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DER CARROLL DEMOKRAT

 

ON THE 25th ANNIVERSARY JUBILEE

 

1874-1899

 

Published by the German Demokrat Printing Company
Compiled by A. Becker, Editor and Business Manager

Originally Published on Friday, 29 September 1899
(Translated from German by David Reineke, 2008)
 

PART TWO: HISTORY OF CARROLL COUNTY

 

Carroll County! What citizen of this jurisdiction does not feel his heart thrill at the mention of that name? It is indeed a spot of earth that has been granted many gifts by the Creator of the universe. It would certainly be saying too much to compare Carroll County to an Eden, or to make the exaggerated assertion that in all of Iowa, or even America, there is no finer, better place than this. Our county is not exactly a paradise, and it is typical of many other locations throughout America. But the residents here live happily and peacefully, and the soil brings forth all the produce of a temperate climate, whereby America has become what it is: the breadbasket of the world.

 

The fields, as far as the eye can see, are covered with the most luxuriant agricultural produce, the cornfields extending into the far distance shine in the dark green of their rich foliage, the corn plants bow heir heads humbly from the weight of their ears, and meadows and pastures appear in the most opulent green. Charming little woodlands offer the eye a refreshing and pleasant change, and in between them the tidy farmhouses peer out like snug nesting birds from the bushes. In each hamlet, in village and town, the symbol of Christianity can be seen glowing from far and wide. And the numerous churches, which are built to the glory of the Creator and where offerings of thanks rise up to Heaven, shine out with pride across the expansive farmyards, and upon the buildings, country homes, and towns, which are grouped picturesquely around them. And these are flourishing towns with mutual trade and traffic, where already the machinery of industry is established and developing strongly; towns inhabited by a race of people who compete peacefully and industriously in the activities of a good and civilized middle class. Respect for their neighbors, tolerance, and above all a noble spirit of sacrifice—these are the traits of the residents of the towns of Carroll County. And for these virtues they have earned a share of the blessings that the Almighty allows to sprout forth from this beautiful spot of earth in abundance every year.

 

The friendly reader may now go back with the author to a time whose place in the grand scheme of world history might be deemed hardly worth mentioning. What amazement might overcome a man who has not experienced the development of our county during the last four decades were he now to embark on a journey through the county! Indeed, back then the land was an endless prairie enveloped in an idyllic silence, broken only here and there by the howl of coyotes and wolves, or by the light-footed tread of the Indian, who at his pleasure hunted the fleeting antelope or buffalo, and who considered the land his undisputed hunting ground. From north to south, from east to west, from border to border of our county, the prairie flowers bloomed as they had for millennia, awaiting the time when advancing cultivation would cut with its plowshares. The vastness of the virgin soil was interrupted here and there by meager little woodlands that spread out along the rivers or surrounded the small inland lakes, such as Goose and Swan Lakes.

 

But we need not lead the gentle reader like a fool; after all the above events happened in Carroll County. Our county at that time was not yet independent, and in 1851 it still belonged to Benton County, which stretched all the way to the Missouri River. But from that year on, the counties of Boone, Greene, Carroll, Crawford, and Harrison were partitioned off. At that time, however, our county was still entirely uninhabited, and so it was joined to Polk County and later to Shelby County. In 1855 we find it under the governance of Guthrie County, but from that year it became independent, and the organization of the county took place. Here we also discover the origin of our county’s name. In Carrollton there lived a citizen by the name of Charles Carroll, who himself had played a not insignificant role in America’s history—namely, he was a signer of the Declaration of Independence—and so our county was called by his name. It is also very probable that the town of Carrollton, where later the first courthouse was built, received its name from him. [Translator’s note: There was a Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Maryland, who signed the Declaration of Independence. However, he died in 1832, before Carroll County existed and he never lived anywhere in Iowa.]

 

In 1855, the year the county was organized, the first county election occurred, and it took place in the present Grant Township, which at that time was still part of Jasper Township. A private residence belonging to Henry Coplin served as the election place. The county had reached a population of 100, and 30 votes were cast at this election. It cannot be determined exactly when the first white people arrived in Carroll County, but it is believed that by 1851 and 1852 there were white settlers in the vicinity of the North Raccoon River. The first Germans arrived around the year 1856, and that was on the Middle Raccoon River. Among these was found Mr. A. Brutsche, who still lives in Coon Rapids. The history is also handed down to us that the first notable settlement occurred in 1854, and that was in the present Glidden Township.

 

Judge E. H. Sears, of the sixth judicial district of Iowa, named the persons who were to establish the county seat, and they were Messrs. Wm. L. Henderson of Guthrie County, John Purdy of Crawford County, and Dr. S. M. Ballard of Crawford County. But because the latter took no part in the decision, in 1856 the first two men chose Carrollton as the appropriate place. In that year Carroll County was also divided into two townships, namely Newton and Jasper, and the census that followed listed a population of 251.

 

The entire county tax receipts for the year 1857 amounted to $3,505.17, and indeed we find in the books that the modest income was not even enough to pay out fully the modest expenses. The building of the courthouse occurred about 1859, for which the county had to pay $818. In the following year the county governing body, or board, was elected, and both townships each had one member. Three years later, in 1863, a third township was organized, namely Union, and in 1867 Carroll, Glidden, and Sheridan Townships were partitioned off from Jasper Township. And so, since there were six townships, there were also six members on the board of supervisors. In 1870 the county was divided into supervisory districts, and then the county board consisted of three members. In 1873 the membership was increased to five members. The first supervisors were Crockett Ribble and Jacob Cretsinger.

 

The residents of Carroll County were fervently patriotic, and when the Civil War broke out they sent a request to the board of supervisors, in which they requested the sum of $25 to acquire drums, fifes, and a flag, and the county, which had reached a population of 250, also furnished 28 able-bodied men to uphold and defend the Union. Some of these men sacrificed their blood and lives on the altar of the nation.

 

At that time $25 was a tidy bit of capital because business affairs were not yet developed to the extent that they are today. The western states were still more or less very sparsely settled, and some regions were even entirely unpopulated. The produce from the soil was probably several hundred times less, but consumption was also proportionately smaller. Now America itself has added about 30 to 40 million people and is a considerable factor in the consumption of its own agricultural products. And how many ships cross the ocean each year carrying the agricultural produce of the United States to foreign markets? Naturally this huge change in America’s economic situation is accompanied by important consequences. But if we were to look back to the time of the earlier situation, we would hardly believe those changes possible. Of course, in those days anyone who was industrious had enough to live on, but the luxuries we have today—the fine homes of the average farmer, the carpets and stylish furniture, the clothes made of fine wool and even silk, the elegant coaches and buggies—were unimaginable in those days. Given the conditions that existed then, they were unheard of luxuries.

 

And people then had very modest desires and needs. A log cabin consisting of three rooms was considered a very comfortable residence. Many people had only a one-room log cabin or lived in “dugouts” roofed with sod. For agriculture they used primitive implements pulled by a team of oxen. The housewives went to church on Sunday morning dressed in a clean print dress that they had made themselves, and the families traveled in a wagon pulled by a pair of oxen. Cash had a high value, and as the Americans said, “money was very scarce.” So, for example, until 1864 the wages of the county officials were very small. The county judge, clerk of court, treasurer, and recorder received an annual salary of $50, which was paid at quarterly meetings. Of course, the work was very modest, but the wages were very low with respect to the duties, at least by today’s standards. After 1864, however, the wages improved somewhat, so that each official received $30 per month.

 

We come now to a time in the history of Carroll County that was a rather dark period and still today brings a flush to the cheeks of every honest citizen. In the December meeting of 1866, the board of supervisors passed a resolution whereby the former county officials were to be given back pay. That was the beginning of the fraudulent practices started by the corrupt executive board at that time. The gentlemen who held the reigns of government in their hands were only concerned with lining their own pockets or in greasing the palms of their minions at the county’s expense. In 1890 our predecessor editor published a calendar containing a condensed history of Carroll County. We print here a short extract of that history dealing with the fraud. The editor states:

 

And so a decision was reached in the January meeting of the board of supervisors, after which a special payment was made to Mr. G….. for his “gentlemanly conduct.” A certain Crockett R…. was paid an extra $1000, although he had been out of office for several years. And such extra payments were also made to many other former officials. During that time, from 1866 to 1870, bridges were built, which first of all were completely unnecessary, and secondly cost enormous sums. At the beginning of the 1870s, one could still find bridges that stood on high, dry ground that cost $100 to $500 although they were not worth $50. Many of those who took part in the swindling later moved to other states to the west. The majority of them did not become rich thereby because they squandered the money. A few, of course, were smarter and probably saved their ill-gotten gains. From a few, the loot was again legally recovered.

 

That’s all from our predecessor.

 

After an exact accounting of the sums plundered from the county through all sorts of schemes, from the most sophisticated cheating to the clumsiest, it was determined that the sum amounted to $250,000. Some irregularities were thereby discovered in which the pages of the record books in the courthouse were smeared with ink. But the swindling of Carroll County is a historical fact, and the Republican Party, in power at that time, has the misconduct on its conscience.

 

The fourth township, Carroll Township, was organized in 1867. But we should not think of the township in its present form. At that time, the township also included Arcadia, the northern half of Washington, Roselle, Pleasant Valley, and Grant Townships. Carroll Township thus contained an area of 4 and a half of the townships named above.

 

In the same year a railroad was constructed through Carroll County. This was the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad, which was then rented to the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad for 99 years. However, after 18 years it was completely owned, along with all its branch lines, by the Chicago and Northwestern. It also took over the Maple River Railroad, which was started in 1876 and completed the following year.

 

Carroll County now entered a period of fast development. A stream of immigrants poured over Carroll County, which caused a rapid increase in the population. Already by 1867 three more townships—Glidden, Sheridan, and Jasper—were organized. And while the railroad was being constructed, the towns of Glidden, Carroll, and Tip Top were established. The latter was so named because the town was situated at the highest point of the watershed between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. West of Tip Top, the streams and rivers flow into the Missouri, and those to the east into the Mississippi. Later, however, the name of the town of Tip Top was changed to Arcadia.

 

In the summer of 1867, there was a strong movement to transfer the county seat from Carrollton to the town of Carroll. This movement was started because the county seat lay at the edge of the county, and many citizens had to make long trips to pay their taxes, file recordings, conduct other business, or utilize the courts. By contrast, Carroll lay almost in the center of the county and had the advantage of being able to be reached from east and west, after the railroad was built. In August of the same year, the board of supervisors was called upon to move the county seat from Carrollton to Carroll. Another reason also given for the request was that the stream of immigrants was mainly settling in the vicinity of the railroad, and the center of the county would be settled quickest. The railroad company also played a strong role in the movement, and free of charge it set aside a parcel of land for the construction of a courthouse. Naturally, Carrollton left no stone unturned in its effort to impede the move, for along with the move would come the fate that still seals the fate of small towns. But the ball had started rolling, and the good citizens of Carrollton were unable to stop its course. In April 1868 the board of supervisors decreed the movement of the county seat to Carroll.

 

A further episode in the history of Carroll County involved the establishment of the German settlement in 1868 by Mr. Lambert Kniest. He had made a contract with the [Iowa] Railroad Land Company, wherein he agreed to establish a German colony of 50 families inside a township within one year. For this, Mr. Kniest chose Kniest Township, and he received the exclusive right to sell land in that township. Not only did he fulfill his obligation on time, but the immigration exceeded the number of families stipulated in the contract. Mr. Kniest’s main purpose was to establish a German-Catholic settlement in Kniest Township, and that he succeeded can be seen on Sundays when the people attend church in Mt. Carmel. From all directions, the people come streaming to “Berge Carmel” in order to attend its fine Gothic-style church, engage in prayer, and listen to the words of the energetic pastor. Mr. Kniest, the founder of Kniest Township, was responsible for the building of the church in Mt. Carmel, which later formed mission parishes throughout the county, and so it may justly be considered the Mother Church of Carroll County. Mr. Kniest recruited mainly Catholics from Dubuque County, Iowa and from Grant County, Wisconsin to move to Kniest Township.

 

The stream of immigrants to Kniest Township was decisive for all of Carroll County because those who had immigrated caused other new immigrants to follow, so that colonization quickly spread and extended beyond the borders of Kniest Township. Neighboring Wheatland Township was quickly populated, and in 1874 a small German settlement was founded in Hillsdale [now Roselle], whereby Roselle Township was also quickly settled by German Catholics, and they acquired many farms that had earlier been operated by Americans. Other settlements were also established, so that in many townships the populations were of mixed faiths. Only Kniest and Roselle Townships had a purely German character. Today the townships having a purely German population are Kniest, Wheatland, Roselle, and Washington. Arcadia and Grant Townships are almost totally German. Sheridan, Eden, Pleasant Valley, and Carroll Townships are more than half German. In recent years the German population has grown substantially in Warren Township, and the pretty town of Manning, with its many businesses, has been controlled by Germans for several years. For the last 10 years, Eden Township has been quite substantially Germanized, and the charming town of Templeton is almost totally German, as are the towns of Breda in Wheatland Township and Arcadia in Arcadia Township.

 

The majority of Germans in Carroll County are of the Roman Catholic faith, which has seven strong parishes, each of them possessing a beautiful church and a large, respectable parochial school. These churches and schools are located in Mt. Carmel, Carroll, Roselle, Breda, Arcadia, Templeton, and Willey. We should further note the Catholic parish in Dedham, which, however, has more of a mixed nationality. In addition to the German Catholics, the German Lutherans are strongly represented in the county with four parishes that possess fine churches and schools. These are located in Sheridan Township, Carroll, and Arcadia, and there is a church in Grant Township.

 

The American element has established itself strongly in the eastern part of the county, but even there many Germans have settled, and the Germans are especially strong in Newton Township, where they are pushing up against the local Welshmen [perhaps meaning Irish or British] and Americans. The non-German population of the county belongs first of all to the Methodist faith, second to the Presbyterian, and third to the Roman Catholic; then follow the Baptists, and then the Episcopalians. In addition, there are many other sects whose members, however, are small in number.

 

Of all the nationalities represented in the county, the Germans were most instrumental in furthering culture and fostering progress. The prairie lay there unused and deserted when the first German immigration began, and over the course of years Carroll County was transformed into a blossoming garden. The meager stands of trees gave way to the German farmers. On almost every farm where Germans have settled, one may observe large and fine orchards with sturdy fruit trees. And when one observes the fine residences along with their sizeable and valuable stables, the organization with which German farming is conducted, the good working of the soil, and the fine condition of the produce, it is certainly no great observation to declare that an industrious and capable German farmer lives there.

 

But now we should proceed again with the gradual and vigorous development of the county. Thus, the separation of Kniest Township from Sheridan Township occurred in 1870, and Roselle Township was organized in September of that year. In 1871 Arcadia and Eden (then called Leech) Townships were organized. In 1872 Wheatland, Grant, and Washington were organized. Warren Township was organized in 1875.

 

Since the organization of Carroll County the population has increased remarkably quickly. In 1856 the population amounted to 251. Nine years later in was 400, in 1875 it was already 5760, in another five years it was 12,351, in 1885 it had climbed to 16,329, and now the population has already reached 21,000. According to a very conservative estimate, the population of Carroll County is three-fifths German, or people of German descent who recognize German as their mother tongue. Of course, there are always those persons who cast off their German heritage and ignore their native language, but overall the German culture is well-rooted, and anyone who believes that it will die out after 50 or 100 years is greatly mistaken. One need only point to the Hessians who came to America during the Revolutionary War and settled in Pennsylvania. They are speaking German even today, and one still recognizes the Hessian dialect. But we should first thank the German parish schools, the most important jewels of German culture in America, that the beautiful and resonant German language has been maintained thus far. And secondly, we should thank the German press. And we cannot stress enough to the German-speaking Americans that the German parish schools and German press should be strongly supported as the caretakers and preservers of character, customs, and language.

 

Politically, following the swindles that were perpetrated on the county, Carroll County has been Democratic. But the party was especially strengthened after the Prohibition laws were enacted in Iowa. When the law softened somewhat through the Mulct law, the party’s strength declined again. But it has always been strong enough to hold the upper hand with a good showing at the ballot box.

 

Also worth noting is the formation of a society called the “Grangers,” which existed in the 1870s. The society spread throughout the entire state, but it could not get a firm foothold in Carroll County because its officials operated its supply stores and farm businesses with too much fraud and entanglement, and there was too much nonsense and secrecy associated with its recruitment and meetings.

 

In the years 1875, 1876, and 1877, Carroll County was afflicted with the locust plague, but in recent years these unwelcome guests have left the area early enough that a good harvest can still be gathered. Carroll County was also not spared by the prairie fires, which caused many heavy losses to livestock and property. Anyone who has not experienced a prairie fire has no idea of the speed with which such a fire can spread, or of the horrifying scene during the night when the earth is covered in a sea of flame and the sky is reddened by the reflection.

 

As noted above, in 1877 the Maple River Railroad was completed, which led to the building of the towns of Maple River Junction and Breda. In 1880 the Southwestern Railroad was constructed to the town of Manning, and the town of Halbur was built. The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad was built through the county in 1881. The towns of Dedham and Templeton grew along this line. Coon Rapids, also on the line, had existed earlier. In addition to these, some other towns are found in Carroll County that are not located on the rail system; these are Mt. Carmel, Hillsdale, Willey, and Carrollton.

 

In 1879 the town of Carroll was hard hit by a fire that burned the entire business district to the ground and caused almost incalculable damage. But like a phoenix, the town rose from the ashes, and after the fire only solid brick businesses were constructed. The town was hit once again by a significant fire, but it was limited to the Griffith’s Block. In April 1886 the courthouse burned down, and people who arrived quickly and entered the burning building to save books and documents noted a distinct odor of petroleum. We put forth the assumption that the fire was set by a criminal hand, but at any rate the old, dilapidated courthouse, more an old pathetic shack than anything else, was a disgrace to Carroll County. And due to its destruction, it was necessary to build another courthouse. A proud and magnificent building now graces the place, which along with a new county jail and the sheriff’s apartment cost $50,000. Besides Carroll, the towns of Manning, Arcadia, Glidden, and lastly Breda were afflicted by serious fires, and in 1885 Coon Rapids was hit by a strong tornado. But the people have always gone right back to work, and instead of the old frame buildings there are now mostly solid brick buildings.

 

The people were also very active in providing for the education of the youth of Carroll County, because in every township there are between 6 and 9 schoolhouses that are well attended, especially in winter. And in the towns of Carroll County there are also fine, large school buildings, where the youth are instructed by capable instructors.

 

And with that the editor will bring an end to the history of Carroll County. And if some event has again been awakened in the memory of the old settlers of Carroll County, or if some events have been clarified for the newcomer, of if the attentive reader has received some small entertainment, then the author has completely achieved his goal and herewith takes his leave from the friendly reader.

 

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