German Colony in the Bootheel: Carola
In southeastern Butler County, Missouri along the east side of Black River is the site of the former community of Carola. The location is along Missouri Route N, 2 ½ miles southwest of Oglesville and 3 ½ miles north of the Arkansas border.
Carola’s founder was a German immigrant, Charles F. Hinrichs. Hinrichs was born in Warin, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany, to CD and Louise Priester Hinrichs on February 15, 1828. He came to America at age 16, landed in Galveston, Texas, and got work as a butcher. He then returned to Germany in 1847 to bring his family to Cape Girardeau. His father, CD Hinrichs, died shortly after arriving in the United States, but the family was successful in business and land transactions.
Charles enlisted in 1861 in the Missouri State Militia, and in 1862 in Co. L., 10and Missouri Cavalry as 1st Lieutenant. He was later promoted to captain. He returned to Cape Girardeau, eventually opening a store several miles southwest of town. At the time, the store served as the hub of a small community called Hinrichsville and, at other times, Dutchtown.
Hinrichs sold his interests in Cape Girardeau County in 1867 and moved to Gillis Bluff, just south of the future Carola. He had a successful farming and ranching business and invested in real estate and mining interests in Butler County. A burglary of his home in 1879, in which his nephew was killed and money stolen, prompted him to move to Poplar Bluff.
Perhaps remembering his experience as a poor immigrant and wishing to promote settlement in the area, he developed the idea of establishing a colony of German immigrants in this swampy area of Butler County. In 1881, Hinrichs persuaded a group of Germans to immigrate to America and settle on his land at Gillis Bluff. The colony received the name Carola, possibly from the name of one of the ships that brought immigrants to America.
Hinrichs worked through a corporation, the “Saxon Farming, Manufacturing, and Shipping Colony,” licensed as a corporation by the state of Missouri. Forty immigrants from the colony arrived in Poplar Bluff in June 1881 via the Iron Mountain Railroad. He ceded land to the colony on July 17, 1881. Shortly thereafter the company purchased a steamer, the “Belle of Carola”, to shuttle between Poplar Bluff and Carola, allowing easier transportation of settlers and goods to reach the site, and the marketing of crops and other items elsewhere. In October 1881, the company mortgaged land to Hinrichs for $9,700 to generate available capital. After the company built the town, the first town lots and plots of land were sold beginning in May 1882. The settlers also established a German newspaper, post office, and sawmill.
However, the plots of land sold slowly and the settlement never really prospered. The handicaps of inept farming practices, poor site drainage and frequent flooding, as well as recurring epidemics of malaria eventually led to the colony’s demise. In January 1887 the company defaulted and Hinrichs bought back over 650 acres. The state revoked the charter in 1889.
The city is not completely dead, however. A number of settlers remained and are buried in the Carola Cemetery, which remains today. The Carola School continued to be a community center for the surrounding area until the 20and Century.
While Charles Hinrichs lost some of his investment in Carola, he continued to be successful in other ventures. He resided in Poplar Bluff until his death in 1902.