Carroll County IAGenWeb



on the 25th Anniversary Jubilee 

Originally Published on Friday, 29 September 1899


Published by the German Demokrat Printing Company
Compiled by A. Becker, Editor and Business Manager

Translated from German by David Reineke, 2008




 Translator’s Introduction, 2008


  Der Carroll Demokrat, the first German-language newspaper published in Carroll County, Iowa, was established in 1874 and operated until 1922. In 1899 the paper printed a special twenty-fifth anniversary edition. This publication contains much information about the early German settlement and settlers of Carroll County, and also relates the history of Der Carroll Demokrat itself, an interesting but virtually forgotten aspect of Carroll County’s past.

                   The story of how a German newspaper came to be founded in Carroll, Iowa is a story that weaves together many of the themes of nineteenth century American history—westward expansion, population growth, foreign immigration, and politics.  As the country rapidly pushed westward, the population increased sharply as well.  Territorial expansion and population growth were both aided substantially by a wave of  immigrants arriving from northern and western Europe.  Between 1820 and 1900, an estimated 17 million immigrants arrived from Europe, 6 million from Germany and Austria alone.  During the single decade of the 1850s, nearly one million Germans arrived in America.  Although the new immigrants spread out and settled in all areas of their new country, the states of the Upper Midwest, including Iowa, were particularly attractive to the new arrivals.  By 1850, only four years after statehood, the population of Iowa was estimated at over 192,000, more than 7000 of whom were Germans (the largest number of any foreign group.  By 1860 the state population was nearly 675,000 and included an estimated 35,842 Germans.  In 1870 over 66,000 of Iowa’s total population of 1,194,020 were Germans.

Carroll County, Iowa was organized in 1851, and German settlers began trickling in soon thereafter. In 1856 the first county census listed only four Germans in a total population of 251. Within a short time, however, Germans would become the majority. Beginning in the late 1860s German settlers began arriving by the hundreds, and during the 1870s and 1880s they arrived by the thousands. The tide of immigration eventually became so strong that Paul Maclean, an early Carroll County newspaperman and historian, referred to it as the “German invasion” of Carroll County. The results of this wave of immigration are still evident today—according to the 2000 federal census, over 60 percent of Carroll County residents were of German ancestry.

And these German immigrants did not abandon their way of life when they arrived in America. They brought with them their occupations, customs, traditions, and religions. They established German churches, social organizations, and businesses. They also brought their native language and a relatively high degree of literacy. Thus, during the 1800s thousands of German-language newspapers were established in towns throughout the United States. A German newspaper appeared in Dubuque, Iowa as early as 1849, and in the following years at least 175 German papers were published in Iowa.

In Carroll County, a number of German churches, businesses, and organizations were established in the early 1870s. By 1874 a number of “Carroll City” businessmen, including T. L. Bowman, believed that the German population of Carroll County was sufficient to support a German paper. In the spring of that year, they invited a young German newspaperman, John G. Burkhardt, to come out by train from Omaha, where he had been editor of the Beobacher am Missouri (Observer on the Missouri). After showing him around the town and the surrounding countryside, they persuaded Burkhardt to assume the editorship of the new paper.

A German-language prospectus appeared in May 1874 announcing the formation of a company for the purpose of printing a newspaper to be called Der Carroll Demokrat. It boldly announced that the paper’s motto would be “Furchtlos und treu” (fearless and true), that the paper would fight for the interests of the Germans of Carroll County, and that it would especially take a stand against “rising nativism” and “the fanatical temperance movement.”

Like most papers of its time, Der Demokrat was heavily involved in partisan politics. During the late 1800s German voters were often courted by the major political parties. Abraham Lincoln, for example, once owned a German paper in Illinois for the purpose of attracting voters to the new Republican Party. Der Carroll Demokrat, as its name indicates, was involved in attracting German voters to the Democratic Party. During the late 1800s many Germans tended to vote Democratic due to the perceived anti-immigrant (nativist) and anti-alcohol (temperance) aspects of the Republican Party.

The first four-page edition of Der Carroll Demokrat appeared on Friday, 22 May 1874. As the prospectus had promised, the paper immediately went on the attack against what it considered “corruption” in county government, and it also encouraged its readers toward the Democratic Party. The publication of the Demokrat also commenced a long-running “newspaper war” with the English-language Carroll Herald, which was at that time the leading voice of the Republican Party in Carroll County. As the publication below explains, at times the rivalry between these newspapers and their respective parties could be quite bitter.

But Der Demokrat was not all politics. The first edition 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, and there was talk of a new brewery in Arcadia or Carroll. There was also state and national news, as well as news from Germany. A number of German and American businesses, mainly from Carroll and Arcadia, also placed advertisements.

Der Demokrat changed ownership and editorship several times over the years, and the early history of the paper is well-outlined below in the original 1899 introduction. By 1890 it had grown from a few hundred subscribers to have a circulation of approximately 1200. Although publication was occasionally interrupted, Der Demokrat remained in business until the early 1920s, shutting down shortly after the death of its then-editor, Franz Florencourt, in 1922.

For almost 50 years, from 1874 to 1922, Der Carroll Demokrat had been a welcome visitor 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 the area. In its pages, the German-American community read about the major social, religious, political, and economic events of the times. They kept in touch with news from around the United States and from the “fatherland.” In thousands of birth notices, wedding announcements, and obituaries, they also read about the lives of their fellow German residents around the county.

Der Carroll Demokrat celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 1899. To commemorate the occasion, the paper published a special Anniversary Edition on 29 September of that year. This newspaper, nearly 50 pages long, is probably the single best source for the early German history of Carroll County and is one of the earliest histories of the county in general. It contains a history of the county, as well as individual local histories of the main German towns and townships. The publication was also richly adorned with photos and drawings of the people and places described. The typeface, as with all issues of Der Demokrat, was in the bold and distinctive style known as German Gothic. But the highlight of the Anniversary Edition is the large number of biographies, nearly 250, which detail the lives of German-American settlers from all parts of Carroll County. These biographies contain a wealth of information, not only about the families, but also about the origins, travels, and experiences of the early German settlers.

As can be seen in the following pages, these German settlers came from all parts of Germany and all walks of life. Upon arriving in Carroll County, they combined their talents and energies to create a unique and lively culture that flourished for nearly half a century.

[In the following translation, there are occasional explanations of the translation set out in brackets. All information in parentheses is original. In translating the text, I have omitted the advertisements and many of the minor news items.]

On the Twenty-Fifth
Anniversary Jubilee, 1874-1899
[The following is the original introduction from the twenty-fifth anniversary edition. It was probably written by Alois Becker, editor of Der Carroll Demokrat in 1899]

With the title Der Carroll Demokrat, a prospectus appeared on Saturday, 9 May 1874, which announced that in the town of Carroll, Iowa, a complete printing company would be established for the purpose of publishing a German weekly newspaper under the above name and with the motto “Fearless and True,” and that the first edition of the paper would appear at the end of two weeks. The prospectus also indicated the goal of the new publication, and stated verbatim:

The tendency of the Carroll Demokrat, as the name suggests, will be “democratic,” and it will seek to operate in the interests of German culture. It will not be in the interest of any “ring” or “clique,” and the voice of the Demokrat will freely confront every instance of emerging nativism and temperance-fanaticism, and its voice will ring out in protection of German interests.

This advance notice with the drawn-up prospectus was signed by Bowman and Burkhardt.

The situation that the prospectus promised to address, and which found great response in the honorable German population of Carroll County, was that the public finances of the county were as bad as could be imagined, with the people groaning under the weight of taxes imposed through fraud and thievery by current and former officials. At the risk of being long-winded, the author wishes to present here a newspaper excerpt that very accurately describes the circumstances which were prevalent in Carroll County during the 1860s and 1870s, and which later led to a newspaper being founded to uncover this phenomenal swindling. The debt that the county was saddled with at the end of the 1860s exceeded the sum of $250,000, whereby the taxes, which included the so-called “judgment taxes,” for many years after were exorbitant. The Iowa Land Journal, published in Carroll during 1870 and 1871, printed a submission from the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad Company from which the following excerpt is taken:

To the people of Carroll County! We feel it necessary to place before you the state of affairs of the finances in your county as shown by the records. The bare facts are so complete and astonishing that an explanation is unnecessary, and any attempt to characterize the plundering as acceptable is simply impossible.


First. The county was organized in 1855 with an approximate population of 200 people. Since that time, as established by the state census, the population has grown as follows:











The Cedar Rapids and Missouri Railroad (North-Western) was completed and open for traffic in 1866.


Second. The assessed value of land and personal property for the years stated below is as follows:







The land belonging to non-residents for both the latter two years was assessed at between $5 and $30 per acre, on average about one-fifth higher than its actual value when offered for sale at reasonable terms concerning time and payment. About half the land belongs to non-residents and approximately one-fourth to one-third is owned by the Iowa Railroad Land Company. The following, showing the financial situation of the county, will demonstrate the reason for these high assessments.


Third. An excerpt from the county records shows (Newspaper Editor’s Note—here follows an exact quotation of the squandered and embezzled money, in the amount of $255,306.94, and in fact with day and date and under which pretense or reason the frauds were recorded).


Many records of the school district townships are lost or destroyed, and it is impossible to state with certainty how large the actual debt is, but the above sum is known. In all townships, expenditures were issued without any record being made. Except for Carroll Township, both the president and secretary kept order books and both could draw money at their pleasure and without any sort of permission from the school board.


[There is no Fourth part in the paper.]


Fifth. The only public improvements in the county as a result of the extravagant county expenditures, as set forth above, consist of a wooden courthouse valued at about $2000, and a couple of poor-quality wooden bridges with an actual value of about $10,000. From the bridge fund alone, however, $46,362.60 was withdrawn.


Sixth. It would require too much space to mention and explain all the fraudulent dealings of the county officials and the board of supervisors, and we therefore ask that the following condensed report be considered as an example:


During the years 1867, 1868 and 1869, county funds were spent fraudulently, without any sort of legal authority, and for totally unlawful purposes as follows: Extra pay for members of the board of supervisors. . . . $204.50. They received this sum as an extra bonus to their legal daily salaries. The board held a large number of “extraordinary” meetings during each year, receiving their daily salary for each one. We estimate that this worthy(?) body held nearly 40 meetings in one year.

Indeed, the foregoing pertains more to the past history of the county, but the author simply wanted to note how desperate the situation was and how much the citizens had to suffer under the pressure of this wholesale thievery. A newspaper, which was “fearless” in entering the battle for an honest county government, for an unmasking of the cheats and swindlers, which stood “true” to the then new and still unsteady Democratic Party in Iowa, and which entered the fight against nativism and temperance-fanaticism, was a necessity at that time. And for all these reasons one can imagine the excitement with which the many Germans in Carroll County awaited the appearance of the Carroll Demokrat.

The first edition of Der Carroll Demokrat appeared on Friday, 22 May 1874. The wish of many friends had been fulfilled and the promise had been kept, and when we survey the young Demokrat we must be surprised at its form and appearance. It was a four-page paper with seven columns on each page, and it carried many advertisements. And the voice with which the newborn Demokrat cried out was strong and gave evidence of healthy lungs. Right in the first edition, the wholesale cheats and swindlers were taken to task and the fraud which ex-treasurer Price had committed against the county was exposed. According to the Carroll Demokrat, the embezzlement of this one swindler alone amounted to $4,154.26, for which the Demokrat demanded prosecution.

Through such courageous speaking, the newly founded publication won many supporters and was even complimented by the other German newspapers in the state, such as the Dubuque National Demokrat, the Iowa Staats Anzeiger, the Nord Iowa Post, the Deutsch-Amerikaner, the Omaha Beobachter, Dubuque Herold, Keokuk Post, and the Clinton Volkszeitung. While the population of Carroll County heartily welcomed the new undertaking, on the other hand it had just as many opponents. So the more boldly the Demokrat unmasked the swindlers, the greater and more bitter its enemies became, and intrigues of all sorts were spun in order to bring the young enterprise to an early demise. Therefore, it had to survive a hard battle, and as a consequence it changed owners often and even ceased to appear in some weeks. But it always found again new fighters for truth and justice to take up the pen in the interests of German culture, and it did not fear to come forward with the bare and unvarnished truth.

On 26 June 1874, Mr. Bowman withdrew as a partner from the business and sold his share to Messrs. Burkhardt and Florencourt. But then Mr. Florencourt withdrew as a shareholder on 18 September of the same year. Mr. Burkhardt then took over the business as both editor and publisher. A short time earlier the Demokrat had been in a business rivalry with an English-language paper published under the name The Democrat, which appears to have been founded mainly to undermine the ever greater influence of the German publication of this name, and rather than standing up for Democratic principles instead supported the Republican swindlers. The usurping of the same name was for the purpose of attempting, under the Democratic banner, to lead the Democrats of Carroll County astray and break the German influence. But Der Carroll Demokrat fought bravely and was tireless in fulfilling its proposed agenda in spite of the machinations and hostility, and even today when reading through the old preserved editions, one is filled with amazement at the strong language and invective.

With the fourteenth edition, the publication was enlarged from a seven-column to an eight-column publication, and Mr. Henry Schirck took over the paper on 25 December 1874. He made sure, however, to ensure the assistance of the successful editor Burkhardt. In order to eliminate the rivals from his path, Mr. Schirck also purchased the English-language publication The Democrat, but within two weeks the publication of Der Carroll Demokrat came to a complete halt due to financial difficulties stemming from the hostilities and intrigues. Soon thereafter a man was found in the person of Mr. H. L. McMann, who purchased the Demokrat and published it again with the assistance of Mr. Burkhardt. But this man also withdrew from the business, and after 12 February 1875 Schirck and Burkhardt attempted it again. On 19 November 1875, the paper was enlarged into a nine-column edition, and after these men had conducted business for nearly a year, Mr. Schirck withdrew from the business on 11 February 1876 and sold his share to Mr. H. W. Hagemann. With Mr. Hagemann, the important business affairs of the paper improved somewhat, and on 25 February 1876 the Demokrat printing press found a home of its own on Fourth Street near the Carroll Mill. It was no palace such as, for example, that occupied by the Omaha Bee in Omaha, or in comparison to the building of the Illinois Staatszeitung in Chicago, but the simple frame building, 18 feet wide and 32 feet long, was nonetheless an improvement and completely served the needs of an embryonic and financially struggling newspaper. Unfortunately, due to the many changes from one owner to another, the files following 16 June 1876 are missing. The next editions that are available to us date from 4 January 1878, and here we notice immediately that Mr. Burkhardt is no longer partner and that the entire business is owned by Mr. Hagemann. There was also an alteration to the Demokrat during this time as it was changed from nine columns to seven columns, but it now offered eight pages of reading material instead of four. The sort of difficulties that the Demokrat still had to battle at that time are shown in the first edition of the fifth year of publication, wherein it was stated verbatim: “Our hearty thanks to our friends for the support we have received. The hypocrites, loudmouths and traitors who, because the Demokrat will no longer dance to their tune, slander our intentions and even our character behind our backs, and deserve contempt.”

Mr. John G. Burkhardt, who worked almost uninterrupted on the Carroll Demokrat since its beginning and contributed more than a little to its success in these troubled times, received a job offer on 2 July 1878 from Kinsley, Kansas, where Dr. L. Rick had established a German paper. On 28 March 1879, a joint stock company was formed that changed the ownership of the paper’s printing works into shares of stock and purchased the Carroll Demokrat from Mr. Hagemann. The stockholders were two farmers. In April 1879 the directors engaged Mr. John Guenther and Mr. Charles Tass, who took over the technical and editorial management, and on 11 October 1879 the editorship and technical management were handed over to Mr. Franz Florencourt and Mr. Joseph Kniest. In the preceding June of the same year, the printing works had been transferred to the then-new Keckevoet building on Fifth Street.

The men who obtained an interest in the Demokrat by purchasing stock belonged exclusively to the Democratic Party, because this was one of the conditions established at the founding of the Demokrat Stock Company. They did not all, however, belong to the German culture, as is now the case following the reorganization of the stock company. Thus, for example, in his day Mr. Lynch, an English-speaking American, had a controlling share of the Demokrat. The motives that this man had in acquiring the main interest in the paper may have been political or financial, but in any case it is undeniable that he was a friend to the Germans. Later, Mr. P. M. Guthrie, an Irishman and in his day a prominent Democrat who for many years stood at the head of the Democratic Party in Carroll County, was a majority stockholder and was chief executive until the reorganization, while Mr. Wm. Lynch was secretary, but he was replaced in the following year by Mr. Jos. M. Drees.

In the short time that the Carroll Demokrat had changed ownership and a joint stock company was formed, the paper already began to realize a benefit. It was noticeably invigorated and its subscriber list grew quite markedly.

With these favorable developments, the political influence of the paper also climbed very significantly, and in the election of 1881 the Democrat Danforth was elected as representative and his opponent defeated by 760 votes. Of course, it would be an audacious claim to credit the entire Democratic victory to the doings of the Demokrat, but nevertheless it was instrumental in contributing its growing influence. Also in this election, Democratic candidates were elected to the following positions: county sheriff, superintendent, surveyor, and two supervisors.

In November 1881 the printing office was moved to Main Street, across from the courthouse, and a new cylinder press was purchased for printing and later set up in the new quarters.

In the meeting of shareholders held on Saturday, 7 January 1882, the following men were elected as officers of the company: P. M. Guthrie, president; Jos. Buchheit, vice president; James B. Gray, treasurer; B. J. Kniest, business manager and secretary; C. Brüning, C. Meis, M. Wurzer, Fr. Florencourt, and Jos. M. Drees, directors.

In the fall of 1882, the Demokrat took on a new look and the paper was printed entirely in new type. And in the fall of the next year, the paper again had the pleasure of announcing the election of all the Democratic candidates with the exception of the candidate for treasurer.

In the spring of 1886, the machine room of the printing works was completed with the addition of a paper cutting machine and an Accidenz press.

Mr. Kniest, who for many years had worked for the Demokrat with prudence, talent and industriousness, resigned as manager in June 1887 in order to take a position in St. Louis, Missouri. Through this change, the Demokrat Printing Company lost an experienced and important employee, which at first was a rather deeply felt loss. But due to this change, the office of secretary also became vacant and Mr. J. W. Guthrie was chosen for it. In October of the same year, the publication increased in size to a seven-column paper.

As noted above, not only were there non-Germans among the owners of the printing company, but they also controlled the majority interest of the paper. This unbecoming circumstance gave rise to a condition of great dissatisfaction among many influential Germans. There was some agitation which led to a meeting of several Germans wherein it was decided to purchase the Carroll Demokrat so that the paper could be transferred entirely into German hands and remain there. The venture, however, ran aground on the high demands of the owners. Therefore, some people entered into the founding of the German Democratic Printing Company with the purpose of establishing a German Democratic newspaper which finally and for all time would be in German ownership. The new paper was to bear the name German National Demokrat. The German population greeted the reform with great enthusiasm, and the owners met them halfway so that fifty shares at $100 each were quickly sold, and indeed it was the case that there was at least one shareholder in every German township. Now the only thing lacking was the equipment. Just as the company was ready to enter into the purchase, Mr. Guthrie once again desired to enter into negotiations. This led to the Carroll Demokrat being handed over into the ownership of the new company for the sum of $3,888.80 including the retention of the old name.

The main goal of the new company was to deliver to the Germans a newspaper which, without reservation and in all circumstances, would not only advocate but also carry forward the interests and rights of the Germans. Up until then, the Demokrat had certainly fulfilled this duty conscientiously and faithfully, but each day the danger increased that anti-German elements would take control and muzzle and oppress the Germans by means of their own newspaper. This possibility was, therefore, vigorously prevented. Once again, the Demokrat was entirely German, and so it shall remain as long as the paper exists and it will be true to its motto: “Fearless and True.” But even today one must still wonder at this unnatural situation that Irishmen and Americans could publish a German paper for so long without an outright breakdown having occurred. But in those days the editor stood as an intermediary between the owners and the public, which was certainly a difficult position.

In the first meeting held by the all-German stock company, the honor of being president fell to Mr. Wm. Arts, who had been especially instrumental in making the paper entirely German again. Mr. Jos. M. Drees became the business manager, and Mr. Franz Florencourt became editor and secretary. After a few weeks, in September of 1888, the printing works was moved from Main Street to Fifth Street, situated above Beiter’s Meat Market, where the printing works is still located today.

While leafing through the files of the newspaper editions, the author’s attention was drawn to an article that has significance to our own present anniversary celebration. The article was in the edition of 4 October 1889 and it appears that Mr. Florencourt, the editor at that time, had a premonition that he would live to experience today’s celebration. An excerpt from the article states: “Our present wish is that we are able to participate when the Demokrat celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary, because just as we have worked constantly for its success in the past, so shall we also dedicate our work in the future to the German culture and the Democratic Party with the sincere hope that we will be rewarded with success therein.”

The gentleman’s wish to be able to participate in the celebration is also the wish of the author, who has placed a picture of him in a place of honor in the paper. At the death of his brother in Bregenz, Switzerland, Mr. Florencourt’s presence was desired, whereupon he undertook the journey to Switzerland on 11 October 1890. During his stay, Mr. Jos. Drees took over the management and Mr. Alois Becker took over the editorship of the paper. In the shareholders’ meeting of 23 March 1891, Mr. Florencourt submitted his resignation due to health reasons after having been editor of the paper for a period of eleven and a half years.

No one knows or can know, who has not had first-hand experience, the type of difficulties that a German newspaperman must often confront in this country, but Mr. Florencourt performed his job with vigilance and fought gallantly and courageously for German culture. As editor of a Democratic newspaper, his name was highly regarded and he had the satisfaction of having the Party develop into the greatest power in Carroll County. In his farewell statement he said: “With this issue I hereby resign the editorship of Der Carroll Demokrat. But I am able to look back on my occupation with satisfaction and happiness. I am leaving the job, but no one can accuse me of corruption or dishonesty in my choices. I heartily thank the readers of Der Demokrat, who for the most part are my personal friends, for all the kindnesses and favors done for me. I have not forgotten them. What will happen in the future is not for me to say. But I can say with pleasant certainty that the Carroll Demokrat, under the new leadership, will always fight for the German culture and the principles of the Democratic Party, just as it has done up to now, and with that we bid all readers to hold true to them also.”

At the same meeting where Mr. Florencourt offered his resignation, Mr. Alois Becker, who had run the paper in the editor’s absence, was elected business manager, editor, and secretary of the Demokrat Printing Company. Shortly after Mr. Florencourt resigned, Der Demokrat took on a brand-new appearance—namely a new printing type was procured that was thereafter used to print the paper. But that was not all—a new steam cylinder press was acquired and set up in the offices of the Demokrat Printing Company. The press is still as good as new today and works perfectly. Soon thereafter the paper was significantly enlarged—namely it was changed from an eight-page to a twelve-page paper, and in 1897 the printing company acquired a two-horsepower gasoline engine which has since powered the cylinder press and the Accidenz press.

Thus did Der Carroll Demokrat endure a period of twenty-five years of historical change, and today, wearing its silver crown it can look back on twenty-five years of service and celebrate its anniversary. The Demokrat began with a single typeface, hardly enough for the needs of a four-page paper, without accidenz type, without any machines, without money or other assistance. The battles which it had to endure were difficult, the jealousy and all the plots spun against it were great, so that from time to time the editor threw down his pen in despair and discouragement. Indeed, there were even some weeks when Der 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. Today, twenty-five years after its founding, from a four-page paper has grown a twelve-page paper. The printing works is provided with typefaces and a magnificent selection of the best job-work printing type is available to the company. The Babcock steam press is able to print 1800 copies in an hour, and the printing works is equipped with all the necessary machines for the operation of a fine printing company. The subscriber list, which earlier with hard work could be brought up to a few hundred readers, has grown so much since then that the paper now has the largest subscriber list of all the weekly newspapers in the county. 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 patronage and goodwill.

And so, let this celebratory publication now go quickly forth and ask the friendly reader for a good reception and a favorable review.

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