The German Heritage of Carroll County, Iowa
by David Reineke
The German Press in Carroll County
The German press has a long history in the United
States, and German periodicals and
newspapers were published as early as the Colonial period. The Philadelphische Zeitiung (Philadelphia
Newspaper), published by Benjamin Franklin in 1732, was probably the first
German newspaper published in America. Although it
quickly went out of business, many other German publications followed. During the 1800s and early 1900s, thousands
of German newspapers were published throughout the country, eventually
appearing in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. Most, but not all,
German papers went out of business around the time of World War I or shortly
The first German newspaper
published in Iowa was probably the Nordwestliche Demokrat, published in Dubuque in 1849. In
subsequent years, at least 175 German papers were published in the state. A few towns, like Davenport and
Dubuque, saw over 20 German newspapers published over the
years. In all, there were approximately
60 Iowa towns with one or more German papers.
The German settlers in
Carroll County continued in the long tradition of establishing newspapers in their
native language. At least four German
papers were published in Carroll
County through the years. Along with
the various German churches and their associated schools, these publications
played a leading role in helping to preserve and foster the German language and
culture in the county.
This paper (not to be
confused with the English-language Carroll
Democrat) was first published in Carroll in 1874 and continued into the
1920s. During its day, it was the
leading German publication in
its name implies, one of the paper’s main goals was to support the political
activities of the Democratic Party and to promote German interest in the
party. During the 1800s, it was very
common for local newspapers across the country to be engaged in partisan
politics. Many papers, locally and
nationally, were controlled by political interests and engaged in editorial
warfare with their rival publications.
Given the large number of German immigrants in America,
German newspapers were an important means for politicians to reach potential
The founders of Der Carroll Demokrat, John G. Burkhardt and T. L. Bowman, were both experienced
journalists. Bowman had previously
worked for English-language papers supporting the Democratic Party. He founded the Cedar Falls Democrat, and had also worked at the Dubuque Herald and the St. Louis Times. Along with Lambert Kniest and Heinrich Baumhover, Bowman had also been instrumental in encouraging
the early German settlement in
Carroll County. Bowman and another business
partner, Patrick M. Guthrie, had operated a successful land office in Carroll
since 1871, and over the years they were agents for the sale of thousands of
acres of railroad land around the state.
Bowman was also personally active in Democratic politics, and in 1876 he
would be chosen as an Iowa
delegate to the Democratic National Convention.
Twenty-three-year-old John G.
Burkhardt had recently arrived in Carroll from
Omaha, where he had been the editor of the
German-language Beobachter am Missouri (Observer on the
Missouri), the first German paper
in Omaha. In later
years, Burkhardt recalled his first arrival in “Carroll City”
in early 1874. He had come on the train
from Omaha on a Saturday in order to look over the town and
consider a job offer as editor of the new German paper. The following day, a committee of local
Democrats escorted him to Mt. Carmel for church services. Burkhardt noted
that the town consisted of only a few buildings: a post office which was also a
store, two or three other buildings, and a church that was too small for the
crowd of German Catholics who arrived for services. After church, he met with many of the local
Germans and quickly obtained a list of potential subscribers. Upon returning to Carroll, pleasantly
surprised at his experience and in obtaining the subscribers, he agreed to
assume the editorship of the Demokrat. He confessed that upon his return to
Omaha, a much larger city with a flourishing German
culture, he momentarily questioned the wisdom of his decision to relocate to
Carroll County. However, he quickly returned
to Carroll the following week and went to work on the new paper.
The paper’s German-language
prospectus appeared in Carroll on May 9, 1874. It
announced the formation of a private company for the purpose of publishing a
German newspaper, under the title Der
Carroll Demokrat, and having the motto “Furchtlos und treu” (Fearless and true). The prospectus further stated that the paper
would promote the interests of the German population of the county, and that it
would not advocate the interests of any “ring or clique.” It further promised that the paper would take
a stand against “rising nativism” and the “fanatical
temperance movement.” The annual
subscription price was two dollars.
The first edition of Der Carroll Demokrat appeared on
Friday, May 22,
1874. It was four pages in length, with seven
columns per page. As the prospectus had
promised, the paper immediately went on the attack against what it considered
the “corruption” of the local county government, and also encouraged its German
readers toward the Democratic Party.
Its publication also
commenced what would become a long “newspaper war” with the English-language Carroll Herald, the leading voice of the
Republican Party in the county. Originally
called the Western Herald, it had
first appeared in the fall of 1868 and was the first paper printed in
short-lived Enterprise had appeared
in Carroll in the spring of 1868, but it was actually published at Jefferson.)
When Der Carroll Demokrat appeared in 1874, the Carroll Herald was owned by Eugene R. Hastings, who was also
postmaster for several years, and O. R. Gray was a junior partner. Hastings later became sole owner, and he later sold the
paper to Paul Maclean in 1883. Over the years, the Demokrat and the Herald
fought many fierce battles, mainly on topics related to politics. The editors of the Demokrat did not shy away from personal attacks and even outright
insults against their opponents. Mr.
Hastings at the Herald, however, was
a worthy opponent and could give as good as he
got. In 1880, a writer for the Burlington Hawk-Eye admiringly referred
to him as “one of the most caustic and pungent writers in the state.” Paul Maclean, in
his 1912 county history, refers to Hastings as a “man of great force and the highest type of
integrity and honor,” and notes that he and his paper also fought for political
One article in the first
edition of the Demokrat addressed the
recent alleged embezzlement of over $4000 by the former county treasurer, W. H.
Price, one of the few Democrats to hold county office in the early days in
Carroll County. This was the latest chapter in
a series of scandals that had been brewing in local government for several
years. During the 1860s and early 1870s,
large sums of money had disappeared from the public accounts due to reckless
spending, mismanagement, and outright fraud by some county officials. Money was paid for numerous goods and services
that were never received, and for construction projects that were never
completed. This story is described in
greater detail in Paul Maclean’s 1912 county history
and in the 1887 Biographical and
Historical Record of Carroll County.
One article in the Carroll
Demokrat was critical of the Herald
for not speaking out more forcefully on these issues, and asserted that the Herald was too mild because its friends
were involved. Another article in the
first edition urged German voters to attend the upcoming county convention to
nominate delegates to the state Democratic convention. The paper also urged attendance at a meeting
of the state Anti-Monopoly Party (a short-lived anti-corporate movement during
1873-1874 to create a new political party) in Des Moines.
But the Demokrat was not all politics.
The first edition also contained news items from around the county: new
churches were being built; plowing was underway on the prairie; two horses
named Fuchs and Braune (Fox and Brownie) had run away
from Mr. Kruse over in West Side; there was talk of a new brewery in Arcadia or
Carroll; and Henry Baumhover was attempting to
manufacture bricks in Kniest Township.
There was also state and national news, as well as news from
The prices of farm
commodities were noted in the market report.
A bushel of wheat was at 95 cents, corn at 85 cents, hogs at $4 per
hundredweight, flour at $4 per hundred pounds, eggs at 10 cents a dozen, and
potatoes at $1.25 a bushel.
Numerous German and American
businesses, mainly from Carroll and Arcadia, had also placed advertisements. Carpenter and Locke advertised many items
such as dry goods, groceries, clothes, and glassware for sale in their stores
in Carroll and Arcadia. J. D.
Peters in Arcadia advertised a large selection of farm implements,
including the McCormick Reaper, plows, cultivators, and threshing
machines. Cook and Jones advertised
Studebaker wagons and buggies, as well as all sorts of farm machinery, for sale
in Glidden and Carroll. Brooks Lumber
Yard, at the corner of Main and Fourth in Carroll, advertised all kinds of
construction material. A few of the
other ads in this and other early editions included: Lampman & Hense,
hardware and implement dealers in Arcadia; Henry Benke’s
grocery stores in Carroll and Arcadia; J. W. Gilger’s
“country store” in Arcadia; Ignatz Smuting’s furniture store in Arcadia; Niemann
and Boyson’s wagon and blacksmith shop in Arcadia;
the German drug store of L. S. Stoll in Arcadia; August König,
the “best bricklayer and plasterer in the county”; the blacksmith shop of Rob
Hamilton and Brothers on Main Street in Carroll; the Glidden Mill of T. H.
Heaton & Co., an “exchange mill” located five miles north of Glidden; and
Arcadia Haus, a German boarding house and restaurant
in Arcadia, which also promised to have
“always fresh beer.”
The Demokrat also announced the appointment of several authorized
agents: Franz Florencourt would be traveling
throughout the county to gather additional subscriptions; W. H. Bohnenkamp was
agent for Kniest Township; Henry Halbur for Eden and Washington Townships;
Joseph Friedmann for Roselle Township; Charles F. Florencourt
for Wheatland Township; L. S. Stoll for Arcadia Township; and Claus Jahn for West Side and Crawford County. Readers were also invited to drop by the
newspaper office in Carroll to meet the editor.
The Demokrat faced many hardships and financial challenges in its early
days, and in the beginning its subscriber list probably never exceeded about
400. For the first two years, the paper
operated out of an 8- by 12-foot room in the back of Guthrie and Bowman’s land
office near the train depot. At first,
the paper did not even have its own press, and Burkhardt
had to prepare the forms and take them to another office to print on a borrowed
Mr. Bowman withdrew from the
business in June 1874, selling his interest to Burkhardt
and Franz Florencourt. Florencourt then
resigned in September 1874, leaving Burkhardt as sole
editor and publisher. During its first
several months, the Demokrat also
faced unexpected competition from the newly-founded Carroll Democrat, an English-language paper that attempted to lure
away its business.
But the Demokrat persevered through these early hard times and soon
enlarged to an eight-column publication.
In December 1874, Henry Schirk took over the
paper’s publication, keeping Burkhardt as editor, and
he also purchased the English Democrat
to eliminate the competition. Shortly
thereafter, however, Schirk had to cease publication
due to financial difficulties.
In February 1875, H. L. McMann purchased the paper, and he and Burkhardt
resumed publication. But McMann soon withdrew, and then Schirk
and Burkhardt again went into business together. In November 1875, the paper enlarged into a
nine-column publication. Mr. Schirk, however, decided to withdraw in February 1876, and
he sold his share to H. W. Hagemann. Things began to improve after this, and in a
few weeks the business moved to a new location, an 18- by 32-foot frame
building on Fourth
near the Carroll Roller Mills. Due to
missing editions, the ownership of the paper is uncertain for a time, but it
appears that Hagemann eventually purchased Burkhardt’s share and became sole owner around 1878. During this time, the paper also changed from
nine columns to seven, but enlarged from four pages to eight.
John G. Burkhardt,
who had worked on the paper since its establishment, resigned as editor in July
1878 and went to work for a new German paper established by Dr. L. Rick in
Kinsley, Kansas. (Rick would
also later start the newspaper Die Germania in Carroll.)
Burkhardt subsequently worked for other German
papers in the “West” including papers in Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Around
1900, he worked for the Gainesville Anzeiger in Cook County, Texas, where there was a large German community,
including a number of transplants from Carroll County.
In March 1879, a joint stock
company called the Demokrat Printing Association purchased the Carroll Demokrat from Hagemann and continued publication. The stockholders of the new company were
Patrick M. Guthrie, Peter Berger, William Lynch, Louis Keckevoet,
J. Rettenmaier, J. P. Hess, Franz Florencourt, and
Joseph Buchheit. Clemens Bruening was
president, and Patrick M. Guthrie was vice president. The following month, the directors hired John
Guenther and Charles Tass to assume the editorial and
technical management, and in October these positions were given to Franz Florencourt and Joseph Kniest. In the preceding June of that same year, the
business had moved to the new Keckevoet building on
Fifth Street. Joseph Drees was named secretary in 1880.
The stockholders in the new
Demokrat Printing Association were all Democrats, but not all were Germans, a
situation that would eventually come to irritate some German residents in the
county. Following the reorganization of
1879, the paper prospered again and its subscriber list grew. It is estimated that by 1880, the circulation
of the paper had grown to about 750.
The political influence of
the paper also gradually increased with the increasing German population. Following 1880, the political majority in the
county gradually shifted toward the Democratic Party.
In November 1881, the
printing office was moved to Main Street, across from the courthouse. A cylinder press was purchased and set up in
the new space.
In January 1882, the
shareholders elected the following officers: Patrick M. Guthrie, president;
Joseph Buchheit, vice president; J. B. Kniest, business manager and secretary;
Clemens Bruening, C. Meis, M. Wurzer,
Franz Florencourt, and Joseph Driest were
directors. In the fall of 1882, the
paper took on a new look and was printed in a new type face. In 1886, a new machine room was constructed,
and a paper-cutting machine and new Accidenz press
Mr. Kniest, who had worked at
the paper for several years, resigned in June 1887 to take a position with a
St. Louis paper. He
was replaced as secretary by J. W. Guthrie.
In October 1887, the paper changed to a seven-column format.
As noted above, not all the
owners and officers of the printing association were Germans, and, in fact, the
majority interest in the paper was controlled by non-Germans. Many Germans considered this rather “unbecoming,”
and some even feared that anti-German interests might eventually gain control
of the paper. In 1887,
a group of several prominent Germans, including William Arts (who would later
organize the German Bank of
Carroll County), attempted to purchase the paper
so that it would remain under German ownership. Due to the
high asking price of the paper’s owners, however, the venture was initially
unsuccessful. This led Arts and others
to form the German Demokrat Printing Company, which announced the intention to
start a new German-owned paper called the German
National Demokrat. The German
population in the county supported the new venture, and its stock shares were
quickly purchased throughout the county.
At the last minute, however, Guthrie and the other owners of the
Demokrat Printing Association reconsidered and decided to sell to the new
In the first meeting of the
new German-owned company, William Arts was elected president, Joseph M. Drees
business manager, and Franz Florencourt editor and
secretary. In September 1888, the
printing works was moved from Main Street to Fifth Street, where it was situated above Nic
Beiter’s meat market, and where it remained until the
In 1890, the paper had
approximately 1200 subscribers. In March
1891, Franz Florencourt resigned as editor due to
health reasons. Alois Becker was then
named editor and business manager, and he also served as secretary of the
company. A short time later, the paper
again switched to a new typeface (it was always printed in some version of
German Gothic typeface), and the business acquired a new steam-powered cylinder
press. Various changes were made in the
paper’s appearance over the years, and more modern equipment was gradually
acquired when needed. The paper expanded
to twelve pages in 1897.
In 1899, Der Carroll Demokrat celebrated its twenty-fifth year in business
and published a special Anniversary Edition on September 20. This publication, approximately fifty pages
long, contained histories of the county, as well as most of the towns and
townships, and many business. It also contained several hundred biographies
of prominent German-American residents of
Carroll County. In an essay outlining the
history of the paper (which is one of the sources for the information set forth
above), the editor looked back on the trials and challenges of the past years
(translated from German):
So did Der
Carroll Demokrat endure a period of 25 years of historical change, and
today, wearing its silver crown, it can look back on 25 years of service and
celebrate its anniversary. The Demokrat
began . . . without money or other assistance.
The battles which it had to endure were difficult, the grudges and the
plots which were spun against it were great, so that from time to time, the editor threw down the pen in despair and
discouragement. Indeed, there were even
some weeks when the Demokrat did not
appear. But it always pulled itself
together, fought its way through, and in the end remained the victor and held
the field . . . But the Demokrat does not have itself to thank
for this gratifying progress, it did not succeed on its own power, no, there is
a higher power without which nothing can succeed, and there is the friendship
and goodwill of its many patrons and readers whom we yet today, on our day of
honor, ask to remain with us in their goodwill and patronage.
Alois Becker resigned as
editor in 1900 and was replaced by William Langenfeld, who served until
1904. He was in turn replaced by Joseph
M. Dunck, who served until 1918. In
1919, Franz Florencourt returned to the paper as
editor, and he served until his death in July 1922. Between 1900 and 1910 the Demokrat had approximately 1250 subscribers. By 1920, circulation had fallen to about
1100—less than it had been in 1890.
Der Carroll Demokrat went out of business shortly after Franz Florencourt’s death in 1922. For almost 50 years, the weekly Friday
publication had been a welcome guest in the homes of hundreds of
German-American residents of
Carroll County. During that time, it was one
of the main pillars of German culture and society in
Carroll County. In its pages, the
German-American community read about the major religious, social, political,
and economic events of the times. They also read about the lives of their
fellow German residents in the news items, including thousands of birth
notices, marriage announcements, and obituaries published in the Demokrat over the years.
Der Manning Herold was established by Berthold
Krause in 1894. Krause had been born in
Prague, educated in his homeland, and immigrated to America in 1879. In
the early 1890s, he was the director of a traveling German theatre troupe in
During a stop in Manning in
1893, Krause quit the troupe in order to settle in the town. He decided to start a German-language
newspaper, and the first edition of the Manning
Herold appeared on February 2, 1894. At first,
the paper was published in the Ruhde building, and
then moved to the second floor of the Carpenter building in 1897.
The first years of
publication were challenging. It is said
that Krause made his first type sets out of cigar boxes, and a fire in the
first months of publication virtually destroyed the business. But Krause persevered, and gradually the
business grew and prospered. The paper
developed into a twelve-page, six-column weekly publication. In 1900 the paper had approximately to
650 subscribers. By 1910 the number had
grown to 800, and by 1915 to around 950. Its editorial policy was said to be
Krause published the Herold until his death in 1907. The paper was then taken over by Peter Rix, a German-immigrant farmer who had been one of Krause’s
close friends. He was also said to be
motivated by his love for his native German culture and language. Rix published the
paper until 1910, and he then sold the business to Paul Werner and Carl Hasselman.
During World War I, the
German paper was not popular with all area residents. It is said that one night during the war, the
building where the Herold was located
was doused by yellow paint by anti-German “patriots.”
Around 1919, shortly after
World War I, Rix purchased an English-language paper
called the Manning Monitor, which had
been printed in Manning since 1881. The Herold was then merged into the Monitor, and the new business was
subsequently run by Rix and Werner. The new paper was published in English, and
the loss of Manning’s only German paper was a sad blow to many old-time German
and Werner published the Monitor until 1929, when Rix
took over as sole owner and brought two of his sons into the business.
Die Ostfriesische Nachrichten
(The East Frisian Reports) was started in 1882 by Rev. Lubke
Huendling. At that time, Rev. Huendling
was pastor at the Wheatland Presbyterian Church near
Breda, and he was also serving a term as a professor at a
college in Dubuque. He had
been born in Ostfriesland
(East Friesland), a region along the North Sea in northwestern Germany, and he decided that a newspaper would be a good
way to maintain a connection and exchange news between his native land and the
many immigrants from there who had established settlements around the United States.
At first, Rev. Huendling
published the paper in Dubuque,
and then he transferred it to Carroll County in 1884. The printing was done by the Carroll Herald until 1898, and the operation was eventually moved
to an office near Breda. At first,
the paper was printed three times a month, and publication was a family
enterprise, with the children assisting in folding, labeling, and delivering
Die Ostfriesische Nachrichten
called itself the “home paper of the East Frieslanders
in America,” and it was popular among immigrants and their
families back home due to its printing of letters, local news items, and family
news such as obituaries. By 1890, the
paper had approximately 2500 subscribers, and by 1910 there were over 7000,
with several hundred in Germany.
Around 1907, Rev. Huendling
decided to hire an editor and printer, and so he brought D. B. Aden and his
family from Ostfriesland
to help in putting out the paper. During
World War I, the paper supported the American war effort and urged subscribers
to buy bonds. However, there was some
talk by “patriots” regarding painting the building yellow. This did not happen, probably because the
paper’s loyalties were known to be with America.
paper continued to prosper even following World War I, and during the 1920s it
still had a circulation of approximately 7000.
Circulation began to decline around the time of World War II, however,
and during the 1950s circulation fell below 2000.
Rev. Huendling passed away in
1937. D. B. Aden continued to edit the paper
and later also took over as publisher. Die Ostfriesische Nachrichten was published until approximately 1971.
Another German newspaper, Die Germania,
was published in Carroll between 1892 and 1900.
No known copies are known to survive, and so relatively little
information is available. In 1900 it had
a circulation of around 950. The first
owner and editor was L. Rick, and William Kurz and
Franz Florencourt were also editors for a time.
Politically, the paper was
nominally independent. However, it
apparently took an active interest in politics, as did most local papers at
that time. Over the years, there were a
number of sharply worded articles printed in Der Carroll Demokrat critical of Die Germania and its recommended candidates
for office. One such article in May 1895
referred to an ongoing newspaper war between the two publications.
The Breda Watchman was an English-Language paper published in
Breda from 1890 to 1909.
Although the paper was in English, the area around Breda was heavily settled by Germans. The Watchman
was founded by J. J. McMahon, who sold it to Clemence
A. Bohnenkamp in 1894. Bohnenkamp was
born in Breda to German-American parents. The paper went out of
business in 1909, when Bohnenkamp moved his business to
A number of German papers
were also published over the years in neighboring
Crawford County, which also had a sizeable German population. The Denison
Review was a Republican weekly paper printed from 1867 to 1889. In the mid-1880s, it had a circulation of
about 600. The first editor was J.
Frederick Meyers, and the paper was also operated for a time by Frank Faul, and later by J. Frederick and Charles Meyers. The Denison
Zeitiung, published from 1879 to approximately
1913, was also a Republican weekly paper, and then later an independent
paper. It was published for a time by
Meyers & Meyers, then by J. F. Harthun. In 1910 it had approximately 1865
subscribers. The Crawford County Demokrat was published from 1887 to approximately
1913. It was a Democratic weekly, edited
by Frank Faul, and later by H. C. Finnern
and Otto Vosgerau.
In 1910, it had a circulation of approximately 1000. A paper called Der Herold, another Democratic weekly, was published from about
1914 to 1919 by Finnern and Vosgerau. And a paper called Der Erzähler was published briefly as a
supplement to the Denison Zeitung.
And in the small town of Schleswig, just north of Denison, the German Schleswig Herold
was started around 1899, about the time the town was established. It was
published by Max R. Hueschen until about 1903 when it
was then sold to F. J. Branaka, who changed the name
to the Schleswig Leader and published the paper in
English, with some German portions, until about 1909. The paper eventually became completely
English, and was subsequently bought and sold several times before going out of
business in the 1940's.