Carroll County IAGenWeb
History Journal


by Clara Kniest Drees

Transcribed and submitted by Anita Henning, October 2, 2005

In the Spring of 1868, Lambert Kniest heading a train of teams and stock the best that ever dove into a western country stopped in Carroll. The wagons were all fittingly labeled for the occasion as follows: first wagon “For the West”; second wagon “To Carroll County,” on the third – “Iowa the Granary of the World”, on the fourth — “Kniest Settlement,” and on the fifth drawn by the heaviest and biggest oxen that ever came to Carroll County, the wagon being loaded with provisions were the words “John L Blair Aristocracy.” Then followed his long drove of loose cattle and other domestic animals, too numerous to mention driven by men on horse back. It was indeed an occasion of much interest to the inhabitants of this frontier town.

These colonists were on the way to Kniest settlement situated about eight miles north-west of Carroll. Mr. Kniest succeeded to purchase from John L Blair the whole township of eighty five north range west, and bringing to it in a short time, about seventy families who are breaking up the virgin soil of new farm, and putting up log cabins, houses and farms.

This was taken from an issue of the Carroll Herald printed in the spring of 1868. Our town (Carroll) presents quite a busy appearance, particularly in the lumber and agricultural trade, occasioned mostly by the indefatigable pursuit of our German neighbors of the settlement known as the Kniest settlement, situated about eight miles north-west of Carroll. We were really glad to meet Mr. Kniest and several of his companions who were in town the other day loading their wagons with lumber, plows etc to take into their settlement. We understand their school house and other public buildings are about finished and that they have services in the village church. It is wonderful how easy it is for some men to make world progress.

These Germans are a world moving people and an honor to any county in which they may make their houses. Some years ago when we traveled over this bare 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 Indians, and the home of wild beasts, are now dotted with cabins and artificial groves of timber. The change has been made by just such men as Lambert Kniest, and his trustworthy followers. We are pleased to have such men come among us, who so quickly change our fruitless prairies into fertile land. It takes men of nerve and perseverance to accomplish what our friend Kniest has done in the last year.

Lambert Kniest also started and named the little village of Mt Carmel. It came about in this way:

In the summer of 1868 Lambert Kniest, H Baumhover and several others started out with team and wagons to pick out a township. They were driving about from place to place and became actually embarrassed because their were so many fascinating sites, so that when our selection was almost decided on,  another seemed to be better. Finally an elevated plateau was reached, there they rested while admiring the magnificent scenery, the waving grass in the rich valleys; and the sloping uplands on every side. The pole was taken from the wagon, having been brought as a marker for the chosen spot; and they set it firmly in the ground, whilst they consecrated the land to God in pious prayers, as their eyes were dimmed with tears of joy. The spot and location being agreed upon, the question arose: what name shall we give this new colony or parish. Looking up the date in the almanac--they found it was July 16th--Our Blessed Lady of Mt. Carmel, which was the name selected.

Without delay Lambert Kniest laid out and platted the little village of Mt. Carmel in the center of which was a square for the catholic church; to the north of the church square was another square for the school, and west of this five acres was laid out for the cemetery.

It will be interesting to know who conceived the idea to start this settlement years and years ago. It has often been said that women are only the helpmates of men. That man is the inspiring and creative force in all things. However Joan of Arc led the French to liberty. Clara Barton was the inspiring spirit that made the Red Cross a real force for good.

Likewise in the city of Carroll lives Mrs. Kniest--wife of Lambert Kniest--now ninety four years old. She it was who called attention to the new lands in western Iowa offered by the Iowa Railroad Land Co. for settlement. Her husband was taken by the force of her argument, and accordingly consulted his friend Gen. Geo.. W. Jones. After their conference it was decided to go and see this land. So in the fall of 1867 Lambert Kniest went out and looked over the big stretch of land. After viewing from all angles what is now Wheatland, Sheridan, and Kniest township, Mr. Kniest chose the latter. On his way home to Dubuque he stopped of at Cedar Rapids where the contract was drawn up, which he signed, giving him the sole right to start a new settlement.

Then the lands were advertised in Dubuque and surrounding towns and in March 1868 Lambert Kniest in company with his oldest daughter Hannah Kniest-Drees, and a number of settlers, came overland with ox teams, wagons and cattle via the old government road to Fort Dodge and thence over a trail to what is now Mt. Carmel.

Although these pioneers sacrificed much, they planted the Cross on these wild prairies, built homes for themselves under trying circumstances; while a few became discouraged over crop failures and returned to Dubuque. Those who remained were rewarded for their fidelity by establishing homes and gradually seeing their lands develop into the highest priced farms in the country.

True to the predictions (in the forces of encouragement in trying times) of their leader Lambert Kniest, the old settlers prospered, and came and went in their buggies and carriages; while now their offspring's spin through the country in their touring cars.

Would to providence that my grandfather Lambert Kniest, could see the township he started in all its prosperity and agricultural beauty. It would do his heart good, and repay him in a measure for the undertakings and sacrifices during his pioneer days. Although he met with many discouragements, his Christian fortitude carried him through to success.

The above information is transcribed from a 10 page handwritten manuscript on microfilm #0985414 from the LDS Library in Salt Lake City. I have kept the original spelling and punctuation. There is no date noted for when this was written , but there is a clue, in that she says that her grandmother, Mrs. Lambert Kniest is 94 years of age when it is written. There is also nothing to indicate why this manuscript was written. Perhaps Clara just wanted to tell the story of her grandparents coming to Carroll County. (The first page of the manuscript was very difficult to read; this coincides with the first and part of the second paragraphs.  In the fifth paragraph there is a quotation mark to end a quotation, but I have been unable to find another quotation mark that would indicate where the quote begins.) Perhaps the original manuscript is somewhere in Carroll County.

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