Arnold Krekel, German Abolitionist

On January 11, 1865, Arnold Krekel, serving as the elected President of the Missouri Constitutional Convention signed Missouri’s Emancipation Proclamation thereby ending the enslavement of all African Americans in Missouri. The Krekel family were part of the huge wave of German immigrants that came in the 1830s. Their journey was a difficult one. They were among the thousands of Germans who understood the importance for the State of Missouri, the place they said “Where the sun of Freedom Shines” and worked to make it so for everyone.

Arnold Krekel’s brother Nicholas recalled the journey “In the fall of the year 1832 we sailed from Bremen. It took about three months, we landed at New York, went up the Hudson River to Albany, and from Albany to Erie by canal. Intending to go to Cleveland Ohio from there and to Missouri. On arriving at Erie, there was so much ice in the lake that we could not make the trip, so we went overland to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, a distance of 160 miles. Mother, my sister Katherine (11 years), myself (Nicholas Krekel) rode in the wagon. Father, my three oldest brothers, Godfred [sic], Arnold and Frank walked. On this overland trip my mother took cold which continued to get worse when coming down the Ohio River, so we landed at Louisville, Kentucky to get medical assistance and religious consolation. She died there on December 14, 1832 and was also buried there. Three years later Arnold went there to find his mother’s grave but the city had been built beyond it. The voyage across the Ocean took 9 weeks, the overland trip from Erie to Pittsburgh took about 3 weeks. After her burial we continued our way to St. Louis. On arriving there we put up at the William Tell house on Main Street, a two-story stone building.” 


Arnold Krekel was born in the small village of Berghausen, by Langenfeld in the Rhineland “near Cologne on the Rhine” and was seventeen years old when he made the journey. Born on March 12, 1815 to Franz Leonard Krekel (1783-1862) and Maria Catherine Schumacher (1779-1832), he was their second son in a family with nine children. His family would settle in the far southwestern tip of St. Charles County near Dutzow, a small German village in Warren County, where Gottfried Duden had lived. Duden was a friend of Arnold’s father and had authored A Report on a Journey to the Western States of North

Gottferied Duden
A Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America

America in 1829, inspiring thousands of Germans to immigrate to the U.S.


There his father purchased U.S. Congress land from the government, and purchased a house built by a previous squatter. While his oldest brother Gottfried, a farmer, purchased adjoining land, Arnold was turning eighteen and would strike out in new directions and make changes in the world. He would first attend the St. Charles College in the old city of St. Charles, fifty miles away, where he would meet the Americans. This was a school filled with the “old families” wealthy with property and slaves. There his connections with society began, as he studied law. Familiar with the process of surveying, he also grew his network of those actively involved in the growing city.

His religious views took him in another direction as well, as a member and one of the original 36 members of the Friends of Religious Enlightenment in 1838. The 29-year-old man was a member of the Association of Rational Christians, or Frei Denkers (Free Thinkers) in 1845 when Friedrich Muench performed his marriage to 28-year-old German born Ida Krug. Her father, was a wealthy physician in the Dutzow community, who had come with the huge Giessen Emigration Society back in 1834. They began married life in St. Charles where Arnold had already taken an active role. He had been elected a Justice of the Peace in 1841, and as a surveyor, and lawyer, he was involved in property deals all over the area. After his friend William Eckert died in 1845, former Secretary of State William Pettus had hired him to survey Eckart’s land. Eckert was the son-in-law of Francis Smith, whose estate Krekel would purchase 320 acres of land from ten years later.


Arnold’s law career began in St. Charles after being admitted to the Bar in 1845. As the City’s attorney and prosecuting attorney this brought him into close connection with the City’s rapidly expanding and prominent population.  In 1852, Krekel is a rising star, as he wins the race for a seat in Missouri’s House of Representatives, the first German to be elected to Missouri’s House.  He had run a campaign using his newly created newspaper, Der Demokrat, which was the first German newspaper in St. Charles County. While Krekel’s business associates were wide, he was still very proud of his German heritage and his closest friends, like Friedrich Muench and Emil Pretorius were examples. In 1853, he attended the North Missouri Railroad Convention in St. Charles, where St. Louis businessman and philanthropist John O’Fallon was also in attendance. On August 6, 1856, he surveyed and laid out a plat of a town on the 320 acres he had purchased from Smith, calling it “O’Fallon” hoping that the North Missouri Railroad would create a station. The need for wood and water at certain distances were necessary for the engines. And the U.S. Postal Service had announced that station stops would also be the locations for Post Offices.

Arnold established his younger brother, Nicholas, as the first resident of this new town of O’Fallon, with a house and property of his own.  Nicholas served as the town’s founder, Postmaster and the Station Agent for the railroad all the while running his own mercantile. Nicholas would later oversee the Public sale of the lots in O’Fallon, on July 22, 1870. It was the intention of Nicholas and his wife Wilhemina (nee Moritz) to see the Catholic Church established in O’Fallon. Arnold was busy elsewhere as he had been nominated for the office of Missouri’s Attorney General in 1856.


As the state headed for the crisis over slavery, Krekel the abolitionist was a radical voice and leader among the Germans. The U.S. Slave Schedule shows him to have one thirty-

1860 U.S. Slave Schedules for St. Charles County, Missouri

year old male mulatto living in the household in 1860, but he was not alone in this regard, as there were several German families in St. Louis, St. Charles, Warren and Franklin Counties that also owned or rented their servants as well. Most were of the belief, that until the practice of slavery was abolished, they could provide a much better living environment for the African-Americans than they would encounter in the south.  He attended the Republican National Convention in May of 1860 with his friend Muench, where Germans were the only foreign born were in attendance. This gave the nomination to Abraham Lincoln for President. Up until that time, Krekel like many other German immigrants, were Benton Democrats in their politics, but the parties had shifted with the issues of immigration and slavery. In 1861, Krekel was appointed Provost Marshall for St. Charles, Warren and Lincoln counties. Provost Marshalls were established only where the local government was either failing to or refusing to meet the needs of the local citizens. Things were in turmoil and one of the most striking acts was when members of the Board of Directors of the same college where Arnold had been a student, and studied law, the St. Charles College, refused to take an Oath of Allegiance. Krekel threw out the entire board and turned the school into a hospital – for Union Troops in December of 1862.

Krekel was serving as a Colonel in the Enrolled Military Militia. His troops’ career is storied with unfortunate events that are best explained in the annals of a war that rocked the country. His Home Guards, was where his involvement brought Germans into action at the Camp Jackson affair in April of 1861. The Union soldiers managed to secure the Arsenal and rifles that could have fallen into southern hands.  His troops were next called into action as Federal troops in July 1861, and while away in maneuvers in western Missouri, Krekel’s troops were accused of marauding Confederate sympathizers’ homes. Back in St. Charles County, his troops were placed in charge of guarding the crucial Peruque Creek bridge, just west of O’Fallon, which enabled vital rail transport.

An Ordinance Abolishing Slavery in Missouri

Arnold’s younger brother Nicholas, who had served in the Mexican War, was a Captain in the Home Guards, back in O’Fallon.

In 1862, Arnold served as Vice President of the State’s Radical Emancipation Convention. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 did not cover Missouri because it was a “slave state” and one of three that did not secede from the Union.

When the Civil War began, Missouri’s plans for gradual emancipation infuriated the Radical Republicans, who wanted slavery abolished immediately. They took their grievances to Lincoln, who refused to take sides in Missouri’s politics, which infuriated them even more. Provisional Governor Gamble offered to resign, but the First Constitutional Convention would not accept it. Gamble died in office on 31 January 1864. Missouri’s radicals arranged for elections and for a new Constitutional Convention in November 1864, where they elected Thomas C. Fletcher Missouri governor.

Constitutional Convention of 1864

Arnold Krekel, a Democrat, was elected President of the new Constitutional Convention that convened in the Mercantile Library in St. Louis on January 6, 1865. On January 11, 1865 the convention, by a 60 to 4 vote, abolished slavery in the state with no compensation for slave owners. A month later the convention also adopted the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution to abolish slavery throughout the U.S..

On March 31, 1865, shortly before his assassination President Lincoln appointed Arnold Krekel as Federal Judge for the Western District of Missouri. On September 17, 1866, Arnold who was long a proponent for public education, would help establish Lincoln University, Missouri’s first African-American college. For more than ten years, Krekel and his family lived in Jefferson City where he would lecture at the University for free. He was a member of the Board of Directors, and elected President of the Board in 1883. From 1872 until 1887, he also taught at the newly established School of Law at the University of Missouri, in nearby Columbia. He served as a Federal Judge for 23 years, and only retire when his health began to fail.

The family would continue to live in Jefferson City for many years. There his wife Ida,

Arnold Krekel’s home is Cliff Manor Inn Bed & Breakfast today, at 722 Cliff Street, Jefferson City, Missouri

mother of his six children, Laura, Alfred, Franklin, Hilma, Alma and Walter, passed away in 1870. They had lost two sons as young children, Walter when he was two, and Franklin at age 6. By 1880 he had gone to live with his oldest daughter, Laura, who had married Louis Schmidt, still in Jefferson City.  In November, Arnold at age 65, remarried to Mattie Perry of Kansas City.  Early in 1888 Krekel resigned his Judgeship because of illness, and he and his wife had moved to Kansas City. In July of 1888, Arnold Krekel passed away from Bright’s Disease, a kidney ailment, in Kansas City. His body was brought home to Saint Charles by his brother Nicholas and was laid to rest in the City’s Oak Grove Cemetery. A German emigrant’s amazing career was memorialized by his close friend Emil Preetorious as many mourned his loss.

Sources for this post are Krekel family papers, Dictionary of Missouri Biography and Crossroads by Steve Ehlmann.

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.

Face of Love

Face of Love: Symposium on the Common History of German and African Americans in Missouri is on February 23, 2019 and will include three components: a) educational, b) cross-cultural engagement and 3) an arts component.

Location: German Cultural Society of St. Louis Hall, 3652 Jefferson Avenue, St. Louis, 63118

Time: 2:00 – 5:00 p.m.

The educational program will be delivered by historians and will focus on the significant role of German abolitionists in Missouri and their contributions to the African American community. The historians will be joined by community leaders on the panel who will connect history to the present offering perspectives on where we are today and what is needed.

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.

General Purpose and Goals
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.

Register at Eventbrite



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.”

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