German farmers populated early Delray

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Readers: Heidi Aspen Rhoades of Boca Raton asks the name origin of Old Germantown Road in Delray Beach.

The road winds from Congress Avenue and meets Linton Boulevard nearly at Military Trail.

It's on virtually everything sold by Office Depot; the office supply giant's headquarters, until their recent move to adjacent Boca Raton, was on Old Germantown Road.

We know there's a Germantown in Memphis, Tenn., and of course many communities across the country had German immigrant communities.

And we know of the Lantana area's longtime Finnish community and the short-lived Japanese farm colony in Boca Raton for which Yamato Road is named. But Germans?

We ran our question past Dottie Patterson, archivist for the Delray Beach Historical Society.

"This is sort of a guess. Perhaps somewhere there is a more official version," she writes.

"When I was studying the 1910 (first) Delray census for a Delray Beach Library panel on diversity, I saw that the foreign country most often named by people of European descent as a country of origin for themselves or parents was Germany.

"Of course we already knew that there was a group of German pioneers in Delray. One of the early churches was the Lutheran Church - first called by the name in German - and a German school for the children, and the story that the only mule in town only took commands in German, etc.

"When taking some oral histories, people told me that families in town sometimes had a house out where the fields were also, and they stayed there during harvest and planting times.

"Therefore, I guessed that some of the German families had cottages in the area of Germantown Road. A large percentage of the people on the 1910 census listed their occupation as farming."

Thanks as always, Dottie. Perhaps a reader can provide even more illumination!