HISTORY OF ADAIR COUNTY
by E.M. VIOLETTE
Professor of History, State Normal School, Kirksville Missouri
together with REMINISCENCES and BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES Edited by C.N. Tolman
|SECTION II-- NINEVEH|
|In 1849 Nineveh, the most unique settlement in Adair County and one of the unique settlements of Missouri, was founded. It was composed of a small group of German communists who came from Bethel, Shelby County, Missouri. In order to get a proper appreciation of the settlement at Nineveh, it will be necessary to say something about Bethel and its founder, Dr. William Keil.|
Dr. Keil was born in Prussia in 1811. He grew up to young manhood in his native country and became a man milliner. He came to America in 1835 or 1836, and after living a while in New York he went to Pittsburgh. He practiced medicine in both of these places with some degree of success, though it is not certain he ever attended a medical school. Shortly after he reached Pittsburgh, he was converted in a revival held by the German Methodists and he joined their church. In 1839 he was licensed as a local preacher; his success and enthusiasm as a class leader had recommended him as a suitable candidate for this higher rank. Very Shortly, however, he broke with this church. During the absence of the regular pastor, he is said to have ascended the pulpit one Sunday and preached for two hours. In his sermon he attacked the ministry very severely for their acceptance of salaries. At the close of his sermon he asked all those who believed in th truth of his statements and who believed in his inspiration, to rise to their feet. Many arose. This marked the beginning of his following, and for over thirty y ears he maintained a strong hold over a considerable group of people.
Dr. Keil no began to preach without any church connection, but he finally decided it would be best to identify himself with some church and so he joined the Protestant Methodists. Later he was excluded from this church because he would not obey his ecclesiastical superiors. The group that had withdrawn from him from the German Methodists and had gone with him into the Protestant Methodist Church, also withdrew with him from this latter church. He then began to send enthusiastic young men as representatives of his ideas into other parts of Pennsylvania and into Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky, and Iowa. Their efforts were not without some results. Many accepted his ideas and believed in him as an inspired leader and teacher.
It was not until he had reached this stage that he began to think of establishing a communistic colony somewhere. When his plans were announced, many of his followers sold their property and made preparation to join his colony. An attempt was made to put the colony on the basis of a constitution which had been drafted by some of those who had joined in the movement, but this was rejected by Keil, and his own imperious will became the law to which all gave a willing and enthusiastic obedience. The society which was organized remained unincorporated unto the day of its dissolution.
In 1844 a committee of three called "spies" was sent to Missouri to find a suitable site for the colony. They came by boat down the Ohio and up the Mississippi to St. Louis. It had been intended to investigate the region along the Mississippi north of the mouth of the Missouri, but on arriving in this district they found the land all under water from recent spring rains, so that they did not land until they got to Hannibal. At this place they met a man who interested them in some land in Shelby County. This land pleased them very much and they recommended it as the best site for the colony. Dr. Keil and a few of the colonists came in the autumn of 1844, and others came on as they could make arrangements. One group purchased a boat at Pittsburgh and used it in transporting themselves and their goods to Hannibal, where the boat was disposed of, and they moved their goods overland to the site of the colony. Frederick Stahl, the father of Judge S.F. Stahl of Kirksville, was the engineer of this boat.The main settlement of this colony was called Bethel. Others lying near it were also called Elim, Mamri, and Hebron. All these names were taken from the Bible. Later the Adair County branch colony was also given a Biblical name, Nineveh, but the other branch in Oregon was named Aurora after one of Dr. Keil's daughters.
Inasmuch as the colony had a peculiar religious basis, we are interested at the outset in its religious institutions. As elegant church building was erected at Bethel, which was the pride of the colony and an object of attraction for miles around. Every two weeks the colonists gathered in this church to hear Dr. Keil preach. His sermons do not seem to have been doctrinal, but to have been exhortations to industry, moral living, and obedience to his authority. Baptism was discarded, and the regular method of observing the Lord's Supper also. If it was observed at all, it was by way of a general meal at the house of some member. The festivals were nearly all of them religious in character. Dr. Keil's birthday, Easter, Pentecost, May feast, and the Harvest feast were celebrated at Elim, where Dr. Keil resided, the others at Bethel. The May festival was perhaps the biggest of the feasts. At Christmas time the church was decorated with two large trees, and the people gathered at four o'clock on Christmas morning, and after listening to a sermon and participating in singing, huge baskets of cakes, apples and candy were distributed.
The chief industrial activity of the colony was agriculture, but a great deal of manufacturing, on a small scale to be sure, was carried on. A flour mill, a saw mill, a woolen mill, a distillery, a tannery, lime and brick kilns, and a glue plant were built. The motive power of the mills was furnished by a steam engine. Boots, shoes, hats, gloves, wagons, plows, woolen and linen goods, liquors, and linseed oil were among the many things which they have manufactured for sale. Some of their products, especially the gloves, were much sought for in markets as far distant at New York.
Each industry had a superintendent who arranged the details in his particular department. The net proceeds realized from the sale of the products of these various industries, including the farms, were put in a general fund. This fund grew to be considerable in time. No dividends were declared., but the surplus earnings were used in enlarging the various enterprises of the colony. Each member of the colony was a stockholder in every concern.
Common places were provided for the protection of live stock. A large barn for the horses was built at Bethel, and another for the stock cattle and cows at Hebron. There was also a common barn for the work cattle and a common pig sty. The men who had families lived in separate houses, but the unmarried men lived in "the large house," which was also used as a hotel and as the colony store.
This long account of the Bethel colony has been given in order that the branch at Nineveh may be understood. In many respects the branch and the mother colony were alike, and yet owing to disparity in size there were differences. The similarities and differences will be made apparent as this account now proceeds.
There was no church building at Nineveh, but there was a big house in which the head elder and his family and the unmarried men of the colony lived. Religious services were held every Sunday in the hall upstairs in this building. These services were more in the order of prayer meetings. If, however, Dr. Keil or some of the so-called elders of Bethel were present, they would preach.
The colony maintained a school for four months in the year. The teacher was Chas. Knight, who came from Bethel. As far as is known, he was the only teacher the Nineveh branch ever had.
Under the circumstances it was deemed advisable after Dr. Keil's death, to make a complete division of the property. Legal proceedings were thereupon begun. In inventory was made of all the property owned by the society at Bethel, Nineveh and Aurora, and the various items were as follows:
A division was then made between the Bethel colony, which included Nineveh, and the Aurora colony. To the Bethel colony was assigned $47,214.25; to the Aurora colony, $62,592.10. After the division had been thus made between the two colonies, the next step was to divide the property of each colony between the members. This was done without much delay.
The following men were among those who made up the colony at Nineveh: Geo. Bauer, Herman Behrens, Henry Beck, Jacob Culler, August Culler, Wm. Culler, Peter Erich, Peter Felker, Henry Felker, Henry Frey, George Feller, Tobias Feller, Jacob Findling, J.T. Gall, Henry Howard, J.M. Miller, Geo. Miller, Frederick Miley, John Miley, Peter Pfeiffer, Freeman Pfeiffer, Michael Snyder, Geo. Steinbach, S.F. Stahl, and John Voght. There were others but their names were not ascertained. Of those named above, August Culler, Wm. Culler, Peter Felker, Freeman Pfeiffer, John Miley, and S.F. Stahl withdrew from the colony before its dissolution.
In politics the numbers of the colony were all Democrats before the war. During Lincoln's administration they all returned Republican and have generally remained so to the present.
|SECTION III-- CONNELSVILLE|
|From the dissolution of the German colony in 1879, until the building of the Iowa and St. Louis Railroad in 1901, Nineveh remained a country cross-road village. Shortly after the building of this railroad, certain promoters became interested in booming the place. In August 1902 the Missouri and Iowa *Townsite Company purchased 124 acres adjoining Nineveh and laid out a new town which they called Connelsville, presumably after the famous coal and coke town of that name in Pennsylvania.|
The Manufacturers' Coal and Coke Company opened up several mines in and around Connelsville and thus began to operate the coal industry of that vicinity on a large scale for the first time. During 1902-03 twelve brick store buildings and a hundred or more dwellings were built. The present town includes old Nineveh, and has a population, according to the census of 1910, of 652. The future growth of the town will depend on the development of the coal industry.
The town was incorporated as a city of the fourth class on April 01, 1904. The officers appointed by the county court at the time of incorporation were: S.G. Wright, Mayor; Emmett Raugh, Collector; Simeon Tallahey, Marshall; S.F. Shumate, Edward Kitts, Fred Shoop, and N.B. Wellman, Alderman.
|SECTION IV-- NOVINGER|
|The first permanent white settlement in the county was made in 1830 within three or four miles of what is now the town of Novinger. It seems however, that it was about ten years before settlers began to occupy the land in and around Novinger. By 1860 this part of the county was fairly well settled by a class of hard working and thrifty farmers who scarcely dreamed of the vast mineral wealth that underlay their lands. They were accustomed to go to Kirksville for some of their trading, but their post office and their chief trading and milling point was Nineveh, a settlement which had been founded by a colony of German communists about 1850.|
The first step toward making of the present town of Novinger was taken after the Q.M.& P.R.R. (now the O.K.) was extended west from Kirksville in 1878. In that year, or at least the next, John C. Novinger laid out on his land, a village which bore his name and which constitutes today the original town of Novinger. Two different industries were beginning to be developed by that time in the western part of the county, the tie and the coal industries, and the advantage in having a railroad run through the timber and coal regions was something that both the company and the community realized. At the time when the railroad was projected west from Kirksville, the tie industry was leading the coal industry by long odds. Novinger station became the most important tie settlement in the county, and several individuals and firms made it their shipping point from which ties by the hundreds of thousands were shipped to different parts of the country. Notwithstanding the fact that so much traffic went on through Novinger, this industry contributed nothing of a permanence to the place. A few little shanties were put up in the town for the temporary use of the tie workers, but when the timber around the place had been cleared off and the tie business was closed up, the tie workers left and their shanties were torn down or converted to other uses. This industry was at its height form about 1885 to 1895.
But just as the tie business began to enter its decline in the county and particularly around Novinger, the second industry of that part of the county, the coal industry, began to take on new life and to expand beyond what it had ever been in the past. This industry has been the means of making the town what it is today, with its nearly 2,000 population, and more than that, if the outlying mining camps should be included.
In another chapter, the development of the coal industry in the county received special treatment, so that it is necessary to speak here only briefly on its rise and growth in Novinger.
For many years after Mr. Porter's efforts, several small mines were opened up in and around the place, but none of them amounted to much until the Rombauer Coal Company bought out the O.K. Coal Company in 1898 and began to operate on a large scale. The conditions that made the expansion of the coal industry possible in Novinger and the county in general, was the extension of the O.K. Railroad west from Trenton in 1897. This extension opened up the Kansas City and Omaha markets directly to those who would engage in the coal business on a large scale. Major Rombauer readily saw what possibilities there were in the coal business at Novinger, and the success he has had in his extensive operations there since he begun in 1898, has proved his foresightedness and business ability.
The expansion of the coal industry had produced a great increase in the population of the town. In 1900 there were less than 100 people there. In 1910 there were 1711. Coal has been the making of Novinger and from the present prospects will continue to make it a still more important industrial center in the near future.
The postmasters have been as follows:
The post office was moved into the building it now occupies in 1904.
More information can be found at http://www.genealogytrails.com/mo/adair/adairhistory20.html#nineveh