Fighting For A Free Missouri
Gentle readers, it’s a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon up here on Duke ridge, and I’m drying tomatoes that finally ripened in my shop. Hey…do you mind if I tell you what I’m currently reading? …I guess I will anyway.
The book is called Fighting For A Free Missouri and it was copyrighted in 2023. It was edited by historian Sydney J. Norton, who, along with playwright Cecilia Nadal, was the guest presenter at Boone-Duden Historical Society’s most recent (10/23/23) program: Shared History of German Immigrants and African Americans.
Allow me to quote the dustcover of Norton’s book: Missouri is well known for its German American heritage, yet the story of nineteenth-century German immigrant abolitionists is often neglected in discussions of the state’s history. This collection of ten original essays…relates what unfolded when idealistic Germans, many of whom were highly educated and devoted to the principles of freedom and democracy, left their homeland and settled in a pre-Civil War slave state.
Now, I’ll go a step further, and recommend the book. Yeah, I know…I’m not a serious historian, and I’m hardly qualified to make recommendations for your booklist. But some of you may be more comfortable with suggestions coming from an average slob like me. I mean…I love to hug my woodstove, daydream, sip beer or wine, and stare at my cell phone and other screens. But sometimes I pick up a really great book, especially when someone has called my attention to it.
So, here’s a photo of the book. The cover depicts Camp Jackson, Missouri, a lithograph by George G. Friedlein, 1861, and comes to you as a courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis, and secondly from my iPhone…and I hope I’m not breaking any laws. FYI Camp Jackson was located outside the city of St. Louis, in the divided slave state of Missouri.
Fellow residents of 63332 and surrounding zips, this book is about where we live. For instance, besides covering German American places like Hermann, Washington, and St. Louis, there is a whole chapter on the amazing Arnold Krekel who spent his late teenage years where St. Charles County and Warren County meet near Highway 94. This chapter was written by Professor Walter Kamphoefner, an expert on German Americans in Missouri and America. Most of you probably know that Walter spent his youth between Matson and Defiance, and even though he lives in Texas, he maintains a relationship with our community. I mean, the dude has submitted himself to two of my written interviews, https://www.augustamomuseum.com/tell-it-like-it-was-stories and a live interview by Angela Stephens at Harmonie Verein.
I first heard about Arnold Krekel by reading Dr. Anita Mallinckrodt’s writing, but it was Walter who really brought Krekel to life for me through various emails, phone calls, and even a beer summit near Krekel’s family farm.
In brief, Arnold was born in Prussia (1815), immigrated to Missouri (1832) and farmed, learned surveying from Conrad Mallinckrodt (who lived near Schell Road), earned a law degree at St. Charles College, plotted the town of O’Fallon, MO, established the first German language newspaper in the county in 1852 (the St. Charles Demokrat)…let me catch my breath…was a United States district judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, was a member of the Missouri House of Representatives in 1852, served in the Union Army throughout the American Civil War as colonel of a regiment of Missouri volunteers (ever heard of Krekel’s Dutch?), and perhaps most importantly, was President of the state constitutional convention in 1865 during which the Missouri emancipation proclamation was approved which formally abolished slavery in Missouri. I left out several more accomplishments…like being a founding board member of Lincoln University in Jefferson City, MO.
Krekel lived in St. Charles County, Jefferson City, and Kansas City. These are all places where I have lived which causes me to feel a certain kinship with him…and I’ve got a beard too.
Fighting For a Free Missouri also has a chapter by Steven Rowan, on Friedrich Muench, who resided in Dutzow. Page 27 reads, “Muench’s decisive leadership in the area of politics and journalism played a crucial role in the steadfast emancipationist and Union stand of Missouri Germans, both in St. Louis and in rural areas in close proximity to Muench’s farm.”
Btw Anita Mallinckrodt devoted a whole book to Friedrich’s brother, Georg, who was no slouch in his abolitionist stand.
And gentle readers, I should remind you that Georg’s son, George Jr., was the founder of Mt. Pleasant Winery. I remember when Mt. Pleasant, under the ownership of Lucian Dressel, used to sell wine using the varietal, Muench…no coincidence!
Did you know that there’s a winery called TerraVox in Weston, MO that still sells rosé made from the Muench grape? It’s an amazing winery but be prepared to spend extra time at the tasting bar because you’ll be sampling wines from grapes which are native to the Americas, but you’ve probably never heard of. Incidentally, the TerraVox website states that the Muench grape was named after Friedrich Muench. https://terravox.wine/our-grapes/muench
After I typed that last paragraph I conveniently received this email from Lucian Dressel:
The Muench grape was named for "Father Muench", Frederick Muench of book fame. He had friends in many states and was a Missouri state senator during the Civil War.
It was developed by 19th century grape breeder T.V. Munson of Denison, TX, who was the Johnny Apple Seed of grape vines. By Prohibition most of Munson's creations had disappeared, but we found a few Muench vines still growing in St. James, and we propagated it and got it going again.
Muench was our idol when we owned Mt. Pleasant. He lived to be 81 and died in his vineyard. When they found him, he still had his pruning shears in his "cold, dead, hand." That was the way we all wanted to go.
Not surprisingly, Fighting For A Free Missouri has many references to Gottfried Duden, the emigration writer who gave glowing and over-the-top descriptions of the land and climate along the Missouri River valley from STL to Hermann.
Duden was the author of a Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America and a Stay of Several Years Along the Missouri (During 1824, ’25, ’26, 1827). Right or wrong, Duden was responsible for the Missouri immigration of many of our ancestors.
One more thing, even the foreword to Fighting For A Free Missouri, grabbed my attention. It was written by Gary R. Kremer, PhD, the Executive Director of The State Historical Society of Missouri. Gary, who is roughly my age, grew up in Osage County, not far from where I grew up in Jefferson City. He also received part of his education at Lincoln University in JC, and he taught there for a while. I would bet anything our paths crossed several times because I was frequently playing band gigs all over his stomping grounds, and my high school, Helias High, had a close relationship with Lincoln University. All our school plays (and rehearsals) were held in their beautiful auditorium.
Kremer does a great job of describing how a rural Missouri boy of German heritage gradually came to know the history of German Americans, Slavery, and Race.
Fighting For A Free Missouri can be purchased by going to the website University of Missouri Press. https://upress.missouri.edu/search-result/?keyword=fighting+for+a+free+missouri
Be curious and do good work.