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Cole County became a county in 1820, a year before the Territory of Missouri became a state in 1821. Cole County included the area that is Moniteau County today and had a total population of 1,028.

Today, many people think that because of our large Germanic population that the Germans were our first settlers. Actually, the earliest residents of Cole County were of English-Scots ancestry. Because of the Missouri Compromise of 1821, Missouri came into the Union as a slave state, and Maine as a free state. Cole County founders came from Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and the Carolinas, and they brought slaves to help settle and clear the land. These were industrious people with last names of Hunter, Harrison, Inglish, Vivion and Stark. Land was cheap and plentiful. Cole County encompassed more than 400 square miles and could be bought for 50 cents an acre.

The 1830s saw a large influx of German immigrants into Missouri. A book published in Germany in 1829 by a Prussian attorney, Gottfried Duden, entitled “A Report of a Journey to the Western States of North America,” inspired many Germans to leave the unrest in Europe and came to America. Duden had originally come to St. Louis in 1824 and bought farm land in Warren County. He wrote of the bounty of the land, its price, and the freedom America offered. This book, plus letters from German-American settlers to their families back in Europe created an exodus to Missouri. More than 150,000 Germans came to the United States in the 1830s — and three times that in the 1840s. Germany in the 19th century was divided into many small states and countries, and political strife and a weak economy made America the promised land. From 1830 through the 1880s more than 7 million Germans immigrated to America.

My Bushman ancestors came into America through Philadelphia in the 1680s. We settled in Lancaster and Gettysburg and fought in the American Revolution and also the Civil War. There are three Bushman farms located on the Gettysburg National Battlefield. On my grandmother’s side, my great-grandfather, William Morlock, was born in Hermann, Missouri; but his parents arrived in Hermann from Baden, Germany, in 1839. William Morlock served in the Union Army during the Civil War and moved to Jefferson City in 1865. In 1866, he opened a general mercantile store at the corner of Dunklin and Jefferson in Old Munichburg. He also was a founder and vice president of the Merchants Bank of Jefferson City. I give William Morlock credit for my becoming a merchant in Jefferson City.

Most Germans came into the United States through Philadelphia, Baltimore and New Orleans through the 1880s. St. Louis was the “Gateway to the West,” so this became the destination of many German immigrants. By 1850, St. Louis had a population of 78,000 people, one-third being of German origin. From St. Louis, they spread out to purchase inexpensive farmland and start settlements. We have Missouri towns named Rhineland, Wein, Starkenburg, Dresden, Dutzow, Frankenstein, Koeltztown and Westphalia. Hermann was founded in 1836 by the German Settlement Society of Philadelphia to become a new German colony, preserving their language, heritage, arts and education. With its hilly terrain, it was not good farmland, but it was excellent for vineyards. During the steamboat era, when the Missouri River was the main maritime highway across the state, Hermann was the second-busiest port on the river after St. Louis. This is the time period when my great great-grandfather, Jacob Morlock, arrived in Hermann. Many merchants owned their own riverboats to transport their merchandise from St. Louis to their stores. My great-grandfather, William Morlock, owned his own riverboat which he docked on Weir’s Creek.

Germans spread into Cole County beginning in the 1830s and, by the beginning of the Civil War, made up almost half our population. German Catholics, Lutherans and Evangelicals settled in communities around Jefferson City, and their churches and schools became the heart of each township. These were hard-working, industrious, religious people, and with the lack of good roads, these communities were self-sufficient with the church, school, blacksmith, mills, mercantile stores and, of course, a tavern. Towns such as Taos, Wardsville and St. Thomas were primarily Catholic, while Schubert, Zion, Stringtown, Lohman and Honey Creek were mainly Lutheran. The Evangelical Church was formed in 1858 in the Munichburg center of Jefferson City. Later, a church was organized in Brazito.

In many of these communities, German was still spoken daily, and newspapers printed in German were published in Jefferson City and other communities up until World War I.

Our German ancestors helped make Cole County what it is today. We owe many things to our English, Irish, French, Belgium, Dutch and African settlers; but the Germans gave us the tradition of Christmas trees and the celebration of the season, parish picnics, and of course beer and wine.

Cole County has many more Forcks, Dudenhoeffers, Dulles, Hoelschers, Lueckenottes, Schnieders, Bushmanns, Browns and Struemphs than Inglish, O’Connell or Tatman.

Nevertheless, we’re all a part of what makes Cole County a wonderful place to live.

Sources: “German Settlement in Missouri: New Land, Old Ways,” by Robyn Burnett and Ken Luebbering; “History of Jefferson City: 1821-1938,” by James Ford.

Sam Bushman is the presiding commissioner on the Cole County Commission. He shares his perspective each month on county issues. He can be reached at sbushman@colecounty.org.

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