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Cullman is a city in and the county seat of Cullman County, Alabama, United States. It is located along Interstate 65, about 50 miles (80 km) north of Birmingham and about 55 miles (89 km) south of Huntsville. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 14,775, with an estimated population of 15,496 in 2016.
In the time before European settlement, the area that today includes Cullman was originally in the territory of the Cherokee Nation. The region was traversed by a trail known as the Black Warrior's Path, which led from the Tennessee River near the present location of Florence, Alabama, to a point on the Black Warrior River south of Cullman. This trail figured significantly in Cherokee history, and it featured prominently in the American Indian Wars prior to the establishment of the state of Alabama and the relocation of several American Indian tribes, including the Creek people westward along the Trail of Tears. During the Creek War in 1813, General Andrew Jackson of the U.S. Army dispatched a contingent of troops down the trail, one of which included the frontiersman Davy Crockett.
In the 1820s and the 1830s, two toll roads were built linking the Tennessee Valley to present-day Birmingham. In 1822, Abraham Stout was given a charter by the Alabama Legislature to open and turnpike a road beginning from Gandy's Cove in Morgan County to the ghost town of Baltimore on the Mulberry Fork near Colony. The road passed near present-day Vinemont through Cullman, Good Hope, and down the current Interstate 65 corridor to the Mulberry Fork. The road was later extended to Elyton (Birmingham) in 1827. It then became known as Stout's Road. Mace Thomas Payne Brindley was given a charter in 1833 to turnpike two roads, one running between Blount Springs to Somerville by way of his homestead in present-day Simcoe, and the second road passing west of Hanceville and east of Downtown Cullman to join Stout's Road north of the city. What later became the Brindley Turnpike became an extension of Stout's Road to Decatur. Cullman later became located between the juncture of the two roads, and they predated the corridor of U.S. Route 31.
During the Civil War, the future location of Cullman was the site of the minor Battle of Day's Gap. On April 30, 1863, Union forces under the command of Colonel Abel Streight won a victory over forces under Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. This battle was part of a campaign and chase known collectively as Streight's Raid. Although Streight got the upper hand in this battle, Forrest would have the last laugh. In one of the more humorous moments of the war, Streight sought a truce and negotiations with Forrest in present-day Cherokee County near present-day Gaylesville. Although Streight's force was larger than Forrest's, while the two were negotiating, Forrest had his troops march repeatedly in a circuitous route past the site of the talks. Thinking himself to be badly outnumbered, Streight surrendered to Forrest on the spot.
Cullman itself was founded in 1873 by Colonel John G. Cullmann, a German refugee who had arrived in America in 1865. (The city's name was Americanized to "Cullman", although some sources state that Cullmann had earlier Americanized his name from "Kullmann". Stanley Johnson, his only surviving American descendant, told The Cullman Times in 1998 that there are no German records indicating the name "Kullmann", and that "Cullmann" had always been the correct spelling.) Cullmann had been an advocate of democratic reforms in his native Bavaria, and he fled when the autocratic Prussian-dominated regime emerged ascendant after the Revolutions of 1848. In 1873, Cullmann negotiated an agreement to act as agent for a tract of land 349,000 acres (1,410 km2) in size, owned by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company, on which he established a colony for German immigrants.
Five German families moved to the area in March 1873; in 1874, the town was incorporated and named after Colonel Cullmann. Over the next twenty years, Cullmann encouraged around 100,000 Germans to immigrate to the United States, with many settling in the Cullman area. Cullmann drew on his military engineering training in laying out and planning the town. During this period, Cullman underwent considerable growth. German continued to be widely spoken, and Cullmann himself was the publisher of a German-language newspaper. When Cullmann died in 1895, at the age of 72, his funeral was marked by the attendance of Governor William C. Oates. The site Cullmann selected for his headquarters is now his gravesite.
German immigrants also founded St Bernard's Monastery, on the grounds of which is the Ave Maria Grotto, containing 125 miniature reproductions of some of the most famous religious structures of the world. It's Cullman's principal tourist attraction.
For many years Cullman was a college town, with Saint Bernard College serving as the home of several hundred students. In the mid-1970s, St. Bernard briefly merged with Sacred Heart College (a two-year Benedictine women’s college), to become Southern Benedictine College. That college closed in 1979, and it now operates as St. Bernard Preparatory School. The former site of Sacred Heart College is now the Sacred Heart Monastery, which serves as a retreat center operated by the Benedictine Sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery.
During the twentieth century, Cullman developed a more diverse economy, including several manufacturing and distribution facilities. However, its economy remains primarily based on agriculture and providing services to the agricultural workforce. Cullman County has the highest agricultural production in the state, and is one of the sixty largest agricultural-production counties in dollar terms in the United States.
Cullman gained national attention in early 2008, when a special election was held to fill a vacancy in the Alabama House of Representatives.The district that included Cullman elected James C. Fields, an African-American, in that special election.
Cullman's German heritage was repressed during World War I and World War II, while the United States was fighting Germany. This was reversed in the 1970s, with renewed interest in the city's history and heritage. Today, Cullman holds an annual Oktoberfest. An honorary "Bürgermeister" is elected for each Oktoberfest. For many years the Oktoberfest did not include alcohol because Cullman was dry, but starting in 2011 the Oktoberfest was able to offer beer.
Downtown was significantly damaged by an EF4 tornado during the 2011 Super Outbreak. Hitting on April 27, it destroyed many buildings in downtown and in an east-side residential area, but causing no fatalities. The twister moved northeast towards Arab and Guntersville, killing two Cullman County residents and four or more others.
Cullman is located on top of the Brindley Mountain plateau at 34°10′39″N 86°50′42″W (34.177508, −86.844996). This is a close offshoot of the long geographic ridge called Sand Mountain, a southmost extension of the Appalachian Mountains. The elevation is 826 feet (252 m), close to the watershed between the Tennessee River and the Black Warrior River. Cullman provides its own town water supply from a city-owned lake within the city limits, Lake Catoma.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 20.6 square miles (53.3 km2), of which 19.4 square miles (50.2 km2) is land and 1.2 square miles (3.1 km2), or 5.81%, is water.
The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Cullman has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.
The Cullman City School System operates five schools:
Other schools in Cullman include:
Cullman is also the home of Wallace State Community College in Hanceville. It was named for the former Governor of Alabama, George C. Wallace. The public, non-profit college opened its doors in 1966 and has grown to become the third largest community college in the state of Alabama, with an enrollment of around 6,000 students. The college is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award degrees. Many programs have additional accreditation from organizations appropriate to the particular disciplines. Wallace State offers hundreds of degree and certificate options in dozens of programs in its Academic, Health and Technical Divisions. The college offers more Health programs than any other community college in the state. The college offers early enrollment through its Dual Enrollment, Fast Track Academy and Fast Track for Industry programs, the latter of which is funded through grants that allow free tuition for qualified students entering the technical, academic and health programs included in the program. The college's current president is Dr. Vicki P. Karolewics, who is the institution's third president in 50 years. She was preceded by Dr. James C. Bailey from 1971 to 2003 and Dr. Ben Johnson from 1965 to 1971. The college is located in the southern portion of Cullman County on a verdant 300-acre campus that includes state-of-the-art facilities, men's and women's dormitories and multiple recreational opportunities. The college boasts several national championship athletic teams and competes in Division I of the National Junior College Athletic Association. Athletic programs at Wallace State include men's and women's basketball, baseball, softball, men's and women's golf, men's and women's tennis, volleyball and cheerleading.
The population density was 765.0 inhabitants per square mile (295.4/km2). There were 6,957 housing units at an average density of 365.1 per square mile (141.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 93.4% White, 0.01% Black or African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, and 1.1% from two or more races. 4.2% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
As of the census of 2010, there were 14,775 people and 6,957 households, out of which 22.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.3% were married couples living together, 10.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.9% were non-families. 35.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.22 and the average family size was 2.85.
In the city, the population was spread out with 21.8% under the age of 18, 8.2% from 18 to 24, 25.3% from 25 to 44, 22.6% from 45 to 64, and 22.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 87.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $29,164, and the median income for a family was $41,313. Males had a median income of $32,863 versus $21,647 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,484. About 9.4% of families and 13.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.3% of those under age 18 and 18.5% of those age 65 or over.
Cullman was ranked among Bloomberg Businessweek's 50 Best Places to Raise Your Kids in 2012 based on the city's educational and economic factors, crime level, air quality, amenities, and ethnic diversity.
Cullman is in the TV broadcasting areas of Birmingham and Huntsville, Alabama.
There are two low-power broadcasting stations in Cullman: WCQT-LP TV-27 and CATV-2. Cullman also has a PEG station, CCTV55, which is run by students at Cullman High School. CCTV55 was known as CATS-55 at one time.
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