a man later remembered only as “Victor, the Hessian Columbus”, they had traveled by wagon to the port city of Bremen, sailed to New York City, and then jostled by covered wagons to Buffalo. The final leg of the trip was made in steamboats – a total journey lasting three months.
In a city of over 2,000 Frenchmen, the Germans were grateful for one special consideration they had for their worship – a monthly service in German conducted at St. Anne’s by a French priest. But that couldn’t satisfy them for long.
Detroit was the center for the priests who started on their missionary excursions. Priest were scarce, their duties trying, and they had to be constantly on the move to help out in case of need.
Early in 1833 Father Martin Kundig, a German Swiss priest, was sent from Cincinnati to aid Father Badin at Detroit. Speaking English, German, French, and Italian, Father Kundig lost no time in bringing the strays back into the fold.
An early record shows that John Henry Gies, a Neustadter, assisted Father Kundig as acolyte, and introduced him to the Germans. A plan was formulated to use a rear room of St. Anne’s Church as a chapel, and services were conducted in the morning, and occasionally evening devotions were held as well. Father Kundig preached to his congregation in their native tongue and soon had a record attendance at all church services. A separate baptismal register for them was opened in 1835. Still, as the Germans increased in number, they longed to have a church of their own.