Historical Marker #955 in Hall's Gap remembers Ottenheim, a German-Swiss immigrant settlement established in Lincoln County in the 1880s.
With the late-nineteenth century rush of European immigrants seeking new opportunities in the United States, Kentucky felt left out. Most migrants preferred to remain in east coast cities within enclave communities or in areas that offered industrial jobs. To encourage European immigration to Kentucky, in 1880, the commonwealth established the State Commission of Immigration.
The state's effort to attract immigrants caught the attention of New Yorker Jacob Ottenheimer, who eventually purchased thousands of acres of land in Lincoln County with the intention of settling not only immigrants but others from outside the state. Ottenheimer advertised in east coast newspapers and attracted hundreds of German and Swiss arrivals to buy and work the land in Lincoln County.
First known as Lutherheim—for the Lutheran church that was established there—Ottenheim eventually became home to more than one hundred German and Swiss families, who favored agricultural opportunities over the more common east coast urban occupations.
Ottenheim was not the sole German, Swiss, and Austrian settlement in late-nineteenth century Kentucky. Other communities developed at Bernstadt, Langnau, and Strassburg in Laurel County and New Austria in Boyle County.
Today, Ottenheim's Lutheran Emmanuel Church and its cemetery provide vivid reminders of an immigrant community who sought opportunity in the Bluegrass State.