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“German Settlement in Missouri: New Land, Old Ways,” by Robyn Burnett and Ken Luebbering, University of Missouri Press, Columbia, MO, 1996. This 116 p paperback is part of the Missouri Heritage Reader series, intended for new adult readers, presumably for English as a second language training. As such, German Settlement provides 27 articles, most four to six pages in length, which survey the subject quite well. Most articles are illustrated with black and white photographs from archive collections. The book is indexed, and contains a three page annotated list for additional reading, but no references.

The first chapter introduces the subject providing a map of Missouri showing German settlements. Some are spread throughout the state but most are concentrated along the Missouri River from St. Louis about 200 miles westward or on a 100-mile stretch of the Mississippi River south of St. Louis. A map of Prussia follows summarizing where the German immigrants came from, but the reasons given, “economic hardship and political turmoil . . . attracted by stories of cheap land, available jobs, low taxes, and political freedom” seem a bit thin. Rigid inheritance laws (the laws of primogenitor–giving all property to the oldest son) and compulsory military service, the reasons most often cited, are not even mentioned.

German immigrants to Missouri are often called “followers of Duden.” Godfried Duden was a Prussian lawyer who settled in rural Warren Co., MO, 50 miles west of St. Louis, in 1824. He was able to hire others to farm his land while he spent most of his time traveling and writing. He returned to Germany in 1827, and published a report singing the virtues of settling in Missouri in 1829. Apparently numerous similar reports were also being published, but Duden's was especially well known. The result was a flood of German immigrants beginning in the 1830s.

Chapters describe the difficulty of the Atlantic voyage and then the long trip across the US to Missouri. Transportation from eastern seaports to Missouri did not become easy until the arrival of railroads in about 1850. The Erie Canal (1823) and steamboats on the Ohio-Mississippi Rivers (1817) helped, but the trip remained difficult for years. By the 1840s, New Orleans was the preferred entry port for transit to Missouri.

The impact on St. Louis was dramatic. Before 1820, there were few Germans in St. Louis. In 1834, one writer reported 18 German families and a few unmarried Germans among its 7000 residents. In 1835, “every steamboat that arrives at our wharves is crowded with passengers.” In the 1840s, “Germans . . . own one third of St. Louis.”

German communities were formed in many varieties. There were various farm communities, some like Hermann sponsored by German groups in the East (The German Settlement Society of Philadelphia). Some were formed as idealistic communes by professional men with little farming experience. In the book, they are termed “Latin Farmers.” Dutzow in Warren Co., was one that failed. Some were formed as religious communities. Most were either Catholic or protestant. The German Catholics were somewhat unique in that the Catholic Church was already well established in Missouri by the French. One chapter describes the German Catholics of Osage County. In 1838, the bishop in St. Louis assigned them a Belgian missionary as priest. After a dispute with one Dr. Bernhard Bruns resulted in a court suit, the priest left. German Baptist (dunkard) communities included Rockingham in Ray Co., Lowry City in St. Clair Co., Freistatt in Lawrence Co., White Church in Howell Co., and Martinsburg in Montgomery Co. A chapter describes formation of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod in three pages plus pictures but in meager detail compared to what is published.

The Know Nothings caused the Germans some difficulty. They were one of the first anti-immigrant groups. They favored native born Americans and rejected all poor and Catholics. In 1836, a mob threatened a German language newspaper. In 1852 riots broke out in St. Louis between the Know Nothings and German-Americans over a mayoral election. One person was killed and a German tavern was burned. Germans who arrived after the 1848 revolution in Germany were known as Forty Eighters. Carl Schurz, one of their leaders, was a St. Louis journalist. He led hundreds of thousands of Germans across the US to vote Republican in 1860, opposing slavery, and thereby electing Abraham Lincoln. Later he was elected Senator from Missouri.

The story continues with a summary of German efforts for both sides in the Civil War. Germans were key supporters of the Union who helped keep Missouri in the Union. It was the German Home Guard that marched on Camp Jackson in St. Louis and prevented the capture of the US Arsenal in St. Louis by Southern sympathizers as the Missouri State Guard.

The German community in St. Louis grew large. In 1905, a ten-day festival included a parade of eight thousand marching through streets decorated with German and American flags. A crowd of thirty thousand gathered at a park to listen to music, singing, poems, and speeches in German and English. At the turn of the century, “many people saw St. Louis as a kind of German city in the middle of America.”

“German Lutherans were hit especially hard by the hostility of [World War I]. German language services were disrupted and pastors were threatened. This happened throughout the Midwest partly because of the very vocal support of the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church for the German cause before the US entered the war.” Sauerkraut was renamed Liberty Cabbage and frankfurters became hot dogs. German remained the official language of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod until 1927.

Chapters also describe the role of Germans in wine making in Missouri and in brewing beer. The story continues until the end of Prohibition, during the Depression when laws were changed to limit immigration.

This is a nicely done survey of Germans in Missouri. In some respects much detail was omitted. A book of about twice this length would be needed to adequately cover the subject. This one is only a beginning. The reading list adds some sources for follow up, but even that is not complete. For details of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod one should add, Frederick C. Luebke, “Germans in the New World: Essays in the History of Immigration,” University of Illinois Press, 1990, p. 1.
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