IAGenWeb Project - Clayton co.

History of the Communia Colony
.... as told by Mrs. Frank Liers in 1930

Telling of her girlhood in the German colony of Communia, Mrs. Frank H. Liers, of near Clayton, related much of the history of that region, together with the account of the founding of the cummunity in 1847.

Among the six founders, Mrs. Liers says, was her father, Joseph Venus, who was president of the organization. The others were Cornelius Kopp, father of George Kopp of Elkader; Joseph Cremper, Jacob Ponsar, John Marxer and John Enderes. Uniting their fortunes, the group came to St. Louis from New York, then journeyed northward to Dubuque, where they purchased provisions and completed their outfit.

The first community home was built of logs, prepared by the men, none of whom had had any previous carpenter training. It consisted of two log houses, built close together, with a roof over the space between them. There was a large room for each family, opening on a long veranda. The dining hall was on the main floor, with the kitchen in the basement, together with three cellar rooms. Brick for the large ovens was made by the men themselves, and the logs for the house were sawed at a mill over on the Volga river.

Although three of the original founders were tailors, one a blacksmith, one a locksmith, and the sixth a gunsmith, all turned to work on the community farm, sharing the profits. On entering the colony, each new settler contributed his entire fortune for the good of the whole group, and upon withdrawing, was given the amount he had originally owned.

The school which Mrs. Liers attended in her youth is still standing, at the foot of the hill, less than a mile from Communia. The teachers, she said, boarded around with the farmers. First of the teachers was Christian C. Ahrensberg, of Pittsburgh, pa., who could speak both English and German. He was followed by Joseph Eiboeck, who later became the publisher of The Clayton County Journal.

Friends in New York advised immigrants to join the colony, and a few did get there, but many settled with their families farther east. Though the colony was growing, with some of the new members desirable and some not, the group decided to disband after six years of life under the community plan, and the land, which was formerly owned in common, was divided, each settler paying $2.25 an acre. Cornelius Kopp and Joseph Cremper bought the land where the old house stood, and in a few years tore it down, building in its place the present home of Clem Whittle, just west of the Communia store.

Mrs. Liers, who was only four years old at the time the colony disbanded, told her story from her memory of the facts as told by the father, Joseph Venus. The account of the founding of the colony, given in the History of Clayton County, published in 1882, differs slightly from Mrs. Liers' account. The history states that the original group included ten men, nine of whom were German and one French. They were Joseph Venus, Jacob Ponsar, Frederick Meister, Henry Babe, Frederick Lochsen, Carl Reger, Carl Hoen, John Hofstaedter, Frederick Koenig, and Isaac Nagel. John Enders, the history relates, arrived Nov. 3, 1847, accompanied by Mrs. Eliza Ponsar and her grandmother. Date of disbanding is given as 1856, instead of 1853, as Mrs. Liers believed from her data.

~The Clayton County Register, Thursday, August 21, 1930
~transcribed by S. Ferrall for Clayton co. IAGenWeb


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