Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament Located in north-central Alabama, Cullman County was founded by German immigrants in the 1870s and today is home to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of Angels Monastery, founded by Franciscan nun and founder of the Eternal World Television Network Mother Angelica. Cullman County is also home to Lewis Smith Lake, popular with anglers seeking rainbow trout. The county is governed by an elected three-member commission and includes 10 incorporated communities.
- Founding Date: January 24, 1877
- Area: 738 square miles
- Population: 83,345 (2020 Census estimate)
- Major Waterways: Mulberry Fork of the Black Warrior River
- Major Highways: I-65, U.S. 31, U.S. 278
- County seat: Cullman
- Largest city: Cullman
Cullman County Courthouse Cullman County was created by an act of the Alabama State Legislature on January 24, 1877, from portions of Blount, Walker, Morgan, and Winston Counties. The county is named for its founder, Johann G. Cullman, who came to Alabama in 1873 to establish a colony for German immigrants. Prior to its creation, present-day Cullman County was occupied by poor farmers and squatters. The mountainous land was too difficult to farm, and the area was one of the most isolated and desolate in north Alabama. During the Civil War, the area was a haven for Unionists and deserters. In the spring of 1863, Union colonel Abel Streight and Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest fought a running skirmish across northern Alabama that included a number of named battles, including at Day’s Creek, Crooked Creek, and Hog Mountain in present-day Cullman County. After the war, Johann Johann G. Cullmann Cullman saw different promise in the area. Born in Bavaria, Cullman travelled to America in the late 1860s to escape the revolutions sweeping Europe during the mid-nineteenth century. When he arrived in Alabama in 1870, he met former governor Robert Patton, who suggested that he settle in north Alabama. In 1871, he purchased around 350,000 acres on either side of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad and began recruiting settlers in 1873 through a letter-writing campaign and advertisements in his German-language newspaper, Der Nord Alabama Colonist. Cullman sold 20,000 acres of land in the area to poor immigrants by offering the land at drastically reduced rates. This angered squatters and poor farmers who already lived in the area, and in the early 1870s, Cullmann survived an assassination attempt when an outraged farmer attacked him with a bowie knife. Soon, however, the town of Cullman contained 125 new immigrant families. By 1880, the town had a population of 1,200, a train depot, three public schools, a telegraph office, a courthouse, and several successful businesses. Although Johann Cullmann succeeded in attracting European immigrants and was even asked to devise a “plan of immigration” for the Alabama Department of Immigration, his town outlawed blacks from settling in the area. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Cullman was known as a sundown town, so named for its alleged display of a sign warning blacks not to be in town after sundown.
On April 27, 2011, a massive storm, causing numerous powerful tornadoes, struck the southeastern United States. More than 250 people were killed in Alabama, including two people in Cullman County, one in the city of Cullman and another in the Johnson’s Crossing community.
Major Cities and Demographics
According to 2020 Census estimates, Cullman County recorded a population of 83,345. Approximately 93.9 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 4.4 percent as Hispanic, 3.3 percent as two or more races, 1.1 percent as African American, 0.4 percent as Asian, and 0.4 percent as Native American. The county seat, Cullman, had an estimated population of 16,072. Other population centers in the county include Berlin, Good Hope, Dodge City, Hanceville, Holly Pond, Baileyton, and Garden City. The median household income was $48,388, compared with $52,035 for the state as a whole, and per capita income was $24,770, compared with $28,934 for the state as a whole.
Cullman Railroad Depot Prior to the settlement of Cullman County, the area was populated by poor farmers and squatters. Believing the mountainous terrain of the county to be unproductive, farmers seeking large farms avoided the area. After the establishment of a rail line from Montgomery to Decatur, Louisville & Nashville Railroad vice president Albert Fink met with Johann Cullman to discuss building a town along the line to attract business. Cullman attracted hundreds of German families to the area, who set about transforming the economy of the town. Soon the county boasted a diversity of crops, including cotton, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, peas, and corn. German settlers also opened breweries, sausage and cheese factories, and wineries. By the turn of the century, Cullman contained two grist mills, eight steam cotton gins, two wagon factories, a shoe factory, a furniture factory, 12 sawmills, and a cotton oil company. According to the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, Cullman County currently leads the state in agricultural production and is ranked as one of the top 60 counties in America in total agricultural income. Current major agricultural products include poultry, beef cattle, sweet potatoes, nursery plants, corn, and forest products.
According to 2020 Census estimates, the workforce in Cullman County was divided among the following industrial categories:
- Educational services, and health care and social assistance (21.3 percent)
- Manufacturing (16.2 percent)
- Retail trade (13.6 percent)
- Construction (10.5 percent)
- Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (8.3 percent)
- Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (6.4 percent)
- Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (5.7 percent)
- Other services, except public administration (4.8 percent)
- Finance and insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (4.1 percent)
- Public administration (4.0 percent)
- Wholesale trade (2.4 percent)
- Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (2.2 percent)
- Information (0.6 percent)
The Cullman County School System oversees 27 schools. Cullman City Schools oversees six schools. The county is home to George C. Wallace State Community College, a two-year coeducational college located in Hanceville.
Cullman County Map Comprising approximately 738 square miles, Cullman County lies wholly within the Cumberland Plateau physiographic section. It is bounded to the north by Morgan County, to the east by Marshall and Blount Counties, to the south by Walker County, and to the west by Winston County.
The Mulberry Fork of the Black Warrior River runs along the southeastern edge of the county and several of its tributaries, including the Duck River and Dorsey, Eightmile, and Brindley creeks, cross the county. In 1961, Alabama Power dammed the Sipsey River to create Lewis Smith Lake, located along the southwestern border of the county. Several tributaries of the Sipsey, including Blevens, Crooked, and Ryan creeks, traverse the area. Interstate 65, running north-south through the center of the county, is Cullman County’s major transportation route. U.S. 31, running north-south in the center of the county, and U.S. 278, running east-west in the northern part of the county, are the county’s other major routes. Folsom Field is the county’s only public airport.
Events and Places of Interest
Ave Maria Grotto The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of Angels Monastery are located on 400-acres of land in rural Hanceville. The shrine and monastery were built under the leadership of Mother Angelica, who is also the founder of the Eternal Word Television Network, headquartered in Birmingham. The monastery is open to pilgrims and visitors, and the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament is open for daily Mass. During the first week of October, Cullman holds its annual Oktoberfest, which celebrates the German heritage of Cullman County’s founders. Cullman is also home to the Cullman County Museum and Weiss Cottage. The Ave Maria Grotto, a four-acre park, features 125 famous buildings and shrines from around the world recreated in miniature from stone, concrete, and discarded items, such as marbles and broken china. The sculptures were constructed over a 40-year period by Brother Joseph Zoettell, a Benedictine monk of St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman. The Crooked Creek Civil War Museum and Park, in the unincorporated community of Vinemont, is located in an area that encompasses one of the sites at which Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederate troops engaged with Union soldiers under the command of Union colonel Abel D. Streight. The museum is located in a former stagecoach inn and houses exhibits featuring weapons, documents, photos, and other artifacts and memorabilia.
Lewis Smith Lake is known for the high quality of its water. The dam at its base releases clear, cold water into the Sipsey Fork, which makes it one of the few places in the state for trout fishing. The county also contains Clarkson Covered Bridge, one of the largest covered bridges in the state, which was built in 1904 and spans Crooked Creek.
- Heritage of Cullman County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, Inc., 1999.
- Johnson, Gaylon. Before the German Settlement of 1873: The Land and People that Became Cullman County. Cullman, Ala.: Gregath Company, 1980.