• List of Immigrants
• Priests at St. Joseph
• Served in World War I
• Served in World War II
• Brewery workers
Cabbage Hill was the neighborhood of German immigrants in Lancaster,
Pennsylvania. It was settled after the 1840's by people who left Europe
for religious and economic reasons. First known derisively as
Sauerkraut Hill, the name was later softened to Cabbage Hill. It
referred to the neighborhood vegetable gardens with row on row of
cabbage to be pickled into sauerkraut in wooden kegs and served as a
staple in the German diet.
Cabbage Hill is actually a series of hills, with steep and
sometimes narrow streets that run at southwest angles to the rest of
the city. The Hill extends from the area of the present Manor Shopping
Center to Water Street and includes Saint Joseph Street and Fairview
Avenue, formerly Love Lane.
Some of the land, which is located directly southwest of downtown
Lancaster, was originally owned by a well-to-do Quaker family named
Bethel, and even as late as 1840, most of the area was still open
fields. But immigrant Germans, attracted by the location of Saint
Mary's Roman Catholic Church, then the only Catholic parish in the
city, had begun to settle there. By 1849, with increased immigration,
the area population rose to about 25 families.
Immigration from Germany to Lancaster continued from mid-19th century
into the first decades of the 20th, with most newcomers making their
homes on the Hill. Some were evading military service, others came
through a sense of adventure. But most arrived in the wake of earlier
relatives who wrote of opportunity and work. The earliest came from
places in western Germany, including Baden, Wurtemburg, and the
Palatinate. Later arrivals emigrated from Lower Bavaria.
Saint Joseph Parish
In 1850, a group of German families petitioned the Diocese of
Philadelphia to establish of a German-speaking parish. Saint Joseph
parish was established, and by 1850 construction of a church was begun
at the crown of the hill at what is now Saint Joseph Street, almost
within calling distance of old Saint Mary's. The new church eventually
became a worship and recreation center for the succeeding generations.
From that day on, Saint Joseph's was known locally as the German
church, while Saint Mary's became the "Irish" church.
The history of Saint Joseph parish is intertwined with the history of
the Hill. By 1882 the parish numbered about 1,200 members in more than
300 families, and maintained a school in which 320 pupils spoke both
German and English. The original church was constructed in 1850 on a
lot purchased for $260. The growing congregation soon outgrew the
building even after several additions had been made.
In 1884, construction was begun on a new church at the Hill site and a
novel approach was used to make use of the old structure. The new
building (the present church) was constructed surrounding the old
church. When the new building was under roof, the basement was
furnished for services, and the old church was taken from inside the
protective shell of the new one. The parishioners had built a new
church on the old site without depriving themselves of a house of
worship for even one Sunday.
The German community in Lancaster had burst the bonds of Cabbage Hill
by 1871, with many later arrivals settling in the eastern part of the
city and traveling a long distance to Saint Joseph's. In that year
Saint Anthony parish was established for the German-speaking residents
of the eastern part of the city.
The Rev. Henry Christ came to Saint Joseph's as pastor in 1899, and
served 40 years until his death. He was often referred to as "mayor of
Cabbage Hill," and many a family dispute, neighborhood spat, and
mischief case which would ordinarily have ended up in the courts ended
up, instead, over his desk in the rectory. Monsignor Joseph Schweich
performed the same function on Cabbage Hill from Father Christ's death
in 1939 until his own passing in 1961.
While the Hill's population was predominantly Catholic, there was also
a group of German Lutherans, many attending Saint Stephen Evangelical
Lutheran Church, a German-speaking congregation formed in 1874 with 17
families at Duke, German (now Pershing Avenue) and Church Streets. This
church counted more than 300 members at its peak in 1883.
The houses in thıs section of town were scattered, but by 1886 about 60
percent of the building lots had been occupied. By 1930 the entire area
was built up and beginning to spill over to the southwest. Typical of
houses built in the period 1890-1900, they cost between $2,000 and
$3,000 and were either single, two family, or row structures, two
stories in height. One-third of the houses were wood frame and
two-thirds were brick.
The brewery was also a part of the local German communıty. Lancaster
had several breweries before the repeal of prohibition, and one of the
largest was the Reiker Star Brewing Company, located at First and Old
Dorwart Streets, convenient to all of Cabbage Hill. Reiker's stood on
the site now occupied by Crystal Park. It turned out 50,000 barrels of
beer a year, much of it finding its way into the Hill homes via the
"growler" (a small tin container) which was taken home to tap.
In 1901, young Christian Kunzler arrived from Germany, sank his entire
fortune into a defunct butcher shop and using secret family recipes,
created a successful neighborhood butcher with markets extending beyond
Cabbage Hill. Kunzler helped to preserve the tradition of German food,
and also brought German butchers to Lancaster to work in his factory.
Most people worked either in the Conestoga Cotton mills or the tobacco
company, both across the street from the Liederkranz Society at the
edge of Cabbage Hill on Prince Street. (The Liederkranz
scheduled activities to coincide with paydays.) Others worked at
the many cigar makers or at the Armstrong plant. The cotton mill,
established in the 1840's and the biggest employer in Lancaster, made
Cabbage Hill a veritable company town, with entire families working as
weavers, spinners, dyers, and spoolers, going home covered white with
lint from the looms. Many worked in breweries, or as teamsters,
butchers, and artisans practicing trades brought from the old country.
In some families children worked at home, stripping tobacco or pressing
snaps for clothes on cards.
Copyright © 2014
Article, Lancaster New Era, 1979