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  • From the German "Mayflower" and the Krefeld Emigrants to Carl Schurz
Krefeld, a small town situated along the west bank of the lower Rhine River set the scene for the genesis of German emigration to America. On the 7th of July, 1683 thirteen families, thirty-three individuals altogether, left to start a new life in a new world. The emigrants were mostly Pietists and Mennonites from areas along the German-Dutch border, who were seeking refuge from religious persecution. On October 6th their ship, the "Concorde", reached Philadelphia. Because of the pioneer character of this event, this voyage would later be termed the sail of the "German Mayflower". A young legal scholar by the name of Franz Daniel Pastorius is credited for having organized this costly venture on behalf of the so-called "Frankfurter Compagnie". Pastorius first happened upon the Krefeld Pietist congregation during his recruitment circuit in Germany. He was able to personally greet the settlers upon their arrival at the site of Germantown, the first German settlement on the North American continent. In commemoration of this event, October 6th  has been designated as German-American Day in the United States. 

The emigration of another German, Christoph Saur to Lancaster County Pennsylvania in 1724 may also be said to be a landmark date in early German emigration to America. In 1743, this emigrant from the village of Laasphe, near Schwarzenau, is credited with having printed the first German-language bible in America. The Wittgenstein district is said to be the place where the Church of the Schwarzenau Brethren originated. Today, many religious groups in America are able to trace their heritage back to the 17th century German Anabaptists and Pietist from this area. 

Among the names of emigrants from North Rhine-Westphalia that have retained prominence  in American History is, of course, Carl Schurz. He was born in the tenant-house quarters of Gracht Castle in Liblar, near Bonn. In 1849, Schurz fought in the May uprising in Baden. He later escaped to Switzerland and, via Rostock and England, sailed to America in 1852. He was the first German-born immigrant, who succeeded in rising to attain a career as a national politician, first, as a political advisor to Abraham Lincoln, later, as a Missouri State Senator and, finally, from 1877 to 1881, as the Secretary of the Interior.

The open air museum in the town of Kommern recently presented an exhibit on emigration from North Rhine-Westphalia to America.

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Carl Schurz, born in 1829 in Liblar near Cologne, died 1906 in New York. Revolutionary, Journalist, General in US Civil War, Secretary of Interior