If you were a member of the Giessen Emigration Society, you made a difficult decision in 1834. You had chosen to band together, and leave your homeland, your friends, and your families, and leave it all behind. You knew that you may never see your family again. Unwilling to tolerate the conditions in Germany at that time, you wanted to create a new home in a new State in America, a new Germany. You had heard stories and read books about this place where you had the freedoms to raise your family however you wanted. You had the freedom to choose your religion, to choose your occupation, to marry, and to buy land. There was no king, and you elected your own government, and you had a say in it. You had the freedom to say what you wanted without fear. You did not have to serve in the military, defending a king, that just took more and more in taxes until you were destitute.
If you were an emigrant, you were taking a big chance! You had no idea what you would find. Your friends were angry and called you a traitor to the uprisings and revolution. And there were many that did not believe that there could really be such a place, and called you a dream spinner and this place a “Utopia”. But you had a vision, and you shared that vision.
If you were a member of the Giessen Emigration Society, you struggled against cholera, and typhoid that took your family and friends. You faced challenge after challenge to make it to America. You lived with relatives or boarded with friends, saving to buy your own farm. You banded together to found new settlements where you could still speak your German language, and have your German customs and not be “strange or different” and you worked to help others come too! You wrote letters home about how things really were here, you built mills, churches and schools, and best of all you continued to still be German.
You wrote letters home and encouraged more to come, and put them up until they could get on their feet. You started turnvereins, cultural associations and singing societies. You enjoyed your breweries and wineries. You founded organizations and academies for the betterment of science, education, culture and others; or donated to organizations to help other Germans come here to America. You wanted to be the best American you could be, but not forget your German heritage. If you were a member of the Giessen Emigration Society you did all of these things. This is what every emigrant faces as an immigrant.
Descendants of the members of the Giessen Emigration Society came together in an event held on December 13 at the Missouri History Museum’s Library and Research Center, and the Missouri History Museum’s exhibit Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America. Spending the day together, as they listened to Missouri German Consortium’s Director Dorris Keeven-Franke speak on the Legacy of the Giessen Emigration Society, they discovered new found friends and family. Reunions of cousins separated over the time of several generations took place that afternoon! If you are a descendant of a member of the Giessen Emigration Society, use the contact box below to let us know. We also have a facebook group for descendants. Follow Missouri Germans Consortium by E-Mail and get updates of upcoming events and programs of interest. Missouri Germans Consortium will open a digital archives for those members wanting to share. Share this with your family members.