In the decade of the 1830s alone over 120,000 Germans immigrated to America, and one-third of those settled in Missouri. Those are the emigrants that made it. Thousands would not survive the journey at sea or the difficult overland trek westward.
Nicholas Krekel: “In the fall of the year 1832 we sailed from Bremen. It took about three months, we landed at New York, went up the Hudson River to Albany, and from Albany to Erie by canal. Intending to go to Cleveland Ohio from there and to Missouri. On arriving at Erie, there was so much ice in the lake that we could not make the trip, so we went overland to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, a distance of 160 miles. Mother, my sister Katherine (11 years), myself (Nicholas Krekel) rode in the wagon. Father, my three oldest brothers, Godfred [sic], Arnold and Frank walked. On this overland trip my mother took cold which continued to get worse when coming down the Ohio River, so we landed at Louisville, Kentucky to get medical assistance and religious consolation. She died there on December 14, 1832 and was also buried there. Three years later Arnold went there to find his mother’s grave but the city had been built beyond it. The voyage across the Ocean took 9 weeks, the overland trip from Erie to Pittsburgh took about 3 weeks. After her burial we continued our way to St. Louis. On arriving there we put up at the William Tell house on Main Street, a two story stone building.”
Of the forty thousand immigrants that arrived in Missouri in the ’30s, at least one-fourth of those Germans chose the city of St. Louis. The city’s population grew from approximately 15,000 to 35,000, meaning that half of that growth was by Germans alone. The city’s Germans were often affluent and educated, supporting six German newspapers. The sound of German voices filled the air and it was said one could spend the day and never hear a word of English.
“From there we came to St. Charles and were there during the Christmas holidays and New Year. A man from the western part of the county named Cashew and his son named Jackson were there with a team of four horses having been to St. Louis. They took us to our new home. While looking about for a location we stopped with a man named Bonet, a bachelor that made spinning wheels (the place was later owned by the Braehus family) he showed my father a piece of land owned by the government on which a man named Wood had built a log house. After looking at the land which was covered with heavy timber my father went to St. Louis where the land office was and bought it for the sum of $__for ____ acres. He paid the man Wood $9 for the log cabin that was on it, he seemed well paid and settled further towards Warren County”
Warren County had been carved out of Montgomery County in 1833. St. Charles County which had been created out of the St. Charles District of the Louisiana Territory in 1812 had stretched to the Pacific Ocean until the counties like Montgomery and Franklin were created in 1818. At least 30,000 German immigrants chose to go west in the 1830s, settling in St. Charles, Warren, Franklin and Gasconade counties. They settled along the Missouri River valley creating the towns of Dutzow, Dortmund and Hamburg. They helped the town of Washington grow and become a German town. They turned The Philadelphia Settlement Society into the German town of Hermann.
“The name of the vessel we came to America in was Isabella. Two years later Anton Hoester’s father and family came over in the same vessel. In the year 1835 it was wrecked at sea. Before leaving Europe my father had decided to settle in this neighborhood. A criminal Judge named Duden with whom my father was personally acquainted had come to America several years previous and wrote such favorable letters to Europe that my [father] thought well of this country”
In 1829, Gottfried Duden published A Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America and a Stay Along the Missouri (During the years 1824, ’25,’26., 1827). Born in Remscheid in 1789, the young attorney had lived with the farmer Jacob Haun, even though he had purchased a large parcel of land himself. Observing the life of the “American farmer” and describing the life of Missouri’s earliest residents Duden described a place where freedom and opportunity were almost taken for granted, causing some Germans to decry Duden’s description as an impossible fairy tale.
“On our way there through St. Charles County we passed prairie lands that now are fine farms, but we were under the impression that where no trees grew, no vegetables would grow. So we settled in the dense forest and it took several years of hard labor to clear the land, burn the logs and the brush. Many large walnut trees were cut and burned.”
Duden’s farm was approximately 50 miles west of St. Louis on the eastern edge of Warren County adjoining St. Charles County, near the Missouri River. In 1832, a group of Germans often referred to as “the Berlin Society” made the first German settlement in Missouri when a town named Dutzow was established here. The village is named after the former estate in Germany of its founder, Johann Wilhelm Bock and adjoins Duden’s farm to the south.
“In sight of our home in Germany was the home of Carl Deus. Carl’s father was a brewer, distiller and coal merchant. The family was quite wealthy and of high social class.”
The conditions in Germany were desperate following the Napoleonic War, leading to overpopulation and famine. Revolutions were stirring among the students, and hundreds of such books as Duden’s were being written about Russia, Brazil, and England as places to immigrate to.
“In the year 1832 when Carl’s father heard that our family intended going to America he asked my father to wait until ’34 when there was a colony coming over, but my father was of a disposition not inclined to subject himself to anothers’ dictation so came alone with his family”
The Giessen Emigration Society was founded by friends of the Krekel family, Paul Follenius and Friedrich Muench, whose farms adjoined Duden’s to the north. Their arrival in Missouri in July and August of 1834 brought over 500 Germans who settled all over St. Charles County, including St. Paul, Cottleville and St. Charles. By 1850 St. Charles County was over 50% German with many of them being established second generation families.
This is the voice of Nicholas Krekel and the story as told to his daughter Bertha Krekel. He was the founder of O’Fallon, Missouri, born in Germany on August 30, 1825 and emigrated with his family to America in 1832. The story was shared in his final years just shortly before his death. The journal has been graciously shared with me by a descendant, John Griesenauer. The author extends her utmost appreciation for allowing her to share this wonderful piece of family history.