Oktoberfest Findlay! inaugural event took place September 26, 2015. Nearly 4,500 people attended the inaugural event and enjoyed authentic German food, libations, polka dancing, the Oktoberfest Pageant, car show, Stein and Beer Endurance Challenge, Brat Eating Contest and Yodeling Contest! Learn more about the upcoming Oktoberfest Findlay! by visiting the Facebook page!
German History in Hancock County:
In 1831, Hancock County’s founding fathers left Hesse, Germany to embark on a journey of liberation that would eventually lead them to America. The Germans wanted to escape the burdens of high taxes, a departed military, and poor economic conditions. After much thought and prayer, they headed for the freedom and opportunities that America, and specifically Ohio, would provide for them.
The Germans heard of the promises that the state of Ohio could bring. While cheap land and an abundance of work were two main factors that drove the Germans to have the urge to travel to Ohio, the assurance of freedom was the leading motivation for the families looking to start fresh. Immigrating to the state of Ohio seemed to be the answer to their prayers as they continuously faced hardships with the government of Germany.
A group from the region of Odenwald, a wooded district in southwest Germany, gathered among two ships with over 200 passengers heading towards a new found freedom. The “James Beacham,” was the main ship that would bring 162 of the 200 Germans to Ohio. The passengers were quick to refer to the “James Beacham” as the “Famous Dove.” A dove symbolized peace and freedom in that area of Germany. Things seemed to be moving along efficiently, until disaster nearly struck on a windy afternoon in September of 1831.
The captain of the “Famous Dove” became inebriated, went to sleep, and left the steering of the ship to his helping hands on deck, despite an increase in strong winds. The passengers were uneasy and the weather continued to get worse. The Odenwalders relied on their faith and prayed that the ship be in good hands, and, sure enough, the ship found land on the Virginia shore during the middle of the night. After a few days of settling in Virginia, all the Dove’s passengers made it to Baltimore by the end of the month. Many immigrants found work and housing while in Maryland, and their plans to get to Ohio were put on hold for a moment. The Immigrants worked to save up money, hoping to eventually make it to their desired destination. Johann Adam Tracht, the main man behind the movement to Ohio, was so determined to get there that he led a force of immigrants by wagon and in October he and his followers settled in Richmond, Ohio for the winter. The journey was difficult and many members needed rest and were too sick to travel any further.
After moving closer and closer to Northwest Ohio, where land was only two dollars an acre, twelve Odenwalder families would reach their destination and find the opportunity they had been seeking by settling in Hancock County in 1834. Hancock County didn’t disappoint as they were able to own more land than ever imaginable and could decide for themselves what they wanted to do, eat, or say on a particular day.
The Native Germans were the largest immigrant group in Hancock County, making up 60% of the Immigrant population. Churches of the Lutheran and Roman Catholic faiths were founded in the county due to how important religion was to the German culture. The large population also backed a German newspaper in Findlay for 25 years. In the spring of 1890, the Brilliant City Brewing Co. was established, as beer was a staple of the German diet. Food and music were infused into Hancock County thanks to the German Immigrants and the Harmonia Society was formed in 1875 to express their musical heritage. The Harmonia Society put on a “Messe,” which was a German festival with exhibits by local vendors as well as food and beverages. Currently, the building that the Harmonia Society performed in is now being used by Fresh Encounters, Inc. The wait was worth it for the Germans as they became well-respected businessmen, professionals, and farmers. They had a large impact on the culture of what Findlay is today.
The Wreck of the Famous Dove by Donald L. Huber
Ethnic Roots: Immigrant and Racial Populations of Hancock County, Ohio 1830-1920 by Paulette J. Weiser