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