Skip to content


Choose a Chapter | Purchase the eBook

1 The Collision Of Cultures
2 Britain And Its Colonies
3 Colonial Ways Of Life
4 The Imperial Perspective
5 From Empire To Independence
6 The American Revolution
7 Shaping A Federal Union
8 The Federalist Era
9 The Early Republic
10 Nationalism And Sectionalism
11 The Jacksonian Impulse
12 The Dynamics Of Growth
13 An American Renaissance: Religion, Romanticism, And Reform
14 Manifest Destiny
15 The Old South
16 The Crisis Of Union
17 The War Of The Union
18 Reconstruction: North And South
19 New Frontiers: South And West
20 Big Business And Organized Labor
21 The Emergence Of Urban America
22 Gilded-age Politics And Agrarian Revolt
23 An American Empire
24 The Progressive Era
25 America And The Great War
26 The Modern Temper
27 Republican Resurgence And Decline
28 New Deal America
29 From Isolation To Global War
30 The Second World War
31 The Fair Deal And Containment
32 Through The Picture Window: Society And Culture, 19451960
33 Conflict And Deadlock: The Eisenhower Years
34 New Frontiers: Politics And Social Change In The 1960s
35 Rebellion And Reaction In The 1960s And 1970s
36 A Conservative Insurgency
37 Triumph And Tragedy: America At The Turn Of The Century

The Story of German Immigrants

» Return to Document Reader
» Worksheet

As soon as the boat landed, . . . myself and a few others went out into the city to look for a place of temporary residence. Afterwards inquiries were to be made, and the country visited in search of a permanent farm-home. The idea of purchasing wild government land had already been given up. Our family must buy land at least partly improved with houses on it. The house [our group] rented was . . . two stories high, contained four large rooms and one small one, a kitchen and a pantry in the wing, and some garret-rooms.

. . . In the afternoon some bedsteads and tables and chairs were purchased. Bedding the family brought along; and in the evening we moved in. . . .

We had notified our relatives of our arrival. . . . In the spring they had gone West; had looked around in Missouri and several counties in Illinois; and after a thorough examination of the conditions, . . . had purchased for four thousand dollars, in St. Clair County, about four hundred acres, of rich prairie and timber land. It was a most beautiful place, originally owned by a well-to-do Virginian, and by far the greatest part of the land was under cultivation, and well fenced. A large and excellent orchard was near the house, which was some hundred yards from a post-road leading from St. Louis to Shawneetown, on the Ohio, on which three times a week a stage ran. The house itself, though one or two rooms were not quite finished, was, according to the modest requirements of the time, large and commodious. It was of frame, weather-boarded, and painted white, with green window-shutters. What made its situation particularly beautiful, was the large lawn in front of the house, with a double row of acacias, and nearby were some tall Lombardy poplars. . . .

I had gone over with [a friend] to Illinois, and had stayed a day or two on his farm. I liked the country much. To be sure, there was, right opposite St. Louis, a wide plain, heavily timbered in part and partly covered with lakes. This was a portion of what was called the American bottomland. . . . This bottom is nearly one hundred miles long and from four to six miles wide, of immense fertility, and had been a favorite place for the Indians. Very few Americans at the time I speak of had settled in this valley, but it had been for more than a century and a half a point of attraction for the French and Canadian French, who found no difficulty in living among the Indians, a thing that the Anglo-Saxon was never able to do. These French lived in villages. Being a sociable people, they had their arable lands, though owned in severalty, all enclosed by one fence, and they had, besides, large tracts of unenclosed land, belonging to them in common, for pasture and for timber and fire-wood. Their fields were called common fields, their pastures and woodlands "commons.". . .

I visited some of the neighboring farms and was very well satisfied. . . . (Our leader) finally concluded to buy a farm. . . . It contained about 120 acres forty of which were under cultivation. It was an old place. The owner . . . and his wife were over seventy years of age. Their children had all married, and so the old folks were hardly able to carry on the farm. Save for a large and most excellent orchard, which had a great reputation in the neighborhood for its delicious peaches, the rest of the farm showed neglectful tilling. The fences were not in the best condition; wells had been attempted but had failed, having been dug either not deep enough or not at the right place. The stables were log-stables, and the out-hoses were in a state of decay. The house, however, was a good substantial log-house of whiteoak timber, containing two tolerably large rooms, and a small frame on, partitioned off from a little porch or veranda on the south side. There was a garret, but it was not then habitable, having neither ceiling nor a good floor, and being covered only with flat boards. A miserable excuse for a cellar was near one of the large chimneys.

[At this point he described their move into the house.]

Our wagon was unloaded. The bedding was placed on the one plain wooden bedstead, part of the furniture bought with the place. Besides this old bedstead, there were included in the purchase, half a dozen old hickory chairs, a table, a bench, an iron kettle, a skillet or two, a few buckets, a plough and other farming utensils, a good cow and calf, some fifteen or twenty head of sheep and many chickens. . . . The wheat had all been reaped and sold before we came. The corn was about ripe. There were a few vegetables in the garden; a ripe potato patch; and a large crop of tomatoes, . . . though the value of this delicious fruit was then unknown to us and therefore not appreciated; in fact, tomatoes were considered by the new-comers as unwholesome and even poisonous; while now we should not like to live in a country where we could not get this glorious fruit in all its forms. . . .

Most of our American neighbors belonged to the Methodist Church. They were a very dry set of people, orthodox in a measure, and great church-goers, but still not of that sentimental mystical piety which we find in Germany in some sects. Of course, there was not intolerance, and it happened frequently that the husband belonged to no church, or as it was called, to the "big church," while the mother was a Methodist and some of the children Baptists. The tracts which these different sects distributed were horrible, tedious and sour as vinegar, but near so childish and tasteless as those of the Pietists in Germany and Switzerland.

During the fall I received a good many letters from home and from my friends. . . . All of them more or less expressed a hope of reunion in America . . . I did not encourage their ideas of emigration.


[From Thomas J. McCormack (ed.), Memoirs of Gustave Koerner, 1809–1896 vol. I, (Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Torch Press, 1909), pp. 286–88, 290–92, 299–300, 305–6.]

Section Menu

Organize

Learn

Connect

Multimedia

Norton Gradebook

Instructors now have an easy way to collect students’ online quizzes with the Norton Gradebook without flooding their inboxes with e-mails.

Students can track their online quiz scores by setting up their own Student Gradebook.