Last night at beautiful Blumenhof Winery, on a warm summer evening in Dutzow, a group came together for the most unique “family reunion” ever held. Their family history all had one thing in common, they were a descendent of one of the 500 German immigrants that arrived on either of the ships the Olbers or the Medora in the summer of 1834, known as the Giessen Emigration Society. The story of the members of the Giessen Emigration Society is similar to thousands who arrived in Missouri in the 1830s through 1850s, and made it a very “German State in America”. The subject of the traveling exhibition funded in Germany through the City of Giessen and the German Ministry of Culture, Missouri History Museum and many others, Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America opened in Giessen Germany on November 1, 2013 and closed at St. Louis’ Missouri History Museum in April of 2015. Over 60,000 people would visit the exhibit, and reconnect with their own family history.
As the families clustered, they met new family members for the first time, hearing stories of their grandma and learning nicknames for her they had never known, from people who had known her personally. Photos of cemeteries that held the Muench family in Dutzow and the Molitor cemetery in St. Paul, both undergoing restoration by many family members, were shared. Emails were shared with new found “family” with promises to keep in touch. Sad moments for those who had recently lost close family members, who had planned to attend and who had recently passed, were shared with a moment to remember. There were even some who had attended the last Reunion, held at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis back in December of 2014 and in April of 2015, proudly wearing their Descendants pin! Talk began of gathering together again, even though this Reunion had been postponed from last year because of the pandemic.
Families are now spread across the country and even around the world. Members of the Giessen Emigration Society are now third, fourth and fifth great grandparents, and have only recently discovered this forgotten family history. Historian and writer Rolf A. Schmidt in Germany has captured the story in a series of three novellas Auswandererlied now available in English thanks to the Missouri Humanities Council, AAA Translation and translator Petra Haynes. Calls of “Auf wedersehen” or “until we meet again” were heard as we departed for homes both near and far away.