AP NEWS

Tomball festival highlights German community founders’ contributions

March 22, 2019

Visitors at the Tomball German Heritage Festival will be able to listen to music, dance and eat during the three-day event which will celebrates the area’s German roots.

In the mid to late 19th century, German migrants arrived in Texas, and in northwest Harris County, they settled in Tomball, Klein, Spring and Cypress.

“In the Klein area, most of your migration started in the 1840s until the 1890s. In most of that time, there was a lot of war that was going on in Germany at the time,” said Steven Baird, director of the Klein, TX Museum and Wunderlich Farm.

With European countries at war with each other, many were looking to escape war and settle down in the U.S.

According to letters collected by the museum, the first migrants told their families back in Germany about the mild winters, rich soil and abundant lumber they could cut down to build houses.

“Land was expensive. They couldn’t really farm enough acreage to feed all their families, so a lot of them starting coming this way,” Baird said.

The names of streets and schools in northwest Houston still bear the names of German families who founded the early communities and churches, such as Klein, Schindewolf and Theis.

Other European migrants who also contributed to the founding of early communities in the county also have schools and streets named after them, such as Mahaffey and McDougle, who were originally from Scottish families, Baird said.

Grady Martin, the founder of the Tomball German Heritage Festival, said he was inspired to start the festival in 2000 keep remind the community of its historical roots.

Other cities in Texas, such as Fredericksburg, New Braunfelds and Brenham, that were also founded by German migrants had retained their character as Texas German cities, he said.

“We wanted to have a German festival because we felt like we were losing our Texan German (roots),” he said.

Along with the festival, Tomball also became a sister city to Telgte, a city in northwest Germany, to deepen its ties to the settlers who settled the area.

According to the sister city site, a similar German dialect found in the names of Tomball streets and buildings support a historical link between the two cities, such as Telge Road and Buvinghausen Street.

The program also supports a student exchange program between both cities to promote cultural ties.

While some visitors to the Tomball German Heritage Festival may not be aware of the historical significance of the first founding families, Martin said more people learn about their contributions to the city.

“We felt like if we started a really good German festival, we could draw attention to our heritage,” he said.

The upcoming festival will be from Friday, March 29 to Sunday, March 31 at the Tomball Depot.

For more information, visit www.tomballgermanfest.org.

mayra.cruz@chron.com