The Krueger Family
of Floyd County, Iowa

Compiled by Andrew C. Hayes

An Overview

Karl Krueger was born in Germany and migrated to the United States around 1849, eventually settling in Allamakee County near Waukon. After marrying Carolina Helming and starting their family, they moved to Ulster Township, Floyd County in 1870 on virgin land of prairie and timber. Four children called this home. The Krueger’s developed this into a thriving farm, which Karl ran until retirement. Upon retirement, they purchased a home in Charles City, where he was active in church and civic roles until his death in 19xx.

The oldest son, Frederick, married Sophie Steffen. Her grandfather also migrated from Germany to Wisconsin then on to create a farm near Waukon. Frederick and Sophie settled on their 80 acres farm southwest of Charles City, adjacent to Karl’s farm. Frederick and Sophie created a good farm eventually expanding to 320 aces. They had a good number of sheep, cattle, pigs and horses and their bloodlines were highly prized. When health issues forced Frederick to retire from farming, they moved into Charles City, bought property on the west edge of the city and focused on selling coach and field horses. This business slowed as cars and trucks grew in prominence, so they developed a large chicken hatchery on the property. Frederick was instrumental in having the Galena Normal School moved to Charles City, as part of Charles City College, in part to assure excellent education opportunities for his own family as well as the community at large. He was involved in the Central Methodist Church in several lay leadership roles as well as on the board of the school.

Frederick and Sophie had four daughters, all born on the Ulster Township farm. Three never married and all developed their own careers. Cora Krueger was the oldest; she became a teacher, taught mathematics at Charles City High School for 19 years, and then was principal of Charles City Junior High School for 14 years. Lydia Krueger, the second, married James Hubert Curtis. For a period, he was a civil engineer employed by Floyd County and later city manager of Charles City. Four of their six children were born in Floyd County. Amy Krueger was third; she was a leader in the Young Women’s Christian Association, working in many different cities around the country before retiring back in Charles City. Viola, the fourth, taught in various Midwest school districts, finishing her career in Pontiac, Michigan.

Lydia and James had six children, five who survived. Four were born in Charles City. All attended schools in Charles City for part of their education, two graduating from Charles City High School. As they entered college, they moved on from Floyd County.

The details are now presented by generations, with other stories on Floyd County life from 1850 – 1930.

Part 1: Karl Krueger – Generation 1

Part 2: Frederick Krueger – Generation 2

Part 3: Four Krueger Girls – Generation 3

Part 3a: A girl’s view of life on a Floyd County farm before there was electricity

Part 3b: A girl’s view of other aspects on growing up in the 1890’s

Part 4: Children of Lydia Krueger Curtis – Generation 4

The primary source for Parts 1 -3 is an extensive narrative written by Cora Krueger in 1966. Other sources add to this and cited where included. The author of this compilation added “Editorial Comments” to provide context to our current times in 2018.


Part 1: Story of the Karl Krueger Family, by Cora Krueger - 1966

Our grandfather, Karl Krueger, was born in the German province of Lippe-Detmold about 1830. Lippe-Detmold was of the low provinces near The Netherlands border. At that time, each of these little German provinces had its own dialect called Low German. The official or state language of Germany was that of the Prussian conquerors and known as High German. This was the language of the government and of the schools. The dialects spoken in the various provinces differed enough so that people had a hard time understanding one another. Many learned to speak High German as well. Our grandparents on both sides of the family spoke very correct High German.

Karl and Carolina Krueger, circa 1900
Karl apprenticed to a draper in his early teens and worked at that trade for seven years. He told us of making many swatches for a wealthy landowner’s daughter. She was to be married and said her order would be a big one. Karl took great pains with her project but she ended up with ordering only one tablecloth. The young weaver was disgusted. Among our childhood memories is that of a hand-woven linen tablecloth that he made. Unfortunately, this cloth was lost through various loans and moves. It should have been kept as a family heirloom.

In his later teens, Karl spent several summers in The Netherlands, cutting hay and grain with a scythe to earn a bit of cash. An apprentice received no wages. The skill he developed here served him well in later years.

He had one brother and one sister older than him. Even in his childhood, he rebelled at the regimentation of life in Germany. His stories about the arrogant German schoolmasters of that day and about the pompous Prussian drillmasters of the army entertained and fascinated his grandchildren as he was a master storyteller and his tales always packed a good laugh. They never grew old with retelling.

At 18, he was required to take military training. The years covered the hardships of those days with tales with a veil of humor we all loved. A favorite story was about a minor officer who had stopped to reprimand him for a slight error in his salute when he met him on the parade grounds. As the man turned to go, he stepped into a mud puddle and fell flat. The story always ended with “Potz, da lag er!” and a twinkle of flee in his eye that made the narrative even more vivid.

Before another year of army life Karl’s innermost being rebelled so completely that he decided to go to America. He had very little money but some friends were going and they were able to help him finance the trip. To evade army service it was necessary for them to cross the border and embark from Holland.

They landed in New York. There were four of them. Karl’s companions were Konrad Helming(niser), Heinrich Rueggenmeier and Frederich Hager. Like many other young immigrants, they found work on the farmlands of New York State. Karl’s first job was to gather wood for the huge fireplace. He told us that the first English word he learned was “backlog” which he pronounced ‘beklog’. At harvest time there was another new word, which he learned the hard way – ‘hurryup’. The men back of him were constantly trying to annoy him by telling the young ‘Dutchman” to hurry up. Finally, he realized what they meant and applied strength and skill he acquired in Holland and was soon around the field and behind the others where he could tell them to ‘hurry up’.

The four friends were industrious and frugal. They were soon able to heed the call of the day “Go West, young man!” They purchased a small stock of thimbles, needles, pics, etc. and set out – bartering for meals and lodging with their stock of notions, which pioneer women everywhere needed. They forged on to the Chicago area. Chicago was then the state’s second largest city, located in the damp swampy region along the south end of Lake Michigan. It was not a healthy spot, without drainage and pure water. Ague, typhoid and other diseases of damp swampy places was prevalent. Land could have been bought for 1 to 5 dollars per acre in what is now Chicago’s loop and lakeshore area, but the young Germans wanted none of it. They wanted good farmland with pure water and ample fuel. They had carried wood and water far in the homeland where soil and water were poor.

Again, they headed west. This time with axes and an ox team and again armed with trinkets and notions like those that had served them so well on their previous trip. Galena, Illinois, the booming lead mining center of the 1850’s and 1860’s in the hill country near the Mississippi River, beckoned. However the land hungry young companions passed through Galena, crossed the Mississippi and pushed on into northeastern Iowa. Here among the unglaciated limestone hills and bluffs of Allamakee County they found wonderful stands of timber and springs of pure water. This was what they were looking for. Each selected a farm site near present Waukon and began clearing land and building his log cabin.

They were soon able to plant small plots of ground, but needed cash. For this, they shouldered their axes and made their way down to the timberlands of Missouri to chop wood for the belching fires of the riverboats. In the spring, they returned to their farms, tilled their small plots and cleared more land. On these cooperative excursions, Karl seems to have been the chief cook for the bachelor establishment. This was before the days of commercial yeast, a starter had to be kept for the baking. Once the young cook lost his starter through some mishap. He walked ten miles to get a new one – so far because nearer neighbors, largely French and Spanish, made only soda biscuits and he and his friends wanted good old yeast bread. He got his starter and the good woman told him thereafter he should at least save a crust of bread. From this, she said he could make his own starter. He told us he never walked 20 miles for starter again.

Life was primitive. Beds were made by driving a stake into the dirt floor; to this, they nailed two saplings, which reached the wall and rested on logs of the cabin there. They stretched rope or leather thongs over these saplings to serve as springs. There was no storage space so meat and supplies were hung high in the trees, suspended by long thongs or ropes to keep them safe from marauding bears.

Bread was stored in their one kettle, which was used for baking, cooking and washing, as well as for protection from squirrels and other rodents. After some years of hard labor and frugality, Karl was able to help his brother’s family, the Henry Krueger’s, later of Baxter, Iowa, to come to America. He started them with a 40-acre plot of ground as a home site, and realizing that their small children must have milk, he started toward Dubuque in search of a cow. He finally located one he could buy about twenty miles from home. It was the time of spring freshets and on his return trip with the cow, found the Turkey River overflowing its banks. A young lad was on hand at the ford with a boat, hoping to collect a small fee for carrying people across the river. They started out with Karl and the boy in the boat and the cow swimming behind. Before they reached midstream, however, the boat capsized. In telling the story to us, he used to say, “I couldn’t swim but the cow could and luckily we were headed in the right direction, but I never got a chance to pay that boy.”

About this time, Konrad Helming persuaded his three sisters to come to America. They had heard of the rigors of Iowa winters and packed good old German feather ticks, made of homespun linen, into their large wooden chests strapped with iron and equipped with rope handles. They took passage down the Weser River, across the Atlantic to New Orleans and up the Mississippi to McGregor, Iowa.

Unfortunately, the river was low and the pilot did not know his channel as well as he should have known it and the boat was marooned on a sand bar. This necessitated the unloading of the boat and our German immigrants had to rustle their own baggage. With such delays, the journey took 13 weeks and before they landed at McGregor, all the food was spoiled and the drinking water was long used up. The feminine companionship of Konrad’s sisters was a welcome addition to the somber lives of the young pioneers. In time Carolina, a pretty blonde, decided to accept the modest home offered her by Karl Krueger. One sister married Heinrich Rueggenmeier and the other married Frederick Hager.

Carolina was an ideal complement to the serious and ambitious young Karl. In the homeland, she had worked as a maid in the home of a very devout couple. These people belonged to the group that was known as pietists, followers Count Zinzendorf and latter known as Moravian Brethren. The sincere religious atmosphere of this home made a deep impression on the young girl, which stayed with her through her life. There she gained a new spiritual outlook as well as the money for her equipment and passage to America. With this background, the home of our grandparents was soon a haven for the Methodist circuit riders who came to the new settlements west of the Mississippi River. These dedicated young men were both a religious and cultural influence. They followed literally John Wesley’s commission to ‘join knowledge and vital piety”. They preached Jesus Christ as Lord of the mind, remembering that the founder of Methodism in his ardent campaign against illiteracy in England once said, “Every blockhead is a knave.”

In the early 1800’s, the need for permanent roads in the area became evident. A state highway engineer came to survey a road through the woods from Waukon to Decorah. Karl was engaged to follow with an ox team hitched to a heavy oak sapling, and an axe to break down and cut out the underbrush. Thus, the trail that became the present Waukon-Decorah highway was blazed.

The Krueger’s lived on the homestead east of Waukon for 8-10 years. Three of their children were born here – Frederick, Minnie and Emma. John was born after they moved to Ludlow Township west of Waukon. This move brought them closer to the Hager’s and Konrad Helming’s. Here they found a church but no public school. They were able to enlist the help of several neighbors in renting a dilapidated old house and hiring a teacher for a five month winter term. The story of this first school is interestingly told by Viola in an article that appeared in “The Purple Pen” while she was at college in Cedar Falls.

The family soon became staunch supporters of the local church, which at that time stood across the road from their holdings. Our grandparents donated 16 acres of land to the church for a cemetery, parsonage grounds and pasture for the pastor’s horse and cow. A newer church now stands on this land. The companions of their youth buried in this cemetery. [Ed. Note: believe this is now Zalmona Presbyterian Church and Cemetery, Waukon, IA on Highway 9]

In Ludlow Township, the Krueger home was again a stopping place for circuit riders and the gathering place for those interested in all things of deeper religious and cultural significance. Among these circuit riders was Reverend Fiegenbaum, a small wiry man of strong convictions and boundless enthusiasm. He was true to the exhortations of John Wesley to preach Christ and Education.

When our father (Frederick) was 13 years old, he became restive at the limitations to the rural school and Reverend Fiegenbaum persuaded the family to send him to the Galena Normal School, a frontier Methodist-supported institution. By late November 1868, all crops had been harvested and the winter’s supply of flour was in storage. This entailed a tree-day trip to McGregor with a load of wheat and back with the flour. These jobs done, Grandfather took his young son to the Mississippi River with an ox team. The ice proved unsafe for the oxen so the lad took his small satchel of clothing and trudged across the ice and then on the long cold trek to Galena.

A family of Kluckhohns, distant relatives of Grandmother, had offered to take him into their home for the winter. He spent three stimulating and profitable months in Galena. There were many new experiences and there were contacts with interesting students and faculty members. Work on the farm made it necessary for him to go early in the spring.

By this time, there was a denominational dissension in the little Ludlow church to which the family had contributed so much devotion and money. Grandfather was deeply hurt. He had been hearing about the rich loam of Floyd County, 80 miles further west. The discord in the local church stimulated into action the desire to make one more move. A desirable farm was located eight miles southwest of Charles City in Ulster Township, an area at that time still occupied largely by early French settlers.

There was no Galena Normal for Frederick that winter. There were many preparations to be made for the move. In the spring of 1870, the migration became a reality. Grandmother and the three younger children came through by train. The Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad had been completed from the Mississippi River to Mason City the previous year. They found a home with the Kluckhohn family until their farm was ready. (The Reverend Kluckhohns were grandparents of the late Ruth Suckow.)

Cattle were driven the 81 miles from Ludlow Township to Floyd County. Household goods and other stock were hauled on sleds drawn by oxen teams. Father and his cousin Henry Rugenmeier were then about 14 years old. Henry helped Father load a sled of shoats to the new home. Roads were sketchy and the deep snow was at that uncertain, slushy stage produced by an early thaw. The load of pigs tipped over in the woods along the Wapsie, near the present town of Ionia. The pigs literally took to the woods and not until the next morning were all the pigs collected and reloaded. Many years later Father still loved to drive that road, now in his automobile, and point out the spot where his sled load of pigs tipped over.

A few German Methodists had already bought land from the French homesteaders in Ulster Township, but a few French remained and their descendants are still in the area: the Butlers, the La Bountys, the Lucians, and the Benaways. The house on the Krueger farm was of the Cape Cod saltbox type with a kitchen, combined living room, bedroom and pantry downstairs. Upstairs there were two bedrooms, a hall and an attic, best known to us later as the place where Grandmother stored her spinning wheel. The house was heated by a tall round wood burning stove much like the later Round Oak stoves. There were a few scattered sheds for stock. The large barn, which still stands on the place, came later.

Young Scotch pines and willows were planted that first spring and soon grew into a nice grove to protect the farmstead from hard prairie winds on the north and west. Within a few years a large orchard of little apple and plum trees was beginning to yield the fruit that all loved. Some of these trees were purchased from a local nursery; many Father had grafted, using shoots brought from the old farm in Ludlow Township. There were also grape vines, currants, gooseberries, raspberries, blackberries, rhubarb and horseradish to contribute to the family menu and to be shared with neighbors. Flowering shrubs and perennials soon framed the house. A large vegetable and flower garden stretched out to the north side of the house inside the willow windbreak. Along with the usual livestock there were sheep for wool, ducks and geese for pillows and feather beds, a goodly flock of chickens to supply eggs for the table and exchange for groceries, also a few guineas, supposedly to frighten hawks, snakes and other marauders, but chiefly evident as noise makers when anything unusual happened.

Grandmother was a true pioneer homemaker. She smoked and dried meat in her smoke house, and also stored lard and fried pork for summer use. She carded wool and spun and knit for her family and later for her grandchildren. She made cheese, churned butter and made her own vinegar and her own soap. She maintained a large garden. She gathered and canned wild fruits and berries, later those from the family orchard. She dried large quantities of apples. She stored root vegetables, made sauerkraut and salted beans and cucumbers in 5-10 gallon frocks for winter use. She stored kitchen herbs and many medicinal herbs such as chamomile, heart’s ease, yarrow, burdock seed and burdock roots, cherry bark and slippery elm bark. She had learned the use of many of these herbs from the Indians who frequented her early home. She was often called upon to help in cases of illness. She nursed her youngest son John through the terrors of peritonitis before the days of surgery with the nearest doctor eight horse drawn miles away and no telephone. Later she once left her family to go to Charles City and care for the John Kuck family through a siege of diphtheria that wiped out the entire Kuck family with the exception of the father and one son. This was before the days of quarantines. John Kuck, the miller who ground the family flour, was a friend and needed help. Common sense precautions and a find of Providence protected Grandmother and her family from the scourge.

The year after the big move Frederick again spent the winter’s months at the Galena Normal. Although he was interested and ambitious to learn this ended his formal education, but it made a deep impression on his entire life.

Three settlements of German Methodists lived in the area. A small church had already been built by one of these, the so-called Flood Creek Church, 5 miles west of the farm. Here the Krueger’s found a church home. This became the center of their religious and social life; there were few other social contacts. As occasional spelling match or signing school constituted the social events for young people during the winter months. They went in sleighs, sitting on the straw at the bottom of the high box that sheltered them from the wind. They took turns in furnishing the transportation for a sled load. The Hirsches, Stoebers, Berbrechtsmeyers, Melcers, Clarks, Flukrers, Bartzes, Schlicks and the VonBergs belonged to this era. In the summer, there were camp meetings, at first near Nora Springs, later on the ten-acre wood lot purchased by the Flood Creek Church for this purpose. Such more formal contacts were supplemented by visiting. One visited one’s neighbors and friends after church on Sunday, going for dinner and spending the afternoon; or one went visiting for half a day during the week. Such were the ties that bound together the pioneers of an earlier day.

During the early years in Floyd County, visits and return visits kept up the contact with relatives and friends of the pioneer years in Allamakee County. As a young boy, Frederick had been a frequent messenger from his mother to her dear friend, Mrs. Snitker, our mother’s grandmother. This good woman was very fond of her granddaughter Sophie Steffen and told Frederick that when he grew up and wanted a wife Sophie would be a good choice. He never forgot this. They attended the same church and were schoolmates during the summer sessions of the church school, a combined religious and German language-training period. Frederick’s girl cousins were Sophie’s friends. They met on his various visits to the Ludlow relatives and in 1879, he had little interest in the Fourth of July picnic his sisters planned to attend. His father sensed the reason and told him that if he wanted to go to Waukon he would make it possible for him to go without the others knowing about it or embarrassing him. He went, and then went again. The night he proposed to Sophie Steffen, he was so excited he forgot to give her the ring he had bought for her, a beautiful amethyst. This oversight was apparently forgiven for late in September of 1880 his sisters also went to Waukon to be present at the wedding of Sophie Steffen and Frederick Krueger. The sisters had been married earlier that year. Their homes were near the family homestead. Minnie married Henry Braend of Watertown, Wisconsin. This pair adopted and raised a French orphan boy, Frank Moore, descendent of some of the early French settles. They also had two sons of their own. Irving died of leukemia in his early 40’s. His was Etta Dickhof. They had no children. Clarence married Matilda Keoneke. They have one son, Gerald.

Emma married Henry Vennekolt of Freeport, Illinois. They had three children – Wesley, Clara and Minnie. Clara died of typhoid ever when only about two-years old. Her mother followed within a year, also of typhoid. Grandmother cared for the family for two years until uncle Henry remarried. After many vicissitudes, Wesley and his wife Josie became prosperous ranchers near Townsend, Montana. They had four children – three sons and one daughter. Josie died of cancer in March, 1959. Wesley was killed in an auto accident the following summer. Minnie married Lou Pollock, Lou died of live oak poisoning. Minnie lives in Burlingame California hear her daughters, Emogene and Ruth. John, the youngest of the Krueger’s, took over the farm responsibilities when Frederick married. John later married Ida Koth of Reinbeck, Iowa. They had five children: Elmer, who died about 1955 in Vallejo, California where he was a postal clerk; Doris (Mrs. Ben Diercks) lives near San Diego, California; Elva (Mrs. Victor Bartz) lives in Boulder, Colorado; Clara (Mrs. Cal Schallock) lives near Fountain, Colorado); Donald and his wife Laura live in Charles City where he is a plumber.

Some years after Uncle John’s marriage, Grandfather and Grandmother moved to Charles City where they lived in comfortable retirement at 590 S. Main for several years. They had brought their trusted driving horse with them and were able to drive out to visit their children and friends whenever they wished.

When she was seventy years old, Grandmother took a bad cold and developed pneumonia. She died after two week’s illness. Grandfather was completely desolate. He broke up his home. The little gifts we and others had given to Grandmother he returned to the giver. These seemed to mean so much to him and he never forgot. He lived with one of his children, then with another, and finally for many years with Uncle John who by this sold the family home and lived near Reinbeck, Iowa. Here Grandfather died. He is buried beside Grandmother in Riverside Cemetery, Charles City, Iowa.

Copyright 2018, Andy Hayes