Thursday, August 4, 2016

American Spirit Revisited

As part of our summer bucket list, we visited a small German town about two hours from our house called Hermann. 

We took a tour of two homes preserved from the first settlement there.  Apparently, a German society group from Philadelphia hired a man to travel to Missouri to buy them some land so they could make a settlement there.  Each family gave 25 dollars for a plot of land sight unseen.  Well, he DID travel to Missouri and he DID buy some land, but as it turns out, when the settlers got there it was so hilly that it was impossible to farm.  So, there they were, miles from home, thousands of miles from their real homeland of Germany, and stuck with impossible land to farm.  What to do? 
  The settlers all got together and decided that God had a plan.  They were going to grow grapes and make wine.  The weather and soil were perfect for this.  Many little wineries began to grow up and the wine was so excellent that when it was sent to France and Germany it won first prize in all the wine tasting contests. 

 The settlers began to build their homes with garden plots behind.  Each garden was filled to capacity with vegetables, fruit trees, berry bushes etc.  No grass.  All was used and nothing wasted.  They brought over their expertise in musical instrument crafts and made violins, pianos, guitars etc.   The built their own printing press and had a German newspaper for the town and also one they sent back to the east coast and over to Germany.  They printed, chapter by chapter, Harriet Beecher Stowe's banned book:  Uncle Tom's Cabin.  They had left Germany because they were oppressed both religiously and were having their sons taken from them to fight war after war.  They came to America to be free.  And they were zealous abolitionists against American slavery in the south at great risk of being hung.  They built a wine press and dug wine cellars for their casks of wine.  They planted grapes and harvested them together.  Each family would invite the whole town over at harvest to taste the best of their wine.  There were weddings where one young man would don a big wide brimmed hat and go door to door reciting a poem inviting them to the wedding.  They would give him a glass of wine and attach a ribbon to his hat.  After he traveled the whole town, he would return to the bride's family with many colored ribbons on his hat.  And that is how they knew who was coming to the wedding!!  I love that!! 
  Two old sayings were explained to us on our visit.  When we traveled through the printing shop, the guide showed us the letter type drawers.  The top drawers contained the larger letters and the bottom drawers housed the smaller letter.  That is where we get our saying of:  upper case and lower case letters.   The second saying came from the invention of the rope bed.  They would wrap a rope from peg to peg on a bed frame and then pull the rope tight with a lever on the side of the bed.  Then they would place the mattress on top and have a firm sleeping area.  When someone says, "Sleep tight" that is what it means.  May your rope bed stay tight! 
So many other things we discovered about this one, small group of early settlers.  I was in awe of their work ethic, their community spirit, their nerve and their faith.  This was just one little microcosm of settlers all over this country.  How homesick they were and yet they never stopped trying to make this new home their own.  They worked and played and prayed together as a community.  My own family came away with a newer more realistic picture of what history was really like here in our own little corner of the world. 


  1. What a great part of America to visit!
    PS I'm taking over Little Things Thursday for Kim! Come join me at!

  2. so much history! love that piano

  3. Looks like a slice of history!