Wisconsin’s Oldest German Settlement is Just Minutes from Milwaukee

Disclaimer: The pictures shown in this post are not my own. Click on each image to view its source.

It’s no secret that the legacy of Wisconsin’s original German settlers is still felt across the state; beer and brats remain an essential part of every tailgate, while a local Oktoberfest event is on nearly everyone’s calendar. Boasting toasts of “Ein Prosit!” and loads of “Gemütlichkeit,” Wisconsin has been the proud home of many northern European immigrants long before it gained its statehood.

The Freistadt Alte Kameraden Band in Madison Wisconsin
The Freistadt Alte Kameraden Band performs in Madison to promote “Gemütlichkeit” with Travel Wisconsin.

The first group of Germans to make their way to Wisconsin en masse was a group of Old Lutherans from Pomerania who came to seek religious freedom in 1839. The Pomeranians, whose namesake is a former Prussian province in what is now northern Germany and Poland, aptly named their new home “Freistadt,” or “free city,” to celebrate their independence from religious oppression.

Map of Pomerania
Map of Pomerania’s former extent (pink line shows modern border between Germany and Poland).

What is left of that original settlement? While Pomeranians might be best known in the United States for the small fluffy canines who bear their name, there is much more to Pomerania’s legacy than a cute dog breed. Head just two miles beyond Milwaukee’s northernmost border and you will enter the community of Freistadt, located within the City of Mequon at the intersection of Granville Road and Freistadt Road.

Trinity Freistadt Lutheran Church and School in Mequon Wisconsin
Trinity Freistadt Lutheran Church and School in Mequon.

Naturally, Freistadt is centered around the church where the Pomeranians were finally able to worship as Lutherans without prosecution. Constructed in 1884, Trinity Lutheran is Wisconsin’s oldest Lutheran church and remains not only an operational worship facility, but has expanded to include a K-8 school as well.

Pommerntag Celebration in Mequon Wisconsin
Hey, look! It's me dancing with the PTF dancers!

Its little “downtown” also includes two bars and a hardware shop, but head just a bit farther north on Granville Road and you’ll find the historic Lindenwood Community Center. Once a schoolhouse, German art and culture still thrive here; you’ll find the Alte Kameraden band and Pommersche Tanzdeel dancers practicing, Lindenwood 4-H Club members prepping their projects for the fair, and the Pommerscher Verein maintaining books and historical documents in the library.

Wisconsin's Oldest German Settlement Pinterest Pin

More information on the groups involved in this community can be found by clicking on their names above. To enjoy a celebration of Pomeranian culture, be sure to visit Rotary Park in Mequon on the fourth Sunday in June for the annual Pommerntag event!

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