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“Followers of Duden: The Lives of Friedrich Muench, Paul Follenius and Frederick Steines,” compiled and edited by Steve Claggett, Washington Historical Society, Washington, MO, 2015. This 282-page paperback is a collection of biographies and letters from three early German settlers near the Missouri River in Warren and Franklin Counties, Missouri. Gottfried Duden was a German who arrived in Missouri near Dutzow in what is now Warren County in 1824. He stayed until 1827 and returned to Germany where he published a report encouraging Germans to settle in Missouri. His report was widely circulated. By 1840, more than 38,000 Germans had settled in the lower Missouri River valley. German immigrants to Missouri are known as "followers of Duden."

Muench, Follenius, and Steins were the leaders of the Geissen Emigration Society which came to Missouri in 1834. They were educated people who were frustrated with conditions in Prussia. They respected the King but they had liberal views that came to a head in the failed German Revolution of 1848. They sought democratic reforms to replace the autocratic system that gave privileges to nobility. They objected to required military service. They felt the king’s tax collectors and officials were abusive to commoners and the middle class. Germany had been part of the Holy Roman Empire and consisted of numerous small units headed by Princes who could vote to elect the ruler. They favored unification of Germany.

The Geissen Emigration Society saw the opportunity to settle in Missouri, enjoy the benefits of democracy, and bring with them the best of Germany. They envisioned creating a German state in Missouri. The book describes the many difficulties they encountered. They found US cities dirty and unhealthy. They preferred the rural life, but found settling raw land hard work. They missed the intellectual discussions and cultural events like music and concerts they were used to. Pianos and even stringed instruments were rare in rural Missouri.

They encountered opposition leaving Germany and passing through Netherlands. They traveled on two ships one through Baltimore and one through New Orleans. Cholera caused significant losses. They found their American neighbors lazy and not interested in developing their property. Instead Americans tried to get by with minimal effort and were eager to sell their land to new immigrants. They objected to slavery and thought slave owners did not take good care of their property. They found that Duden over stated advantages. They found Missouri weather extremes difficult: very hot in summer and very cold in winter. They experiences losses to flooding along the river. They wrote letters advising others to be cautious. But in the end their hard work was rewarded.

This book adds perspective to the difficulties of Germans settling in rural Missouri. Claggett provides excellent footnotes clarifying the text. Photos. Index.
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