By Sue Blesi
Franklin County Historian
Champion City was once a viable community in western Franklin County. It is located on Highway CC north of the Bourbeuse River in Boone Township.
Eberhardt Giebler obtained a land grant for 40 acres on the Boubeuse River in 1852. The land included a grist mill and water wheel that had been built by an unknown party who had lived on the land earlier.
Eberhardt and his brother, Thomas, bought additional land adjacent to the original parcel.
The first dam was built across the Bourbeuse River prior to Giebler purchasing the land patent. Glenn Mueller explained that the dam was constructed of two walls of hewn logs placed about 16 feet apart.
The space between the log walls was then filled with rock to form a dam 16 feet thick and probably five feet high.
Giebler operated the mill and built the first store in the community that would become known as Champion City. During the Civil War, his store was robbed by bushwhackers.
Four robbers were later found shot to death according to a military report made on June 10, 1864 by Gert Goebel. According to one account, Giebler was robbed of his mules and possessions and the store was demolished.
Whether the mill was in operation at the time is not clear. It seems likely that it was destroyed by bushwhackers because after the Civil War, Giebler began construction on a new mill about a quarter of a mile west of the original site on the other side of the Bourbeuse River.
The framework for the second mill was built by John Bole around 1870. A Mr. Curtiss supervised the process of setting up the machinery. He was a millwright from the Detmold community.
The equipment they installed was up to date and was considered to be the best in the county at the time. The mill began life as a burr mill, but in 1891, it was changed to a roller mill.
The first flour was produced at the mill on May 25, 1873. It was christened by owner Eberhardt Giebler, with help from J. E. Roedder, Charles Roedder, A. C. Schmidt and the aforementioned Mr. Curtiss.
About 14 months later, the community petitioned the U.S. Post Office to establish a post office there.
When asked what name he preferred, Giebler said his mill was called the Champion Mill, named for the Champion brand of equipment they had installed in the mill. Therefore, he believed Champion City would be a good name for the town.
The Champion City Post Office was established in August 1877 and operated continuously until May 1911.
Postmasters serving the community included Herman H. Tiemann, Charles R. Farrar, Alfred Giebler, Bernard Hammer, George J. Essmann, Henry C. J. Schamann, and Charles C. Antisdel.
Flour for Sullivan and for the Hamilton Iron Furnace was produced at the Champion Mill. In addition to custom work, it produced about 10,000 pounds of flour a week to meet this demand. The mill had a capacity of 60 barrels a day.
When Eberhardt Giebler retired on June 4, 1885, he sold the mill to his son, John E. Giebler. Several years later, John Giebler sold the mill to Henry Keller and his son, William Arthur Keller, who were from Shotwell. George Crawford worked as an engineer at the mill, but in 1904, he was replaced by Fred Wenkel. Keller later owned a mill in Sullivan.
The second mill had become a familiar landmark to many area residents. It burned on Thursday, Nov. 21, 1907.
Referring to the loss of the mill, L. H. Dieckgrafe wrote to the Republican Headlight, that, “The community is at a loss and we only hope that there will soon be another mill built as this is one of the best locations in Franklin County for a mill.”
Dieckgrafe had spent 22 years as a blacksmith at Champion City and married into the Giebler family. He sold his blacksmith shop to Henry Rugge in 1902. Rugge, in turn, sold it to Charlie Roedder.
Roedder had his shop there at least from 1910 to 1915, later moving it to the Giebler barn. He could see the turning tide of technology and turned his energy to buying and repairing automobiles in the 1920s and 1930s, developing a booming business.
Although the original Champion City store was built by Eberhardt Giebler prior to the Civil War, Ben Hammer had a store there from 1887 through 1896.
Over the years, Hammer also operated stores at Kiel, Jeffriesburg, Beaufort and Stanton. Christian Michels was a later owner. Julius Hecht bought the store in 1926 and operated it until his death in 1983. It has since been demolished and burned.
In addition to the mill and store, there was a Champion City Methodist Church (still used), a rural school, garage (that sold gas), canning factory and a community hall.
There were two lodges, the Yeomen Lodge and the Modern Woodmen Lodge, both of which had their own buildings across the road from each other.
To contact Sue Blesi, call 573-739-9201 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.