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Exploring the Recruitment of Germans to Michigan
1. Background and History
The recruitment of Germans to Michigan took place from 1845-1885, excluding the United States Civil War time. Michigan legislators were interested in recruiting Germans because of their strong religious beliefs, their industriousness, and the value they placed on education.
The Germans left their homeland because of crop failure and the lack of land. Politically, a liberal revolt of 1848 failed and those active in the revolution feared retaliation from the government they had just tried to unseat. These Germans were called the 48-ers. Those immigrants who were from Prussia wanted to avoid mandatory military service (conscription).
Michigan was ready to welcome those from German lands. Immigrants were being recruited to come to Michigan. There was plenty of land, opportunity, and jobs available for immigrants. The immigrants were allowed religious freedom in Michigan. Some German settlements had been established and this drew Germans to those places.
2. Recruitment Process
Edwin M. Just, a Livingston state senator, introduced a petition to hire an emigration agent. The Governor, John Barry, was authorized to appoint an agent who would reside in New York City from the first day of April to the 20th day of November. The agent’s duties included encouraging immigration to Michigan, traveling on public railroads, and fulfilling items deemed necessary by the Governor. Governor Barry signed into law Just’s petition on March 24, 1845. John Almy, of Grand Rapids, was appointed the first agent. Almy was already in New York City representing Kent and Ottawa county landowners.
John Almay State of Michigan-1845-to Emigrants https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/16805/
Edward H. Thomson The Emigrant’s Guide to the State of Michigan
Rudolph Diepenbeck Der Staat Michigan http://www.clarkehistoricallibrary.org/2019/07/immigration-in-another-era.html
Max H. Allardt Der Michigan Wegweiser and Michigan, seine Vorzüge und Hülfsquellen,: Mit vollständiger Karte des Staates (Michigan, its advantages, and resources, with a complete map of the State.) Available at University of Michigan Historical Collections or find it through World Cat and request through interlibrary loan, if interested.
Frederick Morley Michigan and its Resources
3. Michigan Settlement
German settlements were in Michigan. Immigrants settled near relatives. Others settled with people of their religious faith. Immigrants settled in areas where they could get land and/or jobs, which is where recruitment helped the immigrants.
The list below shows Michigan settlements and the area emigrated from.
• Ann Arbor-Württemberg
• Sanilac County (Forestville and other thumb areas)-Saxony
• Saginaw Valley (Frankentrost, Frankenlust, Frankenhulf, Amelith)-Bavaria
• Other areas
- Westphalia-Westphalia North Rhine
- Chocolay Township near Marquette
- Ora et Labora near Bay Port in Huron County
• Other areas in Germany-Dusseldorf, Baden, Hesse, Mecklenburg, Posen, Prussia, West Prussia, East Prussia, and others.
There are a lot of resources available for this period of German Immigration to Michigan. Remember to use the usual genealogical resources as well. Items like census records, death certificates, church records, immigration and naturalization records, and newspaper research are important.
Archives of Michigan
Archives of Michigan (Box Numbers)
Flyer: “Inducements for Actual Settlers in Michigan” in B55-Emigration Commission
B157: Immigration, 1843-1910
B179: Emigration Commission
B242: Records of the Executive Office
B243: Emigration and Immigration Commission
B250: Emigration Agent B193: Transportation-Steamship companies 1869-1874 Governor’s Reports
Other Archive Holdings (thanks to Ceil Jensen)
Department of Conservation, Lands Division. Applications for homestead from the German Christian Agricultural and Benevolent Society, 1867. RG 60-8, Box 49.
Carlson, Harold. “A distinguished 48’er: Eduard Dorsch.” Michigan History Magazine, vol. 19 (1935), p. 425-437; vol. 20 (1936), p. 411-412.
Committee of 1930. The hundredth anniversary of the arrival in Detroit of the organized immigration from Germany, 1830-1930. Detroit, 1933.
Edinger, Dora. “Christian Esselen: Citizen of Atlantis.” Michigan History Magazine, vol. 34 (1950), p. 133-143.
Frank, Louis. German American pioneers in Wisconsin and Michigan. Milwaukee, 1971.
Graff, George. The People of Michigan. Lansing, 1974. p. 40-46.
Kennedy, J. B. “Herman Kiefer.” Michigan Pioneer Collections, vol. 20 (1915), p. 397-403.
Kistler, Mark. “The German language press in Michigan.” Michigan History Magazine, vol. 44 (September 1960), p. 303-323.
Kistler, Mark. “The German Theater in Detroit.” Michigan History Magazine, vol. 47 (1963), p. 289-300.
Neidhard, Karl. “Reise nach Michigan.” Michigan History Magazine, vol. 35 (1951), p. 32-84.
Peano, Shirley. “Pioneer Germans in Marquette County.” Harlow’s Wooden Man, vol. 9 no. r (Fall, 1973).
Suelflow, Roy. “Lutheran Missionaries in the Saginaw Valley.” Michigan History Magazine, vol. 51 (Fall, 1967), p. 226-240.
Suelflow, Roy. “The Planting of Lutheranism in Detroit.” Concordia Historical Quarterly, vol. 39 (July, 1966).
Ten Brook, Andrew. “Our German immigrations.” Michigan Pioneer Collections, vol. 26 (1894-95), p. 241-255.
Zehnder, Herman. Teach my people the truth. Frankenmuth, 1970.
The Earliest Immigrants to Calumet Chart http://calumetmi.blogspot.com/2009/07/earliest-polish-immigrants-to-calumet.html
The Polish Pioneers of Calumet, Michigan Der Michigan Wegweiser Post http://calumetmi.blogspot.com/2008/07/blog-post_3677.html
The Polish Pioneers of Calumet, Michigan http://calumetmi.blogspot.com/
Agents of Change Recruiting for Industrial America in the 1800’s at Ancestry Corporate Blog https://www.ancestry.com/corporate/blog/agents-of-change-recruiting-for-industrial-america-in-1800s/
Germans Recruited to Come to Michigan at Family Tree Blog https://www.familytree.com/blog/germans-recruited-to-come-to-michigan/
Was Your German Ancestor Recruited to Come to Michigan? Full disclosure: this is my blog. https://www.journeytothepastblog.com/2015/07/was-your-german-ancestor-recruited-to.html
Books and Magazines
Agents of Change by Ceil Wendt Jensen, Ancestry Magazine, Jan-Feb 2010 at Google Books http://bit.ly/3WUE0rU
American Settlers Guide by Henry Norris Copp at Google Books http://bit.ly/3hANuIS
Germanic Influence in the Making of Michigan by John Andrew Russell https://quod.lib.umich.edu/g/genpub/AFK0855.0001.001?rgn=main;view=fulltext
History of Detroit and Michigan by Silas Farmer https://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/micounty/
The Location of German Immigrants in the Middle West, Hildegard Binder Johnson
Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 41, No. 1 (Mar., 1951), pp. 1-41
Michigan History Magazine at Family Search https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/2565071
Michigan Immigration by William Jenks, Michigan History Magazine, vol. 28 (January-March 1944), p. 67-100. http://bit.ly/3TpEe7H
Michigan: seine Vorzuge und Hulfsquellen (Michigan Its Superior Attributes and Resources)
Michigan’s Thumb, a Paradise for Saxonia Settlers by Utz H. Schmidt https://bit.ly/3GqhTEf
The German Colonies in the neighborhood of the Saginaw River by Frederich Koch
Central Michigan University Clarke Library http://www.clarkehistoricallibrary.org/2019/07/immigration-in-another-era.html
Library of Michigan
F575.A1 V3 1970 Settling the Great Lakes Frontier: Immigration to Michigan 1837-1924 by C. Warren Vander Hill
Report of the Commissioner of immigration for the State of Michigan, For the Years 1881 and 1882, pg. 3, Lansing, MI, W.S. George & Co., State Printers and Binders 1883 / Laws of Michigan No. 112, pg. 188, Citation: 1869 vol. I 188, provided by Library of Michigan, downloaded from Hein Online, which is assessable on the Library of Michigan website with a library card.
Michigan Technological University Archives
University of Michigan Bentley Library-Governor Begole’s records.
University of Michigan Clements Library-Edward H. Thomson papers (1826-1924, bulk 1836-1885)
A History of the German Settlers in Washtenaw County-1830-1930 by Dale R. Herter and Terry Stollsteimer http://bit.ly/3UuX6U5
Detroit News https://www.detroitnews.com/picture-gallery/news/local/michigan-history/2016/02/10/moving-to-michigan-in-the-1800s/80186522/
Fredrich Schmid records https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/handle/2027.42/99573 Also, available at Genealogical Society of Washtenaw County Capers Newsletter, for members only. https://washtenawgenealogy.org/
Ghost Town of Amelith https://puresaginaw.com/the-ghost-town-of-amelith/
History of Frankenmuth https://sgsmi.org/uploads/2/9/0/9/29090715/history_of_frankenmuth._135_pdf.pdf
Johnson, Howard George, 1943-The Franconian Colonies of the Saginaw Valley, Michigan: A Study in Historical Geography, Michigan State University, Ph.D., 1972 Geography http://bit.ly/3URjMha
Ora Labora: The failed 19th century utopia in Michigan’s thumb https://www.michiganradio.org/arts-culture/2019-09-11/ora-labora-the-failed-19th-century-utopia-in-michigans-thumb
Michigan County Histories and Atlases https://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/micounty/
Michigan Polonia Resources http://www.mipolonia.net/resources/
Michigan’s Thumb, a Paradise for Saxonia Settlers by Utz H. Schmidt http://bit.ly/3UUtgs1
The Bavarian settlements of the Saginaw Valley: the story of Lutheran pioneer life in the primeval forests of Michigan Graebner, Theodore, 1876-1950. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/micounty/3111167.0001.001?view=toc
Germany Emigration and Immigration Family Search Wiki https://www.familysearch.org/en/wiki/Germany_Emigration_and_Immigration
German Roots-Online German Emigration Records, Lists, and Indexes https://www.germanroots.com/emigration.html