The German Heritage of Carroll County, Iowa
by David Reineke

Chapter Three

The Germans of Carroll City

Early Years in Carroll City, 1867-1879

The town of Carroll traces its origin to the arrival of the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad into Carroll County in 1867.  In August of that year, the railroad laid out the new town, originally calling it “Carroll City.”  The first building was a supply warehouse that the railroad had constructed near the center of the county.

At the time, the county seat was still located in Carrollton, about 10 miles to the southeast.  A controversial election held later in the year, however, resulted in the county seat being transferred to Carroll.  William Gilley, the county treasurer and one of the county’s early pioneers, came to Carroll in 1868.  He purchased the railroad warehouse and later leased the building to the county for use as a courthouse and offices. 

 The second building constructed in the new town was a railroad station, and other buildings soon followed.  A schoolhouse was constructed in 1868.  A newspaper, initially printed in Jefferson, appeared in September of that year.  A. L. Kidder was the first resident to bring his family to the new town.  He served as postmaster and ran a restaurant and grocery store, living with his family on the second floor of the building.  Other early businesses included a lumberyard owned by William Gilley; a general store run by I. N. Griffith, the town’s first mayor; a hardware store operated by Wetherill & Hoyt; a hotel owned by J. H. Colclo; and a bank owned by O. H. Manning. 

 The town incorporated in 1869.  At the time, Carroll City was still very much a frontier town.  In later years, some German residents would recall that the town contained some rough and rowdy characters, including a few leftover railroad workers, and that at times it could be a dangerous place.  Many of the first homes were probably little more than wooden shanties, and most early business buildings were also of simple wood frame construction.  Although such structures could be raised quickly and cheaply, the preference for wooden buildings would eventually prove disastrous for the town.  Carroll City grew steadily during its early years, and with its central location, rail facilities, and county-seat status, it soon became the largest town in the county. 

 Nationally, the late 1860s were a time of expansion and growth in America.  The years following the Civil War witnessed the beginning of the so-called “Gilded Age,” which was characterized by the rise of big business such as the railroads, and iron and steel mills.  Eastern industrialists and capitalists like Jay Gould, Andrew Carnegie, and J. P. Morgan rose to power during these years.  This was also a time of expansion and settlement in the West, which included much of western Iowa.  This period also saw a rise in immigration to America, especially from the countries of Northern and Western Europe, and especially from Germany.  And many thousands of these immigrants headed west. 

 As noted in the previous chapter, the first large-scale German immigration into the county would commence in Kniest Township within a year or two after Carroll City was founded.  The rise in German population was slower in other parts of the county, however, and by 1870 there were at most only a few dozen German families and individuals residing outside of Kniest Township.  Most of them resided in Carroll Township, which at the time included much of the west-central part of the county, including the town of Carroll and also the small settlement of Hillsdale (later renamed Roselle), about six miles to southwest of Carroll.  The small population of German immigrants around Hillsdale suffered a heavy blow on March 13, 1870, when four men from the area froze to death in a severe snowstorm on their way home from Carroll.  (This story is told in the chapter on Roselle.) 

By 1870 Carroll City counted 384 residents, including approximately a dozen German-born individuals, some single and some with families.  The Germans were employed in a variety of occupations: three railroad workers, a domestic servant girl, a clerk (Henry Kettler), a farm worker, a tailor (John Biler), a shoemaker (John Wilkins), and a saloon owner (Christ Burk).  In late 1870 Lambert Kniest, one of the founders of the German settlement in Kniest Township, moved to Carroll and purchased a general store.  He was also active in local politics and became chairman of the county board of supervisors that same year.  (See Chapter Two.)

Carroll continued to grow and prosper during the early 1870s.  By 1873 the young town had a population of 563.  In the United States as a whole, however, that year marked the beginning of hard times.  It was a time of public scandal in the Grant administration, and in September of 1873 the country was plunged into the worst economic depression in its history.  Over eighteen thousand businesses, including many banks and railroads, would eventually fail.  Factories closed throughout the country, and by 1875 over half a million workers had lost their jobs.  Wages and prices for farm commodities dropped to record lows, and many farmers around the country also went bankrupt and lost their properties.

 The available evidence indicates that although Carroll County also suffered during this depression, it was perhaps not as hard-hit as other areas of the country.  Carroll’s banks were not seriously affected, mainly because they were not closely connected with the failed banks in the East.  There was a decline in the livestock and produce market for a time, making it very difficult for farmers to sell.  As a result, many county residents were also very short of hard cash.  A memoir written by Guerdon Wattles, who was raised near Purgatory Creek in northeastern Glidden Township, noted that during this time there was not a settler in that entire area who had a single dollar.  A number of tax foreclosure sales were also recorded during this time.  Carroll and the county managed to weather the situation, however, and progress and expansion continued.  The town of Glidden incorporated in 1873, and a number of new buildings were constructed in Arcadia that year.  Land sales in the county do not appear to have been seriously affected, and may actually have increased.  The steady arrival of new settlers, many of them Germans, undoubtedly helped in propping up the demand for real estate.  By late 1874 things appear to have turned around, and commodities purchasers like Cook & Jones of Carroll were doing a brisk business purchasing hogs and grain from county farmers. 

 Thus Carroll and the county managed to weather these hard times.  As Carroll City grew during the early 1870s, an increasing number of German settlers also arrived to take up residence in the small town.  According to census figures for 1875, the town had a population of 812 (comprising 158 families).  The American-born population was listed as 670, while the foreign-born population, mainly Germans, numbered 142. This latter figure doubtless understates the significance of the foreign element by not including many of their children who were born in America—another 154 Carroll residents reported having both parents born outside the United States, and 21 others had at least one parent of foreign birth.

 Early Business Life in Carroll City

As noted above, Carroll had grown steadily from its founding in 1867.  A Chicago newspaperman travelling through the area by train in 1874 described the town “in the midst of the high rolling prairie.”  He recorded that Carroll had a population of about 700, and that land around the county was selling rapidly at between $5 and $20 an acre.  He described a temporary courthouse on Carroll’s main square, and noted that the town included three churches, a good school, four banks, and some fine business houses.  In addition to describing the town’s main businesses, he described its character:


There is less mutual sympathy and unity of action and sentiment in Carroll than in some of the towns I have visited; and consequently, much of the best personal effort is wanting in the proper direction and desirable results.  The men of business act more independently of each other.  There is more of personal independence here than one commonly finds in Western towns, and possibly more than is desirable.  But this condition has its uses as well as its abuses.  It sharpens and quickens commercial life, increases competition, and is probably better for the purchaser than the merchant.  This new town is full of personal pluck and perseverance, and the incoming population will greatly tend to fuse the inharmonious social and commercial elements.  I have never met with better men or a more cordial reception.  The city is brim full of enterprise, and is marching right on to the fulfillment of a grand destiny.  But the noblest and best sustained effort for its advancement seemed to me more personal than general. 


 Another short description of the town, written in 1875, enumerates its businesses as follows: four hotels, four banks, two newspapers, four grain storage facilities, four farm implement dealerships, eight dry goods (general) stores, several grocery stores, two saloons, three saddlery shops, three shoemakers, two furniture stores, one wagon-maker, three blacksmiths, one restaurant, three lumberyards, and one drug store.

 Most, but not all, of the earliest businesses in Carroll were American owned.  A number of lumberyards offered a wide variety of construction materials, which were no doubt in high demand in the quickly growing town where almost all the buildings were constructed of wood.  The lumberyard of E. H. Brooks on the corner of Main and Fourth Streets had opened in 1871, and by 1874 it was selling annually approximately 1.4 million board-feet of lumber and two thousand tons of coal.  D. Wayne, who was also mayor, was selling approximately 1.5 million board feet of lumber a year. Businesses like Cook & Jones’s agricultural implement dealership offered a good selection of the most modern farming equipment, including McCormick harvesters, Studebaker wagons, and Davenport plows.  An 1875 advertisement for the business offered the McCormick Harvester for $160 plus freight.  They also operated a grain elevator with a 20,000-bushel capacity.  Their annual trade amounted to 300,000 bushels of grain, $45,000 worth of livestock, and $60,000 in farm machinery.  The leading livestock purchaser was S. S. Sprague, who did approximately $80,000 in business annually.  Guthrie and Bowman had the largest real estate business in the county, and by 1874 had sold a quarter of a million acres in Carroll, Sac, and Calhoun Counties.  Early banks were operated by William Gilley, Griffith & Deal, and O. H. Manning.  Visitors to the new town could stay at the Iowa House, run by Isaac Higgins, the Carroll House run by J. H. Colclo, or the Parker House run by H. Parker.


Carroll City's Early German Businesses

 In many respects, although German and Americans lived side-by-side, two distinct cultures developed in Carroll during the 1870s, a situation which lasted well into the twentieth century.  For the most part, Germans and Americans would each come to have their own businesses, churches, and social organizations.  Although Carroll would never become completely German, it quickly developed into the center of German cultural and business life in the county.

                    During the early 1870s, a number of prominent German-owned businesses were established alongside their American-owned counterparts.  Few in number at first (only a tailor shop, a shoemaker, and a saloon are mentioned in the 1870 census), over time the German businesses of Carroll would expand into virtually every market.  German entrepreneurs would establish blacksmith shops, hotels, grocery stores, general stores, newspapers, and banks—all with a distinctly German character.

 Perhaps no business better typifies the American frontier than the saloon, and Carroll City was certainly a frontier town in its early years.  Although always unpopular with some segments of society, a number of saloons were operated by American and German proprietors in Carroll City from the earliest years.  One of the very first German-owned businesses in the new town was Christian Burk’s saloon, which was in business by 1870.  Henry Schapmann later opened “Schapmann’s Bierhalle” on Fourth Street.  He advertised the “best, freshest beer in the area,” as well as the finest quality cigars, and promised “friendly and attentive service.”  As noted below, Schapmann’s would play an unfortunate role in the Carroll Fire of 1879.  Schapmann also started a soda water factory in 1876.  Likewise, Nic Schaub’s “Billiard and Bierhalle” advertised that the “best beer, wine, and cigars are always available.”  M. C. Staak’s Beer Saloon opened in 1876 on Adams Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets.  From the same building, Staak also operated as the local agent for the German Insurance Company of Freeport, Illinois, and had applications and policies available in German and English.

 German saloon life in Carroll was occasionally enlivened by unexpected entertainment.  For example, one evening in July 1875, the Mt. Carmel singing club “Concordia” made a surprise visit to Carroll.  Shortly after 9:00 p.m., they stopped at the office of the Carroll Demokrat, the local German newspaper.  Wearing their uniforms and carrying colored lanterns, they serenaded the staff with traditional German songs.  An article in the paper noted the employees’ astonishment at hearing such a well trained choir “here among the hard-working population of the distant west.”  As thanks, the newspaper staff invited the singers to a night on the town, and the group proceeded first to Schapmann’s Bierhalle and then to Schaub’s, where they provided further entertainment for several more hours. 

 Another typical frontier business was the general store, which usually offered a wide variety of items for sale.  A number of these stores were operated by Carroll’s German businessmen over the years.  In late 1870 Lambert Kniest (see Chapter Two) moved from Kniest Township to Carroll City, where he purchased a general store formerly operated by Lafayette McCurdy.  In 1871 Kniest added a second story to the building and enlarged the store so that it fronted on both Fourth and Fifth Streets.  A typical advertisement offered a selection of “ready made clothes,” including suits priced at $5 to $20.  A general store was run also by William Arts, another of Carroll’s prominent German businessmen, who had moved to Carroll City from Wheatland Township in 1871.  He initially partnered in a general merchandise business with D. Wayne, but later assumed sole ownership.  An 1874 advertisement offered groceries and clothing, including shoes, boots, hats, and caps.  In addition to his saloon, Christian Burk also ran an early general store on the north side of Fifth Street.  Advertised as the “cheapest store in the county,” Burk’s did business on a “cash only” basis, and offered a wide variety of items including clothing, “fresh groceries,” sugar, coffee, tea, pipes, tobacco, cigars, and an assortment of glass and porcelain ware.  During the mid 1870s, Eduard Lichtensteiger also operated a general store on the “south side” just north of Hoffmann’s Hotel.  Louis Keckevoet had a grocery store on the corner of Fifth and Adams Streets.

 No business was more instrumental to the growth and fostering of German culture in Carroll and throughout the county than Der Carroll Demokrat, the first German-language newspaper established in Carroll County.  The business was founded by John G. Burkhardt and T. L. Bowman in 1874, and the first edition of the paper appeared on May 22 of that year.  Although one of the Demokrat’s main goals was to advance the political interests of the Democratic Party among the county’s German residents, the paper also played a major role in German business and cultural affairs.  During its nearly 50 years in business, the Demokrat ran advertisements for German businesses around the county, and kept the German community informed on news and current events from around the state, nation and overseas—including Germany.  In many ways, the paper was the glue that held German society together.  It announced upcoming cultural events of interest to the German population, such as plays, celebrations, and church functions.  Over the years, its pages carried countless birth, marriage and death announcements for the German community.  The paper continued in publication until 1922. (More detail concerning the Demokrat and other German papers in the county is found in Chapter Fourteen.)

           Another notable early German business was Hoffmann’s Hotel.  Known to Germans as “Hoffmann Haus,” the business was started by Peter Hoffman shortly after he arrived in Carroll in 1871.  It was located on Main Street just south of the railroad tracks.  According to an early advertisement, it was the “only German hotel in Carroll” and offered a “fine table” to travelers and boarders.  It was especially recommended to farmers who, in addition to food and lodging, would also find excellent stables for their animals.  Hoffmann Haus was a successful business in Carroll for many years.  In 1891 the hotel was remodeled and enlarged to 38 rooms.  An 1899 description of the hotel estimated its value at $12,000 and called it “undoubtedly the best German hotel in Carroll County.”  It was heated with steam, lighted by electricity, and equipped with water pipes.  The description further noted the hotel’s elegant decoration and furnishings, including fine wallpaper, thick Brussels carpets, and a new grand piano in the reception room.

 One of the most significant German-owned businesses to start up during the mid 1870s was Carroll Roller Mills—the town’s first flour mill.  Among the many hardships of frontier life, even in railroad towns like Carroll City, was the shortage or expense of many staple food items usually taken for granted in more established locales.  If not produced locally, basic products like bread flour had to be shipped in at added expanse.  In response to the need for a local source of flour, some Carroll businessmen, German and American, began working to establish a mill in town.  Heinrich Baumhover, one of the Germans who had been instrumental in the founding of Mt. Carmel and Kniest Township (see Chapter Two), partnered with Frank Brede, a Dubuque liquor merchant, and began construction of Carroll Roller Mills in 1875.  Located near the railroad tracks at the corner of Carroll and Fifth Streets, Carroll Roller Mills was perhaps the most substantial building constructed up to that time in Carroll.  The bricks used in construction were made at Baumhover’s own kiln on his farm in Kniest Township.  When completed, the stone and brick main building measured 42 by 82 feet and was three stories high.  It was powered by an 85-horsepower engine manufactured in Dubuque, and its 65-foot-high smokestack was a landmark of the Carroll skyline for decades.  At the mill’s opening ceremony in January 1876, the first sack of cornmeal was presented to Louis Keckevoet, a local German grocer who had also donated a keg of beer for the occasion.  The second bag produced was rough-ground barley, which was presented to A. L. Gnam’s Mt. Carmel Brewery.  The flour produced at the mill was soon popular throughout the area.  By 1900 the mill was producing between 80 and 100 barrels of flour a day.  Some of its popular brands were known as Purity, Eureka, Snowy Range Valley, Lilly, Electric, Tidal Wave, Snow Flake, Excelsior, and Great Northern.

A necessary occupation in the days of horse travel was that of blacksmith.  Horses had to be shod, wagons had to be repaired, and many common items like tools and farm implements were often forged locally rather than “store bought.”  Anton Hoelker, one of Carroll’s early German blacksmiths (he relocated to Hillsdale in 1876), operated his smithy and wagon-making workshop at the corner of Sixth and Adams. An 1875 advertisement for “Anton Hoelker & Co.” noted that they could produce new light or heavy wagons, work on all kinds of farm equipment, and would undertake all types of repair work.  Jacob Daczewitz was also employed there for a time, and he later opened his own shop in Carroll with F. Koll.  Daczewitz would later expand his business, and by the 1890s his shop on Main Street was a large producer of wagons and buggies in Carroll.  Nic Eiden also ran a blacksmith shop located on the “south side” of town. 

 Likewise, the trade of harness-maker, or saddler, was also necessary for making the leather gear for horses and draft animals.  Leopold Schoepe, one of Carroll’s earliest German settlers (he arrived around 1871), operated a harness-making shop.  And in the mid 1870s Georg Egermayer moved from Iowa City to Carroll and opened a harness-making shop on Fifth Street, where he produced horse harnesses, bridles, saddles, and other leather gear.

 Other German tradesmen such as painters, plasterers, carpenters, shoemakers, and butchers were also in demand.  John Biler (as he is listed in the census) ran a tailor shop around 1870.  August Koenig, actually residing in Arcadia, advertised himself as “the best plasterer and mason in the county.”  John Mosman was an artist specializing in decorative painting.  He offered interior decorating services, including fresco painting and wall papering, as well as sign painting, and carriage and wagon decoration.  John Steiner, who advertised as a “German carpenter,” worked at all types of woodworking, including building construction.  John Wilkins ran a shoemaking business as early as 1870.  And Carl Lueck, another “German shoemaker,” ran his business on Adams Street.  In 1875 Lueck advertised children’s shoes for $2 a pair, and men’s boots for $6 a pair. Bernhard Hannasch was a shoe- and boot-maker located at the corner of Fifth and Main Streets.  Gottlieb Krieg was another German shoemaker around this time. Early German butcher shops were operated by Anton Lappe and Nic Beiter.

 A few German medical doctors also found their way to Carroll during the early years.  Dr. Francis Naulteus and Dr. Louis Rick had both established practices in town by the early to mid 1870s.  Dr. Naulteus advertised himself as a “German doctor” specializing as an “eye doctor, skilled surgeon, and obstetrician.”  His office was located on Carroll Street near the schoolhouse.  Dr. Naulteus was born in the German province of Saxony in 1835, and he obtained his medical degree at Leiden, Holland.  After service as a doctor in the Danish War and the Austro-Prussian War, he immigrated to the United States in 1870, and came to Carroll in the mid 1870s. 

 Dr. Rick also advertised in Carroll as a “German doctor” and specialized as a surgeon and obstetrician.  He was born in 1841 in Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1869.  He arrived in Carroll in the early 1870s. 

 In addition to treating patients, both doctors also offered traditional German remedies.  Like many “medicines” available in those days, their effectiveness is somewhat questionable.  “Hamburger Tropfen” (Hamburg Drops) were said to be effective against “all sicknesses of the stomach, liver, and abdomen.”   “Brust Thee” (Chest Tea) was advertised as the “best and most effective means of fighting various ailments of the lungs and throat, such as coughing, head colds, asthma, angina, hoarseness, influenza, and inflammation of the trachea.”  One herbal extract, manufactured in Dresden, was sold as an aid to hair growth and restoration. 

   Like other doctors of the time, their practice also included making “house calls,” and both doctors were often called upon to treat patients around the county in emergencies.  In January of 1875, Joseph Drilling of Mount Carmel was injured on the road when his horses bolted and a wagon wheel ran over his right arm, breaking it in two places.  He was brought to a nearby farm, and Dr. Rick was summoned from Carroll to treat him.  A few days later, Dr. Rick placed a notice in the Demokrat noting that his walking stick had fallen out of his buggy on the way to Mt. Carmel and that anyone who returned it could claim a reward—one glass of beer.  In April 1876, an item in the Demokrat noted that Dr. Naulteus had been ill for a few days as the result of exhaustion due to calling on patients in bad weather throughout the winter.   The paper noted that “the life of a country doctor in winter, who had to travel for miles when a man wouldn’t even put a dog outdoors, was not very pleasant, especially when he is generally rewarded with ingratitude.”  A few weeks later it was reported that five children in the Ignatz Dangle family at Hillsdale, who had earlier been reported as seriously ill, were now on the road to recovery thanks to the care of Dr. Naulteus.

 Both doctors left Carroll in the late 1870s.  Dr. Naulteus moved to Hastings, Nebraska, where he continued to practice medicine well into his old age.  (see his biography below)  Dr. Rick moved to Kinsley, Kansas, where, in 1878, he started the German newspaper, Staats Zeitung (State News).  It went out of business in 1880, and the 1880 census finds him living in Marysville, Kansas.  He may have returned for a time to Carroll, as he was also the owner and editor of Die Germania, another German newspaper that was published in Carroll from about 1892 to 1900.  (See Chapter Fourteen.)  The 1900 census locates him living in Liberty, Kansas, with the listed occupation of physician.

 The first German-American attorney in Carroll was probably Joseph M. Drees.  He was born to German-immigrant parents in Dubuque.  In 1872, following military service, he moved with his mother to Mt. Carmel, where they operated the local general store for a time.  Around 1878 Drees moved to Carroll and studied law with O. H. Manning.  He was admitted to the Iowa bar in 1879, becoming the first resident of Carroll County to pass the bar exam.  He advertised as a “German lawyer.”  In addition to his law practice, Drees sold insurance and real estate and was the local ticket agent for the North German Lloyd Steamship Company, which operated passenger ships between Germany and America.  He was a stockholder and officer of the company that owned the Carroll Demokrat and was an active member of the German community in Carroll.  

The many German businesses that existed in Carroll prior to 1880 are too numerous to describe.  The above descriptions, focusing on the early years, are fairly typical of the businesses that operated there during that time.  As seen below, many more German businesses would open in the years after 1880.



 In addition to their trades and professions, the early German settlers in Carroll also brought with them their social customs and religious beliefs.  Within a few years, a number of uniquely German organizations had been established.


Carroll Aid Society

  The first known non-religious organization founded by the Germans in the county was probably the Carroll Unterstuetzungsverein, or Carroll Aid Society, which was founded in December 1872 by a number of prominent Carroll businessmen.  Although relatively little is known about the group, it was primarily a charitable association formed to provide financial assistance to other Germans in times of need.  The group held monthly meetings, and the first officers were: Christian Burk, president; Lambert Kniest, vice president; Dr. L. Rick, secretary; and William Arts, treasurer.  John Lemuel and Rudolph Sommermeyer comprised the relief committee.  It is unknown how long the organization lasted, although the fist edition of Der Carroll Demokrat, published on May 22, 1874, notes that the organization was still in existence and had experienced strong growth and success since its founding two years earlier.    Another article, published in December 1874, noted that the organization had recently held its annual meeting in its hall, and that the finances of the group amounted to $154.  John G. Burkhardt had become secretary, and S. Salmen was the treasurer.  Nic Schaub and Mr. Liebert were listed as the relief committee.


The 1876 Centennial Celebration

 The key event that sparked the development of German cultural life in Carroll City, and most of Carroll County, occurred during the American Centennial in 1876.  In that year, the Germans of Carroll decided for the first time to participate in the town’s Fourth of July festivities by putting on their own entertainment and celebration. 

 Several weeks beforehand, on Saturday, May 27, a group of German citizens had gathered in the courthouse in Carroll to discuss preparations.  Local grocer Louis Keckevoet was elected chairman of this assembly, and John G. Burkhardt, editor of the Carroll Demokrat, was made secretary.  The assembly appointed a provisional committee consisting of Frank Salmen, Louis Schuwicht (perhaps spelled Schubig), John Schmidt, Dr. Naulteus, and Henry Schapmann, to advise on planning the celebration and to report back to the assembly.

 On Wednesday, May 31, the assembly met again to hear the initial report, and the committee was then discharged.  Lambert Kniest was elected president of this assembly, and John G. Burkhardt again served as secretary.   After discussing various suggestions, another committee was appointed to decide on a plan.  This committee, consisting of Messrs. Beiter, Hagemann, Mosman, Salmen and Hannasch, took responsibility for conducting the entire celebration. 

 Another meeting, attended by Germans from around the county, was held on June 10, and the committee submitted its plan to the assembly.  A picnic would be held in the woods south of the river, with a dance floor and celebration grounds set up on the north side.  Additional committees were established to oversee the various aspects of the celebration: a central committee consisting of Nic Beiter, H. W. Hagemann, John Mosmann, Frank Salmen, and B. Hannasch; a place committee to prepare the area consisting of John Schmidt, John Steiner, and H. Fischer; a decorations committee of J. Mosman, H. Stratemeier, and Adam Riese; a fireworks committee of J. Niemöller, L. Schuwicht, and Nic Liewer; an invitations and receptions committee of John G. Burkhardt, L. Kniest and L. Keckevoet; and a speeches committee of B. Hannasch, L. Kniest, and H. W. Hagemann.   A committee of five men—Nic Beiter, R. Sommermeier, John Schmidt, B. Hannasch, and Peter Hoffmann—was formed to keep order during the festivities.

 Nic Beiter, a local German butcher, was chosen marshal in charge of the parade, with Mr. Sommermeier and John Schmidt acting as adjutants.  Lambert Kniest was chosen president of the day, and vice presidents were chosen from the other German areas and settlements around the county: Roselle Township was represented by Joe Buchheit, B. Puettmann and G. Brömling; Washington Township by Joe P. König; Kniest Township by Mr. Pielsticker and B. Knobbe; Arcadia Township by A. König and Mr. Schlinz; Grant Township by John Daiker and G. Hessling; Wheatland Township by Wm. Ennenbacher and Mr. Breitenbach; Glidden Township by H. Pruss; Sheridan Township by Mr. Billerbeck; Pleasant Valley Township by M. Wurzer; Union Township by H. J. P. Mueller; and Eden Township by W. Obermeier.  The townships competed to see which would be the best represented at the celebration.

 Advertisements for the celebration promised a variety of entertainment beginning on the evening of July 3 with the playing of a musical retreat.  The real festivities were to commence on the early morning of the Fourth with a 100-cannon-shot salute to honor the nation’s one-hundredth birthday.  This was to be followed at 7:00 a.m, with a 38-shot salute to honor each of the 38 states.   A parade was scheduled for 10:00 along with a reading of the Declaration of Independence in German and English.  At noon, 13 cannon shots would honor the original 13 states.  A dance was scheduled for 2:00 p.m., and fireworks for 9:00.    Other “amusements for young and old” were also planned, including a wheelbarrow race, a sack race, skeet shooting, pig catching, pole climbing, and other contests.  In addition to all sorts of food, refreshments would include ice cream, soda pop, lemonade, “fresh beer and good wine.” 

 By all accounts, the German Fourth of July festivities and parade were a great success.  The Carroll Herald reported that the “Germans celebrated in good style,” and that despite threatening weather, they managed to carry out their entire program except for the fireworks and evening dance, which were postponed until the following Monday.  The Germans commenced the celebration as planned by firing the canon salutes early in the morning, and by 10:00 a.m., the town was filled with people.  After Father Pape delivered the keynote speech in English, the German parade formed and marched through the main sections of town before proceeding to the celebration area near the river to the south.  Further speeches were then given in German.  Der Carroll Demokrat reported that the parade included every state in the Union represented by a girl dressed in white, with a blue sash and a red headband.  A woman was chosen to represent the Goddess of Liberty. By the river, an orchestra played traditional German music, while people danced and enjoyed refreshments. A banner bearing an oil painting of the Goddess of Liberty and an American eagle was presented to the Germans of Roselle Township for having the best participation.  Regarding the German celebration, the Herald noted: “We venture to say that no celebration in the county passed off more pleasantly or was attended by a more orderly class of people.”

The Founding of the Carroll Schuetzenverein

 This German Fourth of July celebration was so harmonious and successful that it led directly to the formation of the Carroll’s first German social organization, the Carroll Schuetzenverein, a traditional German rifle club, which held its first meeting several days afterward.  (A similar rifle club had existed for a few years in Arcadia, and the Germans there occasionally held shooting competitions on holidays.)  The first officers of the Carroll Schuetzenverein were elected as follows: First Shooting Master, John C. Hartmann; Second Shooting Master, Jacob Daczewitz; Secretary, Louis Schuwicht (Schubig?); Deputy Secretary August Bewersdorf; Treasurer, John Mosman; Standing Committee, Frank Salmen and Charles Brown (Braun?); and Fest Marshal, Nic Beiter.  Other men among the first membership were Louis Keckevoet, Sebastian Walz, John G. Burkhardt, Henry Fischer, B. Hannasch, B. Hinrichs, J. Janssen, Mr. Scholl, Mr. Schubig, and Mr. Mosman.

          The club quickly built a covered shooting range on a hill near the river.  On Sundays the members would practice target shooting there.  Some years later, this shooting gallery was destroyed by a windstorm and was rebuilt on the property of Mr. Sommermeier, where the club continued its target shooting.

 Over the years, this club played an important role in German social and cultural life in Carroll and around the county. A traditional German Gesangverein, or Choral Club, was also associated with the rifle club.  Dances and celebrations were held at the clubhouse, and the group was always popular at shooting competitions, festivals, and parades around the county. 

 The shooting competitions sponsored by German rifle clubs like the Carroll Schuetzenverein took various forms.  One of the most popular is known as the Vogelschiessen, or bird shoot.  Despite the name, this did not usually involve shooting at a live bird, but at a carved wooden target in the shape of a bird.  Commonly, the target was a wooden silhouette of an eagle wearing a gold crown on its head and holding a scepter and an orb in its claws.  These carved targets could be quite elaborate pieces of folk art. 

During a shooting competition, the target is placed on a tall pole, and the club members take turns trying to shoot pieces off the silhouette.  A well-made target can withstand dozens or even hundreds of shots before falling apart.  The various parts of the target have different values, with the crown being worth the most points.  The other parts have lesser values, with the orb, scepter, and head usually worth more than the wings, legs, tail, etc.   Whoever shoots off a part is awarded the part as a trophy.  The title of Schuetzenkonig, or shooting king, is bestowed on the marksman who shoots down the last remaining piece of the target, whatever it might be.

 German rifle clubs often had an informal military appearance.  Their members often wore uniforms or insignia, and marched in formation.  Because of its marching skills, the Carroll Schuetzenverein was also in frequent demand to participate in local parades and celebrations.  A good description of the club comes from the Fourth of July festivities in 1881. During the parade, the club carried a banner depicting the Goddess of Liberty and marched in perfect military formation.  The men carried their rifles and wore green sashes running from the right shoulder to the left hip, with green ribbons around their hats.  On their chest, they wore insignia combining the traditional German colors of black, red, and yellow, with the American red, white and blue.  In the middle of their procession they carried a large American flag, and the “Commandant,” Mr. Staak, rode on horseback.  It was agreed that the German rifle club was the best entry in this parade, and it was awarded the $10 first prize.

Traditional German rifle clubs still exist in some parts of the United States and in many areas of Germany today.  Coincidentally, the Hayes Township Schuetzen Verein, founded in neighboring Crawford County in 1883, is still active today.   The Carroll Schuetzenverein and other German social clubs in Carroll County are described in greater detail in a later chapter on German clubs and social organizations.


Early Catholic Church

 The vast majority of the German immigrants to Carroll County were Roman Catholics.  Prior to 1874, however, there was no Catholic church in Carroll City, and those wishing to attend services had to travel to Mt. Carmel, six or seven miles northwest.  (See Chapter Two.)  In the early 1870s the resident German Catholic priests at Mt. Carmel, Father Heimbucher and his successor Father Kempker, would occasionally also travel to Carroll to perform religious services in private homes or other available buildings.  The first known Catholic service in Carroll was performed by Father Heimbucher in 1872 in the home of a local Catholic family. 

 Around 1874 William Trowbridge, who ran a livery stable in Carroll, operated a “post” wagon twice every Sunday between Carroll and Mt. Carmel, so that people could attend church services.  The first trip left Carroll at 7:00 in the morning and returned at noon, and the second trip left at 1:30 and returned at 6:00 in the evening.  The round-trip fare was $1.50 for an adult couple and 50 cents for a woman traveling alone.

 With more German and Irish settlers arriving in the county, it soon became necessary to consider building additional Catholic churches in addition to the one in Mt. Carmel.  In October 1874, in addition to new churches in Hillsdsale and Arcadia, Father Kempker was also directing construction of a new church in Carroll for the local Catholic population—mainly German and Irish.  Eventually known as St. Joseph’s, it was located south of the railroad tracks between Main and Adams on First Street.  When completed later in the year, the wood frame building was approximately 22 by 36 feet.  The first Mass was celebrated there in December 1874.  Within a few years, however, the Carroll parish had grown so much that the little church was no longer able to accommodate the members. 

 The parish then acquired half a block near Second and Clark Streets, and the cornerstone for the new, larger church was laid there in March 1878.  Although the wood structure was virtually destroyed by an April windstorm, work was begun again, and the church was finally dedicated that September.  The dedication service was conducted in both German and English.  The old church building was also moved onto the property for use as a rectory.  Father F. W. Pape was the second priest assigned to Saint Joseph’s, and he was replaced by Father Johann Urbany in late 1879.  (The story of St. Joseph’s later growth and development, and the founding of the German parish of Saints Peter and Paul, is told in more detail below in the still-unfinished chapter on religion.)


Death of Lambert Kniest

 In a sense, the first chapter of the German settlement of Carroll County ended on August 14, 1878, with the death of Lambert Kniest.  Although he himself was born in Holland in 1819, Kniest is generally credited with being the driving force behind the German settlement of Mt. Carmel and Kniest Township.  (A complete biography is contained in Chapter Two.)  Approximately a decade earlier, Kniest and his friend Heinrich Baumhover had first conceived the idea of establishing a German colony on the frontier of western Iowa.  Under their direction, several dozen German families came by wagon from Dubuque to settle on the remote prairie of northern Carroll County.  These early settlers overcame hardships and adversity, and within a few years they had established a prosperous community there.  Many more Germans soon followed them to the county, and by the time of his death, Kniest had lived long enough to see the successful results of his undertaking.

 Kniest moved to Carroll City in late 1870, where he purchased a general store formerly operated by Lafayette McCurdy.   He later enlarged the store so that it fronted on both Fourth and Fifth Streets.  In Carroll, Kniest was active in politics and German society.  He was one of the founders of the Carroll Unterstuetzungsverein (Aid Society) in 1872, and was one of the organizers of the German Fourth of July celebration in 1876. 

 He had been suffering from a lung infection and had been ill for about six months prior to his death. The funeral procession from his residence was so long that the head of it reached the church, about a quarter-mile away, before the last of the carriages had departed the residence.  All the businesses in town closed during the hours of his funeral, and the service was described as “the largest ever seen in Carroll.”  It was conducted by Father Fendrick of Mt. Carmel, Father Wegmann of Roselle, and Father Pape of Carroll.  In order to accommodate all the people wishing to attend, the funeral was held in the new Catholic church, even though it was not completed and still lacked seats. His obituary in the Carroll Herald summarized his legacy and the community sentiment regarding his death: 


          In 1868, we believe, he established the colony at Mt. Carmel in the township which bears his name, and which will long be a reminder of his energy and enterprise.  The settlement grew rapidly and flourished, and is to-day one of the most prosperous in the State.

          We know from sad experience how futile words of cheer and sympathy are to requite them for the loss of a kind husband and parent whose life and love had made home the pleasantest place on earth to them.  But with them the whole community unites in sorrowing for the loss of a good man, a true friend, and a good neighbor.  Mr. Kniest was a thoroughly conscientious man, deeply devoted to religion, and always anxious to do the best he could.  He met with business reverses in the closing years of his life, but no one could impute any but the most honorable motives to him in all his transactions.  We speak from a long and somewhat intimate personal acquaintance when we say that in the death of Lambert Kniest our town and county has met with a loss it could illy afford.

          He will be seen no more in our midst, but the memory of his life and works live after him.  Requiescat in pace.              


The Carroll Fire of 1879

For German and American residents alike, the most significant and memorable event in Carroll’s early history was the fire of September 25, 1879.  Like most frontier towns in the American West, Carroll was a town constructed largely of wood. Local lumberyards were well stocked with lumber and did a thriving business in the 1870s.   With the exception of a few brick or stone structures, Carroll’s businesses, homes, and public buildings were constructed of wood.           

 The main advantages of building with wood were its availability and affordability.  It was also easy to work with, and buildings could be constructed quickly.  The risks of building a town of wood were also well known.  In addition to the danger of wind damage, the threat of fire was constant, and many frontier towns and cities suffered devastating fires during these years.  The most spectacular example was the Great Chicago Fire of October 1871, which killed between 200 and 300 people, destroyed a large portion of the city, and caused millions of dollars in damage.  There were also painful reminders closer to home.  The town of Glidden, only seven miles east of Carroll, had been heavily damaged by fire in December 1877.  And in May 1878, a fire destroyed several buildings in Breda, just ten miles to the northwest. 

 In Carroll itself, it had been obvious for some time that there was no adequate means to fight fires.  A rudimentary fire-fighting company had been formed in the mid 1870s, but its equipment consisted of little more than a few ladders, hoses, pickaxes, and wooden buckets.  There were apparently also a few hydrants placed around town, but they were unreliable.  As a result, even when only a single structure would catch fire, it would likely burn to the ground unless it was extinguished almost immediately. 

 Such then was the situation in Carroll in 1879.  The dangerous reality was well described by Paul MacLean:

 The Carroll of this day was composed of about twelve hundred people, who had built for themselves a town of flimsy and compactly grouped wooden houses, most of them one story in height.  A more complete tinder box could not have been invented by the ingenuity of man.  Fourth and Fifth streets, between Adams and Main, were closely lined with these structures, many of them packed to the sidewalks with valuable stocks of merchandise.  These endured at the sufferance of the merest chance from day to day.  There were no facilities for fighting fire in case of an outbreak beyond the water to be found in wells and no vehicle for its application beyond the ordinary bucket or pail.

 Fortunately for history’s sake, the fire spared both of Carroll’s newspapers.  The Herald and the Demokrat were able to print full descriptions of the outbreak and aftermath of the blaze.  The fire was first noticed at about 4:00 a.m. by an engineer on a train that was pulling into town.  He noticed a light in Heinrich Schapmann’s saloon on Fourth Street and realized that the building was on fire.  At first, there was only a small fire behind the bar.  With no ready means to extinguish the flames, however, the engineer had to shout and summon help.  A few men appeared and an unsuccessful attempt was made to put out the fire by attaching a hose to a hydrant.  The engineer then ran to his engine and sounded the whistle, finally waking the town.  By the time the residents gathered in the streets, however, the fire was beyond any hope of control, and all they could do was watch helplessly as it spread from building to building.  With no hope of saving many structures, the people worked at rescuing as much of their personal property and merchandise as possible.  As a result of this effort, a great deal of property was rescued from homes and businesses before they were destroyed.

 From the articles published in the Herald and the Demokrat, a basic reconstruction of the fire is possible.  From Schapmann’s building, which fronted on Fourth Street and extended north to Fifth, the fire spread to adjoining structures to the east and west.  Soon, that entire block was burning.  Pushed by the wind, the fire then jumped north across Fifth Street and engulfed a building in the center of that block.  The fire continued to move northward, and outward to the east and west.  It was quickly realized that there was no hope of saving anything south of Sixth Street.   

 To the east, the fire had spread to the corner of Fourth and Main, and Burke’s Hotel at Fifth and Main was also burning.  By pouring water on the buildings on the east side of Main Street, the fire was kept from jumping across Main.  From Burke’s Hotel, however, the flames again raced northward, destroying all the buildings on the west side of Main between Fifth and Sixth.  (The only known photograph of Carroll from before the fire is a view of this row of buildings. A copy is in Paul MacLean’s 1912 History of Carroll County, Iowa.)  During the fire, a spark carried across the street by the wind hit the tower of the Presbyterian church on the northeast corner of Adams and Sixth, and the beautiful brick building was also soon in flames, a sight no doubt extremely distressing to the onlookers.  Luckily, this was the only building that burned north of Sixth. By now, virtually everything between Fourth and Sixth, and Adams and Main—two square blocks—was on fire. 

 To the west, Louis Keckevoet’s large grocery store, which fronted on the west side of Adams and extended from Fourth to Fifth, was the next structure to be seriously threatened.  By keeping the building wet, the structure was saved, and the fire was kept from crossing Adams and possibly destroying the west side of town as well.  According to the Herald, it was “hot work” to save Keckevoet’s store.  The sides of the buildings blistered from the heat, and water thrown on the walls was immediately vaporized into steam.  Among several acts of bravery noted in the press, the Demokrat singled out John Mosman, Carroll’s German artist, for helping to save Keckevoet’s store.  He was working with a small water sprayer, and when the heat became almost unbearable, he was seen pouring a bucket of water over himself in order to keep working.  After the fire, Keckevoet’s grocery published the following in the Demokrat (translated from the German):


NOTICE OF THANKS.  In recognition of those who, with disregard for their own safety and property, saved my family and myself from the loss of our building and business, namely to Messrs. J. Mosman, F. Mosman, Rev. Pape, Wm. Lynch, Jr., W. J. Bohnenkamp, H. Wilkens, O. Lasche, J. Hermann, Dr. Schaeffer, F. Salmen, C. Lieber, E. Hildebrand, Dr. Hildebrand, and many others, such as Miss Kate Hildebrand, I give my most heartfelt thanks.


The human drama of the tragedy was also captured by both local papers.  The following is from the Demokrat (translated form the German):


Fire!! Fire! Fire!!  The whistle of a locomotive passing through Carroll sounded the wild alarm in the early morning of September 25, and the people, at first drunk with sleep, and then wide awake, thronged in desperation into the streets, where they realized in terror that the powerful hand of the Fates was threatening to destroy their homes and property by fire.  The danger grew moment by moment, and the fire, aided by a light wind, devoured more and more, wrapping one building after another in flames.  Despite the efforts of hundreds of people to extinguish it, the fire found willing victims in the dry buildings.  Within perhaps a quarter-hour after the outbreak of the fire, it was clear to everyone that it was absolutely absurd to think of putting out the fire with a little water applied with buckets.  And so then with the cry, “Save what you can,” people went to work in a wild frenzy, and everything that strong, willing people were able to carry was removed from the doomed buildings.  Clothes, showcases, books, and all kinds of merchandise were carried out to places thought to be safe, but as the merciless fire progressed, many people had to transport the few precious items they had saved yet a second time.  In short order, one business and residence after another was leveled to the ground, and in less than three hours the entire business district of Carroll was in ashes—two blocks of closely adjoining buildings—the heart of the town as it were—lay there in smoking ruins.


No one was killed in the fire, but a few men were burned while attempting to fight the flames or rescue property.  By 6:00 a.m., just two hours after it had started, the fire was over.  The Herald described the situation:


The sun rose upon a scene of desolation where a few hours before had stood the business portion of one of the most thriving little towns in the state; there was nothing but the blackened and distorted debris of the conflagration.  The streets were filled with merchandise and valuables of every description.  Bales of goods, show cases, household effects—in short articles of all kinds were scattered here and there and everywhere.  The public square on its south and east slopes covered with law books, tables, furniture, bedding clothing and many other articles. 


A few structures had also burned south of Fourth Street, but a large grain elevator and the train depot were spared.  The roster of property destroyed by the fire included a number of well-known German and American businesses.  Altogether, approximately 50 structures were consumed in the blaze.   Many buildings housed more than one business, and many also doubled as residences.  The total monetary loss was estimated at $200,000, of which only about $35,000 was covered by insurance.  As with any disaster, there were undoubtedly many losses of personal property that money could not repay.  As just one example here, the studio of long-time Carroll photographer Joseph A. Rohner was located in a building that burned on Fifth Street. 

 Perhaps understandably, a number of local residents were concerned with placing blame for the disaster.  The next day, the rumor was already spreading that the fire had been caused by Heinrich Schapmann’s carelessness.  He demanded an inquiry by the town council, and after two nights of meetings he was cleared of all responsibility. 

 One positive result of the fire was that the town council passed an ordinance prohibiting the construction or use of buildings in the center of town unless they were made of brick, stone, or iron, and had roofs of slate or metal.  The ordinance also required businesses selling beer and wine to be housed in brick or stone buildings.  Exceptions to the ordinance required a special permit. 

 Perhaps the most notable result of the fire was the speed with which the town rebounded and began rebuilding.  Within days, a number of destroyed businesses had reopened in other locations, and several more had already contracted for new buildings to be constructed.  The railroad quickly offered reduced fees for transporting building materials into Carroll.  Within a few weeks, approximately thirty businesses had reopened in permanent structures.

 Despite the fire, the population of Carroll continued to grow.  The same newspaper issues that reported the fire also reported the influx of new settlers, German and American, into the town and county.  For example, it was noted that Dr. L. Schaeffer (who was mentioned above in connection with helping save Keckevoet's’ grocery building), had completed his medical studies in Germany and was relocating to Carroll where he intended on setting up his practice in the same building as the Demokrat.   It was also reported that new German families were settling in the county virtually every day.