Tag Archives: Duden

Life of a German Emigrant Family

In 1832, the Krekel family settled in the far southwestern corner of St. Charles County, in the Femme Osage Township, next to the border of Warren County. This community was dudenknown as Dutzow, where a village had been founded by the “Baron” Johann Wilhelm Bock which was named after his former estate in Germany. Bock had established his village on the southern edge of the farm of Gottfried Duden, an author who had published a book called “A Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America” in 1829. Duden’s book was the impetus for a huge wave of migration from Germany to Missouri in the decade of the 1830s.

“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 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. 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 another’s dictation so came alone with his family. The Deus family consisted of himself and wife and three daughters…two sons…Peter and Carl. The family settled within a mile of our home and we children became playmates and later good friends. Many a Sunday afternoon did my sister Kathryn and myself spend with them playing “Hopfen Suchen” (Hide and Seek).”

In the summer of 1834, founders of the Giessen Emigration Society, Friedrich Muench

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Home of Friedrich Muench built in 1832

and Paul Follenius would settle their families in the Dutzow community as well, near the northern border of Gottfried Duden’s farm. Members of the Society would also settle in the St. Paul, Cottleville, and Hamburg communities. Nicholas Krekel would spend time on Friedrich Muench’s farm, working alongside other young men who had also recently immigrated.

“I never was strong and the hardships of pioneer life did not strengthen my in no way good

Nicholas Krekel
Nicholas Krekel

constitution. On account of the unlimited hospitality of people in those days and the very limited accommodations of the home at that time … [I] got the itch. I cannot describe the suffering I endured from it. After that I had the typhoid fever which left me very weak and blind for eleven months. During those months sister Kathryn dear faithful girl was my constant companion. Near our house was a ten acre field we had cleared during our first winter there. There were many stumps in it. I was put to plough it…”

“During the high water of June 1844 I was working for Steven Hancock who lived in Hancocks bottom in a double log house later owned by the Kunsels [Kuenzel] next to Anton Reuther’s farm. Before the water was at the highest point the stock and horses were in a pasture that was somewhat higher … than most of the farm. One morning when we got up we found the pasture under water the stock in the pasture were up to there [sic] neck in the water. Myself and Mr. Hancock’s son Dan rode in and drove them out, the fences at that time all made of rails were raised in the water and moving slowly up and down. As long as the “top rail” is still there it is safe but as soon as it is gone and the weight is lifted the fence will raise again and another rail go off, so in a short time the fence will be gone. We took the stock to a higher place near the river bank. Mr. Hancock went to Washington Mo to get one of the boats that would come down the river to take us to Washington. Five boats came by and all passed and gave no attention to our signals of distress. The water was up to our knees and young Hancock cryed [sic] fearing we would drown. Towards evening a boat came down the river named Wapella. It took us and all the stock to the other side.”

The flood of 1844 filled the river bottoms of the Missouri River where hundreds of German families had established homes. Today this is part of Missouri’s “German Heritage Corridor” as established by the Missouri Legislature on July 1, 2016.

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Missouri River Valley

According to the History of St. Charles, Warren and Montgomery Counties Nicholas “was reared in this county and remained at home on the farm with his father until he was nearly approaching majority. He then went to St. Louis and was connected with the manufacture of shot at the shot-tower in that city, the first one established west of the Alleghenies, for some seven years. Meanwhile, however, the Mexican War having broken out, he enlisted for the service of his country under Gen. Price and served with conspicuous courage and fidelity until the triumphant close of that struggle. In 1856, still a young man, he located at O’Fallon, Mo., and built the first house that reared aloft its walls at this place.”

“Wilhelmina Moritz and Nicholas Krekel were married August 15, 1857 at St. Louis coming to O’Fallon Missouri shortly after, where I [Nicholas] had built a home, having come there on August 6, 1856 … Wilhelmina Louise Moritz was the oldest child and daughter of Casper and Sophie Moritz of Bielefeld, Westfalen Germany. She was born July 17, 1838 and came to America … by way of New Orleans. Her father and brother came … sooner by way of New York where Mrs. Moritz had a brother living at Buffalo….”

This is the “voice of Nicholas Krekel” and the story as told to his daughter Bertha BerthaKrekel. 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. The home is the Nicholas Krekel home on Main Street of O’Fallon being renovated by Jason and Jessica Orf to be opened soon in October of 2017. Next…The Krekel’s in the Civil War. For more on the Dutzow community and the Giessen Emigration Society see the blog Mo-Germans.com as well.  See also earlier post Coming to America

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The German Heritage

St. Charles County’s German Heritage

Today 46 Million Americans list German as their ethnic background. Germans were arriving before we were even the U.S.,  when October 6, 1683, thirteen German Mennonites from Krefeld arrived at Philadelphia’s harbor aboard the ship Concord. Those families founded Germantown, the first German settlement in the original thirteen colonies. German-American Day, celebrated that fact on October 6th, died out in World War I, due to the anti-German sentiment that began then. It was revived in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan. Those families emigrated westward in the early 1800s with the western expansion and attracted the attention of the writer Gottfried Duden who published his book A Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America. First published in 1829, it was about Missouri and started a whole new wave of immigration of Germans who didn’t stop in Philadelphia anymore.

And they came by the thousands! They filled the valleys and the hillsides, and brought us our hard working culture, our stubborn show-me spirit, and a love for family and a good bottle of wine. We have forgotten that more of our traditions are German in origin that those that are not!  The Kindegarten, the Gymnasium and even the Christmas Tree are from our ancestors. Many of those early emigrants came in groups, from Solingen or Osnabrück, and emptied out whole German villages. Or they came because they were wanting to continue their religious beliefs like the Saxony Lutherans that settled in Perry County, in southern Missouri. Or maybe they were all united by a love for political freedoms, such as the Giessen Emigration Society who were from many parts of Germany and many walks of life.

German immigrant Theodore Lock arrived in Loose Creek in 1841 and established the Lock mill with his family.  Many German families who settled in Loose Creek in 1851, also came from the Krefeld.  The community appeared in the German television series Germans in America. Missouri’s history is so filled with German heritage we often forget that it is even German. Small towns like Loose Creek and Dutzow are about to join the list of towns like Dortmund and Hamburg that have already disappeared. Large cities like St. Louis and St. Charles once so totally German that you didn’t even hear English, are rapidly loosing their German identity.

The Missouri Humanities Council’s initiative The German Heritage Corridor is being used by Heritage Tourism across the State to stop this loss, and preserve our Cities, Counties and State’s German Heritage. For more information visit the Missouri Humanities Council.

Gottfried Duden

Saint Charles County is one of the most predominantly German in its ethnic heritage in the State of Missouri. Missouri being one the most German in the U.S. as well, makes us one of the largest in the country. Ever wonder why that is? Some historians cite a small self-published book, published in 1829 by a German named Gottfried Duden, “A Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America“.

Born May 19, 1789 in the city of Remscheid, the middle child in a family of five children of Leonhard and Maria Duden. His father, owner of a large pharmaceutical company, died when he was only six. He grew up and took on the profession of law, in a time when Germany was in a lot of turmoil. Following the Napoleonic wars, the huge population was suffering with famine, and huge taxes imposed by the rulers in response to a rising revolution. After seeing the successful rebellions, in America and France, many Germans felt that a united country would be stronger and able to defend itself, thus ending the years of wars it had seen. Young Duden listened to their problems and saw the young far western U.S., filling with the friends and family of the world famous Daniel Boone, as the place to be.

Emigration books, as they were called, were not a new thing at that time. Hundreds were being published at that time, suggesting emigration to Russia, England, and South America. Many written by authors that had never even been to the places they were writing about. How could their advice be trusted Duden wondered, and so he began planning a journey for himself. He bought land, in what was yet to be, the State of Missouri. He hired a professional farmer, named Ludwig Eversmann, and brought him and his cook Gertrude, and headed for his farm on Lake Creek, in the Missouri River valley west of Saint Charles. He stayed here from 1824 till 1827, writing a series of letters describing life that was first published in Germany in 1829, a best seller in its day.

For many, Duden’s book was the right words at the right time. Some were critical! They said everything was not the same in 1830s as he had described in his 1824 letter. Duden responded that they didn’t understand or get the point. He was accused of painting a picture in words, of a Utopia or Garden of Eden. Many Germans, such as Friedrich Steines, defended him saying

“while all is not exactly as he (Duden) described, in some ways it was better.”

To the Germans that needed to get government permission to move, marry, or even cut firewood, American’s freedoms were enviable. Where your family ate more meat in a week, than they did in a year back home. Where estate law ruled the rights of inheritance to the eldest child, the right to own as many acres of land as you could afford, and leave it to all of your children was unbelievable. The right to vote and chose your rulers and the freedom to say whatever you thought of them, without fear, was amazing. You decided what church you wanted to attend, what kind of school your children would have, and yes they would receive a free education. You decided your own profession and your own future. What was there to not like?

There will always be some anxious to criticize though. The language and the customs were foreign. They had slaves in some states, allowing a profit and making some wealthy aristocrats. The weather was not like Duden had described. (Who has seen more than two identical Missouri winters or summers?) Sometimes, we have to find something or someone to blame for our failure. Duden tried to defend himself, as further editions of his book were published, and thousands continued to immigrate.

The decision to emigrate is a personal one, and there were as many reasons as there were Germans. Historians estimate over 20,000 came to Missouri during the 1830s. Many of those wrote letters home to family and friends, urging them to come, in what is known as chain migration. Today those letters could be compared to tweets and You Tube gone viral! Apparently it is sometimes easier to trust your friends, than a wealthy attorney.

Duden died on October 29, 1856, in Germany, without ever returning to his beautiful Missouri farm with its cows, as he had originally planned. His book “A Report on a Journey” lived on, with many attempting to follow his suggestions. And come they did! Today, many Saint Charles County residents and family historians trace their ancestors back to Germany. As Missouri became a gateway to the west for American pioneers, it became home to generations of Germans, with towns like Hamburg, Melle, and Cappeln. Many of us still today think Duden definitely got it right!