Friday, February 13, 2009

Generational divide among German immigrant families in Reconstruction-era Nashville

Immigrants' children adopting Southerner mentality by 1870

Sermons in German for over 50 years

Second in a series

On February 3, the Hispanic Nashville Notebook started a series about the German-language newspaper Tennessee Staatszeitung and Nashville's German community, based on the research conducted by Robert Donald Rogers in his 1975 dissertation The Tennessee Staatszeitung.

Today's installment focuses on the generational and cultural divide between the German immigrants and their children:
The Germans who lived in Nashville in 1850 were by and large immigrants. By 1870 most of the Germans in the city belonged to the second generation. The average age during these two decades remained twenty but the median age dropped from 20.8 years to 15.4 years. These younger Germans were much less concerned with maintaining European ties and traditions than their parents were. ... [T]hey had grown up in Tennessee and many of them had a distinctly Southern point of view.

-The Tennessee Staatszeitung, Robert Donald Rogers, 1975, p. 11
Nashville's Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was dedicated during this time period, on August 14, 1859. According to the church's web site, the church "had been planned when Richard Pius Miles, the first Bishop of Nashville, realized the need for a Catholic church in North Nashville to serve the German families settling there."

Even though the children of immigrants were starting to see themselves as Southerners during Reconstruction in 1870, at the Church of the Assumption "most sermons were said in German until World War I," according to the Nashville Public Library.

Photo: Interior of Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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