The history of New Ulm dates back to the 1840s. It was founded in 1841 as Duff's Settlement, named for James C. Duff, who purchased the original land on which the town was built. This community sat approximately one mile north of the present New Ulm site. By the mid-1840s, the area grew as an influx of German-speaking settlers arrived from nearby communities such as Industry, Shelby, and Nassau Farm. After petitioning the government for a post office, one opened in 1852 under the name New Ulm – in commemoration of the well-known German city of Ulm, as many of the settlers came from that area. During the 1850s, New Ulm had six general stores, five blacksmiths, and three breweries. In 1867, a church building that doubled as a schoolhouse was built. The Missouri–Kansas–Texas (MKT) Railroad purchased farm land owned by local resident Franz Pille for a line extension and it arrived in 1892, further stimulating New Ulm's economy. An estimated 225 people were living in the community in 1898. At that time, a variety of businesses operated in New Ulm, including five general merchandise stores, a drug store, saddlery, cabinet shops, and a soda water factory. A bank opened in 1906 and a newspaper – the New Ulm Enterprise – began publishing in 1910. On April 11, 1916, twenty-one men in the community met for the purpose of securing fire apparatus to protect local property. That led to the formation of the New Ulm Fire Company (now known as the New Ulm Volunteer Fire Department). A fire engine was purchased at a cost of $137.50. By 1930, New Ulm's population stood at around 500 with forty businesses operating in the community. The number of residents had fallen to 390 by 1950, but growth resumed during the 1960s, and in 1968, the population was estimated at 600. That figure had risen to 650 by 1990 and remained at that level through 2000. New Ulm has an active Chamber of Commerce and Lions Club.
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