JUST LIKE OLD TIMES - Area has history of German language papers

There is great discussion these days about an official language for our nation, and if we look back in history we'll find that that's not a new discussion. Most of us know of remote ancestors who came from European nations and continued to speak their native tongue at home and among their family members. Here in northern Ohio the predominant European migration was from Germany in the 19th century. These people settled in communities and continued to speak and read in their native tongue, and taught to their children in school when possible. Many of the children never spoke English until they started school or began to mix in the world.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

There is great discussion these days about an official language for our nation, and if we look back in history we'll find that that's not a new discussion. Most of us know of remote ancestors who came from European nations and continued to speak their native tongue at home and among their family members.

Here in northern Ohio the predominant European migration was from Germany in the 19th century. These people settled in communities and continued to speak and read in their native tongue, and taught to their children in school when possible. Many of the children never spoke English until they started school or began to mix in the world.

This desire to keep the German language alive resulted in the publication of German-language newspapers in major cities, and in some minor cities, too such as Sandusky and Norwalk. The first such paper in Sandusky was the Intelligenz- Blatt, in April of 1851.

There was speculation in Norwalk in 1875 that a German newspaper would be started here by Henry Gentz of Cleveland. I find no record of a paper until Martin Ruff (a carpenter by trade) began publishing the Demokrat, a weekly paper with Democratic Party leanings. Most German papers had Democrat leanings because most Germans favored that political party.

The Demokrat had become the North Ohio Adler by 1882, and the office was moved from the Ruff residence at 189 W. Main St. to a downtown location, with editorial duties assumed by Ruff's son, Peter. Meanwhile, A.H. Tenge had started a rival paper called The Norwalk Post in September of 1881. Within six months Tenge was bankrupt and had turned over the paper's assets to Anthony Fischer of Milan, his chief creditor. Fischer hoped to continue the paper, but I'm not sure that he did.

The 1885 city directory tells us that the only German paper was the Norwalk Adler with the Grunwald Brothers at the helm. George Hermann Ruess was associated with this paper, and had been the founder of the Intelligenz-Blatt in Sandusky in 1851. He stayed busy with the Norwalk Germania, which in 1888 followed the Adler. George Lenz owned this paper, and by 1892 had sold it to James and Gustave Erf of Lyme Township. Ruess died in Norwalk in 1908.

The Norwalk Germania continued under the co-ownership of James Mullin and the Erfs until Mullin's death in 1907. That was the end of German newspapers in Norwalk, and I find it interesting that the last owner of this German-language paper was an Irishman!

Meanwhile, there were some other German papers, especially Die Columbia, owned and operated by Frank M. Roth from about 1896 to 1902, though it was still being published by James Mullin and his associates in 1904. These papers were also published here but I have no other information: Norwalk Volkszertung in 1893 and Der Merkur the following year.

One reason we know so little about these papers is that, to my knowledge, none of the files survive. We know that Martin Ruff's wife, Frances, destroyed his files after his death, and I've never learned of surviving files for any of the others. These would be valuable to genealogists because people would put lengthy personal notices, such as obituaries, in these papers so that out-of-town friends and relatives would know details of the event.