The Germans: Their Arrival, Settlement and Contributions

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This book covers the period from 1770 until 1835, including “The German Pioneers” and the earliest “Followers of Duden.” Volume II, covering the period 1836-1890, will be released in the future.

Historical information relating to Germany and Germans in America explains the reasons for settling in the region.

The book chronicles the lives of more than 80 German pioneer families, representing more than 400 individuals who settled in east central Missouri before the United States took possession of the Upper Louisiana Territory. They represent approximately ten percent of the immigrants to New Spain who would ultimately be the ancestors of thousands of descendants, many of whom still remain in the region.

The offer of free land was a sufficient incentive for them to migrate from their homes east of the Appalachians where land was already in short supply. The German pioneers carved homesteads on the edge of established settlements from the dense forest. Ethnic French or occupying Spanish occupied most villages. The free land Spanish authorities offered was located in unsettled border areas. Thus, they provided protection to the villages and exposed themselves and their families to substantial risk from Indian attack. Several paid with their lives.

After arriving in what would become Missouri, the pioneers' German heritage became less distinct as they integrated into the communities. Many anglicized their surnames making them easier to pronounce and spell for non-Germans. While many continued to wed spouses of their ethnic origin, mixed ethnic marriages became more common, accelerating the melting-pot process. Over generations these first German arrivals in the region were quietly assimilated into the general population. Many of their descendants who are alive today have no idea that their ancestral heritage was, at least in part, German.

German pioneers built grist mills, distilleries, salt works and tavern/inns–businesses consistent with the needs of a rural society and were important to the early economy.

The story of the second major wave of Germans to the region begins with Duden’s story and the story of early emigration societies or groups. Factors leading to the exodus from the Fatherland are examined, providing clues to the reasons ancestors of current descendants came to Missouri. Interesting stories of the hazardous journey to the new world are also contained in the book.

The book is indexed, making it easy for the reader to find information on relatives. 

By Steve Claggett