Get to Know Marie Louise Betz, Cullman’s First Native Born Citizen

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CULLMAN – Cullman’s humble beginnings started with just five families, one of them being the Betz family. Frederick and Catherine (Keck) Betz and two children traveled from Cincinnati in April 1873 and settled down in the area. 

Shortly after that, the town of Cullman was founded and three months after that, their third child was born. It was a little girl and they named her Marie Louise Betz. It was then that the tiny baby became forever known as Cullman’s first native-born child. 

“Memories of the early days in Cullman are very dear to me,” Betz had said.

“Things I don’t remember have been told so often to me that I almost feel like I do remember them. In February 1873, my father, along with the other men, came down from Cincinnati. They left their families until there was shelter. When they arrived, everyone worked together clearing a block of ground (from where the railroad tracks are to the block opposite the present post office – as of 1959). Each man built a small one room house and then sent for his family. Later, of course, with the help of their wives, more logs were sawed, and more rooms added. Since our log house was the largest (it had four rooms) in the colony, the railroad men, Col. Cullmann and others put up there.”

At the time, Frederick was Cullman’s first mayor and out of necessity, he served as the midwife during the birth of the baby.

Not long after her birth, the child was swooped up and held with pride in the strong, comforting arms of Colonel Cullmann, the town’s founder who then became her sweet and loving godfather. 

“My parents had two children, Callestine and Freddy when they came to Cullman and three months later I was born in their log house. There were no doctors nor nurses to be had so my father said that he was the midwife and was very proud of me,” she continued. 

The baptism was completed by Rev. Schmalze, a traveling Lutheran preacher who rode through the colony on horseback from time to time. As Betz got older, it is said that one of her most prized possessions was the baptismal certificate that the family had been given that special day. 

“Father went to Cincinnati and bought machinery for a furniture factory which he and three other men established in Cullman. He had been foreman at Mitchell’s Furniture Factory on Front Street in Cincinnati. Well, I do remember one night eight years after we had arrived in Cullman, Father was in Cincinnati on business, and the rest of us were attending vaudeville at Armbrusters when our home burned down. We then went back to Ohio for eight years then returned to Cullman and bought Preacher Koenig’s home on Quality Hill.” 

She said that in addition to being Cullman’s first mayor, my father was also the tax collector, tax assessor and coroner. He organized the first Masonic lodge in Cullman.

“In those early days everybody worked together. There was plenty of deer and wild turkey; vegetable seeds were guarded carefully and divided so that every family would have vegetables enough. Those were happy days, indeed!” she said.

Marie Louise Betz was born on July 20, 1873, in Cullman. She married Oliver Herman deLamorton on October 26, 1892.  The two divorced on March 9, 1899. She later married George Lovell in 1908 in Tampa, Florida and divorced him two years later in 1910 while living in Birmingham.  

Her third marriage was to Leonard Anson Johnson in 1917 in Tampa, Florida.  He was born on January 4, 1849, in Ohio.  He died on September 20, 1937, in Tampa. Betz died on July 2, 1962, in Tampa, Florida and is buried with her family in the Betz plot at the Cullman City Cemetery.