When Hermann Seele anived in New Braunfels in 1845, the raw colony was plagued by poverty, disease, lack of food, and hostile Indians. This personal record of the Germans in Texas shows their evolution from struggling colonists to prosperous citizens.
From his viewpoint of a hardworking yet imaginative pioneer, Seele presents first a history of German immigration and settlement in Texas during the nineteenth century. Next, his autobiographical writings range from a "sentimental recollection" of his first Christmas Eve in Texas to his first day of teaching in New Braunfels, from accounts of the popular singing society to murder and justice along the Comal River. In addition, Seele's romantic novel, The Cypress, is a delightful though improbable tale of a traveling botanist, a chieftain's daughter, and a savage Indian cult.
Hermann Seele—farmer, lawyer, teacher, lay preacher, mayor, state representative, Civil War major, and editor—epitomizes the best of the German immigrants who established their communities as models of respectability and prosperity.
Historians have long argued that the Great War eradicated German culture from American soil. Degrees of Allegiance examines the experiences of German-Americans living in Missouri during the First World War, evaluating the personal relationships at the local level that shaped their lives and the way that they were affected by national war effort guidelines. Spared from widespread hate crimes, German-Americans in Missouri did not have the same bleak experiences as other German-Americans in the Midwest or across America. But they were still subject to regular charges of disloyalty, sometimes because of conflicts within the German-American community itself.
Degrees of Allegiance updates traditional thinking about the German-American experience during the Great War, taking into account not just the war years but also the history of German settlement and the war’s impact on German-American culture.
Anita M. Mallinckrodt traces the 750-year history of the Mallinckrodt family from its earliest documented beginnings in thirteenth-century Westphalia (in the Dortmund area) through immigration to Missouri in 1831 and beyond.
In part 1, Mallinckrodt tells the story of some of her family’s leading personalities in order to explicate the history and society of medieval and early modern Germany: the life and times of knight Ludwig (c. 1241) and crusader Gerd (c. 1450–1504); the 1451 and 1492 adventures of the mercenary knight Hermann and his son Wilhelm; the 1594 feuding of the noble brothers Dietrich and Hermann, which led to a double murder; the liberal Dortmund publisher Arnold’s struggles in the early 1800s to establish freedom of the press and to free Westphalian farmers from serfdom; and the wealthy, aristocratic Sister Pauline (b. 1817), founder of the Sisters of Charity and recently beatified for her efforts on behalf of the poor and blind children of her day.
In parts 2 and 3, Mallinckrodt focuses on the first of her forebears to immigrate to the New World—Julius and Emil in 1831, followed by Conrad, Hermann, August, Helene, Sophie, and Luise in 1838—and their immediate families and descendants in Missouri. These early pioneers cleared the forests, built schools and churches, supported German-language periodicals, and founded social and cultural organizations that would benefit later waves of immigrants. In the 1860s, they participated in their adopted country’s Civil War and held strong views toward slavery and the Union. Mallinckrodt ends her family’s history with the deaths of the Dortmund pioneers in the 1890s.
But From Knights to Pioneers is much more than a single family’s history. The experiences Mallinckrodt relates reflect those of many German families who left their mark on centuries of history and of many midwestern families transplanted from the Old World. Especially interesting is the continuity between the old and new ways of life—entries on genealogical tables need not end with the comment "immigrated to the USA," for immigrants often wrote notable chapters of family history that deserve recognition in their old homelands. Similarly, knowledge of pre-immigration history is essential for those Americans whose traditions surely did not begin, as oral history often suggests, with the fact that "great-grandfather arrived in the Midwest from Germany in 1831." Thus the purpose of this book is to set a family’s immigration chapter against its European background, without passing judgment on the cultural influence of outstanding individuals in the United States or of German immigration per se.
Drawing on her extensive research in both Europe and the United States, Mallinckrodt presents an exceptionally detailed picture of the social and political contexts of each of her subjects. The richness of her exposition of both the Old World background and the lives of the immigrants to the New World offers important insights into aspects of European and American history.
German immigrants came to America for two main reasons: to seek opportunities in the New World, and to avoid political and economic problems in Europe. In German Settlement in Missouri, Robyn Burnett and Ken Luebbering demonstrate the crucial role that the German immigrants and their descendants played in the settlement and development of Missouri's architectural, political, religious, economic, and social landscape. Relying heavily on unpublished memoirs, letters, diaries, and official records, the authors provide important new narratives and firsthand commentary from the immigrants themselves.
Between 1800 and 1919, more than 7 million people came to the United States from German-speaking lands. The German immigrants established towns as they moved up the Missouri River into the frontier, resuming their traditional ways as they settled. As a result, the culture of the frontier changed dramatically. The Germans farmed differently from their American neighbors. They started vineyards and wineries, published German-language newspapers, and entered Missouri politics.
The decades following the Civil War brought the golden age of German culture in the state. The populations of many small towns were entirely German, and traditions from the homeland thrived. German-language schools, publications, and church services were common. As the German businesses in St. Louis and other towns flourished, the immigrants and their descendants prospered. The loyalty of the Missouri Germans was tested in World War I, and the anti-immigrant sentiment during the war and the period of prohibition after it dealt serious blows to their culture. However, German traditions had already found their way into mainstream American life.
Informative and clearly written, German Settlement in Missouri will be of interest to all readers, especially those interested in ethnic history.
Germans are the largest ancestral group in Michigan, representing over 2.6 million descendants or 22% of the state’s population. Yet, unlike other immigrant groups, Germans have not retained their linguistic and cultural traditions as part of a distinct ethnic identity. The Bavarian villages of Frankenmuth and Gaylord stand as testaments to the once proud and vigorous German communities that dotted both rural and urban Michigan landscapes. Jeremy W. Kilar explores the social forces that transformed Germans from inward-looking immigrants to citizens in the cultural mainstream. Germans in Michigan is a story of assimilation and renewal and as such reveals the complexities of Americanization and immigration as social forces.
Between 1820 and 1910, nearly five and a half million German-speaking immigrants came to the United States in search of new homes, new opportunities, and freedom from European tyrannies. Most settled in the Midwest, and many came to Wisconsin, whose rich farmlands and rising cities attracted three major waves of immigrants. By 1900, German farmers, merchants, manufacturers, editors, and educators—to say nothing of German churches (both Catholic and Lutheran), cultural institutions, food, and folkways—had all set their mark upon Wisconsin. In the most recent census (1990), more than 53 percent of the state's residents considered themselves "German"—the highest of any state in the Union.
In this best-selling book, now with updated text and additional historical photographs, Richard H. Zeitlin describes the values and ideas the Germans brought with them from the Old Country; highlights their achievements on the farm, in the workplace, and in the academy over the course of 150 years; and explains why their impact has been so profound and pervasive.
Henriette Geisberg Bruns was twenty-three when she arrived in 1836 at the isolated Westphalia Settlement in central Missouri with her husband, baby son, two brothers, and a maid. Jette, as she was known to her family and friends, had not come to America by inclination, but from duty. Her husband Bernhard, a physician, had fallen victim to the emigration fever sweeping Germany in the 1830s and was convinced that he could provide a better life for his family in the American Free States where land was plentiful, the soil was fertile, and taxes were low. Born into a large, prosperous, closely knit family, Jette had set out for the New World reluctantly; but once in Missouri, she was determined not to give up and go back home, as a neighboring family did.
This rare collection of personal family letters, combined with an autobiographical sketch Jette wrote after the Civil War, illuminates the experience of one immigrant woman in a land that was always foreign to her.
Between 1838 and the early 1890s, German peasant farmers from the Kingdom of Hanover made their way to Lafayette County, Missouri, to form a new community centered on the town of Concordia. Their story has much to tell us about the American immigrant experience—and about how newcomers were caught up in the violence that swept through their adoptive home.
Robert Frizzell grew up near Concordia, and in this first book-length history of the German settlement, he chronicles its life and times during those formative years. Founded by Hanoverian Friedrich Dierking—known as “Dierking the Comforter” for the aid he gave his countrymen—the Concordia settlement blossomed from 72 households in 1850 to 375 over the course of twenty years. Frizzell traces that growth as he examines the success of early agricultural efforts, but he also tells how the community strayed from the cultural path set by its freethinker founder to become a center of religious conservatism.
Drawing on archival material from both sides of the Atlantic, Frizzell offers a compelling account for scholars and general readers alike, showing how Concordia differed from other German immigrant communities in America. He also explores the conditions in Hanover—particularly the village of Esperke, from which many of the settlers hailed—that caused people to leave, shedding new light on theological, political, and economic circumstances in both the Old World and the New.
When the Civil War came, the antislavery Hanoverians found themselves in the Missouri county with the greatest number of slaves, and the Germans supported the Union while most of their neighbors sympathized with Confederate guerrillas. Frizzell tells how the notorious “Bloody Bill” Anderson attacked the community three times, committing atrocities as gruesome as any recorded in the state—then how the community flourished after the war and even bought out the farmsteads of former slaveholders.
Frizzell’s account challenges many historians’ assumptions about German motives for immigration and includes portraits of families and individuals that show the high price in toil and blood required to meet the challenges of making a home in a new land. Independent Immigrants reveals the untold story of these newcomers as it reveals a little-known aspect of the Civil War in Missouri.
Born a German Jew in 1915, Rudy Baum was eighty-six years old when he sealed the garage door of his Dallas home, turned on the car ignition, and tried to end his life. After confronting her father’s attempted suicide, Karen Baum Gordon, Rudy’s daughter, began a sincere effort to understand the sequence of events that led her father to that dreadful day in 2002. What she found were hidden scars of generational struggles reaching back to the camps and ghettos of the Third Reich.
In The Last Letter: A Father’s Struggle, a Daughter’s Quest, and the Long Shadow of the Holocaust, Gordon explores not only her father’s life story, but also the stories and events that shaped the lives of her grandparents—two Holocaust victims that Rudy tried in vain to save in the late 1930s and early years of World War II. This investigation of her family’s history is grounded in eighty-eight letters written mostly by Julie Baum, Rudy’s mother and Karen’s grandmother, to Rudy between November 1936 and October 1941. In five parts, Gordon examines pieces of these well-worn, handwritten letters and other archival documents in order to discover what her family experienced during the Nazi period and the psychological impact that reverberated from it in the generations that followed.
Part of the Legacies of War series, The Last Letter is a captivating family memoir that spans events from the 1930s and Hitler’s rise to power, through World War II and the Holocaust, to the present-day United States. In recreating the fatal journeys of her grandparents and tracing her father’s efforts to save them an ocean away in America, Gordon discovers the forgotten fragments of her family’s history and a vivid sense of her own Jewish identity. By inviting readers along on this journey, Gordon manages to honor victim and survivor alike and shows subsequent generations—now many years after the tragic events of World War II—what it means to remember.
Early in the twentieth century, drawing upon the hundreds of letters written to his father by students who had emigrated to northeastern Iowa from Mecklenburg, in northeastern Germany, Johannes Gillhoff created the composite character of Juernjakob Swehn: the archetype of the upright, honest mensch who personified the German immigrant, on his way to a better life through ambition and hard work. Gillhoff's farmer-hero, planting and harvesting his Iowa acres, joking with his neighbors during the snowy winters, building a church with his own hands, proved so popular with the German public that a million copies of Jürnjakob Swehn der Amerikafahrer are in print. Now for the first time this wise and endearing book is available in English.
“First, let's talk about pigs,”Juernjakob Swehn writes from his farm in Iowa. “In America, pigs have a curly tail and talk in Low German so I can understand them.” Swehn builds a log house and makes a success of farming, marries a woman who's “a whole different nation that has its confidence from the inside,” raises a family, and becomes an elder in the Lutheran church. He recognizes his good fortune but acknowledges that memories of his village grow stronger every year, that “being homesick is the best thing that home can do for you …no power on earth holds on to you like your homeland.” It is this sense of home, both in Iowa and in Mecklenburg, that makes Juernjakob Swehn appeal to today's readers as much as he appealed to readers in 1916.
Rita Magdaleno was born near Dachau shortly after World War II to a German mother and a Mexican American GI. Her family moved to Arizona in 1947, and Rita was raised with her father's traditions—but she remains at heart a child of two cultures.
This poetic memoir, recalling Magdaleno's return to the land of her birth, is an intertwining of personal and public history, bridging continents and cultures in search of family secrets. Her poems recall a mother "Marlene Dietrich pretty, / her smoky voice / & those wide Aryan / eyes that promised / never to lie," a war bride who named her child after a Hollywood movie star even before casting eyes on America. They also offer a new, intimate view of the war—and of today's reunified Germany—and show that the consequences of events played out half a century ago continue to resonate with the children of that era.
Magdaleno navigates currents of emotion that would drown less capable poets. With patience, courage, and abiding love, she draws on memories of mother and motherland to show us that healing can come in many forms.
Lawyer and journalist, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Louis Houck is often called the “Father of Southeast Missouri” because he brought the railroad to the region and opened this backwater area to industrialization and modernization. Although Houck’s name is little known today outside Missouri, Joel Rhodes shows how his story has relevance for both the state and the nation.
Rhodes presents a more complete picture of Houck than has ever been available: reviewing his life from his German immigrant roots, considering his career from both social and political perspectives, and grounding the story in both state and national history. He especially tells how, from 1880 to the 1920s, this self-taught railroader constructed a network of five hundred miles of track through the wilderness of wetlands known as “Swampeast Missouri”—and how these “Houck Roads” provided a boost for population, agriculture, lumbering, and commerce that transformed Cape Girardeau and the surrounding area.
Rhodes discusses how Houck fits into the era of economic individualism—a time when men with little formal training shaped modern industry—and also gives voice to Houck’s critics and shows that he was not always an easy man to work with. In telling the story of his railroading enterprise, Rhodes chronicles Houck’s battle with the Jay Gould railroad empire and offers key insight into the development of America’s railway system, from the cutthroat practices of ruthless entrepreneurs to the often-comic ineptness of start-up rail lines.
More than simply a biography of a business entrepreneur, the book tells how Houck not only developed the region economically but also followed the lead of Andrew Carnegie by making art, culture, and formal education available to all social classes. Houck also served for thirty-six years as president of the Board of Regents of Southeast Missouri State Teacher’s College, and as a self-taught historian he wrote the first comprehensive accounts of Missouri’s territorial period.
A Missouri Railroad Pioneer chronicles a multifaceted career that transformed a region. Solidly researched, this lively narrative also offers an entertaining read for anyone interested in Missouri history.
Spring-fed creeks. Old stone houses. Cedar brakes and bleached limestone. The Hill Country holds powerful sway over the imagination of Texans. So many of us dream of having our own little place in the limestone hills. The Hill Country feels just like home, even if you've never lived there.
This beautifully written book explores what the Hill Country has meant as a homeplace to the author, his family, and longtime residents of the area, as well as to newcomers. David Syring listens to the stories that his aunts, uncles, and cousins tell about life in the Hill Country and grapples with their meaning for his own search for a place to belong. He also collects short stories focused around Honey Creek Church to consider how places become containers for memory. And he draws upon several years of living in Fredericksburg to talk about the problems and opportunities created by heritage tourism and the development of the town as a "home" for German Americans. These interconnected stories illuminate what it means to belong to a place and why the Texas Hill Country has become the spiritual, if not actual, home of many people.
The persecution of Old World German Protestants and Anabaptists in the seventeenth century-following debilitating wars, the Reformation, and the Inquisition-brought about significant immigration to America. Many of the immigrants, and their progeny, settled in the Appalachian frontier. Here they established a particularly old set of religious beliefs and traditions based on a strong sense of folk spirituality. They practiced astrology, numerology, and other aspects of esoteric thinking and left a legacy that may still be found in Appalachian folklore today.
Based in part on the author's extensive collection of oral histories from the remote highlands of West Virginia, Signs, Cures, and Witchery: German Appalachian Folklore
describes these various occult practices, symbols, and beliefs; how they evolved within New World religious contexts; how they arrived on the Appalachian frontier; and the prospects of those beliefs continuing in the contemporary world.
By concentrating on these inheritances, Gerald C. Milnes draws a larger picture of the German influence on Appalachia. Much has been written about the Anglo-Celtic, Scots-Irish, and English folkways of the Appalachian people, but few studies have addressed their German cultural attributes and sensibilities. Signs, Cures, and Witchery sheds startling light on folk influences from Germany, making it a volume of tremendous value to Appalachian scholars, folklorists, and readers with an interest in Appalachian folklife and German American studies.
In 1843, the Louisiana Supreme Court heard the case of a slave named Sally Miller, who claimed to have been born a free white person in Germany. Sally, a very light-skinned slave girl working in a New Orleans caf, might not have known she had a case were it not for a woman who recognized her as Salom Muller, with whom she had emigrated from Germany over twenty years earlier. Sally decided to sue for her freedom, and was ultimately freed, despite strong evidence contrary to her claim.
In The Two Lives of Sally Miller, Carol Wilson explores this fascinating legal case and its reflection on broader questions about race, society, and law in the antebellum South. Why did a court system known for its extreme bias against African Americans help to free a woman who was believed by many to be a black slave? Wilson explains that while the notion of white enslavement was shocking, it was easier for society to acknowledge that possibility than the alternative-an African slave who deceived whites and triumphed over the system.
Joseph J. Mersman was a liquor merchant, a German American immigrant who aspired—successfully—to become a self-made man. Hundreds of the residents of Mersman’s hometown in Germany immigrated to Cincinnati in the 1830s, joining many thousands of other German immigrants. In 1847, at the age of twenty-three, Mersman began recording his activities in a bound volume, small enough to fit into his coat pocket. His diary, filled with work and play, eating and drinking, flirting and dancing, provides a unique picture of everyday life, first in Cincinnati and then in St. Louis, the new urban centers of the emerging Midwest.
Outside of Gold Rush diaries and emigration journals, few narrative records of the antebellum period have been published. Illustrated with photographs, maps, and period advertisements, the diary reveals how a young man worked to establish himself during an era that was rich in opportunity.
As a whiskey rectifier, Mersman bought distilled spirits, redistilled or reprocessed them to remove contaminants or increase the alcohol content, and added various flavorings before selling his product to liquor retailers. In his diary, he describes scrambling for capital, marketing his wares, and arranging transportation by steamboat, omnibus, and train. Although the business that he sought to master was eliminated by the passage of the Pure Food Law of 1906, Mersman, like most rectifiers, was a reputable wholesaler. Merchants like him played an important role in distributing liquor in nineteenth-century America.
Mersman confronted serious disease, both as a sufferer from syphilis and as a witness to two devastating cholera epidemics. Unlike other residents of St. Louis, who fled the relative safety of the countryside, he remained in the city and saw the impact of the epidemics on the community.
Linda A. Fisher’s extensive, insightful, and highly readable annotations add a wealth of background information to Mersman’s story. Her professional training and career as a physician give her a particularly valuable perspective on the public health aspects of Mersman’s life and times.
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