Vol. III, No. 1, Summer 1989

A German Legacy

The cutoff meander loop of an Ozarks stream is dotted with tailored fields, rich crops and sleek cattle, and pin-neat stone farmhouses.

High above the valley rises a Catholic church of fine ocher Ozarks limestone. "Sanctissimo Cordi Itu, MDCCCLXXIX" is chiseled in its facade. Below are narrow old-world streets of Rich Fountain village that head into the valley.

A few miles away, the village of Westphalia presses along a single street. Across from Hilkemeyer's market, flanked by a crowded cemetery and a thrifty neighbor's vegetable garden, rises another great stone church. Its vast cool interior reveals a fantasy woodcarving, gilded cream-and-pastel, a German Baroque vision of heaven.

A tangible German presence remains in the Ozarks within great country churches and old brick farmsteads, solid stone foundations and barrel-vaulted wine cellars. Less obvious may be its presence in family and church, business and fraternal association, in intangibles of memory, habit, temperment, disposition of world view, weltanschauung. The persistence of Germanness Missouri and Mississippi Rivers west and south of widespread in the Ozarks, especially along the St. Louis. This issue of OzarksWatch focuses on the North Ozarks Border, the "German Counties,"near the Missouri River. There have been many Germans in America, and they have been here a long time. Among European immigrants to what became the United States, they have constituted the largest number of non-English speakers. Their tercentenary has already passed. The writings that will follow suggest that in the Ozarks, the German presence has had its own dynamics of persistence amidst change.

-- Robert Flanders


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