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The History of Renville County, Volume 2
Compiled by Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge
Tourists on their way westward along the famous well-traveled "Yellow Trail" through Renville county, after making an abrupt turn northward about five miles out of the county seat, suddenly come into view of the pleasant little village of Danube. Lying midway between and but a few miles from Olivia and Renville, it presents a surprising picture of quick development, considering its nearness to its older neighbors and its rather unpromising beginnings. Even a casual glance, however, at the gradually rolling land, the fertile fields, and the prosperous farmsteads in the vicinity, reveals the secret of its growth and the logic of its location.
As early as 1876 settlers laid claim to the surrounding country. In that year John Stange took a homestead of 80 acres just north of the present village; in May, 1878, John Kuether filed on land in section 32 and was followed soon after by William Bede and Henry Henricks. Many other settlers came, and trade took its natural course to the nearby villages. For many years the railroad map indicated only that the company had a stopping place near the present site of the village, where gravel was taken on and known as "Gravel Pit Station."
With the increase of the farming population and with the poor roads leading to the nearby markets, many settlers believed that a nearer and more accessible market would be exceedingly advantageous. At the time of the county seat removal fight, a petition was circulated, asking the railroad company to give the people a station, to be known as "Miles." As the acquiesence of the two neighboring villages would have to be secured for the purpose, the petition lay in a dormant state for some time, as naturally neither Renville nor Olivia countenanced the idea of seeing a rival market being established. However, as the county seat fight waxed fiercer, the consent of the two towns was secured through the time honored "log-rolling" method, and Miles was given a place in the railroad "sun." In their anxiety to secure the station, a number of farmers had organized a company and had built a co-operative elevator, the first building on the present site of the village. No side-track being secured, no grain was bought the first year, and the building was sold to H. H. Neuenburg, who later disposed of it to the Crown Elevator people, who now hold it.
With the concession of the station immediate growth followed. William Terry, of Bird Island, built and conducted the first general store in the spring of 1899 where the Beck blacksmithy now stands. August Sommerfield, appointed first postmaster in 1899, soon removed the office from its little shack to the Terry store, Mr. Terry being appointed assistant. The next year H. W. Shoemaker, of North Redwood, erected a building and opened up the second store on the spot where he now conducts his mercantile business. At the same time Philip Fabel and J. W. Beck built a hardware which they later converted into the first hotel. Herman Roepke, of Buffalo Lake, opened up a harness shop the same year.
In 1901, in order to better control the liquor traffic, the village was incorporated. The name of "Miles" was dropped as it was found to give rise to considerable confusion owing to the existence of other villages in the state by that name. Why the new name was adopted is not known on good authority. As the story goes, it appears that the additional stop at Miles was not particularly pleasing to the railroad men at that time and the official name was not heard as often as other utterances, "not loud, but deep." These latter expressions to an innocent bystander might have sounded somewhat like, "Dan-ube," although that was not the exact wording of the phrase. Be that as it may, it is not here vouched for as a fact, but merely averted to, for the sake of being precise and authentic. At any rate Danube is the name given to the place by the railroad company and accepted as the name of the newly incorporated village.
The first council meeting, November 30 of that year, consisted of F. A. Schroeder, president; Fred Sausele, Chris. Schmidt and John Fischer, councillors; and Jas. J. Moughan, recorder. Schroeder, Schmidt and Fischer constituted the first board of health. Ordinance No. 1 was passed relating to the licensing of saloons.
The original owner of the village site was August Sommerfield who disposed of it to F. A. Schroeder. The site was well-chosen, the land lying high and being well drained.
The first school within the village limits was built in 1904 at a cost of about $4,000, the school having previously been located about a half-mile south of its present situation. Nellie Pettis and Miss Leonard were the first teachers.
In the same year a system of waterworks was installed, consisting of an excellent well, tower with tank of 242 barrels capacity, and a large gasoline engine, at a cost of between three and four thousand dollars. There are now about seven blocks of mains.
The growing business of the community soon demanded a local clearing house and in 1902 T. O'Connor, of Renville, established a bank, under the direction of F. A. Schroeder, president; Fred Kamin, vice president; B. G. Schroeder, cashier. It is still the only bank and is known as the Danube State Bank.
In 1904 the "Danube Herald" made its appearance. It was printed at Buffalo Lake by J. R. Landy and mailed to its subscribers in Danube. Later a printing plant was established at Danube in charge of A. E. Hill, of Morton. After a fitful existence of a few years, the spark of life went out. In November, 1911, the "Danube Review" was issued by E. C. Wallner, and continued by him until the summer of 1915, when C. A. Heilig, former principal of the public school, became its editor and proprietor. It is an enterprising publication and deserving of the hearty support of Danube citizens.
The first church services were conducted by Rev. Green, a Presbyterian, the next by the German Evangelicals in the town hall. A church was built in 1904. Rev. F. F. Arndt is the resident pastor. The German Lutheran congregation built about the same time, but have no resident minister, services being conducted by Rev. H. H. Hupfer, of Olivia.
The present village contains about three hundred inhabitants, in the main of German extraction. They are a thrifty class, homes are neat and grounds well kept, and the general appearance of the village speaks well for its industrious people. The latter are firm believers in education and the school building is, perhaps, the most prominent of all. In 1914 the two rooms were increased to four, modern conveniences were installed as to heating and sanitation, including steam heat, ventilation by fan, toilets, and septic tank; a gymnasium built in the basement, and the building and equipment improved in every respect. Besides the regular eight grades, two years of high school work is now carried on. It is the aim of the board of education, now made up of Adolph Wallert, F. A. Schroeder and Ed. Grunnert, to have such a department of domestic science that every child in the village or community may have the benefit of a good, practical common school education without the necessity of leaving home. A. M. Taylor is principal of the school, with four teachers in the grades and one special instructor for the domestic science course.
The village council at present consists of F. A. Schroeder, president; Henry J. Stange, recorder; N. T. Knott, H. F. Bruss and L. C. Hendricks, councillors; William Finley, justice. F. A. Kenmitz is constable; Dr. William C. Dieterich, William Voelz and Gus. Miller make up the board of health. The latter is also street commissioner. An adequate fire department has been established with E. C. Wallner as chief.
The M. W. A. have a local camp of twenty-three members with officers as follows: H. W. Shoemaker, V. C.; George Billiar, A. D.; Ben. Manthei, B.; George Macheledt, clerk.
Danube has three general stores, one furniture store, one bank, two churches, one newspaper, four elevators, one hotel, one livery, one drug store, one hardware, one blacksmith, one creamery, one restaurant, one produce station, one cement tile factory, two pool halls, one barber shop, one millinery, one harness shop, one lumber yard, and one doctor. Bonds of $2,500 were voted in the spring of 1915 to bring the electric current from Bird Island in order to give the live little village a satisfactory system of lighting its broad streets, snug homes and enterprising business places. Contract has been let for a county ditch to be built on the south side of the village which will provide a sewerage outlet for the village.
A brief business directory follows:
Gust F. Black, barber; Crown Elevator Co., William Valz, agent; Danube Farmers' Elevator Co., Wm. Finley, agent; Danube Hardware Co. (Herman A. Bruss, Elmer Fischer, Otto E. Schroeder); Danube Mercantile Co. (George Macheldt, president; Henry Stange, vice president; Fred A. Bade, secretary and manager), general store; Danube "Saturday Review," (Edward C. Wallner publisher); Danube State Bank, (capital, $10,000; surplus, $13,000; F. A. Schroeder, president; B. G. Schroeder, cashier); Danube Telephone Co., F. A. Schroeder, manager; Wm. C. Dietrich, physician; Empire Elevator Co., John J. Playhart, agent; Flora Township Mutual Fire Insurance Co., F. A. Schroeder, secretary; Horst Bros. (Henry L. and Benjamin H.), livery; N. I. Hugger, creamery; Fred A. Kenmitz, meats; Henry Kerwin, blacksmith; William H. Krueger, furniture; Albert Kuether, proprietor of the Union Hotel; Geo. J. Macheldt, produce; H. H. Neuenberg & Co., Nicholas T. Knott, manager, lumber; Seber T. Nordgarden, restaurant; Pacific Elevator Co., Chas. F. Dobratz, agent; Henry W. Shoemaker, general store and postmaster; Christ A. Wallner, harness; E. C. Wallner, publisher, Danube "Saturday Review;" Carl W. Ziemer, railway, express and telegraph agent.
In the fall of 1899, H. W. Shoemaker and wife arrived. Mr. Shoemaker says: "When we located here there were a few buildings here which had been started in the fall of 1898, when I made the basement for my store. One elevator was built but we had no side track; then in the year 1899 the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul put in their first side track. In this same year Herman Lindeman came from North Redwood and started a lumber yard and also bought grain. Later on this yard and elevator went by the name of H. H. Neuenburg & Co., who sold the elevator but retained the yard which is still in operation.
"In 1898 August Sommerfeld built the first building, a 10 by 12 postoffice. In the spring of 1899 P. H. Fabel and Jacob Beck started a hardware store, Herman Roepke a harness shop and Thomas Slough a saloon. C. Riebe built the second elevator on the north side of the track which burned down, and then built what is now the Pacific elevator. Wm. Terry has a small store on the present site of the blacksmith shop."
In 1901, Mr. Shoemaker was appointed postmaster, and held the office until 1915. The oldest settlers now in the village are Mr. and Mrs. Shoemaker and Mrs. F. Hinrichs.
Lots in the village of Miles (now Danube) were first assessed in 1899. The principal owner was August Sommerfeld. Those who had already secured lots were: Carl Sausele, lot 1, block 1; Louis R. Gemmett, lot 2, block 1; H. H. Neuenberg et al., lots 3, 4, 13, block 1; F. A. Schroeder, lots 7 and 8, block 1; Wm. F. Terry, lot 9, block 1; lots 1, 3, block 2; Thomas Slough, lot 10, block 9; Jacob W. Beck, lot 11, block 1; P. H. Fabel, lot 12, block 1; James McCormick, lot 2, block 2; Chas. Braun, lot 4, block 2; Christ Blume, lot 5, block 2; F. Hinricks, lots 8 and 9, block 2; lot 3, block 5; lots 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, block 6; J. H. Engeman lot 10, block 2; Herman Roepke, lot 2, block 5; August Nere, lot 4, block 5; Herman Lindeman, lots 5 and 6, block 5. From 1906 on this town has been assessed as Danube.
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