Missouri’s Legacy as Utopia

When the Giessen Emigration Society arrived in Missouri in 1834 nobody much noticed, although it did make the newspapers.  Today, when 500 immigrants show up all at once, it usually all over the news. And the members of this Society, the largest, most organized group of German emigrants to arrive in Missouri, made quite an impact on our State. They were from villages and cities all over Germany, and from all walks of faith; Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Lutheran, Jewish and Free Thinkers. They were intellectual hard working families, brave, determined to make a new homeland here. Those that stayed back, in Germany, mocked them, they were the ones that called the U.S. “Utopia”.

These immigrants worked hard. They established schools, newspapers and churches. They formed social societies not only for singing and dancing, but also for agriculture and viticulture.  And also benevolent societies that helped those that stayed back in Germany, writing letters urging them to come, come soon, and bring their families and friends. And come they did! Between 1834 and 1837, over 30,000 Germans came to Missouri, with 7,000 settling in St. Louis alone.

These families had authors’ like Friedrich Muench, who as “Far West” went on to write books about Missouri for Germans, urging them to emigrate.    Many of these families have descendants in Missouri to this day. Muench also became a Missouri Senator during its’ most difficult time, the Civil War. When the Union troops gathered to save the Arsenal at St. Louis, only 600 of them were NOT German.

Dr. Philip Albert Pulte, the son of a famous physician in Germany, joined the Giessen Society, bringing many Catholic families from the Warstein and Belecke area with him. In 1836, he and fellow German emigrants, including David Goebel (from Coburg), another member of the Giessen Society, formed the Western Academy of Natural Sciences. Pulte died in the cholera epidemic following the Great Flood of 1844, but in the 1850s, the Western Academy was reorganized, and today is world reknown as the St. Louis Science Center.

The Descendants Project is seeking individuals whose families belonged to the Giessen Emigration Society.  They arrived in the U.S. either aboard the Olbers at New Orleans in June 1834 or aboard the Medora that came into Baltimore in July 1834. For a complete list of names, the Members/Descendant page, shows families in Bold that we have information about already. Some of those that we are already in contact with have an asterisk (*) by the name. If you would like to be involved, please consider letting us know. We have already helped families in Germany find their relatives in the U.S., more about that another time.

Missouri History Museum, St. Louis, MO
Missouri History Museum, St. Louis, MO

On November 22, 2014 the exhibit Utopia-Revisiting a German State in America will open at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis, Missouri ( The Missouri History Museum is located at the intersection of Lindell and DeBaliviere on the north side of Forest Park. The Museum’s street address is 5700 Lindell, St. Louis MO, 63112. View MapQuest or Google Maps for additional directions.)stl250_water

On Saturday, December 13, we invite the Descendants of the Giessen Emigration Society to gather once again in St. Louis! If YOU are a descendant, and would like more information, please share your contact information in the box below or email info@giessensociety.org today.

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