I wrote the following article, which was published in the Decorah newspaper in July, 1998.  Gottlob Krumm, the second settler in Winneshiek County, Iowa, was my great-great-grandfather.

Winneshiek County also celebrating 150th birthday

It has been exactly 150 years since the arrival of the first permanent settlers.

Iowa became a state in 1846, and it was not until 1848 that Winneshiek County officially opened up to settlement.  At that time, the only residents of the county, apart from a handful of squatters, were the Winnebago Indians and the soldiers at Fort Atkinson.

Fort Atkinson, built in 1840, was the only fort in United States history created for the purpose of protecting one Indian tribe from another.

The Winnebago Indians had been moved from Wisconsin in accordance with a treaty signed in 1837.  Since they were subject to hostilities from the Sac and Fox tribes that roamed the area, the U. S. government ordered a fort built to protect them.

First to settle

The first permanent white settler was Hamilton Campbell, who arrived with his wife, Sarah, on June 7, 1848.  About three weeks later, on June 29, Gottlob Krumm staked out a claim by a spring south of the Fort.  Krumm came directly from Germany with his younger brother, Gottlieb; wife, Regina; and their two young children.

There has been some controversy and confusion surrounding the issue of who the first settlers really were.

Some sources name Francis Rogers, great-grandfather of Grace Porter, wife of the late A. F. (Bert) Porter of Decorah, as being the first settler.

Francis Rogers indeed came to Winneshiek County in the fall of 1847 and chose a homestead between Fort Atkinson and Festina, but at that time the government had not yet opened the land to white settlement.  Rogers subsequently moved to near Elkader, where he remained for a short while before returning in July of 1848.  He then purchased the land he had staked out the year before.

In February of 1849, his daughter, Mary J. Rogers, married A. R. Young, a soldier at Fort Atkinson.  A. R. Young, erroneously named by some sources as the second settler, wasn't stationed in Fort Atkinson until October 1848, and was soon transferred out of the county in March of 1849.  In August of 1850, he was released from Fort Dodge and returned to the Fort Atkinson area, where he took up farming.

In addition to the Rogers and the Youngs, research done by Jerry Falck shows that Aaron McIntire had come to Winneshiek County as early as 1847, and was numbered among the early squatters.  There were doubtless others as well.

The first "official" settlers, however, were Hamilton Campbell and Gottlob Krumm, both of whom purchased their land from the government when it was legal to do so.   They both remained permanent residents in the county from the date of their arrival in June of 1848.

Germans arrive

The year of 1848 saw political turmoil in Germany, marked by revolution and chaos.   Large segments of the population left in search of a better life in America.

Gottlob Krumm, a nailsmith from the town of Nürtingen in southwestern Germany, was one of these malcontents.  In his own words, he did not want his 20-year-old brother, Gottlieb, to "go through the hell of the German army."

Three years earlier, Gottlob had married Regina Fischer from the nearby village of Holzmaden, and they now had a two-year-old son, Christian, and infant daughter, Christiane.  Early in 1848, Gottlob Krumm bade farewell to his parents and sisters, and set out for a new and uncertain life on the American frontier.

After six weeks of ocean travel, during which it was said Krumm was the only passenger who did not experience sea-sickness, the European crew set foot on the shores of America.   Further weeks of traveling across the continent brought Gottlob Krumm and his party to northeast Iowa.

Here they found a beautiful landscape of rolling, wooded hills that was strongly reminiscent of their former home in Nürtingen.

Just a couple miles south of the white settlement at Fort Atkinson, Krumm marked out his claim next to a deserted Indian wigwam by leaving fresh footprints in the soft ground.   Within a few weeks, he had erected a crude log structure as a dwelling for his family in which to pass the first harsh northeast Iowa winter.

Other than the soldiers at the Fort, there were no neighbors to speak of, and Krumm long assumed that he was the first settler in the county.  Some time had passed before he learned that Hamilton Campbell and family had pre-dated his settlement by a scant three weeks.

Krumm established himself as a properous farmer, well-known and respected in his community.  Only once did he return to Germany, but cut his visit short when he found living conditions there far worse than he had anticipated.

He wasted no time in returning to "his" America, as he called it, and left European soil for the last time, vowing, "I'll not leave my bones in Germany."

American family

Gottlob and Regina Krumm raised a family of eight children, most of whom in later years moved out of the county.  Gottlob died in 1892, and his wife Regina in 1905.

Their youngest daughter, Rose Krumm, lived on the Krumm homestead until it was sold about 50 years ago.  Rose died in a rest home in Charles City in 1962 at the age of 102.

Gottlob's oldest grandson, Louis, farmed in the Burr Oak area for about thirty years, later moving to Decorah upon retirement, where he died in 1955.  Louis' widow, Alice Krumm, passed away in 1987 at the advanced age of 108.

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Winneshiek County also celebrating 150th birthday
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Copyright © 1998 by Bill Price
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