German Heritage Bus Tour

Join us and our friends with the St. Charles German Heritage Society and the Boone’s Lick Road Association on Sunday, September 17, 2017 for an afternoon of history, wine, and German food! Become a German immigrant who would have joined thousands of other American settlers who followed the Boone’s Lick Road. Spend the afternoon at Blumenhof Winery in Dutzow, enjoy a German dinner and wine (for those over 21) and learn about the German Heritage of Missouri. Bus will return to St Charles through America’s first Viticultural Area passing through Augusta and the former village of Hamburg. Bring a friend and spend the day exploring your German Heritage. Tour leaves St. Charles at 1pm and returns at 5pm. Tour guide is Dorris Keeven-Franke, Director of Missouri Germans Consortium. Reservations must be made in advance, no refunds.

Seats are $40 per person. Purchase your ticket(s) online at Eventbrite or if you need further information contact us with the form below

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Fachwerk

The Main Street of Saint Charles, Missouri is lined with over one hundred and fifty beautiful and unique time capsules of the city’s history, which are more commonly referred to today as “buildings.” Each one is filled with interesting stories, fascinating people, heroic events and shares precious moments in the city’s history. When IMG_3850researching a building there are so many ways to discover its stories!  One begins with the deeds, the chain of titles, usually a list of names and dates of who owned the property when. This creates the basic framework, the skeleton, on which the story builds. Occasionally a deed will give one a glimpse at the story, yet to come to life. Either by sharing a famous name, or describing  the property use, such as a mill or maybe the business such as “Farmer’s Home”, or if really lucky a description of the building itself.

In order for the story to come to life, one has to “flesh out” the skeleton.  Combine those deeds with names and dates, with the people whose lives played out, and the events that happened, such as cyclones, earthquakes and wars. One can begin to see IMG_2257the story “take shape”. And if we then add the newspapers ads, insurance maps, photographs, and more, we can the really understand the property and its’ story begins to build. Add some interesting events like a fire, or a murder and you really put some “guts” in your story. But there is nothing quite like the skin and taking a look up close up and under, to really know a building. Only then can you see why they bought an extra ten feet from their neighbor, or how the addition was done that makes it really look like one building. To see a building with all of its bumps and bruises, and its many attempts at looking young again, can you really begin to know a building.

Recently, when researching some of the buildings on Main Street, some rather startling discoveries were made while using what are called the Sanborn maps.* These maps were made in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century for use by local insurance agents to register with Insurance Brokerage firms, and show the construction of a building. They are color coded to explain whether a building is wood (yellow), brick (pink) or stone (grey). But what about a building that is concealed, or more than one method? Such as the German building technique known as “fachwerk”  sometimes referred to as timber framing. As esteemed historian Charles van Ravenswaay says in The Arts and Architecture of German Settlements in Missouri: A Survey of a Vanishing CultureFachwerk (framework) construction was never absorbed into the American building tradition. It was used only by German immigrants throughout the area…beginning in the 1830s. …The interstices of the half-timer construction are nogged with sun-dried brick.”

Germans began immigrating to Missouri in the 1830s after Gottfried Duden’s Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America was published in 1829 in Germany. Duden would describe a “land of opportunity” with its expanse of available cheap land and the freedoms one had from an oppressive ruler, coupled with the freedoms of speech and religion. They flocked to St. Louis, St. Charles, andIMG_2259 all of the wide open land beyond, establishing settlements called Hamburg, St. Paul and Dutzow. They brought with them traditions, and customs. Building techniques were carried in their memory, unpacked and often used to add to the feeling of being “at home.” Recently there has bee at least three buildings discovered on St. Charles’ Main Street built in part or in whole, in this German method that look like traditional frame buildings on the exterior and marked as such on the Sanborn Maps.

One would suspect more to be found if one knows what one is looking for. As these buildings quite often are covered over with siding, one doesn’t see the “fachwerk” unless in the attic, or a room that has had it exposed for its’ aesthetic beauty. Since St. IMG_2260Charles history dates back to the 1760s when the French Canadian from Quebec Louis Blanchette first “founded and sited” the settlement he called “Les Petite Cotes” or Little Hills, its “time capsules” range for nearly two hundred and fifty years. The Germans  didn’t enter the story until around the 1790s. By the 1850s, St. Charles was like so many other cities in Missouri, both large and small, over fifty percent German born or of German ancestry. It comes as no surprise to discover the building style, but a little sad to acknowledge that like so much of our German heritage, it has faded over time. Our German heritage spans the entire state, not only along the Missouri River valley or the German Heritage Corridor but from the Saxon Lutherans in Perry County to the Westfalians in Cole Camp it fills our state.

Do you know of a building built in the “fachwerk” style?

*The St. Charles Sanborn Maps are available today in digital format thanks to the Digital Library of the University of Missouri at http://dl.mospace.umsystem.edu/mu/islandora/object/mu%3A138975 for the years 1886, 1893, 1900 1909 and 1917.

A Sangerfest

Since they arrived in America, Germans have always continued their love for their customs, bringing all their traditions from the Old World and making

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Neil Heimsoth (photo by Keeven-Franke)

themselves right at home with them here. And a Sängerfest or Singing Festival, whether male, women or mixed, is a tradition that is still very IMG_3507much enjoyed on a summer afternoon every year in June, in Cole Camp Missouri. Thanks to Neil Heimsoth, who is devoted to the preservation of the German language, especially the Plattdüütscher Vereen (Platt Deutsch or Low German)  where he serves as President, he realizes that the Sängerfest is another way to make that happen.

 

So twenty six years ago, Heimsoth invited a few German friends over for a Sängerfest, and it has continued every year since. On June 10th, 2017 the air in Cole Camp was filled with the sounds of the Cole Camp Gemischter Chor, the

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St. Louis Liederkranz is the oldest mixed German singing society west of the Mississippi. (photo Keeven-Franke)

Deutscher Männerächor of St. Louis, the Kansas City Liederkranz, the GAST Sänger from Tulsa, the Cole Camp Damenchor, Cole Camp Männerchor and the Liederkranz Singing Society  of St. Louis. For those of you who need a little help with the German, a Sängerfest is a Singing Festival, a Chor is a chorus, the Männerchor is a mens chorus, the Damenchor is a women’s chorus,  the Gemischter is mixed, as is the Liederkranz as well. The St. Louis Liederkranz is the oldest mixed German singing group west of the Mississippi River and will celebrate its’ 150th Anniversary in 2020.

 

Just prior to the Sängerfest activities a wreath was placed at the beautiful

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Immigrant Memorial dedicated in 2016 to the German ancestors of Cole Camp’s residents. (photo Keeven-Franke)

Immigrant Memorial across the street from the festival, in honor of all of those families who had come from Germany and settled in Cole Camp. Then it was “let the singing begin!” with Wagner’s entrance march Tannhäuser playedAs has become traditional in most German-American events both the German National Anthem Deutschlandlied and the American Star Spangled Banner were sung first.  After a few opening remarks by Herr Neil Heimsoth, the beautiful afternoon continued to be filled with the music the Germans had loved and sung for years. Friends greeted each other, the

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Member of the St. Louis Mannerchor Klemens Wolf visits with friends

 

towns residents stopped by to sit a while and listen, and the whole event was the same as a local church picnic except one thing… the sound of music that filled the air. There were folk songs and traditional songs, classical songs and even a beautiful rendition of Wie gross bist du or ‘How Great Thou Art”.  Topped off by Dankeschön und auf Wiedersehn or “Thank you and Farewell” by all of the groups, and finished with “America the Beautiful” with the entire audience both young and old joining in.

 

The only thing left to do was enjoy some great German food, homemade desserts and beer, wine and schnapps. The Loehnig German Band, which had given us a little sneak peek performance earlier,

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Dancers enjoy the music of the Loehnig German Band from McKittrick MO

 

followed dinner and provided some great dance music to round out the day. There was nothing missing.  It felt like a day like no other and  yet was filled with traditions that were as old as the surrounding hillsides. Those ancestors memorialized across the street had to be smiling down somewhere, and were probably singing right along.

 

All of the groups participating, plus two more from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and another from Kansas City, Missouri, are part of the St. Louis District of the Nord Amerikanischer Sängerbund or North American Singers Association.  For more information, see their website where we learned “It quickly became evident that due to the great distances between cities in the United States, it was nearly  impossible to get the widely-scattered choruses together at one annual Song Festival. As a result, rather than a nationwide association, in 1850, in Philadelphia, the Eastern choruses formed a singers’ union. As a result there were two singing society unions: the Nord-Amerikanischer Sängerbund, in the “West,” and the Allgemeiner Deutscher  Sängerbund von Nordamerika, in the East. At that point a controversy erupted over whether the names used were proper for rival, regional organizations!  The Western societies changed their title to Erster Deutscher Sängerbund von Nordamerika or First German Singers’ Union of North America. The other organization changed to Nordöstlicher Sängerbund von Nordamerika or Northeastern Singers’ Union of North America. Further associations included the New England Singing Association; the New York Choruses founded the New York State Singers Association; the Texans formed the Texas Singing Association; the Northwestern states formed the Singers Association of the Northwest and the Pacific Singers Association covered choruses in the California area. Since then, the various regional singing associations have held their own Song Festivals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

German Heritage Corridor

Beginning in the 1830s, thousands of German immigrants moved to Missouri in several large groups. They were inspired in part by a favorable report of the area by Gottfried Duden of Warren County, and by the resemblance of the Missouri River Valley to the Rhineland. By 1860, Germans comprised more than half of Missouri’s foreign-born residents. They brought their distinctive German culture with them, including wine and beer MO_GHC_logomaking, agriculture, festivals, language, religion, customs, and architecture, leaving an indelible imprint on Missouri and the nation.  While pockets of German settlement developed throughout Missouri, the majority of immigrants settled along the Missouri River. Thus the German Heritage Corridor begun by the Missouri Humanities Council focuses on the counties north and south of the Missouri River, from St. Charles and St. Louis, to Chariton, Saline and Lafayette. Along this corridor, distinctly German communities grew up and still exist today, including New Melle, Hermann, Dutzow, and Westphalia, to name only a few. The German Heritage Corridor connects those communities along scenic byways, showcasing their specific German heritage and creates a corridor designed to increase tourism in the region. The German Heritage Corridor emphasizes the past and present influence of the German heritage in Missouri. ” Missouri Humanities CouncilMHC_AcrossSTL_ad_042617-2 (1).jpg

From Across STL Magazine…

And for more information about the German Heritage Corridor Contact:  Caitlin M. Yager,  Heritage Resources Coordinator  at the Missouri Humanities Council phone 314.781.9660  or email at   caitlin@mohumanities.org (415 South 18th St, Ste. 100 | St. Louis,  MO 63103)
 Or Visit  www.mohumanities.org

If you would like to read more about the Corridor see this issue of the Missouri Humanities Council Magazine http://www.mohumanities.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/2015-Issue.pdf

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German-American Heritage Survey

Missouri Germans Consortium is so excited to share the German-American Heritage Foundation’s recent announcement!  Today President Marc Wheat shared in his President’s message “I am very pleased to announce the appointment of Dorris Keeven-Franke, of St. Charles, Missouri to chair a key program of our 40th Me in blueanniversary year, the German-American Heritage Survey. Through this initiative, historic landmarks, organizations, and other sites of interest to German Americans throughout the United States will be identified as a first step toward preserving this heritage for future generations. Keeven-Franke worked closely with the Missouri Humanities Council beginning in April 2015 on the Missouri German Heritage Corridor, gathering a database of important sites that record the westward settlement of German-speaking Americans. Keeven-Franke will bring those same skills to lead a large team to compile a nationwide survey of all things German across the United States, modeled on the Missouri Humanities German Heritage Corridor designated by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon on July 1, 2016.”

More information and ways to volunteer will be posted at http://www.gahmusa.org/  and https://germanamericanheritagesurvey.com/

 

Missouri’s German Heritage

Missouri is the state where “the Sun of Freedom shines” according to Friedrich Muench, co-founder of the Giessen Emigration Society in 1834. This land was uncharted, fertile, inexpensive and  wide open. young attorney named Gottfried Duden from Remscheid Germany had taken notice of this newly formed State called Missouri just five years earlier.  When he published a small book on the subject in 1829, A Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America he described what some referred to as a veritable Garden of Eden, with rolling hills, wide fertile river valleys and acre upon acre of inexpensive land. Even better, was the land came with all of those American freedoms called Democracy, where one had the right to vote and the ability to pursue the American dream. This book was an instant best-seller! Just the right words at just the right time.  And a new floodgate for German emigrants was opened. Within the decade of the 1830s over 120,000 Germans would emigrate to the United States with over a third of those settling in the State of Missouri, and many coming because of Duden’s book.
“In 2015, Missouri Humanities Council Executive Director Dr. Steve Belko recognized the amount of German heritage that filled the State and began the German Heritage Corridor of Missouri inventory. With Missouri’s General Assembly also recognizing the importance of its’ German heritage, the sixteen counties of Boone, Chariton, Saline, Lafayette, Cooper, Howard, Moniteau, Cole, Callaway, Osage, Gasconade, Warren, Montgomery, Franklin, St. Charles, St. Louis and the City of St. Louis were officially signed into being by Governor Nixon on July 1, 2016 as the German Heritage Corridor. In MO_GHC_logothe Fall/Winter issue of the Missouri Humanities magazine, Belko states “Although the particulars of this story center on Missouri, the Missouri Humanities Council expects national and even transatlantic interest in this project, due to both its scale and the vast percentage of Americans who trace their ancestry to Germany”.

The Corridor’s inventory explores the State’s heritage in five phases: Early Settlement 1819-1848, Revolutionary 1848-1875, Growth and Prosperity 1875-1914, Gilded Age from 1914-1945and Modern which is post 1945. To better understand and interpret these phases in Missouri’s history the project uses five themes to guide it: Environment (which includes the parks and trails), Demographics, Work and Technology, Institutions and Values. According to Belko, all of this combined gives us a much greater picture of the state’s German heritage. From the little village of Dutzow, where they first settled alongside Duden’s Missouri farm, to the huge City of St. Louis, this heritage can still be found today. It is heard at the St. Charles Oktoberfest in the fall and or Hermann’s Maifest in the spring. It is tasted in the wineries near Augusta, which lies in the first such designated American Viticultural Area in the U.S., or inthe breweries in St. Louis. It is also heard in the voices of the Dammenchor as they practice in the German Cultural Society’s hall, or the young children’s voices as they practice their German at the St. Louis German School. Sometimes, we come upon it by surprise when we discover the German settlement of Munichburg inside Jefferson City, our State Capitol. Perhaps we will find it in the St. Paul High school in the City of Concordia … which is on one end of the Corridor, as its history ties it with the Concordia Seminary in St. Louis at the other end.

From one end of our State to another, Missouri’s German heritage encompasses more than just the Corridor, its inventory gathers the stories, the history, the festivals and the places that help us to identify with our German ancestry. Collecting the organizations that still exist, some of which are nearly 200 years old such as the St. Louis Liederkranz, help us to better understand our ancestor’s lives. This German American identity is what sets us apart and makes us proud. We take pride in this heritage and celebrate its history. We want to continue to share and impart these stories so that the next generation and many more after that, can also share in this story and take pride in this heritage. When our ancestors left Germany’s shores, they came packed with all of this. Today, we must take responsibility and see that it is not lost. We must first gather this information and slowly unpack it and share it, then celebrate it, in order that all future generations may then know and appreciate our German American heritage.” 

The German American Heritage Foundation’s Ambassador Magazine

Happy Birthday Gottfried Duden

We are celebrating!  Besides the birthday of Gottfried Duden, Missouri Germans is also excited about two new projects with German heritage color-transparent-55x60partners, the Missouri Immigrant and Refugees Advocates  (MIRA) and the German American Heritage Foundation  (GAHF) in Washington, D.C.. In March, we shared the opening of the MIRA exhibit Missouri Immigrant Experience: Faces and Places when it opened in the Rozier Gallery at the Jefferson Landing State Historic Site in Jefferson City. The exhibit is funded by the Missouri Humanities Council  with recent additions featuring the German Heritage Corridor. Missouri Germans’ Executive Director Dorris Keeven-Franke was curator of additional gahf_logophotographs and texts that explain Missouri’s German heritage. We are now excited to announce that this wonderful Missouri based exhibit will open at GAHF’s museum on June 1st in Washington, D.C.. Their museum is located in Hockemeyer Hall, located on 6th Street NW in the heart of the old European-American section of Washington, D.C..

Other exciting news we would like to share is the German American Heritage Foundation’s new Heritage Survey which was announced in their recent April Newsletter. “We are pressing onward with our efforts to conduct a nation-wide German-American Heritage Survey, which will help us in our work with local partners to create heritage routes connecting sites important to the American story of German-speaking settlement and migration.  Our friends in Europe are interested in promoting these heritage routes as part of a broader picture of emigration routes from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and German-speaking minority areas throughout Europe.  Join in our efforts to make certain that sites important to you are nominated for the German-American Heritage Survey!” GAHF was impressed and inspired by the Missouri Humanities Council recent Missouri Humanities Council logoGerman Heritage Corridor which surveyed hundred of sites which represent the German Heritage of Missouri. Missouri German’s Director Dorris Keeven-Franke also collaborated on that project as well, and will work with the staff of GAHF on their project as well” announced their President Mark Wheat in their May Newsletter.

Missouri’s German heritage began in the 1820s when a German attorney named Gottfried Duden visited the three-year-old State called Missouri, for three years. In 1829, Duden published A Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America, which described his recent stay here. The small book was a huge success, being just the right words at just the right time for many Germans. What followed was a flood of immigration that began in the 1830s with over 120,000 Germans coming to America in that decade. What was even more amazing was that of those thousands of immigrants, over a third of those immigrants, approximately 40,000 Germans, settled in Missouri. Because of Duden’s writing those Germans filled the state especially the Missouri River valley, today’s German Heritage Corridor. Those 16 Counties and the City of St. Louis saw immigrants arrive and settle in the cities and towns of Saint Charles, Washington, Hermann, Concordia, and even Jefferson City and Arrow Rock. Read more on Gottfried Duden

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Pink is German. Russell Gerlach,  Settlement Patterns in Missouri, University of MO, 1986

 

Immigrants and Refugees

[This is a re-post of our May 2, 2014 post that we felt has become even more relative today and needed to be said again. America’s strength is in its’ diversity.]

This grapevine is growing on a trellis on the island of Harriersand in the Weser River near Bremen, Germany. Not where you expect grapevines, but these are very hardy, and from Missouri, just like the German Utopischer Weinanbau - Harriersandemigrants that gathered there 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, and  her 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.

Monika’s Blues

On the Trail of the German Harmonica and African-American Blues Culture

A new book out by writer Herbert Quelle is now available on Amazon. Walter, a 70-year old herbert-with-bookGerman-American retired teacher, travels from his hometown in Chicago to the Mississippi Delta. On the way he befriends an African-American family who shares his interest in the importance of the harmonica in Blues music. Walter’s conversations with them and his frequent inner-monologues communicate facts and figures about the history of the instrument, the Blues and exemplary Blues harmonica players. These are interwoven with historical events relevant to the struggle for freedom by African Americans everywhere.

Quelle:  After 2 1/2 years of preparation (researching, writing, editing with peers, searching for a publisher) my book is finally on the US market. Missouri Germans wants to let you know about this new book, and that it is now available for purchase on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1880788276/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1485287836&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=Monica%27s+Blues+Quelle

 

Utopia – and the Power of Partnership

During the summer of 2009, I received an unusual email from Peter Roloff asking “if there was anything left of the Germans in Missouri?”  Not knowing Herr Roloff, I thought the question strange, wondering where on earth was this person that they would ask such a question.  Roloff was in Berlin, Germany and was head of the Traveling Sommer-Republik, a group of Germans interested specifically in the Giessen Emigration Society. I answered his email immediately with “of course! Missouri is very German!”.

The TSR had come together, after a question from Roloff’s close friend and script writer, Henry Schneider, asking him if he was aware of a group of over five-hundred Germans called the Giessen Emigration Society who had fled Germany in 1834. There had been summer

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meetings in Bremen of Germans focused on the GES since 2004. Back in 1833, an emigration society had been formed by two young Germans, Paul Follenius (brother of Karl Follen) and Friedrich Muench, best friends, brother-in-laws, and former students at the University of Giessen. After reading Gottfried Duden’s Report on Missouri in 1829, and several years of youthful energy and involvement in the failed Revolution of 1832 Follenius had agreed to join his friend Muench if their project could be “done on a grand scale” so that many could benefit.

When founders Muench and Follenius published A Call for an Emigration at Large hoping to convince a few of their youthful friends to join them in September of 1833, they were amazed when thousands from all walks of life, and religions, wanted to join them. Plans began in earnest, the rules and Statutes were established and the lives, and the lives of their descendants, would be changed forever. Murphy’s Law establishes that everything does not always go as planned, and this group was certainly no exception. Their story as emigrants is dramatic and inspirational, as an example of what emigrants from Germany to the U.S. experienced in the 19th Century. It is the power of over 500 Germans who came together with one dream. The Germans that would remain behind, as their descendants today will explain, described the group as going to “their Utopia.” A fact that many Americans today have forgotten, is that America would ever even be considered such a place.

The TSR’s own adventure began that summer with their own visit to Missouri that they called “A Trip to a Forgotten Utopia” that was filmed for their fellow researchers A Trip to A Forgotten Utopia(writers, artists, screen writers, photographers) back home. When the film was released at the next gathering of the TSR in 2010 I was invited to join them in Bremen. I was amazed to find myself in a film of my own back yard, explaining history of Missouri, to hundreds of Germans who were extremely interested, knowledgeable and aware of the story!  In the days that followed our conversations led to a discussion to doing more collaborations. In 2011, the TSR would return to Missouri and with the Missouri Germans Consortium, would share the story and generate even more interest in the collaborative project..

The discussions, and back and forth and subsequent visits, led to a decision to produce a collaborative book, in both English and German, that was about the GES, by writers and scholars who had studied the group and the subject. Then, Roloff secured funding for the

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Utopia: November 1, 2013 – April 19, 2015

project from Germany!  This led to the exhibit Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America being produced and touring across Germany. Friends in the U.S. at the German-American Heritage Museum in Washington, D.C. and the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis Missouri wanted to bring the film, book, and exhibit to America, and the collaborative cooperation between Germany and the U.S. continued. The entire project was successful, as it toured, bringing the subject of German emigration to the U.S. and using the Giessen Emigration Society as an example, to nearly 100,000 people across both countries.

This story reminds us that we were all most likely, once an emigrant. To flee one’s country, the only home one has known, and to leave one’s family, friends and treasures behind, is not a decision made lightly. To place faith and hope in a dream that they will find refuge in a safe haven for one’s family is all one dares to wish for. My favorite quote, by Winston Churchill is “The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” speaks to this issue. As I look back today on the close of Utopia, just one year ago in America, I see a Germany experiencing a similar situation to what Missouri and the U.S. did in the 19th Century, as millions of refugees seek a safe haven.

The pride that we Americans feel in being considered a Utopia when we hear the story of the Giessen Emigraton Society, is the same pride that the thousands of Germans welcoming refugees today feel, and one day thousands of their children will feel. They will be descendants of those today in Germany that are “stepping up to the plate” as we Americans call it, to “do the right thing”. The entire world watches, and hopes and dreams for peace. A lasting peace that will allow those who have fled to return to their homeland safely.

America no longer has the open door that allowed the Giessen Emigration Society and millions of more emigrants to come in the 19th Century. But I believe that the American spirit that makes us want to help our fellow man is still alive. Hopefully, while some choose to help those here at home, some will recall their ancestors and their struggle. German is still the largest ethnic group in America, and if they can look back, then the vision going forward could really be a brighter one for millions of refugees. While an emigrant chooses a destination and is hoping to make a new home, a refugee flees for many of the same reasons, only with hopes to return home someday. I believe that the human spirit  and desire to help, no matter what one’s race or religion, remains alive in people of all countries. The Utopia exhibition is an example of what can happen when a few people work together in a collaboration, just imagine what the world would be like today if entire countries could work together in a partnership like this.

German Heritage Corridor of Missouri

We were so pleased to hear that Gov. Nixon signed the German Heritage Corridor into law on July 1, 2016. Congratulations to the Missouri Humanities Council!

The Missouri Humanities Council is implementing a heritage tourism initiative highlighting Missouri Humanities Council logoMissouri’s German culture and history along the Missouri River. Beginning in the 1830s, thousands of German immigrants moved to Missouri in several large groups. They were inspired in part by a favorable report of the area by Gottfried Duden of Warren County, and by the resemblance of the MissouriMO_GHC_logo_concepts-2 River Valley to the Rhineland. By 1860, Germans comprised more than half of Missouri’s foreign-born residents. They brought their distinctive German culture with them, including wine and beer making, agriculture, festivals, language, religion, customs, and architecture, leaving an indelible imprint on Missouri and the nation.

While pockets of German settlement developed throughout Missouri, the majority of immigrants settled along the Missouri River. Thus the German Heritage Corridor will focus on 16 counties north and south of the Missouri River, from St. Charles and St. Louis, to Chariton and Saline. Along this corridor, distinctly German communities grew up and still exist today, including New Melle, Hermann, Dutzow, and Westphalia, to name only a few. This project will connect these communities along scenic byways, showcasing their specific German heritage and creating a corridor designed to increase tourism in the region.

We urge you to contact them today and share your story!  Missouri Humanities Council

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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

Scott Ruffner

An update on the Memorial plans here in Missouri…

It is with great sadness that the family of Scott Daniel Ruffner, of Bangor, ME and rural Hermann, MO, notes the sudden passing of their dear son, brother, uncle, brother-in-law, and nephew on May 29, 2017, at the age of 66.

Born in Columbia, MO on November 5th, 1950,Scott was the son of Wallace C. Ruffner (deceased) and Mrs. Leora M. Buschmann Ruffner Scheer, who survives at her home in Hermann, and the stepson of Alfred J. Scheer (deceased).

He is also survived by one brother Robert, a sister Christine Ruffner, and nephew Bernard Bingham all of Columbia, MO; a sister Martha (Scheer) Melsha, brother-in-law Jeffrey Melsha, nephew Jacob Melsha, and niece Olivia Melsha all of Kirkwood, MO. Also surviving is his best friend and partnerChristiane Duespohl of Freiburg, Germany;and an aunt, Mrs. Doris Meyer of Linn Creek, MO, and many relatives and friends.

Scott was very generous, kind, helpful,and adventurous, with a positive outlook and keensense of humor. He made many trips to visit friends and relatives in Europe, especially Germany.His engaging personality and many interests resulted in many friendships near and far.

He began his education in a rural one-room schoolhouse near Bay. He graduated from Hermann High School and received a BA degree in German language from the University of MO-Columbia and spoke German fluently. During his school years, he participated in many activities and sports.

Scott began farmingat 15 and continued for many years before moving to Maine, returning seasonally to his farm.As a young man, he also briefly worked with the National Park Service.

He was proud to have helped his elderly grandparents as well as helping other elderly neighbors.  He was interested in the ancestry and history of these local families and recorded and shared many of the local stories and lore.

Throughout his life, Scott was interested in many topics, including history, genealogy, poetry, music, art, current events, and the German migration to the Hermann area, just to name a few.  He loved nature and all it offered.

He moved to Maine in 1982 and worked as a real estate broker, where he helped many loyal customers, many of whom became good friends. Maine was a great place for his adventurous and energetic spirit, allowing him to pursue many outdoor activities, especially sailing in the Penobscot Bay and other areas.

Scott’s concerns about peace, justice, social, and environmental causes started while in high school and continued throughout his life.  While in Maine, he was very active in politics at local, state, and national levels, working with Democratic and other organizations to promote fair and just policies to help those in need.

While in MO, Scott enjoyed many visitswith hismother, family and friends.He lovedmusic, andattendingconcerts, especially those of his niece and nephew.  He also frequently attended various local historical meetings. He wascurrently renovating his historic Bay Mercantile store building for useas a museum about the local history of the Bay area, a project that continues.

Scott will be missed by many. He will long be remembered for his friendship, many kindnesses, honesty, generosity, andenthusiastic good-natured spirit.

A memorial celebration of Scott’s life will be held on Sunday, August 13, 2017, 3:00, at Hermann Hill Village, east of downtown Hermann.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations in Scott’s memory to the Ruffner family to support their efforts to fulfill Scott’s dream of restoring the historic Bay Mercantile store building(to Robert Ruffner, c/o Mrs. Leora M. Scheer, 2331 Hwy 100, Hermann, MO 65041).

 

 

Nachruf/Obituary Scott Ruffner

Scott Daniel Ruffner (11/5/1950 – 5/29/2017), of Bangor, Maine, and Hermann (Bay) Missouri –

It is with great sadness that Scott Ruffner’s family and friends share the news that Scott died unexpectedly from a heart-related condition, on May 29, 2017, in Missouri. Scott was an energetic and passionate person, and had a unique joie de vivre, with an infectious laugh and a humorous sense of the absurd. He loved to bring people together to discuss national, state, and local politics; his family and farm in Missouri, German wines, and his various projects.

Scott traveled regularly to Germany to spend time with his best friend and partner Christiane Duespohl, of Freiburg, and she regularly traveled to Bangor and Missouri as well. He lived and worked on the family farm near the small town of Bay for many years, and along with his brother Robert, began working the farm at age 15. Over the past year, he was also excited about his plans to host a large total solar eclipse party for his friends and family in Missouri, in August.

Scott received a BA degree in German from the University of Missouri (Columbia), and he spoke German fluently.  He moved to Maine in 1983 with his former long-term partner, Naomi Jacobs of Bangor, and began to sell real estate about 10 years later. He was an avid sailor, and an active member of the Penobscot Cruising Club. He loved to invite friends to join him in sailing from the Hampden Marina to Belfast and the Penobscot Bay.

Scott was involved in many groups and causes, ranging from Maine Veterans for Peace and the Peace and Justice Center in Bangor, to the local Democratic Party in Penobscot County,and was a member of the Maine Democratic State Committee for many years. He was also a delegate at the 2008 National Democratic Convention, and worked hard in the recent Maine efforts to implement rank choice voting. Scott’s friend Par Kettis describes him: “He had the great combination of being aware of the political problems of our time and wanting to discuss them, also having ideas about how to solve the problems, and was finally prepared to do something active about it. Scott was much admired and liked by many people. We will long remember his kindness, honesty, concern for all people, especially those less privileged; and his preparedness to stand up for what he believed in.”

Scott also loved music and poetry, and the German language. He did extensive research on the local history of Hermann, Missouri, and the German migration to Hermann in the 1800’s. It was his dream to establish a museum on Hermann’s and Bay’s local heritage in the former Bay post office and store building, which he bought for this purpose, and he hoped to recruit both people and funding to make this a reality.

He is survived by his mother, Leora Ruffner Scheer; brother, Robert Ruffner; sisters Christine Ruffner and Martha Melsha (nee Scheer); brother-in-law Jeffrey Melsha; nephews Bernard Bingham and Jacob Melsha, and niece Olivia Melsha; and his beloved long-term partner of several years, Christiane Duespohl of Freiburg, Germany. He was predeceased by his father, Wallace C. Ruffner, and stepfather Alfred Scheer.

In addition to a family service in Missouri in August and a service in Freiburg, Germany, there will be a local service and celebration of Scott’s life on Sunday, July 23rd, at the Sea Dog in Bangor, at 2:00 p.m., followed by a reception. In lieu of flowers, please send donations in his memory to Veterans for Peace 003, Jim Harney Chapter or to the Ruffner family, to support their efforts to fulfill Scott’s dream of restoring the historic Bay store building (donation checks made out to Robert Ruffner, and sent to Robert Ruffner, c/o Mrs. Leora M. Scheer. 2331 Hwy 100, Hermann, MO 65041.

Bay General Store
Library of Congress photo
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Missouri Germans Consortium

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