Towns - Post Offices - Rail Stops
of Jefferson County

(Walnut Township)

"GERMANVILLE.  Sec. 27, Walnut Township. P. O. Est. 10 Dec 1853 with John B. Bense first postmaster; Geo. Meyer was p. m. in 1859. Thomas Thompson in 1895; then F. P. Thompson. Office disc. 14 Apr 1906. Plat, pp. 26 - 27, 1909 Atlas. The Community once had three German churches, Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist. Now only Hope Lutheran remains. E. D. Wittmer was still operating a thriving general store in 1957; retired 1958. (Ledger, Feb. 2, 1957.) "
The above information was compiled by Mary Prill and published in the Hawkeye Heritage, July 1967.

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Transcribed by Sherry Bash

Fairfield Weekly Ledger-Journal, Thurs., Nov. 6, 1924, p.5, c1.


 First Church Built in 1846, and First School House Stood on Present Site.

 After the territory of Iowa had been thrown open for settlement by the government and the settlers began to come westward, a few families of German people came to Jefferson County and founded a settlement in Walnut Township, in the northeast portion of Jefferson County, which was afterwards known as Germanville. The first German settlers arrived in this community about the year 1840, among the early settlers being John Spielman ar., and family, John P. Crile and family, Michael Craff, William Stortz, Mr. Diers, and others.
 These early settlers selected the pieces of government land which they thought best for their needs. These pioneers had to endure great hardships as there were no modern conveniences then as we have now and the only means of travel was by oxen. The nearest mill and town was at Burlington. The pioneers built log cabins on their farms in which they lived until better houses could be gotten. These cabins were built without nails or shingles and had a clapboard roof and fireplace built in. Most of the pioneers were faithful Lutherans and longed for a church and church services. In 1846, a congregation was organized and a log building was built which served as a church. As it was very hard to get ministers to come into the unsettled communities, Grandfather Spielman acted as minister of this congregation until a better church was built, and in 1912 this building was torn away to make place for a modern building. This is among the oldest churches now in existence in Jefferson County.

 As there were no stores for many miles around, John A. Spielman, who later became Captain Spielman, opened up a store in Germanville about the year 1860. He operated this store until he joined the Union army in 1862, when he sold the store and stock of goods to A. N. Jay, who operated it about ten years, or until 1872. Mr. Jay sold it to John Manhardt who operated it until about 1885, when he in turn sold it to Thomas Thompson, who in turn sold it to his brother, Frank Thompson, who operated the store until 1899, when he sold it to John F. Craff. Mr. Craff kept the store about 15 years or until 1914, when he sold it to E.D.Wittmer. All of the above merchants had a good trade and made good during the time that they had the store.

 It was not long before the old pioneers realized that their children were not being educated, so steps were taken toward the organization of a school district. The school district was formed and the next step was for the locating of the school house site. ; The school ground was given to the district by Michael Craff and this is where the school has since stood. Germanville school is one of the oldest schools in Walnut township.

 These early settlers, like the settlers in other communities, had to make all of their own clothing and other articles by hand as there were no machines and they could not buy any ready made articles. Among some of the articles that were made in Germanville in the early days were shoes, clothing and wagons. Just northeast of Germanville there stood a cobbler’s shop which was operated by a Mr. Harmon. People would come from many miles around and have the measurements of their feet taken for the purchasing of a new pair of shoes for in those days there were no sizes of shoes as there are now, and shoes were made according to the shape of the foot. Amon Park made wagons in a shop west of the store. These wagons were good, stout vehicles, made as perfect as the ones which are in use today. Several blacksmiths were residents of Germanville at different periods. They usually had their shop in the same building with the wagon works. These blacksmiths were W. H. Knerr, Mr. Park, J. F. Miller and William Carpenter.

 Shortly after the store at Germanville was opened up, Germanville was put upon a star mail route with the storekeeper as postmaster. Folks who served as postmaster at this place were John Spielman, A. N. Jay, John Manhardt, Thomas Thompson, Frank Thompson and John F. Craff. Edward Craff was a postal clerk or assistant postmaster at Germanville for a number of years, as he was clerk in the store and often would be the only one in the store when the mail arrived. This post office was discontinued in 1902, when the rural routes were started from Brighton. Mr. Morton was at that time hired as carrier for this route and has had it since.

 During the days of the Civil War, over a hundred men from the community surrounding Germanville, all from Walnut township, enlisted in the Union army and went to fight for their country William Stortz tells us that an army officer would come to the Germanville post office when the mail was delivered once a week and here he would succeed in getting a large number of volunteers, as the folks would come to get their mail and see their friends had enlisted, they would also enlist in the army. These volunteers decided to enlist so rapidly that it kept the officer busy filling out applications.

 George Hartman operated a saloon in Germanville about the year 1890 and this was considered about the time when Germanville was progressing nicely.

 The farmers living around Germanville organized a Farmers’ Creamery about the year 1893, and a fine creamery building was erected south of town and some fine machinery was installed. This creamery bought the milk from the farmers which was then separated and the cream churned into butter. During the year 1894 over 600,000 pounds of milk was used, which was converted into products which brought in a sum of $6000 for the year. From this we can see the amount of business which was done. The creamery company remained in business several years, after which it did no more business because of the farmers selling their cream to the larger creameries, where they received a larger price for their cream. As a result the creamery was ruined as no more business could be done.

 About the year 1894, a company of farmers organized and built a company store in Germanville, just across the road east of the Germanville store. A large number of the farmers bought stock in this company, but after a couple of years business the store was compelled to close up because of some false dealings made by the manager.

 Thomas Thompson operated a saw mill and also a grist mill in Germanville for many years. The grist mill was run by a wind tower. He had a wind tower erected and the grist mill was stationed near the ground while about halfway up the tower was a hopper into which the grain was placed and then allowed to gradually feed into the mill.


Transcribed by Sherry Bash

The Brighton Enterprise, April 15, 1893, Page 4, col. 3.


 In a drive over Walnut township Monday, we were struck by the great change that has taken place in the community during the past ten years. The township was originally settled with foreigners, mostly Germans with little or no capital, but who lived frugally, dealt honestly, and finally got on in the world until it is one of the finest farming communities in Iowa and contains some of the best improved farms. The original log house and barn have been replaced by good modern buildings and a general prosperity air is noticeable everywhere.
 It is also a reading community. Nearly every family takes and pays for from two to a half dozen papers, read them and keep posted. The old people have papers printed in their native language but the new generation reads English papers exclusively; so they take both kinds. The Enterprise, which has the most general circulation in the township of any paper, goes into many homes where only the children can read it, but it is appreciated none the less on that account.
 Germanville is the post office and local trading point for the lower end of the township. The place is having a boom this summer. A new butter and cheese factory is under way and will be finished by May 15. Thomas Thompson took the contract for $2700. It is a co-operative concern, backed by some of the most substantial farmers in the neighborhood. Frank Thompson, the merchant and postmaster, will build a new store room to take the place of the old log building. The new room will be 22x50 and give space to accommodate his increasing business. C. Frey, the blacksmith, seems to be doing a prosperous business in his line and has facilities for doing good work.


The following story was originally one of a number of articles in the Fairfield Ledger which was later included in the book Villages and Towns of Yester-year in Jefferson County by William R. Baker. We hereby include it on this page with the permission of the Fairfield Ledger.
Names mentioned in this article are as follows:
        E. D. "Ed" Wittmer; C. H. "Henry" Mannhardt; John Mannhardt; Emerson Masden; John Spielman; John A. Spielman; A. N. Jay; Thomas Thompson; John F. Craff; Bennie Houseal; Amos Parks; Mr. Harmon; George Hartman; Thomas Thomas.

It Once Had Parking Problems

    Parking problems in Germanville? That's right. They existed while E. D. "Ed" Wittmer was operating the store.
   The store was open every night of the week except Wednesday, and Monday night was the big night.

    Wittmer, now deceased, who operated the store for nearly half of its almost 100 years of existence, stated in an article in the Daily Ledger of February 2, 1957, "I can recall when there were as many as 250 people in the store on a Monday night, and the cars would be parked a half mile in either direction from the store."

    Actually the history of Germanville and the history of the store go hand-in-hand. It was established sometime after the first settlers arrived in the area in about 1840 and continued until around 1960.
   The once thriving little community located in Walnut Township in northeast Jefferson County has some claim to fame.
   It is the birthplace of C. H. "Henry" Mannhardt. He was born December 11, 1873, on a farm near Germanville and when he died December 21, 1981, at the age of 108, he was the oldest man in Iowa.
    He was the son of John Mannhardt, one of the first settlers in the Germanville area and was one of the early owners of the Germanville store from 1872 until 1885. He sold the store to Thomas Thompson.
   These bits of information are included in a clipping provided by Emerson Masden, 400 South D, who spent most of his life in northeast Jefferson County and remembers when Germanville was quite a community.
   The clipping states after the territory of Iowa was thrown open for settlement by the government and settlers began moving westward, a few people of German descent came to the area and settled. The first arrived about 1840.
    These early pioneers endured great hardships since the only transportation was by horses or oxen and the nearest mill and town was at Burlington. All lived in log cabins.
    Most of these pioneers were faithful Lutherans and longed for a church.  In 1846 they built a log church but found it hard to secure a minister.  John Spielman, one of the first settlers, served in that capacity for a number of years. In 1912 the old church was razed and replaced by a modern building.
    John A Spielman opened a store in Germanville in 1860. He operated the store until he joined the Union Army in 1862. The store was sold to A. N. Jay who in turn sold the business to John Mannhardt who later sold the store to Thomas Thompson in 1885.
   John F. Craff purchased the store in 1899 and operated the business until 1914 when Wittmer acquired the business. Wittmer had started working in the store three years before.
   Wittmer, his wife and family operated the business until October, 1958 at which time Mr. and Mrs. Wittmer moved to Fairfield.
    The country store in those days not only provided food and commodities for residents of the community it also helped keep the community spirit alive and maintained a definite link between the past and the present.
    By the time the Wittmers retired the old store had gone "modern".
    The old cracker barrel and the coffee grinder were gone. The old pot-bellied stove had been replaced by a modern oil burner. But the same type of friendly service prevailed as it had during the turn of the century.
    The store not only sold groceries and staples, it also sold small hardware items, gasoline and oil products, farm supplies, some dry goods, farm seeds and other commodities. In addition, it purchased cream, eggs and poultry from area farmers.
   Wittmer also operated a huckster wagon for a number of years. Many farm women did much of their shopping from the huckster which made regular rounds through the community. The first wagon was pulled by a team of mules.
   Following World War I Wittmer switched to a pickup truck. Those were the days before paved or graveled roads which presented many problems.
   The Wittmers sold the store in 1958 to Bennie Houseal who continued to operate the store for a few more years.
   There were other business establishments in Germanville throughout the years. Amos Parks made wagons in a shop west of the store. A Mr. Harmon operated a cobbler shop making shoes for area residents. A number of blacksmiths served the community.
    Shortly after the store was opened Germanville was put on a star mail route out of Brighton with the storekeeper named as postmaster. The post office was discontinued when rural free delivery was established.
   George Hartman operated a saloon about the year 1890 when the community was progressing, creamery in 1893 and a building was erected south of town.
   Farmers in the area, it is said, in 1894 over six hundred thousand pounds of milk were processed which brought in a sum of $6,000 for the year.
   As larger creameries developed with more modern methods, the Germanville Creamery was forced to close.
Thomas Thomas operated a saw and grist mill for many years. The mill was run by wind power.
   There is little evidence today of these early business establishments. The old store building is nothing more than a shell of a building now showing its age. It is used for storage.
    Although there are no longer business establishments in the area there are a few farm homes clustered together closer than usual. It is still a definite community and will no doubt remain as Germanville for years to come.


The following information comes from the book "Glimpses of Yesterday" by Dixie Richardson, published in 1999 and copied here with her permission. The book contains histories and personal memories of Richland, Iowa, and the surrounding area. Copies of the book are available from Dixie Richardson, 556 South Davis, Ottumwa Iowa 52501-5301 for $13.00 and this covers postage and handling as well.

 In section 28 of Walnut Township was once the busy community of Germanville. The first settlers came to the area from Germany around 1840. Some of the first settlers were John Spielman Sr, John P. Crile, Michael Craff and William Stortz.

In 1860 the first business store operated by John Spielman opened for business. He ran the store until he entered military service in 1862. He sold the business to A. N. Jay who later sold it to John Manhardt. Manhardt sold the store in 1885 to Thomas Thompson. John Craff purchased the store from Thompson in 1889. Craff sold the store to E. D. Wittmer in 1914. Wittmer also operated a huckster business from the store. He first used a mule drawn wagon and then later a pick up truck. The store also sold gas, seed, oil and many other items. The proprietors also bought cream, eggs and milk from farmers in the area. The store usually had one night a week that it stayed open for business. In later years Monday was the night the store stayed open. The Germanville Post office which was established in 1853 was located in the store. The post office was discontinued in l906. E. D. Wittmer retired in 1958 and sold the store to Benny Houseal who ran the store a short time.

 Another business in Germanville was a store organized by a farmers group. This store closed in 1896. Thomas Thompson operated a sawmill at Germanville. There were various blacksmiths and Amos Parks who was a wagon maker and a Mr. Harmon who was cobbler. George Hartman operated a saloon in Germanville at the turn of the century. A creamery was organized in 1893 and located south of Germanville.

Hope Lutheran Church

 The Hope Lutheran Church was first started in a log cabin. Sometime around 1864 it was admitted to the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Iowa and other states. Services were conducted in German until 1900 when they switched to English. The present church building was erected in 1913. Rev. Stephen Estrum is currently the pastor at Hope Lutheran Church.

St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church

 St. Peter and Paul Church was organized in 1850. In 1864 Felix Reck sold ten acres of ground to the Catholic Church to erect a church for Catholics in the Germanville area. The church was erected in 1869. Priests from Washington or Fairfield served the parish. The first priest assigned to the mission parish was J.J. Moron from Washington. In 1880 the Polish members left and formed their own church. Many families from Germanville would go to mass at Polishville when there was no service at Germanville.

 Only two marriages were recorded at Germanville: Barbara Fritz and Simon Shippert in 1870 and Elizabeth Bureker and John Ihms in 1893. An addition was put on the church in 1883 as the parish had grown. The church was remodeled in 1890 and in 1898 a new bell was installed.

 East St. Joseph's Church was organized in Pleasant Plain in 1902 and St. Peter and Paul's was closed. The building was torn down and the lumber was used to build two homes in the area.

 In 1910 the Trustees Frank Pacha, Adam Kasowsky and John Fritz sold the church property except for the cemetery.

St. Peter and Paul Cemetery

The first burial on record at St. Peter and Paul Cemetery was a three-year-old girl who died in l863. The oldest grave marked was that of Elizabeth Kurtz born 1795 and died 1865.

 In November 1910 many of the bodies in the cemetery were moved to East Pleasant Plain and reburied in St. Joseph's Cemetery. Today all that is left is a small cemetery.

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