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Chapter 22, Part 2 (translation): German Settlements

Allamakee County

This county lies in the northeast corner of the state and has a population of 18,000 souls, about 30 percent of whom are Germans. The county was organized in 1851 and was laid out in 18 townships. The first settlement was probably made in Fairview, where a certain Mr. Johnson had constructed a building and did business with the Indians. The site was given the name of Johnsonsport, and the “Old Mission”, which was built around 1835, is the oldest building in the county. In the summer of 1848, Patrick Keenan settled in Makee Township and since then the population has been growing consistently. Except for one third, the surface of the land is wavelike and richly covered with hills and mountains, the latter reaching a height of 300 to 600 feet.

The main products are wheat, corn, oat, and tree fruits. The major rivers are the Upper Iowa and the Yellow Rivers. The land is extremely fertile and equipped with plenty of water. The climate is very healthy because of its high elevation. Three of the 22 cities and villages in the county have a population of more than a thousand souls.

Waukon, Allamakee County

Waukon, the capital of Allamakee County, is situated slightly west of the center of the county, in the middle of the wavelike prairie, and has a population of about 3,000, 25 percent of which are German or of German descent. The first settlement was made in 1849 by G. C. Shattuck, who was attracted by the water springs he found there. He donated 40 acres of his land to the county, and the city was laid out on this land in 1853. The first store was opened in 1854 by A. J. Hersey and in the same year a schoolhouse was built. The city has made huge progress over the last few years and is connected with the Milwaukee Railway through a byline. The surrounding land is fertile, and a large quantity of farm products are shipped from there. Germans who have settled there are F. Wimmer, George Mauch, W. Kriete, Nic. Ried, Wm. Thoma, G. Schellschmidt, etc.

Lansing, Allamakee County

This city has about 1,500 residents and is located on the Mississippi, the father of all rivers, in a region richly endowed with scenic beauty.

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German settlers in Lansing and the surrounding area are: the brothers G. Kerndt, Dr. Nachtwey, Ed. Boekh, Dr. Brockhausen, H. Nielander, F. Schieck, Henry Bensch, Chas. Amann, J. Urmersbach, John Geßler, Friedrich Kehr, Jakob Ruprecht, Fred. Heß, Charles and Robert Hufschmied, Albert Boehmer, Joseph Beck, Joseph Urmersbach, Friedrich Kehr, J. Doerrmann, P. Wüst, Schinzel, Wiehe, etc.


One of the best cities in northeast Iowa with two railroads and strongly cultivated Germanity/Germandom in the city and in the surroundings. Among the early settlers are Dr. A. Staadt, August and John Convening, M. Beuscher, John Breuer, Carl Knodt, Conrad Thoma, John Thoma, John Wetzel, Fritz Thoma, Wm. Thoma, Henry Eggert, Robert F. Hecker, Henry Wihe, Carl Wegner, Jacob Schmidt, John Thill, Peter Sebastian, Christ. Mahnke, Henry Posch, Fritz Scherer, Rev. F. Gaß.

The German Settlements in the Heart of the State

Starting from Keokuk, Burlington, Muscatine, Davenport, Dubuque, and McGregor, the central counties of the state were settled first. The German settlements reached from Keokuk up the Des Moines River to the northern cities of Ellyville and Agency City. In the southern part of the state, that is in the two southernmost rows of counties west of Lee and Des Moines Counties, one can find few Germans in the cities and their surrounding areas, except for the counties of Henry, Jefferson, Wapello, Union, Montgomery, Mills, and Fremont.

In Mount Pleasant, Henry County, one of the state’s mental asylums, the first and biggest in the state, is located. It is an old and very prosperous city. In years past, the great politicians gathered here who controlled the affairs of the state. Old German settlers who should be mentioned are: Mr. Grau, whose wife, Mrs. Christina Grau, is still alive; Fred Lippold, Victor Kammerer, and John Henne. The German soldiers are listed elsewhere.

In Fairfield, the official seat of Jefferson County, the first German settlers were: Henry Simon, Philipp Lang, Jacob Goehner, David Tomy, Robert Kaestner, and Louis Sueß. The latter was a brewery owner there and had a well-equipped brewery that was running well when the ruinous prohibition law hit Iowa like a plague and destroyed breweries and other shops. Mr Sueß went to Chicago and has since been

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an associate in a major brewery, the National Brewing Co. He lives there, unaffected by the fanatics, but still thinks back to the once beautiful Fairfield. The city of Fairfield lost one of its best citizens when he moved away. There are distinguished German settlements around Fairfield and Germanville.

Ottumwa and Wapello County

Ottumwa is the county seat of Wapello County as well as one of the largest and most prosperous cities within the state. The population is about 20,000, possibly a third of which is German. Some years ago, businessmen spent more than one hundred thousand dollars to utilize the Des Moines River and its natural waterfall. This resulted in the establishment of several factory companies, contributing to the rise of commerce. The Raffler factory is the most significant amongst them.

The first German settlers of Ottumwa were Paul Adolph Römer and John Lingelbach, who already arrived in 1845. The first [Römer] was the father-in-law of Adam Schworm, who arrived in 1855. J. Gerlach, Martin Oelschlager and Frank Haslach are also among the German long- term settlers. Adam  Aulmann, later in Des Moines, served in the Mexican War and came to Ottumwa not long after. Jacob Hahn arrived in 1853 and so did G. und Paul Gerhard Ammenheiser. John Wagner and Henry Enderle arrived in 1856, P.C. Daum and Fred Reinecke in 1857. Otto Schaub arrived in the beginning of the 1860s, his brother Louis Schaub a little later; Alois Schäfer was the first beer brewer. Christ. Kaiser also arrived very early and stands among the respected pioneers. Among the other settlers, there are John Bauer, Michael Roß, Fritz Hermann, F. W. Grube, Peter Hirschmann, and Peter Winter. Later came A. and Theodor Danquard, John Hansmann, M. Kubitscheck, Max Conrad, Sax Bros., Julian Fecht, H. J. Ostdick, B. Hoffmann, H. A. Zangs, and Prof. Carl Schwabky, Henry Schneider, John Rosenauer, F. Sonntag, Wm. Kraner, Albert Freitag, Andrew Dummler, Ms. Pasnau, John Frost, Charles Merten, Henry Kretzer, C. Ladynski, T. Lutz, M. Maier, and P. Adler.

In Agency City, a small town located eastwards, which existed before one even thought of Ottumwa, John and H. Zulauf settled and established a cloth factory, which they later relocated to Ottumwa. John Weisbrod, father of the Weisbrod brothers in Des Moines, was also in Agency City first, and later in Ottumwa.

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Eddyville was once the county seat of Wapello County, but was outperformed by Agency City. Today, it is a quiet, idyllic town, which lives as old people do—more in the past than in the future. Among the old Germans, whom we remember, but who are for the most part already resting in peace, belong Wm. Schaefer and his co-partner Feßler, Frei, Hargesheimer, John Jaeger, Chas. Lutz, A. Armbruster, Joseph Steinhoff, and Seifert. Jaeger and Bernhard Walz had a brewery in Eddyville in the 1870s, but had to quit as a result of the Prohibition Act. The latter is currently running a respectable bar in Burlington, where all the old settlers gather.

Ottumwa’s German social life centers around its Turnverein [gymnastic club], which offers the German audience its only public entertainment. The hall, equipped with a stage for theatrical performances, which cost approx. $16,000, provides enough space for all the other festivities.

The Ottumwa Turnverein was founded in 1867. Its first officers were August Römer, first speaker; Jacob Schworm, first gymastic attendant [Turnwart]; Adam Schworm, treasurer, and Bernhard Krüger, keeper of the minutes. The current officers are John Dickmann, first speaker; John Berkes, second speaker; A. Danquard, keeper of the minutes; John A. Wagner, head of correspondence; John Wagner, treasurer; Julian Fecht, first gymnastics supervisor; Paul Gobert, second gymnastics supervisor; E. Maier, kitman [Zeugwart]. A singing section takes part in all local, as well as in all other choral festivals.

The senior German inhabitants of Ottumwa are John Wagner, H. A. Zangs, B. Hoffmann, Christ. Kaiser, A. Danquard, Albert Freitag, and Prof. Carl Schwabky. The first mentioned is the German patriarch. The latter is one of the best musical directors of Iowa. Already 28 years ago, he founded the band that goes by his name, which has earned an excellent reputation throughout the State.

John Wagner, Sr: The Turnvater [senior gymnast], and you might as well call him father of the Germanity/Germandom of Ottumwa, is John Wagner Senior. There were some who came much earlier and had interesting events in life, but none has done as much for the advancement of German attitudes, German lifestyle, and German education as Mr. Wagner. He is one of the most outstanding citizens of

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the city and is not only appreciated but beloved by all, young and old, Germans and Americans. He is one of the old Germans of integrity and authenticity who are no longer as plentiful as in the early years of this state’s settlement.

John Wagner was born on November 13, 1827, in Kirchvers, administrative district of Marburg, province of Kurhesse. After finishing school, he became a linen weaver and carried on this work until departing for America in 1856. He landed in New Orleans and came via Keokuk directly to Agency City, Wapello County, a promising village at that time, but surpassed by Ottumwa soon after. In Agency City, Mr. Wagner worked in the cloth factory of Mr. John Zulauf until 1862. After the relocation of the factory to Ottumwa, Mr. Wagner continued working in that very factory for five years, afterwards worked for some time in a quarry and then in the brine houses [Pökelhäuser]. He was constantly employed, always circumspect, never dreaded work, and thus he got ahead and was able to save some money so that he is in a good financial situation in his old days. In 1873, he established a tavern, which only had to close for a few years following the fatal Prohibition Act. His tavern has always been one of the most popular establishments and this can be credited only to the popularity of its owner.

Mr. Wagner married Miss Elisabeth Loder on July 9, 1856. Six children originated from this truly happy marriage, of whom five are still alive, amongst them one son, Mr. A. Wagner, the publisher and editor of the “Ottumwa Journal”, who is, like his father, a commonly respected person. The daughters are: Miss Marie, Mrs. Elisabeth, wife of the honored John R. Burgeß, Mrs. Caroline, wife of Father Henry Foelscher and Miss Katharine Wagner.

Mr. Wagner was one of the founders of the Ottumwa Turnverein, the former German school and the German singing club and made many sacrifices to build up German culture in the middle of American Ottumwa. He completely fulfilled his duty and deserves appreciation for that.

Located west of Ottumwa are the cities Chariton and Red Oak, in which only some Germans live. In Chariton, the old settlers are Henry Schulte and A. Reusch. The latter passed away. In Red Oak, E. Siblhofer, N. Yaeger, Andreas Wamboldt, John Schober and A.J. Lauritsen are among the old settlers.

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In Creston, east of Red Oak, in Union County and the current county seat, more Germans can be found, and there are a German club and several German parishes. The traffic of the C.B. & O. Railway guarantees that business is flourishing in the city, making Creston one of the best cities in the center of the state.

In the southeast corner of the state is the city of Hamburg, which at the time had a festive and energetic German life. But the elders have passed away, many emigrated and German life as it were, is extinguished. We still remember the honest and old Germans like J. Hoeppner, Louis Stauch, Val. Wiederhold, J. F. Hoppe, and Jacob Mattes. Sidney, the seat of Fremont County, was the home of the honorable German citizen Geo. A. Smith.

The Burlington Railway crosses through Mills County, where the cities of Glenwood, Hillsdale, Malvern, Silver City, and Mineola are located, and where quite a number of Germans have settled.


Mineola is located about 15 miles southeast of Council Bluffs at the Omaha and St. Louis Railway and has about 120 residents. The population in this young and flourishing town and its surrounding area is almost completely German, namely Low German, and whoever has not read Fritz Reuter’s works yet, has to make use of the High German language in case he does not understand English, in order to cope with them. The three big stores do good business; also, a lot of corn and cattle gets shipped from here. A pretty new church overlooks the village, which lies on a hillside. Mr. Wilhelm Berndt works at a preacher there and gives classes in the German language. The congregation is Evangelical Lutheran. We name the following among the German settlers of the city: Fred. Meyer, the honest and obliging hotel owner; Claus Schröder, innkeeper; M. Flammant, and Henry Nipp. Other German settlers in the city and the surrounding area are: John Lau, John Schoning, Henry Baltisberger, Henry Schultz, F. Schultz, O. C. Schultz, Fred. Danielson, Henry Kay, C. H. Thomsen, etc.

Council Bluffs

Council Bluffs, the county seat for Pottawatt[o]mie County, is situated on the Missouri River across from Omaha, Nebraska, and has a population of 30,000 and is thus, after Sioux City,

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the largest town in Western Iowa.

[The remaining sections of chapter 22 are not yet translated.]