Category Archives: Immigration

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

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



Immigrants and Refugees

[This is a re-post of our January 2017 post which was 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. How many ways can we say it – America is a country of immigrants and it is what makes us great!]

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.



“I am in a free country”

Letters sent home to Germany, tell us a story in a way nothing else can. Franz Hillenkamp, came from Warstein with the Giessen Society in 1834. He was 32 years old when he wrote to his dear friend Lorenz Schulte back in Germany in 1843 and said:

“I have never been sorry that I came here, as you have been told so falsely. That thought has not even occurred to me in my wildest dreams, much less in my wakened moments.”I have a good piece of property, no debt, a good wife and 4 blooming children; lots of cattle of any kind, food in abundance, and above all, I am a free and independent man, who is subject to none, except God and the law.”… Our two economies, here and there, are so totally different, that you could not possibly picture it.” … “I am in a free country, you my friend are in an unfree country. Here one may say his opinion freely and openly, but you have to keep quiet, otherwise you could run the danger like thousands of innocent people who have been sentenced and burned at the stake.”

Emigrants choose to make America their home. Not having the good fortune to have been born here, they do not take any of the wonderful liberties of freedom and independence for granted. They suffered many a hardship to call America home, a country where almost all us are immigrants.  Happy 240th Birthday America! May you have many many more.