Archer Alexander

This is a story set during the Civil War in Missouri, that shares the common history of the German Americans and the African Americans, that is seldom shared. It is the story of a slave brought to Missouri in 1829, when our state was still young. The impact of the German immigration to our state, and its impact on the enslaved that lived here, can be seen in the story of Archer Alexander.

Born in Rockbridge, Virginia, Archer Alexander, known as Archey, arrives in Missouri in 1829. Archey, and his wife Louisa are property of the Alexander family that lives in a strong slave holding enclave, many of which are members of the Dardenne Presbyterian Church in St. Charles County. Archer is said to have been sold first to a large slave owner named Yosti, then to Richard Hickman Pitman, son of David Pitman. Sold because he was considered “too uppity” as punishment. Archer’s wife is Louisa, who is later sold to James Naylor. Although they are married, they are forced to live as separate property.

In February of 1863, Archer becomes one of America’s heroes, when he overhears area men, plotting to undermine the railroad bridge over Peruque Creek and informs the Union Troops. Saving countless lives, and a vital link in the railroad, The troops often referred to as Krekel’s “Deutsch” these are Germans under the command of Lt. Colonel Arnold Krekel. Overhearing the conversation between William Campbell and his neighbors, plotting the intrigue and knowing the bridge will collapse as soon as the next train passes, Archer realizes he has to take bold action and under cover of darkness runs five miles to the Union blockhouse to warn those guarding the Peruque Creek bridge. Archer Alexander is the first to be suspected of having alerted the troops, he realizes that he has no choice but to run, without any word to Louisa. Using the help of local Germans, he manages to get away, only to be caught by the local slave patrol, south of the Missouri River. There miraculously he manages to escape again, making his way to the home of none other than William Greenleaf Eliot, a Unitarian Minister and founder of Washington University.

Union Troops at the Block House on Peruque Creek

“Under the best of circumstances, the best condition of slavery was worse than the worst condition of freedom—I doubt if a man or woman could be found who would exchange freedom, such as it is, for the old relation under the best master that ever lived” He thinks to himself, “Go for your freedom, ef [sic] you dies for it”. Archer Alexander. His desire for freedom allows him to reach St. Louis. Eliot hires Alexander to be his gardener and when he learns Alexander’s story, obtains an order of protection for the fugitive slave, and then attempts to purchase his freedom.

Soon, however, slave catchers make several attempts to abduct Alexander from the Eliot property- where he is under an order of protection. Three men, slave catchers threatened Alexander’s life with pistols and daggers, cruelly beat him with clubs, knocked him down, stamped upon and handcuffed him, dragged him to a wagon and carried him to jail. Eliot arranges to have Archer’s captors arrested on a military arrest warrant because what they had done was illegal, as Alexander was still under the Order of Protection. The slave-catchers, upon learning of their impending arrests, hastily flee St. Louis without Alexander. Eliot has negotiated for Alexander’s release and Alexander is freed once again when Captain Dwight issues orders for the Jail to do so.

Eliot is able then to obtain a full order of protection. But the political situation remains volatile. Though President Lincoln had issued the ¬Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, it did not apply to slave-holding border states. In Missouri, the “peculiar institution” of slavery would continue to apply until January 11,1865, when Missouri’s Constitutional Convention under the leadership of German born Arnold Krekel, signed Missouri’s Emancipation Proclamation. Archer’s son had also escaped and joined the U.S. Colored Troops, recruited under German immigrant George Denker, on Main Street in St. Charles. He would later die “in action” during the Civil War. Disease took a huge toll on soldiers, especially the Colored Troops because of the conditions that they lived under. Archer was grieved but proud saying “I couldn’t do it myself,” “but I thank the Lord my boy did it.”

Alexander is hidden in Alton, Illinois, a free state, where he works as a farmhand, saves his wages and six months later, returned to Eliot and deposited $120 in the ¬Provident Savings Bank. It was a large sum as over the same period, a Union private would only have earned $78 at best. He then sent word to Louisa, whose freedom he hopes to purchase. He wrote a letter to her owner. “My dear husband,” Louisa wrote back. “I received your letter yesterday, and lost no time in asking Mr. Jim if he would sell me, and what he would take for me. He flew at me, and said I would never get free only at the point of the [bayonet], and there was no use in my ever speaking to him any more about it. I don’t see how I can ever get away except you get soldiers to take me from the house, as he is watching me night and day.”

Eliot and Alexander worry that having now sought to leave, Louisa might be in even greater danger. “Her life wasn’t safe if they got mad at her.” But Alexander had a back-up plan: Wary of writing again, Alexander arranges for his wife and as many children as possible to escape. William Eliot, sensing slavery’s imminent demise, cautioned Archer that the few months of freedom might not be worth the risks of flight. On a moonlit night, Louisa and Nellie, the couple’s young daughter, climbed into an ¬ox-drawn cart and hid beneath the corn shucks. A horseman soon rode by. He grilled the farmer: “Have you seen Louisa and Nellie?” “Yes, I saw them at the crossing, as I came along, standing, and looking scared-like, as if they were waiting for somebody,” the farmer coolly replied. “But I have not seen them since.” Mother and daughter arrived at Eliot’s before dawn. Alexander paid the German farmer $20. Soon they were reunited with two more additional daughters.

The Emancipation Memorial in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C.

After the war finally ended, Eliza began to yearn for her former belongings. She returned to the home of her former master to retrieve them, but suddenly took ill and died within two days. Her belongings were sent to St. Louis to Archer. Archer would eventually remarry, to a young woman named Julia, who also knew how to speak German.

After the war ended a woman in Virginia named Charlotte Scott, felt a memorial to President Lincoln who had done so much for the slaves, was needed. She donated the first $5 she earned as a free woman for a monument honoring Lincoln’s proclamation. That started a fundraising effort among newly freed people that raised $16,242 — enough to build a memorial. The statue, also known as the Freedman’s Memorial, sometimes referred to as the “Lincoln Memorial”, now sits in Washington‘s Lincoln Park and depicts Lincoln standing above a former slave holding broken chains. That former slave, rising to stand and on one knee, is Archer Alexander. William G. Eliot had worked with the sculptor to see that Archer would be the face to represent all slaves. The monument was dedicated April 14, 1876 with President Ulysses S. Grant and Frederick Douglass in attendance.

Archey’s second wife Julia would pass on September 13, 1879 and be buried at St. Peter’s U.C.C. Cemetery in an unmarked grave in the Common Grounds. Then one year later on December 8, 1880, Archey would also pass away and be buried in the same cemetery. The actual location had been unknown and searched for by his descendant Keith Winstead for years, when it was discovered by Dorris Keeven-Franke and other researchers in 2018. Though “his last words were a prayer of thanksgiving that he died in freedom” Archey would never see the beautiful monument that bears his image.

Face of Love

Missouri Germans Consortium is proud to present this program in collaboration with Gitana Productions! We invite you to join us for an afternoon you will never forget! This event at 2:00 pm on Saturday, February 23, 2019 in St. Louis’ German Cultural Society’s Hall at 3652 Jefferson is free, but we do ask that you please register.
To Register for this Free Program at Eventbrite CLICK HERE >> or call 314-721-6556

There is a rich and impressive history of German Abolitionists who fought for a color-blind democracy in Missouri. This history is largely unknown to many in the St. Louis region and is a good reason to celebrate the incredible intersection of shared American ideals between German immigrants and enslaved African Americans before and after the Civil War.

This symposium includes very knowledgeable scholars and historians that will tell us that history and they will be joined by community leaders from the German and African American communities. Special guests include U.S. Diplomat and German Consul General (Chicago) Herbert Quelle and Police Commissioner, John Hayden. Panelists will include Dr. Sydney Norton author of German Abolitionists of Missouri,Dorris Keeven-Franke, author and Director of the Missouri Germans Consortium, Dr. John Wright, historian and community leader and Rev. Starsky Wilson, social activist and philanthropist. There will be shared musical and artistic presentations from both cultural groups to celebrate our shared history and nurture continued dialogue. Ruth Ezell, Producer and Reporter with Living St. Louis, KETC will moderate the Symposium.

The panel will include Dr. Sydney Norton, Associate Professor of German at St. Louis University, Dorris Keeven-Franke, Director of the Missouri Germans Consortium, (Collaborating Partner), Dr. John Wright, highly regarded educator, historian, Honorary Consul to Senegal and community leader from the African American community. Rev. Starsky Wilson, President/CEO of the Deaconess Foundation will also join the panel. Rev. Wilson is a philanthropist and activist that was appointed to the Ferguson Commission by Gov. Nixon in 2014 and was elected chair of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy in 2017.

Dr. Norton and Dorris Keeven-Franke will focus on the actual history of German Abolitionists in Missouri and Dr. Wright and Rev. Starsky Wilson will connect that specific history to our community needs today. Rev. Wilson
will provide additional comments that celebrate the contributions of German Abolitionists from the African American community. Q/A will follow the symposium presentations.The cross-cultural engagement component will include music and arts presentations provided by representatives from the German and African American community and the inclusion of key leaders from both communities. John Hayden, Police Commissioner with the City of St. Louis and German Consul General Herbert Quelle have confirmed their participation and will provide the welcome and opening remarks. Consul General Quelle is a musician who plays harmonica and specializes in German folkloric music as well as
the Blues. Actors and singers from the African American and German community will join the Consul General in an exchange of music and performance

This program aims to bring together the two largest ethnic groups of the St. Louis region (Germans and African Americans) who are each represented by diverse social, cultural and political experiences and perspectives. As Americans we have the opportunity to hear about our incredible common history that moved the State of Missouri forward and resulted in the emancipation of slavery. This is an opportunity to learn about that shared history and for both communities to celebrate the contributions made by German abolitionists who were largely immigrants. Through the understanding of that history (largely unknown particularly in the African American community) and the celebration of the achievements of German Abolitionists and African Americans during the Civil War period we hope to open up pathways to dialogue that allow us to converse about the core ideals of Democracy that we share and to promote authentic relationship development.

In succinct terms our immediate goals are a) to impart information about German Abolitionists in Missouri and the shared history between African Americans and the German community, b) to engage both communities in
dialogue about that history and connections to the present, c) to engage African Americans and Germans in an artistic experience that highlights our common love for music and the arts and d) to intentionally “sow the seeds” of continued education and engagement.

Read more about this event in St. Louis Magazine

Register at Eventbrite

Missouri’s Emancipation Proclamation

AN ORDINANCE ABOLISHING SLAVERY IN MISSOURI Be it ordained by People of the State of Missouri, in Convention assembled That hereafter, in this State, there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except in punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted; and all persons held to service or labor as slaves are hereby declared free.

One hundred and fifty four years ago today, Missouri freed their enslaved. The State’s constitution allowed slavery with the Missouri Compromise, as it gained statehood on August 10, 1821. Many would later reflect as this was the beginning of the “War between the States” otherwise known today as the Civil War.

On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln would issue his famous Emancipation Proclamation, and the former enslaved would literally dance in the street. However, Lincoln’s Proclamation did not free those within the State of Missouri. And that would take a Constitutional Convention, of the elected officials of the State of Missouri, with a Representative from each county. That Convention convened on January 6, 1865 in St. Louis. On the opening day, the first order of business would be to elect a President to preside over this history making event, as the Convention had been called in order to deal with the issue of “Emancipation” for those enslaved.

They elected a German born immigrant, who had arrived in Missouri on November 1, 1832. His father had brought the family to America, because he had been told by his friend Gottfried Duden, about this wonderful place that was full of opportunity for a better life. Arnold’s mother died on the journey west to Missouri. Arnold would attend school in St. Charles, become an attorney, begin a German newspaper, found the town of O’Fallon, Missouri (named for his friend John O’Fallon, William Clark’s nephew, both of who were slave owners) and become a highly respected member of the Statehouse.

By the 10th of January, a new Ordinance had been written and laid upon the table to be read before the proceedings the next day. On January 11, the Convention dispensed with the rule that the new Ordinance must be read three separate times. The first reading was held, and the vote was 60-4. With three members not present. There was some discussion, and a few words were substituted but the essence of the motion remained the same. The second reading was held, and a highly respected Unitarian minister who was present to witness as a spectator, William Greenleaf Eliot offered a prayer for the proceedings. Drake had asked that the 44th Rule be suspended and that the Constitutional Amendment be adopted. And for the third and final reading, William G. Owens from Franklin County, called for the vote, and the issue was so adopted. From that moment forward, all of those who had been born enslaved, brought to Missouri to continue their enslavement, and any in the future, would be forever free.

Source: Journal of The Missouri State Convention, Held at the City of St. Louis January 6- April 10, 1865, Missouri Constitutional Convention

Emmaus Homes

The Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation announced its list of historic Places in Peril for 2018 at a press conference in Kansas City Friday. Incorporated in 1976, Missouri Preservation is our state’s premier statewide historic preservation advocacy non-profit organization, and has been publicizing a list of endangered historic places for about 15 years. Properties on the list range from a train depot in Bethany, to an entire neighborhood in St. Louis. Properties might be endangered for a host of reasons including inappropriate development, neglect, lack of funds, improper city planning, and absenteeism. For a full list of the properties and those listed on the Watch List see

Included on this year’s list is The Emmaus Home Complex in Marthasville which began as a seminary for the German Evangelical Church in Missouri. A campus of five buildings was completed here by 1859. Four of these remain in various states of repair, those being the Farm House, Bake Oven, Friedensbote (Messenger of Peace) Publishing House, and the Dormitory. The College Building itself was lost to a fire in 1930. The seminary was in operation at this site until 1883, when it moved to St. Louis and eventually became Eden Seminary. In 1893 the campus in Marthasville became known the Emmaus Asylum for Epileptics and Feeble Minded. The campus grew to a total of eight substantial buildings including a chapel, by 1928. In more recent years the religious denomination became the United Church of Christ and the two campuses the church body owned – this one in Warren County for men, and the other in St. Charles County for women – became known simply as the Emmaus Homes. This is an important historic site, having been constructed by some of the tens of thousands of Germans who emigrated here beginning in the 1830s. In the area the first Evangelical church west of the Mississippi was constructed, and this marked the beginning of the Synod of the west, known as Der Deutsche Evangelisch Kirchenverein des Westens. The buildings in the complex are unique in that they are of sturdy limestone construction in varying German styles by German immigrants. They are representative of the tenacity of some of Missouri’s earliest Germans, and are unique in that most are original with very few modifications over the years. Through the years the approach toward caring for the handicapped and developmentally disabled has also changed, and care for the residents at Emmaus has shifted from large institutional settings to smaller group homes. Emmaus has indicated that they wish to transition all clients away from Marthasville by 2020. The Emmaus Homes Board of directors has initiated steps toward listing the campus on the National Register of Historic Places to help lure a potential developer for the property that is respectful of its history and to make a reuse of the campus eligible for the state’s Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program. It is hoped that by listing as one of Missouri’s Historic Places in Peril, Emmaus will continue to try and find a suitable new owner and reuse for this historic campus. For Emmaus contact information call Missouri Preservation at (660)882-5946.

How German are we?

The St. Louis Metro area is considered the third largest German-American community in all of America! From the Library of Congress: “The German immigrant story is a long one—a story of early beginnings, continual growth and steadily spreading influence.” U.S. Census (2017) reports show that German is the largest ethnic group with approximately 44 Million in America who claim it as their heritage. And among the 53 U.S. metro areas with at least one million people those considered to be among the most German are Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul and St. Louis” according to who ranks fourth. Three of these: St. Louis, Milwaukee and Cincinnati are considered the German triangle of America where you will find the highest concentration. In Missouri alone 1,376,052 reported their ethnic background to be German, and we definitely know how to celebrate National German-American Day on October 6th.

High Resolution Graphic
[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]
No wonder St. Louis knows German so well! With German-American Day coming up soon, if you are looking for a family friendly way to connect with your roots, check out these three great events.  On Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018 at 7 pm at the Missouri History Museum,  the series German Heritage: History, Culture and Community opens with “What Makes Missouri So German?” with speaker Dorris Keeven-Franke. The program is at the Missouri History Museum, 5700 Lindell Blvd, 63177 in the Lee Auditorium. The program is free and open to the public.


On Saturday, October 6th, 2018 National German-American Day opens at the German Cultural Hall of St. Louis at 3652 Jefferson Avenue with a Fest and Feast! Join all of the St. Louis German American organizations when the hall opens at 10 am. Meet members of each of the 18 German organizations of the German American Committee and learn about their history. Then at 1 pm. the Missouri Historical Society hosts a German Feast with culinary samplings from around Germany! Take a culinary tour and sample the entire country. For more information or to make reservations for the dinner visit and click on the register link at the bottom or call 314-746-4599 and ask for reservations. Enjoy the music, dancing and food of the Germany. Following the Feast at 3pm will be FREE performances by St. Louis’ own Mannerchor (Men’s Choir), Dammenchor (Women’s Choir) and our own Liederkranz, the oldest combined men and women’s German singing group west of the Mississippi.

Finish your week off with “What STILL Makes St. Louis so German” and a panel discussion moderated by Dorris Keeven-Franke. Joining us will be German Consul General Herbert Quelle to share his views on the German-American Community today. He will be joined by Dr. Steven Belko of the Missouri Humanities Council sharing Missouri’s German Heritage Corridor and Susanne Evens, President of St. Louis-Stuttgart Sister Cities who will be discussing St. Louis’ Sister Cities programs. The program will be on October 10, 2018 at 7pm at the Missouri History Museum, 5700 Lindell Blvd, 63177 in the Lee Auditorium. The program is free and everyone is welcome.









Related links:

German-American Day Fest and Feast:

Giessen Emigration Society

In July of 1833, the organizers of those that became Members of the Giessen Emigration Society as found on the Ship Arrival Lists, Friedrich Muench and Paul Follenius published the Call and Declaration on the subject of mass emigration from Germany to the North American free states. They began with

“We the undersigned, together with many of our most respected friends and fellow citizens, have decided to leave Germany and to seek a new homeland in the states of North America. This intention awoke in us once we had become convinced that, as far as we are concerned, conditions in Germany, neither now nor in the future will satisfy the demands that we as persons and citizens must make of life for ourselves or our children. This is since we have become aware that only a life such as is possible in the free states of North America can suffice for us and our children. The political situation of that growing state is well known to those who are informed. Lands, especially in the almost immeasurable regions west of the Mississippi, have opened only in the most recent times by the perfection of the means of transportation, lands with which almost non on earth may be compared for richness and the beauty of nature. Swiftly the primeval forests are being cleared, swiftly arise country estates and cities, and the great waters permit the liveliest commerce with all parts of the earth.  It is our idea that the better part of the many Germans who have decided to emigrate should settle as a group, united as a whole in keeping with the purified and presently existing political form and received into the great federation of states, so that in this way the survival of German customs, language, etc., should be secured, so that a free and popular form of life could be created. This is our idea, whose execution appears grandiose and desirable, appears to us to be possible and not too difficult.”

This treatise went on to provide the major reasons for the creation of their society, their plan and their goals. After its’ conclusion it was signed by the organizers:

Paul Follenius, Court Advocate in Giessen and Friedrich Münch, Grand Ducal Hessian Pastor at Nieder-Gemünden (Alsfeld District)

To read a translation of the Call and Declaration

To see the ship arrival lists

Members of the Giessen Emigration Society

Gottfried Duden

ReportSometimes referred to as “the Dreamspinner” by the German government in 1830, today’s equivalent of “Fake News!” Duden was a man ahead of his time. He saw a need, wrote the book, and then suffered for it the rest of his life. He described a land where there wasn’t a king, but one elected their leaders. A land where a man could chose his own occupation, home and wife, and not beg the government for permission. A land where their was cheap land that was abundant, education for all, and where one chose his own occupation. A land “where the sun of Freedom Shines!” had to be impossible they said. No, said Duden “This is Missouri!”

Gottfried Duden’s book,  the Report about Missouri was published in Germany in 1829. We do know that in the decade of the 1830s alone, over 120,000 Germans immigrated to the United States, and for whatever reason, one-third chose Missouri. What followed from those early emigrants affected Missouri’s history. The Germans that followed in the societies like the Giessen Society, the emancipationprocPhiladelphia Settlement Society, and all the others, spread out from St. Louis to Hermann and beyond. Their members, like Friedrich Muench were leaders with their writing which brought thousands and thousands more. In 1848, young educated radicals would join ranks, unafraid to speak out! They would lead thousands as well, and Missouri would stay with the Union despite being a slave state. Individuals like Arnold Krekel who would go on to lead Missouri’s Constitutional Convention and sign Missouri’s Proclamation that would end slavery for Missouri’s slaves. Those hundreds of thousands of German immigrants would swell our state, filling the Missouri River valley, creating Missouri’s German Heritage Corridor, and make it the great State we celebrate today.

The following is from a paper presented by Dorris Keeven Franke April 19, 2002 the Annual Symposium of the Society for German-American Studies, in Amana, Iowa, titled Gottfried Duden:The Man behind the Book.© 2002 Not to be reprinted without permission of the author.

In 1829, Gottfried Duden published  at his own expense 1500 copies of a small book titled Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America in Elberfeld Germany[i]. Few books have had a greater impact on Missouri history.

In 1909, eighty years after Duden’s Report was published, A.B. Faust described Duden with,

His skillful pen mingled fact and fiction, interwove experience and imagination, pictured the freedom of the forest and of democratic institutions in contrast with the social restrictions and political embarrassments of Europe.  Many thousands of Germans pondered over this book and enthused over its sympathetic glow.  Innumerable resolutions were made to cross the ocean and build for the present and succeeding generations happy homes on the far-famed Missouri.”[ii]

In 1919 and ninety years following Duden’s Report, Duden’s first biographer William G. Bek begins with,

Duden was the first German who gave his countrymen a fairly comprehensive, and reasonably accurate, first-hand account of conditions as they obtained in the eastern part of the new state of Missouri.[iii]

In Mack Walker’s Germany and the Emigration 1816-1885 we find,

Duden’s enthusiastic book . . . fits its time with a gratifying neatness; for it first appeared in 1829, just as the Auswanderung to America was beginning to revive.  But it not only met a need and suited an atmosphere it helped appreciably to create them.  Duden’s descriptions of American landscapes and American resources were vivid, even lyrical.  He found American economic, political, and social conditions better than those of the Fatherland, and American intellectual and moral conditions just as good.  The color, timing, and literary qualities of Duden’s report made it unquestionably the most popular and influential description of the United States to appear during the first half of the century.  It was an important factor in the enthusiasm for America among educated Germans in the thirties; it served for decades as a point of departure for hundreds of essays, articles, and books, and innumerable thousands of conversations; it was a landmark in the life and memory of many an Auswanderer.”[iv]

Nearly one hundred twenty-five years following Duden’s Report, Charles van Ravenswaay in his epic The Arts and Architecture of German Settlements in Missouri: A Survey of a Vanishing Culture tells us,

This timely work  . . . greatly stimulated immigration to the United States and caused thousands to make Missouri their destination . . . For more than a generation Duden’s writings formed the leitmotif of German settlement in Missouri, with the interpretation of his comments provoking endless discussion among those who came here.  Many immigrants continued to revere his memory as the father of the German migration, and even those who blamed him for their misfortunes seem to have had a grudging respect for that kindly, guileless man.[v]

Five years before his first arrival in the United States Gottfried Duden purchased the one hundred thirty-nine and twenty-six one hundredth acres of land that he later refers to as “his farm” in his Report. The funds for the amount of $69.63[vi] were deposited at the United States Land Office on February 1st, 1819[vii].  Godfrey [sic] Duden purchased this land at the going rate of $2.00 per acre in the southeast fractional section of Section 35 in Township 45 North Range 1 West for $278.52 plus interest of $21.94 for a total cost of  $300.46.[viii] In the very next entry following Godfrey [sic] Duden on the same day is another purchase by Jacob Haun[ix]of one hundred sixty acres of land just north of Duden’s in Section 25.[x] This is the property that Gottfried Duden arrived at, in Montgomery County (later Warren County) Missouri, and the farmer that he lived with five years later.

Duden was the fourth son of Leonhard Duden. He was born May 19, 1789[xi] in Remscheid, in the Duchy of Berg, where his father owned and operated an apothecary business. Duden attended the gymnasium at Dortmund.[xii] This was followed by law studies in the years 1806 through 1810 in Dusseldorf, Heidelberg, and Gottingen.[xiii] In 1811 he received a royal appointment in the Prussian Civil Service. “With a waiver of the legal age,[xiv] Duden first became an auditor at the Court (of law) in Dusseldorf, and then toward the end of 1811 Justice of Peace in the canton of Mülheim.  Duden was a very intelligent young man and had apparently finished his studies early. In 1813, Duden enlisted in the First Battalion of Second Bergian Infantry Regiment, which became the 28th Prussian Infantry Regiment.[xv] He participated that year as a volunteer (taking no pay) as a lieutenant and adjutant in the war against Napoleon. This experience gave the young man cause for reflection. He began to carefully plan his future.  Upon his return to Civil Service he was appointed Justice of the Peace for Mülheim, and then Richrath (Langenfeld) for three years. [xvi]

When Duden returned to the Courtrooms in Mühlheim and Richrath, he was bombarded daily with growing accounts of crime and poverty caused by the severe increase in population.[xvii] When he was appointed senior judge in Mühlheim in 1817, he declined the position.  He knew the interactions between the German government and the people better than most did at that time because he was sitting on the frontline.  The scene of battle had become the courtroom, where the people pleaded with their rulers for help instead of taxes, yet only received silence.

Subterfuge, spying and political maneuvering were the rule rather than a rarity. Duden said Germany had become a “country where hunger, avarice, and vanity have put so many wheels in motion!” Mistrust by the people of their rulers was warranted. Duden himself lost faith in Germany’s rulers to understand, let alone resolve these problems. Duden’s vision saw that the solutions to the problems lay in the far western frontier of the United States. The idealist saw himself as able to bring about the changes his country so badly needed.

Due to these social and economic problems the popularity of travel books was rising.  However, accounts disparaging the United States were increasing as well. The romantic tone of the current accounts served further to bring the issue to the forefront of discussions. Duden studied several accounts of the United States in English to which he would later refer his own readers.

Duden’s purchase of land in the United States set in motion a chain of events. He did not stop when his plans were altered by the death of a friend in the West Indies with whom he had planned to make the journey. In 1820 a Royal Cabinet Order appointed Duden procurator at the Court of Inquest in Mülheim and, after that office was closed, second assistant to the Chief procurator in Cologne.  “I myself was in the midst of the evils of overpopulation.  Stimulated by the process of education and the events of the times, I had made the conditions of men and the characteristics of the states the subject of many years of investigation.”[xviii]

Duden published Concerning the Significant Differences of the States and the Ambitions of Human Nature in 1822[xix].  This must not have achieved the goals Duden desired. He was critical of other emigration books written by authors who he was sure had never visited the places they wrote about. His resolve to experience emigration first hand increased. This was the only way Duden felt he could effectively give Germany the book it needed to make positive changes.  His motive in hiding his previous U.S. land purchase was fear, fear that it would diminish what he was trying to achieve by making some believe his purpose was land speculation.

In August of 1823, citing ill health, Duden requested a temporary leave from his duties, and moved to Bonn.[xx] Duden had requested a formal discharge even though he still had not found a companion that he felt suitable for the trip he planned.  Then in February of 1824 Gottfried Duden met Ludwig Eversmann. Born February 2, 1799 to a Berlin mining engineer, the twenty-five year old Eversmann had worked on family estates, eventually as an administrator of these farms, since he was fourteen years old.  When his military duties as a rifleman took him to Berlin in 1819 he lived with his brother Wilhelm. Eversmann, who had not studied English, and Duden left for the United States within six weeks after this encounter.

Duden had been a bachelor his entire life.  With Duden and Eversmann was Duden’s cook Gertrude Obladen,[xxi] three years Duden’s senior, who would see to their housekeeping. On May 30, 1824 the trio sailed for the Unites States aboard the ship Henry Clay in private cabins.  They arrived in Baltimore on August 14, 1824.  They traveled by coach, which they had purchased in Baltimore, to St. Louis, Missouri. Duden and Eversmann visited the St. Louis Land Office on Market Street, and on October 15, 1824 they jointly purchased one hundred sixty acres in Section 36 of Township 45 North Range 1 West; and one hundred one and forty-four hundreths acres in Section 12 of Township 44 North Range 1 West in Montgomery (later Warren) County.  The cost of that land was $1.25 per acre.  There they also secured maps of the area. Duden dated his “twelfth letter” from St. Louis on the Mississippi River on October 26, 1824.

With the property in Section 36 of 160 acres divided along a small tributary of Lake Creek, and property to call his own, Eversmann began building his own home. By October of 1825 he had completed a large two-story log home of oak. Duden continued to reside with Jacob Haun in a lean-to addition. By the spring of 1826 Duden had moved to his own farm.  On the property a small one room log cabin had previously been built. He wanted a larger home and hired one to be built on a small rise that overlooked the valley and the smaller cabin. Duden gave the area property owners permission to use the smaller cabin as a schoolhouse. Duden managed to live on his property just over a year.  With his housekeeper to take care of his daily requirements and Eversmann managing the farming chores on all of the property, Duden was free to spend his time investigating and writing about the area.

Duden returned to Germany in 1827, with intentions to return to his farm on Lake Creek.[xxii] Before leaving he gave Ludwig Eversmann (now using the Americanized name of Lewis) power of attorney for his property for use in his absence.  In 1829 Duden published at his own cost 1500 copies of Report. . . The   printer was Sam Lucas at Elberfeld.  The book was immediately picked up and read by many who were considering emigration to the United States.  By 1834 the Swiss Emigration Society published copies of the first edition. Duden wanted to amend his first edition before reprinting, because of the criticism he felt he had unjustly received. Germans remarked “that the German farmer here did not have Duden’s book as much to thank for his good luck as to hard work, about which Duden who only plays the role of the educated observer, does not say much.  Also it is still very doubtful, if Duden’s book, even though it cannot be accused of being untruthful, it still cannot be declared free of exaggerations and having a sanguine perception of the situation here, so that its practical usefulness for the emigrating European, which one wants to ascribe to it here and there, is questionable.  In any case it cannot be denied, that some who are carried away and confused by the glowing and romantic descriptions, lost themselves in the dreams of his imagination, then upon seeing them destroyed by reality will easily turn bitter and not be able to find the necessary joyful courage.[xxiii]

The decision of Gottfried Duden to conceal his early purchase of land in Missouri prior to his arrival there, probably was made before he first left Germany. There is no evidence that he had discussed the matter with Eversmann or that Eversmann realized what parcels Duden already owned when they visited the St. Louis Land Office.  With the critics claiming that “some who are carried away and confused by the glowing and romantic descriptions, lost themselves in the dreams of his imagination,[xxiv] he knew the revelation of his early purchase would only add fuel to the fire. He attempted to correct the misconceptions came with the addendums made to his first Report.

When Duden continued to be blamed for all the failures, the idealist sought to rectify the situation with one last book on the subject. Its influence was thought to be so great and so one-sided that Duden himself felt called upon to publish in 1837 a ‘Self-Accusation Concerning His Travel Report, to Warn against Further Rash Emigration.’[xxv]

Intelligent enough to realize that his intentions would have been misjudged he attempted to keep his own affairs private. His life would be threatened he felt, if he returned to his farm at Lake Creek, though he loved to remind others of his cows still being raised there.

He may have misjudged his readers, as much as those who criticized him, and judging by the mistakes made by those who had failed to read his book closely enough. Finally, in his book of 1837 Duden bitterly states, “since he has failed in this expectation, he regrets that he did not write in hieroglyphics, so that only a few wise men and not the common herd might be able to decipher his story.” [xxvi] In spite of Duden’s warnings men had sold themselves to redemptioners, emigrated with no money, stopped east of the Alleghenies and immigrated through New Orleans during the summer months. Finally Duden said,  “Truly, I am often reminded of Harvey, the famous discoverer of the circulation of the blood, who regretted to his end that he had ever communicated his thoughts to the world, on account of the ceaseless attacks that were made upon him.[xxvii]

Duden felt his attempt to inspire Germans to emigrate was misjudged. Hindsight proves him to be a visionary, whose writings really did have the long term effects he desired. Even though we are now armed with this new knowledge of the man behind the book, the significance of his work is not changed. Duden’s book will continue to be a significant contribution in the history of immigration.  What he achieved is most important and what should be remembered, rather than what he has concealed. His foresight, determination and planning are now revealed. His report was a catalyst that precipitated the great chain of migration. Caught up so tightly in the events of his time, even he did not foresee what those 1500 copies would do. Consider the end result. Within his own lifetime he would not realize the significance of the contribution his book had made to German immigration.

[i] Duden, Gottfried,( as published on the frontspiece) Bericht  über eine Reise nach den westlichen Staaten Nordamerika’s und einen mehrjährigen Aufenthalt am Missouri (in den Jahren 1824, 25, 26 und 1827), in Bezug auf Auswanderung und Uuebervölkerung, oder: Das Leben im Innern der Vereinigten Staaten und dessen Bedeutung für die häusliche und politische Lage der Europäer, dargestellt  a)in einer Sammlung von Briefen, b)in einer besonderen Abhandlung über den politischen Austland der nordamerikanischen Freistaaten, und c)in einem rathgebenden Rachtrage für auswandernde deutsche Ackerwirthe und Diejenigen, welche auf handelsunternehmungen denken, von Gottfried Duden. Gedruckt zu Elberfeld im Jahre 1829 bei Sam. Lucas, auf kosten des Bersassers. Elberfeld, 1829. The full title translated is Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America and a Stay of Several Years along the Missouri (during the Years 1824,’25,’26, and 1827)  Concerning emigration and Overpopulation or Life in the Interior of the United States and its Significance for the Domestic and Political Situation of the Europeons, Presented a) in a collection of letters b) in a special treatment of the political situation in the North American Free States and c) in an advisory supplement for emigrating German farmers and those who are planning to engage in trade. For convenience the excellent translation edited by James W. Goodrich, with George H. Kellner, Elsa Nagel, Adolf E. Schroeder, and W.M. Senner (Editors and Translators) published by The State Historical Society of Missouri and University of Missouri Press in 1980 is being used for reference.  Hereafter this is referred to as Report, with the page numbers of the 1980 edition.

[ii] Faust, Albert Bernhardt, The German Element in the United States, The Steuben Society of America, New York, 1927, Vol. I, page 441

[iii] Bek, Ph.D., William G., Gottfried Duden’s “Report” 1824-1827, 1919, page 1

[iv] Walker, Mack Germany and the Emigration 1816-1885, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1964, p 61

[v] van Ravanswaay, Charles, The Arts and Architecture of German Settlements in Missouri: A Survey of a Vanishing Culture, University of Missouri Press, Columbia, 1977, page 23

[vi] Receipt number 1493 for the amount of $69.63, St. Louis Missouri Credit Receipts, Prior 1-4782, Under 1-499, Cash 1-504  1818-1822, The abstract book for St. Louis, vol. 2.  Top of the page begins with record of February 1819.  Account of monies received from individuals by Samuel Hammond Receiver of Public Monies for the Land District of St. Louis Missouri Territory on account of Lands Purchased or intended to be purchased from the 1st day of February to the 28th inclusive 1819.  Bearer of the cash is Dabney Burnett. On file in the National Archives, Bureau of Land Management, 7450 Boston Boulevard, Springfield, VA 22153.

[vii] Box (Roll) S-2, U. S. Land Sales, Vol. 1, 1818-1827, page 12;Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City, MO  “Abstract of all lands sold at the land office at St. Louis since its establishment and not relinquished to the United States up to & including the 31st Dec 1826 all of which previous to that day had been fully paid for.”

[viii] Cash receipt, Tract Book 1, Northwest Palmyra, Bureau of Land Management-Eastern States, Springfield, Virginia National Archives

[ix] F. Jacob Haun was born in 1791 in Pennsylvania. His father John Haun emigrated to the U.S. aboard the ship Neptune from Germany in 1754. The family moved from Pennsylvania, arriving in Missouri in 1793.  His father purchased 500 Arpens of land from the Spanish in 1802. On August 30, 1817 Jacob Haun married Mary Moody in St. Charles County, Missouri. They had nine children.  Jacob Haun died August 5, 1860 in Boone County where he was buried.


[x] Receipt number 1494 for the amount of $82.40, St. Louis Missouri Credit Receipts, Prior 1-4782, Under 1-499, Cash 1-504  1818-1822, The abstract book for St. Louis, vol. 2.  Top of the page begins with record of February 1819.  Account of monies received from individuals by Samuel Hammond Reciever of Public Monies for the Land District of St. Louis Missouri Territory on account of Lands Purchased or intended to be purchased from the 1st day of February to the 28th inclusive 1819.  Bearer of the cash is Jacob Haun. On file in the National Archives, Bureau of Land Management, 7450 Boston Boulevard, Springfield, VA 22153.

[xi] Duden gravestone in the old Bonn City cemetery.


[xii] Volksblatt für Remscheid und Umgegegend Nr. 93, Nov. 19th, 1856 “Nokrolog” (reprint from Kölnische Zeitung)

[xiii] Goodrich, James, Report, page 279, also Hartwig Prüßmann

[xiv] Goodrich, James Report, page 279

[xv] Hartwig Prüßmann, “Ein remscheider machte Propaganda für auswanderung nach Amerika” Die Heimat Spricht zü Dir, Nr. 5, Mai 1989, also Goodrich, Report, page 279

[xvi] Goodrich, James Report, page 279

[xvii] Goodrich, James, Report page 6 “In my earlier thinking I had become convinced that most of the evils from which the inhabitants of Europe, and particularly those of Germany, suffer are due to overpopulation, and are such that they cannot be effectively be alleviated without first achieving a decrease in population.”

[xviii] Goodrich, James, Report, p 6

[xix] Duden, Gottfried Ueber die wesentlichen Verschiedenheiten der Staaten 1922

[xx] Goodrich, James, Report, page 10 “Finally I shall mention that several years previous to this I have occupied myself consistently with the study of medicine and thought I was sufficiently informed to provide medical care for my own body.”


[xxi]Muench, Friedrich “Toward the History of German Immigragion” Deutsch-Amerikanische Monatshefte, Chicago, Illiniois, Volumn 1, June 1864, pages 483

[xxii] Goodrich, James, Report, page 282 “Because I myself suffer so much from seasickness I shall probably take my second trip to the interior of North America . . . “

[xxiii] Bock, Johann Wilhelm “”Report about the German Society in Warren and St. Charles County, State of Missouri” Neue und Alte Welt, H.A. Rattermann,Editor, Philadelphia,  June 27, 1835, 1st page bottom of the 4th column

[xxiv] Bock

[xxv] Walker, Mack, p 60

[xxvi] Bek, p 134

[xxvii] Bek, p 135

Missouri Germans Consortium


We are a free online International association of everything German in Missouri, for those interested in the German heritage of Missouri. Our mission is to partner with other organizations such as ours, preserve the culture, educate on the history, promote with programs and projects, while providing an open forum for everyone to come together. Are you a Missouri German?  Anyone can be!


We support the Missouri Humanities Council initiative called the German Heritage Corridor of Missouri and other such projects every year who work to keep our German heritage alive!  We applaud the Missouri Humanities Council’s huge endeavor because Missouri is definitely one of the most “German” States in America! Like us on Facebook for up to the minute information

We also partner with several other like minded organizations, universities, museums, and individuals around the world, and across the U.S. and Germany to bring our story alive. Online we share everything from history to current events, provide programming, resources, focus groups, tours and more. With friends in 24 countries, we can provide assistance and partnership in Missouri’s German heritage everywhere.

Anyone can be a Missouri German! For free you can follow our blog and receive our newsletter. Or get involved and join us at any event or program listed in the Consortium’s Events calendar! Like us on Facebook and follow our up to the minute posts 

Follow us on Facebook and if you are a descendant of a member of the Giessen Emigration Society we invite you to  join us on our Focus Group page.  Missouri Germans Consortium has online focus groups, such as the descendants of the Giessen Emigration Society which shares in an online digital research library. By locating descendants of the original 500+ members of the 1834 emigration society, we provided materials and partnership with the Traveling Summer Republic in Germany for their exhibition: Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America, from Giessen, Germany.

We are open 24/7, where the parking is always free and there are no rules or lockers necessary for researchers. Executive Director Dorris Keeven-Franke, can be reached by email at

Emigrants hope for a better future

This grapevine above is growing on a trellis on the island of Harriersand in the Weser River near Bremen. Not where you expect grapevines, but these are very hardy. Like the German emigrants that gathered here as members of the Giessen Emigration Society, in 1834, looking forward to a new life in Missouri, “where the sun of freedom shines”. Their ship, the Olbers had left with one woman ill on board, disease spread like wildfire, nearly killing the entire ship.  The second group was just beginning to gather in Bremen 180 years ago, only to soon learn that the ship that they’d booked, would never arrive. They would spend weeks on the island, some families even taking shelter in the huge old hausbarn on the island. Others pitched tents and some who could afford to, found lodging in the nearby village of Brake.  An emigrant needs all the funds they have saved for that new life.

Unless you have emigrated from one country to another, it is difficult to understand all one faces.  On one level, there is the heated discussions with family and friends, if one’s chosen to share that plan. Some don’t because of this. When the Giessen Emigration Society left Germany, there were close friends very angry with the leaders, Muench and Follenius’ and their decision, labeling them traitors to “the cause”. Some of these same friends would be imprisoned and executed within two years.  Others considered them leaving for an impossible dream, a Utopia.

On another more personal level when one is leaving behind all that one knows, whether good or bad, and giving up all one possesses in the world, it takes a great leap of faith.  One hopes one will find one’s destination everything needed, and hoped for. When one arrives, one often faces discrimination; labeled an illegal emigrant when one isn’t, simply because of a name, one’s  appearance or birthplace.

Others don’t understand how often emigrants make the best U.S. citizens. Why?  Because an immigrant has chosen, worked hard, saved, and has given up everything to be a citizen. Immigrants often know the Declaration of Independence better than a natural born citizen. Why? Because they studied it, believed in it and chose the U.S. because of those words.  Immigrants are very hardy stockholders in a better future for the U.S., because they have already paid a high price to make it their own.

One cannot go back.  America is a melting pot for so many, as nearly all of our families were immigrants once. Once our own ancestors came here with their own dreams pinned with hope for a better future.

Giessen Emigration Society boarding the Medora at Bremen in July 1834
Giessen Emigration Society boarding the Medora at Bremen in July 1834

A German emigrant’s comments on July 4th, 1840

Excerpt from Friedrich Muench’s

Fourth of July Speech given in Washington Missouri in 1840

abbreviated and simplified by R. F. Vieth

   In 1840, Washington, Missouri was only one year old when the United States of America was celebrating its 64th birthday. The young city would celebrate the occasion at its’ own Liberty Hall, known for eagle screaming speeches. Friedrich Muench, who had just arrived six years earlier, was honored when a request was made for his comments, as follows:

“We Germans met a hearty welcome from some of you, but at the same time we heard and still hear a loud and passionate cry against us from a party that proudly call themselves “Natives.” Who, then, are properly and solely the natives of the vast territory now in possession of the United States? The red skinned hunters, who by the arms of the whites have been exiled from the country of their birth and driven to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

But, speaking particularly of my countrymen, what makes those “Nativists” cherish so hostile a feeling toward us? We newcomers, far from endangering the happy state of this country, will bring to it our skillful hands, our money, our talents, and our scientific accomplishments. We also bring the sincere desire to promote by any possible means the welfare and independence of this our adopted country.

Perhaps the “Natives” will object that we differ in customs and language. That is a circumstance harder on ourselves than on you! You are the great majority, and your language is, and forever will be, the language of all public transactions. We are eager to acquaint ourselves and our children with your language, but learning a new language is not easily achieved! That we will do, but what we shall never do is discard entirely the sweet language of our mother country, this sacred inheritance from our German forefathers.”

Continue reading A German emigrant’s comments on July 4th, 1840

January Zeitung

Newsletter for January 2019

When a small book by a German named Gottfried Duden, A Report on a Journey” was published in 1829 it was an instant best seller. In the decade that followed, approximately over forty thousand Germans would immigrate to Missouri, many of which were inspired by Duden. Arnold Krekel, had come to Missouri in 1832, one of the first Germans to encounter a State where the “peculiar institution” of slavery was practiced. He had grown up in a country, ruled by monarchs where there was no room for “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” yet embraced his new homeland. He would spend the rest of his life working for the education, justice, and freedom for all in the land where his mentor Friedrich Muench said “the sun of freedom shines” known as the great State of Missouri.


Missouri Germans Consortium [], in collaboration with Gitana Productions’ will present the “The Face of Love” symposium which will explore and celebrate the remarkable shared history of African Americans and German immigrants in their quest for freedom, and the abolition of slavery in Missouri. With the Symposium on the Common History of German and African Americans, historians, community leaders and artists will come together to discuss the shared African American and Missouri German history on Saturday, February 23 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the German Cultural Society’s Jefferson Hall at 3652 S. Jefferson Avenue. This event is free to the public. Please register at

Germans came to America in the 1800s seeking freedom from oppression in Prussia. Remarkably, many German immigrants in Missouri also fought to free oppressed African Americans. Using the lens of history, the symposium will bring to life what it means to strive for social justice for “others” while also advocating for one’s own cultural group.
The rich and shared history between Germans and African Americans in St. Louis isn’t widely known and we want to change that,” said Cecilia Nadal, executive director of Gitana Productions. “Many German immigrants, who often spoke no English, recognized that the hope for a growing democracy in America could only be realized if slavery was abolished. Often threatened and even run out of town by Missouri slaveholders, these men and women even started newspapers to spread their ideals for a color-blind democracy.
The symposium also will explore the challenges created by contradictions in values and belief systems. While many German immigrants who settled in the Midwest before and after the Civil War staunchly defended freedom for slaves, some chose to set aside those values to survive. Those tensions, with roots in the past, continue today within many American cultural groups. KETC-TV “Living St. Louis” producer and reporter Ruth Ezell will moderate the symposium, with special guests Colonel John Hayden, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Police Commissioner, and Herbert Quelle, German Consul General.

Speakers include:
● Dr. Sydney Norton, assistant professor of German Studies at Saint Louis University and author of German Immigrant Abolitionists: Fighting for a Free Missouri
● Dorris Keeven-Franke, executive director of Missouri Germans Consortium and author of Missouri – Where the Sun of Freedom Shines in “Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America”
● Dr. John W. Wright, author of Discovering African American St. Louis – A Guide to Historic Sites
● Rev. Starsky Wilson, CEO and president of the Deaconess Foundation and social activist appointed in 2014 by Governor Jay Nixon to head the Ferguson Commission

Entertainment will be provided by the local German and African American communities. In June, Gitana Productions also will present a provocative original play inspired by the amazing stories of remarkable German immigrants who became leading abolitionists in Missouri. The performances will be held Thursday, June 20 through Sunday, June 23 at Kranzberg Art Center.

For more information, visit or contact or 314-721-6556. Partial funding and support for Gitana Productions are provided by the Missouri Humanities Council, Kranzberg Arts Foundation, Regional Arts Commission and Missouri Arts Council. Additional co-sponsors include Saint Louis University’s Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures and the African American Studies Program.

Gitana Productions, Inc. is a not-for-profit arts and education organization dedicated to increasing cross-cultural awareness and collaboration using music, dance and drama in the St. Louis region. Gitana events present a rarely seen diversity of international and local artists exhibiting an array of traditional and innovative artistic expressions. Gitana also developed Global Education through the Arts, a community project that uses the arts to promote intercultural competence between youth of diverse backgrounds. For more information, visit or contact Gitana Productions at (314) 721-6556.


Everything German in Missouri

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