Tag Archives: St. Paul

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.

Giessen Emigration Society

In 1834, the largest organized German emigration group to ever set out for Missouri arrived. They came from small villages and large cities, were Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Free-Thinkers. They were lawyers, doctors, and teachers; and blacksmiths, tanners and farmers as well. They were organized, with good character references, who had pledged their entire life savings to join others with the same dream – Freedom and America! This was the life that they had sought for long.

These  five-hundred Germans emigrated to the United States, with an intention to establish their own state. Decades of revolutionary struggles had failed, convincing them that the power of their rulers could not be broken, for the time being. Yet, as passionate democrats, they were determined to establish a new German Republic – in North America. This bold, now almost forgotten, venture of the Giessen Emigration Society, was an event much-discussed across Germany at that time.The Society’s founders were unable to achieve their goal they had stated. However they did find the conditions right to contribute to the strong democratic beliefs they found in the fertile United States. Settling in Missouri, they began to create a lively intellectual center that exists even to this day. They led in the struggles against religious intolerance, and fought to abolish slavery during the Civil War. They promoted the State’s rich viticultural assets, and encouraged further emigration, ultimately achieving a State rich with German heritage, that still exists today.

In St. Charles County, members of this huge emigration group created various settlements, such as Hamburg and St. Paul, they turned earlier American settlements such as Cottleville and Augusta into German Settlements. These new emigrants in turn wrote letters home to their friends and relatives bringing even larger waves to settle here.