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Robert Krause


Posted By: Annette Lucas (email)
Date: 7/14/2021 at 12:41:29

SOURCE: Biographical History and Portrait Gallery of Scott County, Iowa. American Biographical Publishing Company, H. C. Cooper, Jr., & Co. Proprietors. 1895


BORN in Germany, November 13, 1834, Mr. Krause has passed the greater and better portion of his life in this country, and that part of his career which has had Davenport for its center forms no inconsiderable portion of a life devoted not only to the upbuilding of personal interests, but to the furtherance of public enterprises as well. Mr. Krause is identified with the very best of the city's development, as the succeeding pages will show , and, though not an old man, has done his full share and more for the advancement of the community in which he chose many years ago to make his home.

His birthplace was at the southern base of the Hartz Mountain, in the ancient monk cloister village of Walkenried. His father was Conrad Behrend Krause, and his mother Franciska ( Osthaus) Krause. Mr. Krause, Sr., was the lessee of a government domain covering nearly four thousand acres of fertile farming land and forest; he also had thirty or more artificial fish ponds covering from five to forty - five acres of ground each. His children, seven in all, were educated at home by a private tutor until they reached the age of ten years, or thereabouts, and were then sent to school at Nordhausen, or Brunswick, or Blankenburg, there being in each of these cities the very best of schools for both boys and girls. During vacations the children were taught more or less of agriculture, horticulture and fish culture. These studies, accompanied by a certain amount of work, were supplemented by a span of donkeys, a farm wagon, a buggy and a riding saddle, all of which had a tendency to make the work afford a degree of amusement and pleasure.

From childhood up the youngsters were taught gymnastic exercises, enjoyed dancing schools, skating and trips over the Hartz Mountain, on which latter trips they were always accompanied by their parents, or tutor. They took their donkeys along to relieve the weary and tired walkers in turn.

When nine years of age, Robert was sent to Blankenburg to attend school. He remained there one year and then spent two years at Wolfenbüttel in the sixth and fifth grades of the high school; the last two years of his stay in Germany were spent in Blankenburg where he went through the fourth and third classes in the high school.

It was with regret that he heard his parents announce their decision, in the spring of 1848, to sail to America during the month of August of that year, for he had become attached to his school work and to the pleasant surroundings of his boyhood days. The last days of his school life in Germany were particularly enjoyable, for there is no more beautiful or romantic spot in all of the Fatherland than the little city of Blankenburg, in the duchy of Brunswick, at the northeastern base of the Hartz Mountain.

In August, 1848, Mr. Krause, Sr., sailed from Antwerp on the brig “ Ella Francis, ” accompanied by four of his boys — William , Conrad , Robert and Frank — and on the tenth of October the party landed safely in the harbor of New York . A couple of weeks were spent in the metropolis and thence by steamer the quintette traveled to Albany, by canal to Buffalo and by steamer to Cleveland, where they settled for the winter. Mr. Krause and his eldest son, William , traveled through Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio in search of a permanent home, which they finally found in Richland County, Ohio , within a mile of Mansfield . Mr. Krause purchased a farm of about one hundred and forty acres and again returned to his original calling - agriculture. The two eldest brothers first found employment in stores, and for a time were interested with their father in the importing of pianos. Robert and the youngest brother, Frank, were sent to school, and it is recorded of Robert that before he had been in this country a year he could read , write and speak the English language reasonably well.

Robert worked for a year or so for his father on the farm , and then, desiring more schooling, his father sent him to Gambier, Knox County, Ohio, where he attended Kenyon College, remaining one winter in the grammar department and the remainder of two years in the collegiate department; all this Robert did with the intention of eventually studying law.

It seemed , however, that the young man was destined for an entirely different career from that which he had laid out in his own mind. In this connection it may be of more than ordinary interest to record an incident which occurred in Brunswick, previous to the departure of the Krauses for America, and which, perhaps, foreshadowed the career followed by the young man. It was a trivial affair, but it showed in what direction the youth's mind was apparently turning. His brother William had purchased a pair of trousers and they were on display in the family circle, where comments were passed by the members; Robert examined the clothes, as did all the rest, and then carefully folded them and wrapped them in paper. His uncle, who was at that time one of the wealthy merchants of Brunswick , remarked : “ Robert will make a good merchant some day. ” The remark was forgotten for many years but revived when the prediction proved true.

In the spring of 1852 William Krause returned from an extended trip through Kentucky, Missouri and Iowa; he had located two sections of fine prairie land in Tama County, Iowa, and during the winter of 1851-52 had been employed in a dry goods establishment in Peoria, Illinois . Previous to his arrival in Peoria he had come up the river from St. Louis and had landed at Davenport, from which place he traveled inland on Indian ponies.

The young man was more favorably impressed with the cities of Davenport and Peoria than with all the other places he had seen, and as a result on May 10, 1852, he, in company with his brother Robert, landed in Davenport, touching the shore for the first time at the corner of Front and Brady Streets.

Within a few days William had rented a storeroom and was prepared for business by the twentieth of the month , with Robert as an assistant. The latter, however, remained with his brother only ten months, when he went to Rock Island and engaged himself as clerk at the same business for a man named Herrick, his salary being twelve dollars per month and his board . He remained at this position for about six months and then went into Block & Lowenthal's clothing store in Rock Island . He has been in this or similar business ever since, handling clothing, trimmings and the product of western woolen mills.

Mr. Krause remained with this firm for a few months and then took a position with Mr. Isaac Maas, who had recently come from Indiana and gone into business in Davenport and Rock Island . A year later he started into business for himself, having made so good a record with Mr. Maas that the latter raised his salary every three months. His first venture in business was in an old frame building next door to the old Pennsylvania House on Second Street, Davenport. This was in the fall of 1854, and the young man was but nineteen years of age.

His father had visited Davenport and Rock Island the previous spring and gave him seven hundred dollars to start business with ; his brother William gave up the grocery business and joined in the venture, making the firm name W. & R. Krause. On August 15, 1851, the firm rented the storeroom , and on the first of September Robert started for Cincinnati and New York to buy the first bill of goods. He returned from his trip on October 5, and on the twentieth of that month made the first sale .

The firm was dissolved after about four years, William desiring to go to Tama County and cultivate the land he had taken up some years previous. Robert continued the business under the firm name of R. Krause & Co., his father being the company. At the end of two years his father retired from the firm , and for a few years from 1861 he carried on business alone. It was hard sailing in those days because of the discount in “ wild cat currency, ” and it was particularly difficult for all western merchants to weather the financial storm of 1857. Mr. Krause probably saved himself by loading wagons and traveling over the country every season with his surplus stock, disposing of it to out-of town merchants and residents in the country. This was the foundation of his wholesale business, which has increased to such an extent that he now has more than a dozen traveling men on the road all the time.

Davenport and its merchants suffered greatly for several months previous to the breaking out of the war and also during that bloody period. The population decreased from seventeen thousand five hundred to ten thousand, and three - fourths of the merchants were driven to the wall. When the necessity arose for the manufacture of clothing there was renewed activity in the business interests and particularly in the business in which Mr. Krause was engaged. Whereas the majority had been losing they were now gaining money rapidly. Values became inflated, however, and it took a shrewd head to foretell the outcome of the sudden burst of prosperity. Mr. Krause managed to keep his business within safe bounds nevertheless, by continuing to send out agents through the country, disposing of his surplus stock each season .

In 1867 he took a partner into his business in the person of R. S. Price, who had proven himself an efficient salesman. Again the firm was R. Krause & Co.

Soon afterward Mr. Krause obtained a loan of $ 5,000 from his uncle in Germany and extended his business with great success until in the course of ten years he was able to return the loan and maintain his business easily. Mr. Price retired from the firm in 1876, and Mr. Krause has conducted the business in his own name ever since.

Until the spring of 1871 Mr. Krause occupied what is now the German Savings Bank building ; then removed to the Fejérváry block on Second Street, and in 1885 put up his own commodious building at Nos. 115-117 West Second Street.

He began to manufacture pants, shirts and overalls in 1875, and in this line, as well as in the others, has built up an enormous business. Aside from his salesmen traveling all the year round he has seventy - five or more employees in his establishment.

Mr. Krause has not only built up this large and lucrative business for himself, but he has taken a very active part in many public enterprises. Notable among these is the Davenport & St. Paul Railroad, now a part of the Milwaukee system . He subscribed one thousand dollars toward the building of this road and was instrumental in securing thirty thousand dollars in subscriptions from other citizens. He served three years in the directory of the company, and was one of the foremost of those who succeeded in making the terminus on Frank Street instead of at Duck Creek, two miles north . This was in 1870. The Rock Island Railroad had been the only railway outlet since 1854.

In 1871, because of the earnest solicitation of friends, Mr. Krause undertook to replace the stock of the Citizens' National Bank and in other ways to reorganize the institution, which was then in a very uncertain financial condition. Mr. Krause succeeded in completely changing the personnel of the bank and placed at the cashier's desk Hugo Schmidt, an unusually successful and faithful gentleman . The bank to- day is one of the most prosperous in the State. Had not Mr. Krause come to its rescue when he did it might not now be in existence.

Another, and one of the best, institutions with which Mr. Krause connected himself is the Davenport Glucose Company, which had its start in 1873 when the board of trade undertook the organization of a company through the recommendations of Mr. Krause and others. The company was first organized with a capital stock of twenty thousand dollars; unfortunate management broke it up inside of a year. Mr. Krause reorganized it with a capital stock of thirty thousand dollars, which was afterward increased to sixty thousand, and in 1879, July 19, the plant was consumed by fire.

In charge of the factory since its second organization had been L. P. Best, formerly a New York City man , and this gentleman was so disheartened when the fire occurred that he entertained the idea of leaving the city and taking up similar work elsewhere. Mr. Krause, however, had builded better than Mr. Best, or any one else, for the matter of that, knew or imagined . When the smoke was cleared away it was found that the earnings of the company had been sufficient, coupled with insurance, to guarantee one dollar for every dollar invested . Through Mr. Krause's efforts the company was again reorganized and the factory put in operation January 19, 1880, with a capital stock of one hundred thousand dollars.

This and the Citizens' National Bank afford the best opportunity for judging of Mr. Krause's shrewd financiering.

He was one of the organizers of the " Advance Club" in 1885 and was its first president. Under this club's administration several of the principal manufactories were located here. A tax vote, carried by the people, was agitated and by means of it what is now part of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad was built.

There are numerous other important business enterprises with which Mr. Krause has at some time connected himself, but he has never sought public office .

In 1860 Mr. Krause married Louise Steinhilber, on January 1, at the residence of the bride's parents two miles south of Walcott, Iowa. Justice Charles Hertzel performed the ceremony. Mrs. Krause's parents were Ezekiel and Minnie Steinhilber, the former being particularly well known. He came to Davenport in 1840, and was probably the first German born resident of the city.

Mr. and Mrs. Krause have two children. One, Emilie Virginia, is the wife of Paul Karlowa, and the other, Clara Louise, resides with her parents.

In the summer of 1892 Mr. and Mrs. Krause and their daughter Clara visited Germany, making the trip principally because of Mrs. Krause's ill health. Five weeks were spent at Carlsbad, and the remainder of the time was passed in visiting the scenes of Mr. Krause's early life .


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