The German Heritage of Carroll County, Iowa
by David Reineke
The Founding of Kniest Township and Mount Carmel
As seen in the previous
chapter, Carroll County grew slowly during the first several years of its
existence. By 1865, the population had increased to only about 400. But the
population grew more rapidly after the arrival of the railroad in 1867, and the
railroad itself was a major factor in the establishment of the first large-scale
German settlement in the county at Mt. Carmel and Kniest Township in 1869.
JOHN I. BLAIR AND THE
Nationally, the years
following the Civil War were a time of Reconstruction in the South and
prosperity and industrial growth in the North. An important aspect of this
period was the expansion of railroads around the country, and a major goal was
to establish a trans-continental link across the United States. In order to
encourage construction, Congress continued its pre-war policy of financial
assistance and huge land grants to railroad companies. The rail link was
finally completed on May 10, 1869, when the Union Pacific and Central Pacific
joined their tracks with a golden spike at Promontory Point in Utah.
In Iowa, a
smaller-scale version of this push was the competition to link the Mississippi
and Missouri Rivers by rail. The first railroad bridge had crossed the
Mississippi at Davenport in 1856. In that same year, Congress deeded to the
state of Iowa approximately four million acres of land to be used as an
incentive for railroad construction, and the Iowa Legislature in turn
transferred title to this land to various railroad companies.
The eventual winner of the trans-Iowa competition was the
Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad Company, which had been established in
1860. The company had made only slow progress during the Civil War years,
reaching Boone in late 1864. Construction accelerated after the war, however,
and the link across Iowa was completed in 1867. It ran through central Carroll
County all the way to Council Bluffs on the Missouri River, where it would soon
link up with the Union Pacific across the river in Omaha. The Cedar Rapids and
Missouri River Railroad Company then leased its Iowa tracks to the Chicago and
Northwestern Railroad, which subsequently operated the line.
In the first few years, the land along the tracks in Carroll
County was still undeveloped prairie grassland. Trains on their way through the
county would often stop so that passengers and crew could disembark and shoot
the abundant prairie chickens in the tall grass. Another phenomenon of those
times was the huge clouds of “grasshoppers” (the common name for the Rocky
Mountain Locust) that would occasionally descend on an area. Into the 1870s,
swarms of grasshoppers would occasionally devastate crops in Carroll County and
other parts of the state. During the summer of 1868, a newspaperman from Boone
was traveling through Carroll County on his way to Omaha. He wrote that as his
train was ascending the gradual rise to the Tip Top station (now Arcadia), at
the summit of the watershed several miles west of Carroll, a swarm of
grasshoppers had descended in the area and many of the insects were clustered on
the metal rails, apparently enjoying the warmth. As the train progressed up the
grade, it gradually slowed to a halt several times as the crushed insects
greased the tracks. The crew eventually had to sand the tracks, and the train
had to back up several times to get a running start before it eventually reached
The Cedar Rapids
and Missouri River Railroad Company was controlled by John Insley Blair, a
railroad tycoon from New Jersey. Perhaps not as well-remembered by history as
he should be, Blair was one of the largest private landowners and richest men in
the country at that time. He founded or directed a number of railroads,
including the Union Pacific. Several of his railroads were located in the
Upper Midwest and had received millions of acres in federal and state land
grants. His Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad, for example, had been
granted title to hundreds of thousands of acres across Iowa, including
117,000 acres in Carroll County
alone. Through his railroads, Blair was responsible for establishing a number
of towns throughout the Midwest, including several in Iowa: Carroll, Boone,
Ames, Blairsburg, and Ogden, to name a few.
Blair was a
Presbyterian and a supporter of the Republican Party. He was also a large-scale
philanthropist and donated millions of dollars in cash and land to various
charities and colleges, including Princeton University in New Jersey and
Grinnell College in Iowa. He is said to have built or donated land to over 100
Presbyterian churches in towns his railroads passed through, including the
Presbyterian Church in Carroll, to which he donated the corner lot on Adams and
Sixth Streets in 1871. On the other hand, some historians assert that Blair was
corrupt, and that he acquired his great wealth, including millions in Iowa,
through dishonest dealing and bribery.
Blair also formed
various companies in order to dispose of portions of his vast real estate
holdings. One of these companies was the Iowa Railroad Land Company, which at
one time was advertising over a million acres of Iowa land for sale. Among his
holdings, Blair owned a township (23,040 acres) in northern Carroll County, then
designated only as Township 85 North, 35 West, which was soon to become the site
of the first large-scale German settlement in the county.
LAMBERT KNIEST AND
Although the story of
the founding of Kniest Township and Mt. Carmel has been told in several
different versions, most agree on the basic outline. In the late 1860s, two
immigrants living in Dubuque, Lambert Kniest of Holland and Heinrich Baumhover
of Germany, had conceived a plan to establish a German colony on the frontier of
western Iowa. Similar immigrant-colonizing projects had been attempted before,
but they generally met with failure. For example, attempts during the early
1850s to establish the German colonies of “Communia” and “Liberty” in Clayton
County were both abandoned. Only a few such projects were successful, notably
the Dutch town of Pella, established in 1847, and the German Amana Colonies,
established in 1855.
Regarding the Carroll
County project, there is some debate as to whether Kniest or Baumhover first had
the idea of establishing the colony. Lambert Kniest, however, is generally
recognized as the driving force behind the enterprise.
Lambert Kniest was born
in 1819 in Doetinchen, Holland. His first wife died there in 1845. He
immigrated to America in 1847 with his second wife and family, and they settled
first near Buffalo, New York. They later moved to Pittsburgh and then St.
Louis, where Kniest was in the business of manufacturing footwear. His second
wife and one child died during a cholera epidemic in St. Louis, and Kniest
married Adelaid Kochs in 1850. The family moved to Dubuque, Iowa in 1852.
There, Kniest became a prominent businessman and owned a large hotel as well as
an interest in an insurance firm. He was also active in local politics, and
during the 1860’s he was elected city assessor and held the office for several
Heinrich Baumhover was born in 1829 at Ostenfelde bei Muenster, in
Westphalia, Germany. He immigrated to America in 1849. He went first to St.
Louis, then to Dubuque for a short time, and then back to St. Louis. In 1853,
he married Anna Venemann, who was also born near Muenster. The family was
farming near St. Louis when the Civil War broke out, and Baumhover enlisted in a
Missouri militia company and served for two years. After he was honorably
discharged, he went to New Vienna, a town heavily settled by Germans in Dubuque
County, Iowa, where he again took up farming. He was also known as a skilled
carpenter. After a time he moved to Dubuque because land was too expensive for
him to buy his own farm in eastern Iowa. It is said that he deeply desired to
live among his own countrymen in a German Catholic community similar to that
which he had experienced in New Vienna, and that he approached Kniest regarding
founding such a settlement in western Iowa.
It was probably 1867 or 1868 when the two men first traveled
west to survey the area for a potential colony site, eventually selecting a
township in northern Carroll County. Kniest then signed a contract with John I.
Blair of the Iowa Railroad Land Company, agreeing to buy Township 85 North, 35
West, in Carroll County. Some versions of the story relate that the contract
stipulated a small purchase price, but required that within one year Kniest
would furnish a particular number of settlers, between 30 and 70 families,
depending on the version.
Kniest then advertised the land among the Germans living
around Dubuque, Iowa and Galena, Illinois. At that time, thousands of German
immigrants lived in the eastern border counties of Iowa along the Mississippi.
Dubuque had been attracting German immigrants since the 1830s, and immigration
was particularly heavy during the 1840s and 1850s. Dubuque County had the
greatest number of German-born residents of any Iowa county at the time. In
addition to Dubuque itself, other towns in the county such as New Vienna (Neu
Wien), Lattnerville, and Luxemburg also had sizeable German communities. But
since land was more expensive there, many Germans desired to try their luck at
farming farther west, even despite the additional hardship involved.
Although the opportunity was advertised, it is said that
Kniest agreed to sell only to German or Dutch immigrants who were both Catholics
and Democrats. Exactly when the first group of Germans set out from Dubuque for
Carroll County is not known, but it was probably during 1868 or early 1869. The
closest thing to a contemporary description of the events of the settlement is a
newspaper article originally published in the Western Herald, one of
Carroll’s earliest newspapers. The article was subsequently reprinted in the
Dubuque Herald on May 13, 1869. The detail contained in the article
warrants its reprinting here in full (spelling and punctuation original):
The Dubuque Colonists
The families from this county composing the colony formed in Carroll county,
have many friends remaining behind, who will be pleased to learn of the success
of their enterprise so far. The Western Herald, published in Carroll county,
contains the following in reference to the colonists and their settlement.
Our town presents quite a busy appearance particularly in the lumber and
agricultural implement trade, occasioned mostly by the go-aheadaditiveness of
our German neighbors of the settlement known as the “Kniest settlement” situated
about five miles northwest of Carroll. We were really glad to meet Mr. Kniest
and several of his men, who were in town the other day loading their teams with
lumber, plows, etc., to take into their settlement. We understand their meeting
house and other public buildings are already built, and that they have regular
church services in their town. It is wonderful how easily it is for some men to
make the world progress. These Germans are a world-moving people and an honor
to any country in which they may take up their abode. Some years ago, when we
used to travel over this treeless country, we would not have given ten cents an
acre for the prairie land. Whole townships that were a few years ago the
hunting ground of the Indian, and were the habitations of wild beasts, are now
dotted with cabins and artificial groves of timber; and the change has been made
by just such men as Lambert Kniest and his trusty Germans. We are pleased to
have such men come among us, who so quickly change our fruitless prairies into
tillable land. It takes men of nerve and perseverance to accomplish what our
friend Kniest has in the last nine months. He has in that time succeeded in
purchasing of John I. Blair the whole of township 85 north of range 35 west, and
bringing to it some seventy-five families, who are nearly all of them breaking
up new farms and building new houses and barns, and already have secured shelter
and provisions for both man and beast. We are sorry we missed the pleasure of
seeing Mr. Kniest’s train of stock and teams, but understand that it was the
best that ever drove into a western county. We learn that the wagons were
euphoniously labeled as follows: Leading the van was a light team with the
label, “For the West;” on the second wagon were the words, “To Carroll County;”
on the third, “Iowa, the Granary of the World;” on the fourth, “Kniest’s
Settlement,” and on the fifth and last wagon, drawn by the heaviest and tallest
oxen that ever came to this county, the wagon being loaded with provisions, were
the words, “John I. Blair’s Aristocracy.” Then followed his long drove of loose
horses, cattle, and other domestic animals, too numerous to mention, driven by
men on horseback. Such accessions cannot do otherwise than bring great wealth
to our county. Dubuque, the city of the northeastern portion of our state, has
done noble in furnishing our county with such a host of good citizens. We do
not wish to boast over that noble county, but we must say that those Germans
knew what was best for themselves when they exchanged Dubuque for Carroll
county, and hope that many more such men will conclude to settle in our county.
May God speed them on their journey to wealth; for while they are enriching
their own lands and town, they are furnishing sustenance to the ultimate glory
and exaltation of the thriving village of Carroll.
As noted above, the
exact date on which the first colonists arrived is unknown, and there are
different versions of the story. The Dubuque Herald article quoted above
clearly indicates that the setters were there no later than early 1869, and that
church services were already being held. Paul Maclean’s 1912 county history
states that Kniest first acquired the land in 1867. Yet another version,
written around 1919 by Father John Bauemler for the fiftieth anniversary of Our
Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, states that Kniest, Baumhover, and others first
arrived in the spring of 1868 and picked the town site for Mt. Carmel on July 16
of that year. And a 1906 article from the Carroll Times relates that the
little frame church was built in 1868, and that the first Mass was celebrated
there on July 18, 1869. According to this latter article, the first Mass was
attended by five early settlers: Heinrich Baumhover, Frank Meis, Conrad Meis,
Peter Berger, and Michael Dewald.
All accounts agree that
Mt. Carmel was named after Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, whose feast day the Catholic
Church celebrates on July 16. However, there is no agreement regarding the
significance of that date to the new settlement. For example, one story states
that the site for the new town was selected on July 16, 1868. Another version
states that Lambert Kniest and John I. Blair signed their contract on July 16,
1868. And a third states that the village itself was first established on that
date in 1869. Both latter claims may be correct, since some early real estate
deeds from Kniest Township reference a contract of July 16, 1868, and because
Mt. Carmel itself celebrated its centennial on July 16, 1969.
THE NEW COLONY
Regardless of the exact
date of arrival, the new colonists no doubt felt relieved and proud at having
completed their arduous trek from Dubuque County to their new home on the
prairie, a straight-line distance of nearly 230 miles. Such a journey by wagon,
over rough and winding roads and across the prairie, would have been
significantly longer and probably would have taken nearly three weeks to
complete. However, there was certainly no time to rest. The new settlers would
have had to construct shelters and begin preparations for farming as soon as
possible. Notably, the 1869 Dubuque Herald article quoted above states
that the colonists were in Carroll to purchase lumber and plows.
The first few years in
their new home must have involved considerable hardship for the settlers. At
best, their homes would have been sod houses or rough wooden structures, and the
task of breaking the prairie and planting crops for the first time would have
been enormous. In 1894, at Mt. Carmel’s twenty-fifth anniversary celebration,
some of the early settlers looked back on the hardships of those early days.
They lacked almost everything, including money, and worked their fields without
the aid of any machinery. They recalled that their homes were barely livable
and offered little shelter from the weather, and noted that the stalls they had
for their animals in 1894 were better than their own homes had been 25 years
earlier in 1869.
Until mid-1870, the new
township was still governed as part of Sheridan Township. Even before it was
officially established, however, it appears that there was some degree of
self-government in Kniest Township. On March 25, 1870, a meeting of the
“Sheridan Township No. 2” council was held at Mt. Carmel. Wilhelm Lammerding
was chairman and Nicholas Roth was secretary.
The meeting was called
to deal with the problem of cattle (defined as horses, mules, cows, oxen, sheep,
and swine) roaming at large and eating crops, and six resolutions were adopted
to deal with the situation. First, it was decided that all livestock, would be
“herded or pastured so that they will do no damage either by day or by night.”
Second, in case of damage to any farmer’s produce, “such as wheat, oats, corn,
apple trees, or hedges,” the damage must be paid for by the man or woman owning
the livestock. Third, the owners of damaged crops were to tie up or pen the
animals responsible for the damage and give notice to the animal’s owner within
three days. Fourth, the owner of the damaged crops was to select three men to
“oversee the damage and tax it and if these three men cannot agree they shall
select two more men and what these five men agree upon shall be deemed
guilty.” Fifth, all damages were to be paid within 24 hours after notice was
received. Sixth, all livestock were to shut up in a pen or pasture at night,
from sundown to sunup. In addition to Lammerding and Roth, the resolution was
signed by 26 men from Kniest Township.
Religion also played an
important role in the lives of the early settlers. Among the earliest arrivals
to the new town was Father Heinrich J. Timothy Francis Heimbucher, a Catholic
priest who had been sent by Bishop Hennessy of Dubuque to establish a parish
there. At first, Father Heimbucher lived with Lambert Kniest and held church
services in various homes in the new settlement. But work was soon completed on
a new church, a simple wood-frame structure, measuring 24 x 40 feet, as well as
a small cottage for priest’s residence. This church, called Our Lady of Mt.
Carmel, eventually became known as the “Mother Church” of all the Catholic
churches in Carroll County.
Father Heimbucher was
born in Sulzbach, Bavaria in 1820. He was ordained a priest in Germany in 1844
and came to America in 1854. After spending several years as a pastor in
various parishes in New York, he came to Dubuque, Iowa in 1865 and was named
pastor at Lyons by Bishop Smyth. He was assigned as pastor to Mt. Carmel in
1869, although he may have visited there in 1868. During this time, it was
common for priests to do missionary work on the frontier. While at Lyons, for
example, Father Heimbucher also attended to Springbrook as a mission
assignment. Upon arrival in Mt. Carmel, he also traveled to other towns in the
county such as Carroll and Hillsdale (Roselle). Due to poor health, however,
Father Heimbucher was transferred to Council Bluffs in 1874, and then to
Lattnerville, in Dubuque County. He died there on September 21, 1875 and is
buried in Dubuque.
His replacement at Mt.
Carmel was Father John Francis Kempker. The son of German immigrants, Father
Kempker was born in a log cabin on his parents’ farm in Pleasant Ridge, Lee
County, Iowa, on May 18, 1848. He was baptized by pioneer priest Father J. G.
Alleman, and his uncle, J. H. Kempker, who lived nearby, had immigrated in 1836
and was a pioneer German settler of eastern Iowa. After completing his
schooling at the parish school in West Point, Iowa, he went to Milwaukee in 1865
and received his advanced education at St. Francis Seminary. After further
studies in Bardstown, Kentucky (where he was also a Professor of German), and in
Missouri, he returned to Milwaukee and graduated in 1872. Father Kempker was
then appointed an assistant priest in Council Bluffs, where he mainly attended
to various missions in southwest Iowa, and founded several new parishes. His
assignment at Mt. Carmel was his first as a pastor of his own parish.
Although he remained in
Mt. Carmel for less than two years, he accomplished a great deal in that short
time. The first issue of Der Carroll Demokrat, printed on May 22, 1874,
reported that due to Rev. Kempker’s “energetic activity,” the Mt. Carmel Church
was being doubled in size with an addition measuring 24 by 40 feet, and a
sacristy measuring 12 by 16 feet. It is said that Father Kempker also erected
a parochial school there and obtained Catholic teachers for the other schools
around the township. He also traveled around the county and surrounding area to
establish missions and hold church services. By the fall of 1874, new Catholic
churches were being constructed in Carroll, Arcadia, and Hillsdale (Roselle).
In late 1875, Father
Kempker was transferred to a parish in Lyons, Iowa. He was reassigned to many
parishes around Iowa during the rest of his career. In addition to his work in
the Church, he was a graduate of the Keokuk Medical College. He was also an
active historian and a member of the Iowa Historical Society and the American
Catholic Historical Society. He wrote several works on the history of the early
Catholic Church in Iowa, and published many newspaper articles on the same
subject. He died in Davenport in 1924.
Father Theodor Wegmann,
a German priest from Muensterland in Westphalia, took over in Mt. Carmel upon
Father Kempker’s departure. He remained less than year, and was later
transferred to Hillsdale (Roselle), and more information about him appears in
the chapter on Roselle. Other German priests followed through the years: Father
John Fendrich (1876-79), Father John Anler (1879-87), Father Ignatius Rottler
(1887-92), Father Gerhard Luehrsmann (1893-1902), Father Frederick Schaefer
(1917), Father John Baumler (1917-21).
Until 1874, Mt. Carmel
had the only Catholic church in Carroll County and the surrounding area, and
Catholics from other parts of the county often traveled there for Sunday
services, as well as baptisms, marriages, and funerals. Christian Loeffelholz
and Margaretha Wilkins became the first couple married in the new settlement on
June, 15, 1870. Among the first funerals in the new church were those of four
German immigrants who perished in a snowstorm near Hillsdale (Roselle), about 12
miles south of Mt. Carmel, in March 1870.
LIFE ON THE FRONTIER
The small church was
often inadequate for the crowd of worshippers, and as noted above, it was
doubled in size and a sacristy was built in 1874. Also during that year,
Carroll businessman William Trowbridge 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. A correspondent from Der Carroll Demokrat wrote the
following short description of traveling to Mt. Carmel for early services one
Sunday morning in May 1874 (translated from the original German):
A trip in the fresh morning air
always has its charms, especially when traveling through such rich scenery as
the road to Mt. Carmel offers. How beautiful must this be early in summer, when
the waving grain fields present themselves to the view of the observer. Along
the whole way, one sees the efforts that our energetic and active German farmers
are making to improve the land. We especially appreciated the planting of
trees, which took place everywhere this spring. With a few more years of such
work, when the settlers go through their fields, they will be able to say with
pride that “these are the fruits of our labors.”
We arrived on time in Mt. Carmel
in order to attend early service. The church, which due to the fast rise in
population has been too small for some time, is being doubled in size (as we
reported in our last edition). The construction is proceeding quickly forward,
and when it is finished it will be one of the largest and most beautiful
churches in the county.
After church, we visited Mr.
Jos. Drees, whose premises were overflowing with guests. We were acquainted
with most of those present, and everyone with whom we spoke was pleased at the
founding of the Demokrat, which they manifested by immediately
subscribing. In the course of a few hours we obtained 73 subscribers, which
brings the number in Mt. Carmel near to 100, a result of which we are very
proud. . . . We will be careful to justify the trust placed in us. And Mr. W.
F. Krause, whose tavern we also visited in the course of the day, promised to
support the Demokrat in every way.
We learned from the farmers that
the field crops, especially the wheat, were in good condition and the prospects
were favorable for a good harvest. Unfortunately, this is not the case with the
corn, as the weather is too dry, although a good rain could still be of much
Kniest Township, like
much of western Iowa, was still part of the American West in the early to
mid-1870s, and occasional events indicated the frontier nature of the area. In
the summer of 1873, for example, the James Gang robbed a passenger train near
Adair, only 40 miles south of Carroll. And in the summer of 1874, a caravan of
75 Winnebago Indians with 22 ponies passed near Mt. Carmel on their way from
Nebraska to Marshalltown.
Hardships and dangers
associated with life on the frontier also sometimes took their toll in Kniest
Township. Prairie fires were commonplace in the county and often threatened
crops, farmsteads, and communities. Disease was also prevalent. In October
1870, a seven-year-old daughter of the Dewald family in Kniest Township was
burned to death in a prairie fire. In the fall of 1873, a smallpox epidemic
killed several people in the township. And throughout the 1870s, swarms of
grasshoppers appeared and threatened crops in the county, and throughout the
West, often doing significant damage.
For several years, the
village of Mt. Carmel remained a simple frontier settlement consisting of only a
handful of small buildings surrounding the church. According to Paul Maclean’s
history, apart from the church, the little town of Mt. Carmel was hardly
distinguishable from the surrounding farms. An 1875 article in Der Carroll
Demokrat describes the town as consisting of eight houses, a church, and a
school, and having 42 residents. For businesses, it had a post office, general
store, wagonmaker, two shoemaker shops, and three taverns.
Given the nationality
of the settlers, it is not surprising that three of the earliest businesses were
taverns. It is believed that Mathias Weber, Joseph Drees, and W. F. Krause
operated drinking establishments in Mt. Carmel around the early to mid-1870s.
And Joseph Wiewel, who arrived in 1875 and started a shoemaking business, also
opened a tavern, “Zum Bayerischen Hof” (The Bavarian Inn), which he operated
until his death in 1900.
Additionally, in early
1874, Mr. A. L. Gnam had begun operating the Mt. Carmel Brewery, which produced
a large amount of lager beer that was consumed around the county. Mr.
Trowbridge’s wagon service between Carroll and Mt. Carmel was also known to make
occasional layovers at Gnam’s brewery, and the stop was known to some passengers
as “Brewery Junction.” The brewery was known as a reliable place to get a good
glass of beer. The establishment was also equipped with a player organ, and
hosted dances and parties on special occasions. In 1875, Mr. Gnam was
advertising his “good beer” for delivery around the county, promising to fill
orders promptly and to the satisfaction of his customers.
The vast majority of
the early settlers in Kniest Township were farmers, and they built their new
homes on their farmsteads located around the township. In the federal census of
1870, taken in July of that year, the new township had not yet been partitioned
and was still recorded as part of Sheridan Township. Based on the nationalities
stated by the residents, however, it is possible to distinguish the boundary,
and it appears that there were approximately 60 German families, roughly 300
people in all, living in the new township. With the exception of Father
Heimbucher and a few railroad workers, all of the German men in the new township
stated their occupations as farmer or farm worker. Most listed their real
estate as having a value between $400 to $800, with some as low as $200 or as
high as $2000 or $3000. The two most valuable properties are owned by Heinrich
Baumhover ($4500) and Lambert Kniest ($52,000). Most of the settlers had only a
few hundred dollars worth of personal property, with Baumhover ($2000) and
Kniest ($10,000) again the most notable exceptions.
agricultural census of 1870 provides more detailed information about the early
farming operations. Although a few farms were fairly large (Kniest’s was 8460
acres, and Baumhover’s was 700 acres), most were small. A typical farm
comprised 70 to 80 acres of land, and only a few farms were larger than 200
acres. Most farms had only a few head of livestock, typically one or two
horses, and a few milk cows or other cattle. Some farms included a few mules,
oxen, sheep, or swine. The 1870 agricultural census does not list any crops as
having been raised by the settlers during the previous year, whereas many their
neighbors in Sheridan Township were listed as having raised a few hundred
bushels of wheat, rye, or corn. It is possible, then, that the first harvest
was later in 1870.
By 1875, Kniest
Township was the most populous township in Carroll County with 643 residents.
Although 357 people reported being born in the United States, 286 were born
outside the United States, and another 238 had at least one parent born outside
the country. Of 116 registered voters, 89 were born in Germany, 17 in the
United States, seven in Holland, and one each in Ireland, Austria, and France.
The census also listed 27 births and 13 deaths for the year 1874. It further
noted that over 7000 acres of land had been improved and over 6600 rods of fence
had been built. The main crops were wheat (4000 acres), corn (1882 acres), and
oats (594 acres). There were 1240 hogs and 234 milk cows. Numerous fruit trees
and even grapevines were also noted.
KNIEST AND BAUMHOVER
After moving to Carroll
County, Lambert Kniest continued in his business and political interests. Based
on the census data, Kniest was one of the wealthiest men in the county in 1870.
Later that year, when the new township he had settled was officially set off
from Sheridan Township, it was named Kniest Township in honor of its founder.
Kniest also participated in local politics. Although the Democratic Party was
virtually non-existent in Carroll County at the time, he was elected to the
county board of supervisors and served as chairman in 1870. He was also
prominent in the so-called “citizen’s retrenchment convention” held in Carroll
in September 1870 for the purpose of stamping out corruption and graft in county
politics. Later that year, he repeated his business deal of a few years earlier
and purchased another 23,000-acre township, soon to be called Wheatland
Township, from the Iowa Railroad Land Company. In 1871, he purchased a general
store in Carroll, which he later enlarged so that it fronted on both Fourth and
Although Lambert Kniest
lived long enough to see his colony become solidly established, he would not see
it reach its full potential. He died at his home in Carroll in August 1878,
leaving a wife and 11 children. His funeral is said to be the largest ever held
in Carroll up to that time. His wife Adelaide died in 1927.
Heinrich Baumhover was
also an active businessman in his new county. In addition to farming, he also
started a brick manufacturing business in 1874. And in 1875, he and Frank Brede,
a liquor merchant from Dubuque, were partners in constructing the first
steam-powered flour mill in Carroll. It was built near the railroad tracks on
the corner of Carroll Street and Fifth Street. This operation, Carroll Roller
Mills, was a successful and prominent business in Carroll for many years.
Baumhover’s wife Anna died in 1875, and he married Helena Bauer in 1877. In the
1880s, he turned the management of the mill over to his sons, and he continued
in farming in Kniest Township. He died in July 1904. He also left a wife and
11 children. Helena died in 1909.