Biography of Frederick (Friedrich) Muench

Frederick Muench, one of the early German pioneers in this State, was born in a small village in Hessen-Darmstadt, on June 25, 1799, the son of a Protestant minister. He received his early education from his father, then completed a three years course at the Gymnasium in Darmstadt in two years and entered the University of Giessen in the fall of 1816. Following in his father’s footsteps he took up the study of theology, but soon became interested in the movement which at that time was spreading throughout the German universities and which had for its object the fostering of a spirit of liberty and the revival of a love of country which had all but disappeared as a result of the Napoleonic invasion. He was an enthusiastic follower and an admirer of Charles Follen (Follenius), who was the leader of this movement at the University of Giessen, and who later came to this country and became the first head of the German Department at Harvard. He had passed the prescribed examination by the end of 1819 and before he was twenty-one years of age, was a duly ordained minister of the gospel.

Although installed as his father’s successor upon the letter’s death, the life of a country vicar did not long satisfy him. His interest in the political agitation which was spreading throughout Germany and which was to culminate in the abortive revolution of 1848, kept him in intimate touch with happenings beyond the confines of his little village. Finally, despairing of arousing popular support for the efforts they and their patriot friends were making Muench and his sister’s husband, Paul Follenius, who had been his intimate friend at college and was then a successful lawyer at Giessen, decided that their one hope of realizing their ideals lay in emigrating to America. In furtherance of this idea they organized the “Giessen Emigration Society,” which, numbering about five hundred members, they brought to this country in 1834, after suffering the usual hardships and disappointments incident to ventures of this kind. The brothers-in-law bought adjoining farms in Warren county, on the Lake Creek, a few miles from Marthasville, and a year or two later were joined by Muench’s younger brother, George, also a graduate in theology of the University of Giessen, and the three farms became popularly known as the “Latin Settlement.” Carl Schurz, in his memoirs, refers to a visit to the settlement and speaks of Friedrich Muench as “the highest type of Latin farmer.”

Already fully familiar with the principles of our government before leaving Germany, Frederick Muench maintained a keen interest in all political questions up to the time of his death. Although for a number of years his time was well occupied with tilling a one hundred and twenty acre farm, he found leisure to keep up his literary activities, which were chiefly along philosophical lines. Within the first few years after his arrival he published “A Treatise on Religion and Christianity, Orthodoxy and Rationalism.” He was a regular contributor to the “Lichtfreund,” published by Edward Muehl, in Hermann and up to the date of his death a contributor to the “Westliche Post,” whose editor, the late Dr. Emil Preetorius, was his intimate friend. Having developed a fondness for experimenting in the growing of grapes he published a treatise on “American Grape Culture,” one of the first works of its kind to appear in this country. His contributions to newspapers and periodicals appeared over the pen name “Far West.” In 1858, at the request of persons interested, he wrote a book on “The State of Missouri,” published in the German language for circulation in Germany and Switzerland and designed to direct the tide of immigration to this state.

Politically Frederick Muench worked actively for the cause of abolition. With Frederich Hecker and others he took an active part in the campaign of 1856, touring the entire middle west. He was elected a member of the state senate in 1861, where, by reason of his patriarchal appearance, he was affectionately known as “Father Muench,” and served in the senate throughout the period of the Civil war. He was not spared the bereavement that came to many families during those years. One of his younger sons, a boy of eighteen, who responded to Lincoln’s first call for troops, fell at the battle of Wilson’s Creek, fighting under Sigel. Appointed originally by Governor Fletcher, he served under three administrations as a member of the State Board of Immigration.

Frederick Muench died in 1881, while at work in his vineyard on the farm where he had lived for forty-seven years. He had up to the time of his death retained all his mental alertness and a. great deal of the physical vigor which had characterized him throughout his life. He was survived by his widow, nee Louise Fritz, whom he married shortly before coming to this country; and by his sons: Adolph of Holstein; Julius, living with him on the home farm; Ferdinand, a farmer near Dundee, in Franklin county; and Hugo, a lawyer in St. Louis; and by his daughters: Pauline, wife of Gordian L. Busch, a farmer and stock raiser near Washington, Missouri; and Emilie, wife of Dr. William Follenius.

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