The results of the 2000 U.S. Census proved what most New Ulm, Minn. residents already knew: the city is the most German in the USA. From festivals to German food and beer, there’s a German spin on almost every aspect of New Ulm.
There were other immigrants though — besides the Germans — who came to New Ulm to seek a better life. The evidence of one immigrant business still stands today as a symbol of strength and fortitude under overwhelming odds.
Harman Park today is filled with three baseball fields, outdoor hockey rinks, a play area and one chimney stack. That stack is the only part of the Waraju Distillery which remains today.
The Waraju Distillery was constructed in 1861 by Henry A. Subilia, originally from Jean Italy, for $10,000 — including furnishings. The name of the building came from the Dakota word for cottonwood. The distillery stood 72 feet by 46 feet and was fashioned with around 200,000 bricks.
Waraju produced whiskey, punch extract and bitters by processing 100 bushels a day. Local farmer traded their crops, corn, rye, barley as well as firewood for the finished products.
In 1862 the Waraju was heavily damaged in the Dakota War. It was able to serve as a temporary mill from 1863 to 1864. A new mill was built in New Ulm in 1864, the Waraju then closed for good.
The remnants of the distillery and the surrounding four acres were sold in 1866 for $800. That area is part of Harman Park today.
German immigrants made their mark on the city of New Ulm, but immigrants from other parts of the world were integral parts of those early days. The Waraju chimney stands as a testament to the resiliency of the early settlers and the ingenuity they brought to the town of New Ulm.