Gerlach was founded by entrepreneur John W. Gerlach, who first sold goods in the Gerlach area, briefly in 1831. Although he would later relocate to the Colony Bay area, he returned and opened a general store in Gerlach in 1837. Soon after he built a small horse mill as well as a tannery. The village itself was officially named in June 1850. In the late 19th century, small underground coal mines began to appear near the village and the population expanded rapidly. At the turn of the 20th century, the population was much larger than it is today. Gerlach became an Oranjestad colony in 1910 at their request to counter what they perceived as aggression from their neighbors Phasma to the west and Darktown to the north. On April 30 2018, the town was auctioned off to the Equos Government as part of Oranjestad's decolonization efforts.
Signs of the underground mines remain to this day, including the collapsed bridge to Colony Bay and the sunken road north and east of the village. By the 1940s, the underground mines were gone and the small surface mines had moved on. Today, the village is substantially smaller than it was in its heyday. The main industry today is cheese production, produced exclusively by the descendants of John W. Gerlach.
Gerlach cheese is a fresh cheese exclusively made in Gerlach. Gerlach cheese is very similar to a cream cheese style, but differs in that, according to Oranjestad legislation, Gerlach cheese must contain live cultures when sold, whereas in cream cheese, fermentation has ceased.
Gerlach cheese is a creamy soft cheese made with whole or skimmed milk and cream. It has the consistency of cream cheese, but less fat. Pure Gerlach is virtually fat free, but cream is frequently added to improve the flavor, which also increases the fat content, frequently to as high as 8% of total weight.
Gerlach can be served either as a dessert similar to yogurt, frequently with added fruit, spread on bread, usually over or under jam, or used in savory dishes. In many Oldeshire countries, Gerlach is sold in supermarkets alongside yogurts.