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Behind the big themes, celebrated figures, and dry dates of history are the interesting stories of life in the past and ordinary people. Southeast Missouri has a varied and rich history that you often don’t hear about in history classes. Join Bill Eddleman of the State Historical Society of Missouri to hear about these stories with “Tales of Days Gone By.” Listen in on the second and fourth Thursday of the month during Morning Edition (7:45 a.m.) and All Things Considered (4:44 p.m.)

The Bollinger Settlement in 1820: Rev. Timothy Flint's Account

Bollinger (Dolle) Mill.png
State Historical Society of Missouri, Digital Photo Collection, Charles Bell Photographs, Collection No. P0212.
Bollinger (Dolle) Mill, Sedgewickville, Missouri. Built by Matthias Bollinger of the Dutch Settlement prior to 1850, and one of four mills built by Bollinger family members in Missouri.

The Rev. Timothy Flint left an 1820 account of the Dutch or Bollinger Settlement, 1st to 3rd generation German immigrants who came to Missouri starting in 1800. His book, Recollections of the Last Ten Years, includes details on Missouri in 1815-1822. Thousands of Missourians trace their ancestry to the Bollinger Settlement, so it is well-worth discussing his observations.

Selections from Flint’s account follow: “there is … an isolated but pure German settlement, where these people have … preserved their nationality, and their language more unmixed, than even in Pennsylvania. …they …express themselves with the peculiar German accent, pronunciation, and phrase … They are principally Lutherans, and came some of them directly from Germany, but the greater portion from North Carolina and Pennsylvania. They have fixed themselves on a clear and beautiful stream called the Whitewater, which runs twenty-five miles, and loses itself in the great swamp. … almost every farmer has his distillery, and the pernicious poison, whiskey, dribbles from the corn; and in their curious dialect, they told me, that while they wanted religion, and their children baptized, and a minister as exemplary as possible, [but] he must allow the honest Dutch, to partake of the native beverage.

“The vast size of their horses, their own gigantic size, the peculiar dress of the women, the child-like and unsophisticated simplicity of their conversation, amused me exceedingly. … I attended a funeral, [and]… After I had performed .. services…, a most venerable looking old man, of the name of Nyeswunger, with a silver beard that flowed down his chin, came forward and asked me if I were willing that he should perform some of their peculiar rites….He opened a very ancient version of Luther's hymns, and they all began to sing in German, so loud that the woods echoed the strain; and yet there was something affecting in the singing of these ancient people, carrying one of their brethren to his long home, in the use of the language and rites which they had brought with them over the sea from “fader land,” a word which often occurred in their hymn. … The words “mein Gott,” “mein broder,” and “fader land,” died away in distant echoes.…They had brought a minister among them, of the name of Weiberg, or, as they pronounced it, Winebork .…The earnest manner in which he performed divine service in their own ritual, and in their own language, carried away all their affections.

“The settlement is German, also, … in their taste for permanent buildings, and their disposition to build with stone —in their love of silver dollars, and their contempt of bank-bills, in their disposition to manufacture every necessary among themselves. … I had the good fortune to be very acceptable to this people, although I could not smoke, drink whiskey, nor talk German.

“…the Germans ..… cast a single look over the forest or prairie which they have purchased, and their minds seize intuitively the best arrangement and division, and their farming establishment generally succeeds. They build a good house and barn. They plant a large orchard. Their fences, their gates, all the appendages to their establishment, are strong and permanent. They raise large horses and cattle. They spend little, and when they sell will receive nothing in pay but specie. …Their wives have no taste for parties and tea. Silent, unwearied labor, and the rearing of their children, are their only pursuits; and in a few years they are comparatively rich.”

Bill Eddleman was born in Cape Girardeau, and is an 8th-generation Cape Countian. His first Missouri ancestor came to the state in 1802. He attended SEMO for two years before transferring to the University of Missouri to study Fisheries and Wildlife Biology. He stayed at Mizzou to earn a master of science in Fisheries and Wildlife, and continued studies in Wildlife Ecology at Oklahoma State University.
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