German Editors

Jan 19, 2018


John Paul Gross was a newspaper editor who worked at the Staats-Press, a German newspaper in Fargo from 1902 to 1907.  In 1907 he moved to Adams County and established the State-Line Herald, at Lemmon.

A few years later he teamed with F.W. Sallett from Aberdeen, South Dakota to become editor of the Dakota Freie Presse and the Neue Deutsche Presse.  These newspapers, published in German, provided news from the Fatherland for the German-Russian communities that populated south central North Dakota and northern South Dakota.  Swept up in a wave of anti-German sentiment in January of 1918, the newspapers came under close scrutiny by the US Postal Inspector.  When the editors of the Neue Deutsche Presse failed to provide translations to two articles published on January 11th, they were arrested by US Marshalls. Finding that large sums of money had been sent to New York, including nine thousand dollars directly to the German Imperial Ambassador, charges were filed and the editors were bound over to District Court.  F. W. Sallett pleaded guilty for failure to translate the articles and was fined five hundred dollars.  

To complicate matters for editor John Paul Gross, he was found wearing a ring with a traitorous inscription, and a watchband that bore an image of Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm and Austria's Kaiser Franz Joseph. He was also unable to prove that he had been naturalized, since he believed his citizenship had been obtained through that of his father.  Ironically, John Paul Gross had been a former member of Company B of the North Dakota National Guard while in Fargo, and his two brothers were both serving for the US armed forces in France.

In April, free on bail, he was arrested on a presidential warrant and was sent to a federal detention camp in Georgia as an enemy alien for the duration of the war.  It was later determined that he was over the age of twenty-one by fourteen days when his father was naturalized, so he was indeed an alien.  Released in October of 1919, almost a year after the end of the war, John Paul Gross returned to his family in Lemmon. There he was approached by a committee of citizens who asked him to leave their community.  Plagued by anti-German sentiment, even in the post war years, Gross moved to Bismarck and then to Great Falls, Montana where he died only a few years prior to the United States entry into World War II. 

Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis


Grand Forks Herald, October 21, 1919

Bismarck Tribune, April 12, 1918

Ward County Independent, January 20, 1918

Grand Forks Herald, May 8, 1918

“F. W. Sallet and the Dakota Freie Presse." North Dakota History, Vol. 59, #4, 1992, 2-20.