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Coming to Concordia

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Joined: 17 Mar 2009
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Location: Liverpool, NY

PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 7:19 pm    Post subject: Coming to Concordia Reply with quote

(Originally posted February 21, 2009)

At some time or other, most of us have wondered why our ancestors chose to immigrate to the U. S. and why they wound up in a particular area like Concordia. After all, most of them were leaving relatives and friends back in the old country, making a long somewhat perilous journey over the ocean, and arriving in a unfamiliar relatively underdeveloped area.

As most Missouri Synod Lutherans know, a large group of German Lutherans came to the St. Louis and Perry County, MO in the late 1830s and early 1840s for religious reasons. A good article can be found at The Founding Fathers of the Missouri Synod (in MS Word format). That migration was a result of the Prussian Union decreed by King Frederick William III (son of Frederick the Great) in 1817. King Frederick forced a union between the Lutheran and Reformed churches in Prussia. Because of increased pressure to enforce this merger, many dissenting “Old Lutheran” groups emigrated from Germany in search of religious freedom. However, the Kingdom of Hanover, homeland of most of Concordia's ancestors, was independent at that time. The decree did not apply to Hanover until it was annexed as a province of Prussia in 1866.

While the early settlers of the Concordia area may have had concerns about this movement, they came to the U. S. primarily for economic reasons, as noted in Rodewald, et. al., Decending Love, Ascending Praise, 1840-1990, St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Concordia, Mo. These conditions are also well documented in Robert Frizzell's book, Independent Immigrants. Essentially, the problem was overpopulation of the farming community in the Hanover area. Children received smaller and smaller portions of land so that it was difficult to eke out an existance. The oldest son inherited the title to the family land and the younger children became renters or servants.

An interesting book was published in Germany about 1829 by Gottfried Duden, entitled Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America and a Stay of Several Years along the Missouri. I have a translated copy of this book. It speaks in glowing terms about the economic opportunities in the New World and particularly about the desirability of settling in Missouri. It even gave details of the estimated cost and what one should bring with them. This book was widely distributed in Germany and is generally believed to be responsible for much of the emigration to Missouri. According to census records, about one fourth of all Missouri residents have German ancestry, the largest of any group.

But there is yet another reason why some men came to the Concordia area. In the latter part of the 1800's, Iron Chancellor Bismark was gearing up the First Reich. He instituted compulsory military training (or conscription) for all young men in Prussia. Obviously, there was a considerable amount of anxiety among the German boys at that time about becoming "cannon fodder". Many looked for an opportunity to leave for a better life. People in the U.S. took advantage of the situation and advertised in Germany that they would pay for the boat passage to America with the condition that the immigrant would work off the debt on arrival. If the immigrant did not meet the terms of the agreement, he was liable for fines, imprisonment, or additional years of indenture. Contract labor for immigrants was legalized by Congress near the end of the Civil War (1864) until it was finally outlawed in 1885.

In one of the articles that Nora Hartwig wrote for the Concordian, she mentions the boys that came to the Concordia area in this way (see her booklet Concordia's Heritage: my recollections, Vol. I). William Horman was the "ringleader" of this group. My grandfather, Jacob Pape, was a friend of Bill Horman and followed him over when he became old enough. In 1884 (just a year before this indentured servitude was outlawed), he came to the U. S. on board the SS Neckar. See the adjoining photo. While he listed his age as 16, he actually was only 15 at the time. On his journey, he stopped in Concordia, probably to visit his sister Adelheid who married Peter Schesselmann and came to the area earlier. While there, he met a young girl, Maria Stuenkel, who was to become his future bride.

S. S. Neckar (1873)

Grandpa worked several years for a farmer in the rice fields of Arkansas along the Mississippi River. (Having contracted a touch of malaria while there, he never had anything good to say about Arkansas.) After he had worked long enough to pay off his debt, he quickly left there and traveled west to work in the wheat fields of Washington state. After a while, he probably had enough of the youthful spirit of adventure and decided to move back to Concordia to be with relatives and friends, namely Adelheid and Peter, Bill Horman, and the young Maria. After marrying Maria, he settled on a farm northeast of Concordia that had been owned by his father-in-law Louis, next to the Stuenkel homestead and close to Bill Horman's farm in the Flora community. Grandpa remained a good friend of Bill Horman. When he finally retired, he bought Bill's house on Orange St. (across from St. Paul's Elementary School). Bill lived on the second floor of the house until he eventually moved to Marshall to live with his son August, who started the Horman Meat Company there. Bill and my grandfather died within a month of each other in 1956.
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