Manning’s settlers were mostly natives of Schleswig-Holstein and Hannover, Germany. According to a local church history the first pioneers were so delighted with the fertile soil present in the Manning area that they soon wrote to their relatives and friends in Germany to come to America. As a result, many people came from the old country directly to Manning, Iowa in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
In those early years, German was primarily spoken in local households, classrooms and schools near Manning and was also written in a local German newspaper known as Der Manning Herold. Founded in February
1894, Der Manning Herold was once known as the “most popular German newspaper in the state of Iowa.”
When the United States joined Allied Forces and declared war against Germany in 1917, tensions rose between recent immigrants from Germany and those who had lived in Manning for a number of years. According to local history books, the irony was that most of those who called themselves Americans had strong German ties, and that many of the newcomers had left Germany to flee military service.
In May 1918, the Iowa legislature passed a law that no foreign language could be used in public gatherings. Students and church goers were suddenly forced to learn English, while returning to homes where nothing but German was spoken. It was also at that time that Der Manning Herold was merged with the Manning Monitor and discontinued printing in German.
To quote the Manning centennial book, during this hard time‘the newcomers’ were watched closely by the ‘old-timers’. Threats were made, and at one point, it was rumored that Manning’s German Savings Bank was to be painted yellow. The bank directors held a hasty meeting and changed the name to the Iowa State Savings Bank. It has been said that the animosity quieted following a war bond drive, in which the newcomers proved themselves by raising more money for the war effort than their fellow townsmen. Others feel the tensions calmed as the people continued working together and quietly proved their loyalty.”
It wasn’t until many years after the wars that the townspeople began publicly displaying their German pride again. It is a testament of their strength and character that they didn’t shun their heritage considering the hardships facing both their new and old countries.