Why do we assume that the tenants of this property were often working-class German immigrants?
To begin with, an astounding number of German immigrants passed through or settled in Galveston during the second half of the 19th century. As local historian, JR Shaw, writes, "By 1860 it is estimated that as many as 30,000 German immigrants had arrived in Texas. Although German immigration halted due to the Civil War, as soon as the war ended in 1865, Germans began to pour in through Galveston once again."
From the late 1860s through the 1890s, it would have been as common to hear German spoken on the streets of Galveston as it was to hear English.
Communities have always coalesced around exploding ethnic populations (and still do). As enclaves form in this or that part of a city, institutions like community centers, schools, shops, and places of worship are always close behind, often founded by and for those who have a distinct language and culture in common.
So naturally, in 1860, at a point when German Catholics constituted roughly half of Galveston’s ethnic population, Bishop Jean Marie Odin established St. Joseph's Church specifically for the growing German-speaking Catholic community. Located just a few blocks away from the 1875 Clapboard Cottage, St. Joseph's Church is distinct for a variety of reasons: not only is it the oldest German Catholic church in Texas, it's also one of the oldest buildings in Galveston, among only a few pre-war properties that remain. Moreover, it was miraculously spared by the 1900 storm, suffering only minimal damage.