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CARROLL COUNTY HISTORY
THE MOUNT CARMEL STORE
Taken from the Mt. Carmel 100th Anniversary Book from 1969

Transcribed by Marilu Underberg Thurman
 

The Mt. Carmel Store has been in continuous operation in its present location since 1879.  Prior to this a general store was in operation in the south part of the Walker building on the corner west of the church.  This is the oldest building in Mt. Carmel. 

In December 1878, Maria A. Kniest, wife and executrix of the will of Lambert Kniest, sold the entire Block 9 of Mt. Carmel to John H. Hillmann for $240.00.  The two story combination residence and store building was constructed as it now stands; however, several additions were made at later dates.  The first general store was in the west side and a saloon was operated in the east part.  The residence occupied the central part and the second floor.   

John and Mary Ann Hillmann and five of their children came to Mt. Carmel from New Jersey.  (Three of their children remained in the east.)  They operated the store and saloon for seven years and then returned to New Jersey.  Two of their children, however, were married at Mt. Carmel.  A son, George, married Kate Otto and moved back east.  A daughter, Elizabeth, married John P. Hess on Feb. 28, 1881.  Mr. Hess came to Mt. Carmel as church organist and school teacher and later went to Carroll.  There he established the first bank called “The German Bank,” later changed to “The Carroll County State Bank.” 

John Hillmann sold the store to John A. Hoffman of Roselle in 1886.  He operated the business until 1890 when he purchased a farm east of Mt. Carmel, (the present Berger farm) and later moved back to the Roselle community.  Their children, Isadore, Mary (Mrs. Joe Seyller), John E., and Anna (Mrs. J.B. Hermsen) all stayed in the Carroll County area.  John A. Hoffman was very interested in the nursery business and many of the first trees in the area were started and sold to the local citizens.   On Jan. 1, 1893, Mr. Hoffman sold the property to Rev. G. H. Luehrsmann, pastor at Mt. Carmel at the time.  The business was sold to George A. Poeppe, who operated the store for eight years from 1891 to 1899. 

George A. Poeppe came to Mt. Carmel from Germany and farmed south of town.  He purchased the Mt. Carmel Store in 1890 and operated it for eight years during which time he also was a teacher.  Mrs. Poeppe and her brother Wendy Wernimount, took care of the store and saloon while Mr. Poeppe was teaching school.  During the years they operated the store the following children were born, George, Teresa, and Ted.  Ted is the only one of the family living in the Mt. Carmel area.  George A. Poeppe was also very much interested in music and for many years was the organizer and director of a series of home talent bands made up of young men of the parish.  These bands practice nights were some of the most lively social meetings in saloon history and are conversation topics of the old-timers to this day.  In 1898, Mr. and Mrs. Poeppe sold the store to Mr. J. Berger and H. H. Julich and bought a farm one and a half miles northeast of Mt. Carmel.  He also served as county auditor for many years. 

Mr. and Mrs. Martin J. Berger and children, Matthew, the late Msgr. Julius J. Berger, and Arnold, moved to the Mt. Carmel store from a farm one and a half miles west and two miles south of Mt. Carmel in December of 1898.  Along with Mrs. Berger’s brother, Henry Julich, they began business on Jan. 1, 1899.  The following summer they decided to enlarge the building and built an addition to the west side.  They also enlarged the residence area by building a two-story addition on the south side.  From the beginning days of Mt. Carmel, the Post Office was located in the store, but with the advent of Rural Free Delivery the Post Office was closed in 1904.  The following year a new invention reached the Mt. Carmel area, the telephone.  The people of the community decided to organize a telephone company and the switchboard was installed in the Store, where it served the community until Northwestern Bell assumed the service in 1948.  The old switchboard is presently in the Bell Telephone Museum in Des Moines.   

Meanwhile, the Berger family increased in number.  The following children were born while they resided at the Mt. Carmel Store.  Marcus, Elizabeth (Mrs. Joe Ortner), Pauline (Mrs. Anton Huegerich), Olga Josephine, Helen, and Bert.

On March 1, 1915, Mr. and Mrs. Berger purchased the farm one half mile east of Mt. Carmel, from John A. Hoffman and moved with the family to the farm.  However, they retained their business interest in the store. 

Henry Julich, or “Unk Henry” as a large number of the community used to call him, remained at the store to become on of the most memorable characters in Mt. Carmel history.  His booming “Gol Docket, close the door” and many candy treats to the children, especially to the Mass servers, is remembered by many to this day.  Many also remember finding the pinch-bottom candy bag filled with sugar candy and peanut fudge in the grocery laden eggcase, when mother and dad came home with the week’s purchase.  Henry Julich sold his interest in the Store to Mr. and Mrs. John Fleskes in 1923.  He died April 9, 1965, at the age of 93, after being in retirement for 42 years.  

In September 1923, Mr. and Mrs. John H. Fleskes (Margaret Julich) and children, Al, Ed, Matilda (Mrs. Tony Boes), Marie (Mrs. Ed Kanne), Henrietta (Mrs. Louis Bernardy), and Leo came to Mt. Carmel from Maple River, where Mr. and Mrs. Fleskes had built and operated the store for many years.  Previously, John H. Fleskes had been a builder and had constructed many of the buildings in the Mt. Carmel and surrounding areas, and with his father, Theodore Fleskes, constructed two of the past churches in Mt. Carmel that have been destroyed by fire.   

Berger and Fleskes, as this partnership was called, remained in operation for fifteen years, including the depression years of the late 1920’s and 1930’s. 

On Jan. 1, 1938, Leo Fleskes, son of John, purchased the interest of Mr. J. Berger and together with his father formed a partnership called the “Fleskes Briardale Store.” The store was remodeled and in 1940 the tavern, “Lee’s Place” was started in the west part of the building.  This partnership remained in operation until Jan. 1, 1947, when Leo Fleskes sold his interest to Louis Bernardy of Waterloo.  In 1948, Leo Fleskes bought the Bernardy interest and again went into business with his father.  This business stayed in operation until the death of John H. Fleskes, June 6, 1954.  John H. Fleskes is remembered as a very kind and benevolent man and many of us, including this writer, believe that the world is just a little bit better because he lived in it.   

On Jan. 1, 1955, Mr. and Mrs. Leo Fleskes became the sole owner of the store.  The interior of the store and the residence have been extensively modernized since 1958.  It has been operated since 1955 by Lee and Lucille Fleskes (the former Lucille Koster) and their children., Robert of Des Moines, Jane of Hibbing, Minn., and Cindy, Mavis, and Joe, presently at home. 

 

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