In 1867, Anton Rosner, then 26, his 21-year-old wife Barbara and baby Joseph left their native Austria-Hungary and came to the United States, settling in Council Bluffs.
Their first home was on Pierce Street. It was in this house that their other children were born: Anton in 1868, Mary (Maria) in 1870, John, in 1878 and a one-month-old baby identified in the 1880 census only as “Rosner, 1/12”. The baby was not listed in the following census.
Anton was a bricklayer, working for Larson & Sons. Among the many Council Bluffs buildings he helped to erect were the original Masonic Temple at 508-510 West Broadway, the International Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) Hall and the original building at the Iowa School for the Deaf. The brick pillars that once graced the entrance are no longer there, but the red brick building on the hill looks out over the campus still today.
On Jan. 9, 1878, Anton Rosner purchased several lots on Madison Avenue and established a vineyard and apple orchards. H.H. Field, in his History of Pottawattamie County, writes: “Fruit raising during the early settlement of the county was not attended with much success. At first the young trees would kill out during the winters, some of which were severe, but the real cause was found to be the long distance from which they were brought.
“A few of the pioneers, however, had faith, notably Mr. Terry, of Crescent; Mr. McDonald, of Kane; Mr. Cooledge, of Mills; and later, Mr. Raymond, of Garner; also Mr. Rice, of Kane. Nurseries were started and fruit raising became infectious until at this time  a farm without an orchard or vineyard, or both, is the exception. In a few years the crop more than supplied the home market, and steps were taken to find others.”
In some cases, farmers started their orchards by propagating new seedlings from the trees that managed to survive and tending them in their homes.
Field continues: “In 1891 a number of the fruit growers incorporated for mutual benefit with a capital of $1,000. A building was rented temporarily in which to handle the crop, and they began shipping. The business grew and in 1905 the company erected a warehouse — 36 x 60 feet — of two stories and basement, in which the business was conducted for two years.
“In the spring of 1907 the company was reincorporated with a capital of stock of $35,000 under the name of the Grape Growers’ Association …. The warehouse built, not being sufficient, an additional one has been added – 60 x 160 feet. This also is of brick, two stories and basement. The shipping facilities are of the best, being located on the Great Western track. The company has reliable agents in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Denver, Pueblo, Duluth and Salt Lake, besides intermediate points. The new warehouse above mentioned is probably the strongest in the city. It is already rented, to take effect as soon as the grape season closes, for storage of 150 carloads or 7,500,000 pounds of sugar.
“Among the leading fruit growers of western Pottawattamie are Rev. G.G. Rice, D.L. Royer, Robert McKinley, A. Wood, D.J. Smith, W.F. Keeline, Harry Kingston, O.J. Smith, W.H. Kuhn, Mark L. Stageman, Chas. Konigmacher, Wm. Arnd, Anton Rosner, J.W. Dorland, W.G. Rich, N. P. Dodge, Wm. Homburg, Anton Kerston, James Peterson, J.A. Alsbaugh, J.F.Gretzer, C.D. Parmale, John Johnson, M.R. Smith, Henry Sperling, G.C. Hansen, Peter Peterson, Miss Nance Avery, Dr. A.P. Hanchett, J.F. Wilcox and Charles Beno.”
Meanwhile, Rosner continued in the bricklaying business. In 1883, he built this one-story, red brick house and sold a 10-foot strip of the property to the city for $1.00. It was named Rosner Street, although the Rosners never used it. A favorite family story is that John, then six years old, kept walking back to the house on Pierce Street because he was so homesick for his former home.
In the 1880s, the Rosners were among the German-speaking families attending the mostly Irish St. Francis Xavier Church. A desire to keep their community together, preserve their heritage and hear sermons in German led them to seek permission from the Archdiocese of Davenport to establish their own parish.
Assisted by the parishioners of St. Francis Xavier, they built St. Peter Church and secured the services of Benedictine Abbey at Atchison, Kansas, to provide German-speaking priests to serve as pastors. The church was completed and dedicated in 1887.
Since 1975, the parish has been under the auspices of the Diocese of Des Moines and serves a wider community. The church, with the connecting rectory built in 1905, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, it still stands watch over downtown Council Bluffs.
In 1909, John Rosner married Ellen Durnin. The following year, Anton sold part of the property to John and Ellen and, at age 70, built the brick foundation and the chimney for their new house at 1555 Madison Avenue.
John and Joseph followed in their father’s footsteps as bricklayers in Council Bluffs, Mary married Henry Kingston of Council Bluffs, and Anton, Jr. relocated to Chicago.
After Barbara died in 1929, Anton moved to the home of John and Ellen, where he died in 1931. The Rosners are buried in St. Joseph Cemetery.
— Special thanks to the auditor’s office at the Pottawattamie County Courthouse, Gary Campin and Jim Liston for assisting with the research for this story.