Book persuaded Germans to settle in eastern Missouri

Sunday, May 9, 2004

ST. CHARLES, Mo. -- Exactly 175 years ago, German immigrant Gottfried Duden wrote a book that historians say changed the course of immigration history in Missouri and the eastern United States.

Duden's book persuaded thousands of disenchanted countrymen to head for the United States. He himself journeyed to Warren County in eastern Missouri.

"It was like a magnet drawing thousands of people to Missouri," said James Paulding, a former professor at Truman State University, who has produced a video on Duden.

"He represented the Missouri River as the Rhine of the new world."

Duden's life and writing will be featured in a history exhibit at the Foundry Arts Centre in St. Charles starting Friday, in time for the Lewis and Clark bicentennial.

Duden's book was called "Bericht uber eine Reise nach den westlichen Staaten Nordamerika's und einen mehrjahrigen Aufenthalt am Missouri."

It also was known as "Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America and a Stay of Several Years Along the Missouri."

Duden was born in May 1789 and reared in Remscheid, a textile town in the Duchy of Berg.

Disenchantment in Germany was growing because of crop failure, poor weather and a flood of German soldiers returning to villages following the defeat of Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Duden saw emigration to the United States as a solution and he advised his countrymen to travel there and settle in groups.

He wrote a how-to manual, and in 1824 traveled to the United States.

Duden bought a parcel of land recommended by state surveyor Nathan Boone, son of frontiersman Daniel Boone. The land -- northeast of present-day Dutzow in Warren County -- most reminded Duden of the fertile hills and valleys of Germany.

Duden praised Missouri when he wrote letters home to Germany.

"Here the master of the house can leave without any worries," he wrote. "In midst of dense forests, his family and his possessions will be safer in an unlocked dwelling than in the strongest houses in European cities."

He returned to Germany in 1827, and two years later wrote his book.

Germans who read the book started joining societies that emigrated in groups to the new land. The Berlin Society came to Warren County in 1832 and eventually called the area they lived in Dutzow, the first permanent German settlement in the state. Other societies formed communities such as Washington and Hermann.

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