One hundred eighty years ago today, March 31, 1834,
a ship named the Olbers, left Bremen, for the port of New Orleans, with a group of over two hundred Germans, with the intention of creating a German state in America. Two advance agents had been sent to the U.S., to locate a suitable site for settlement in the Territory of Arkansas. They had just arrived back in Germany, only in time to inform Paul Follenius and his group, before their departing, that they should change their plans. Thinking of Gottfried Duden and his book Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America, a change was made, and Follenius sent word to his friend, partner and co-founder of the Giessen Emigration Society, Friedrich Muench in Niedergemünden, to “meet me in St. Louis” Missouri.
A Deadly experience
Olbers passenger, C. Neyfeld, told of sickness and death in his report, which appeared in the Aschaffenburger Zeitiung on December 24, 1834, “while still near the French coast a kind of smallpox, called variola, appeared on a wench. The sick person was taken out of the steerage area and put into a boat, but she died after three days; however the substance of the sickness had remained behind and had spread so quickly that by April 9 over thirty people had been afflicted with the smallpox. At this point the fear had become widespread, though not due to the sickness itself…rather the stationary quarantine in New Orleans… Every day one or two people died (even Mr. Follenius’s little son) and were wrapped in canvas, weighed down with bricks, and sank into the depths of the sea. It does not end there: in the Gulf of Mexico the Olbers was signaled by approaching ships which had spread cholera in New Orleans and north along the Mississippi.”
The groups dreams, plans and goals for their new State had been spelled out in the Call and Declaration on the subject of mass emigration from Germany to the North American free states.
Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America: the book now available in the U.S. through the University of Chicago Press.