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[ ] The era of the Middle Border ended with World War I. Some of us have lived in its Indian Summer, and almost no one was aware how soon and suddenly it was to end. —Carl Sauer, “Homestead and Community,” 1962 1 Warrenton of the Middle Border, 1889–1908 Warrenton, Missouri, with one important exception, was anything but special . It was the epitome of the small-town Midwest, the Middle Border as Hamlin Garland called it in his 1917 novel.1 Warrenton was an elongated, east-west trending grid of about ten to twelve blocks, aligned on either side of the commercial core of Boone’s Lick Road, the town’s Main Street. Its mile or more of sidewalks with overhanging wooden verandas was lined with stores, saloons, banks, a pool hall, a drugstore, livery stables, a dentist, a doctor, a baker, a shoe repairer, attorneys’ offices, the office of the local newspaper, the Banner, a couple of churches, and some private residences. At the western end stood the county courthouse and jail, situated in traditional fashion on a square.2 Most of the roads petered out in the few fields that had been cut out of the surrounding forests of pine, hickory, and white oak. Some 840 people lived in the town and its immediate surroundings in 1900. The Missouri Rhineland Warrenton was typical of thousands of small towns across Midwest America in the late nineteenth century. However, one big difference set Warrenton apart and made it special. In two large blocks along Main Street were the buildings of Central Wesleyan College. The ensemble of multistoried stone 6 to pass on a good earth buildings, shaded by avenues of elms and other trees, was a graceful adornment that added a cosmopolitan air to this otherwise prosaic little midwestern town.3 Here William Albert Sauer, Carl’s father, was a professor of music and French from 1866 to his death in 1918. Carl grew up in Warrenton. The town was the cradle, nursery, and school of this remarkable man, and he frequently and nostalgically recalled it as the theater of his youth. Warrenton figured unnamed, in an essay Sauer wrote seventy-four years later entitled, very academically, “Status and Change in the Rural Midwest—a Retrospect.” Its working title in manuscript was more evocative and revealing—“Old Haunts Revisited.” It was a wistful, melancholy, affectionate glance at an older, simpler, and seemingly pleasanter bygone age during its fading Indian summer, which disintegrated and dissolved after 1918.4 Central Wesleyan College was an important element of that memory. The college was one of several small independent institutions created in the United States to cater to the spiritual and cultural needs of immigrant German Protestants. Next to the English, the Germans were the largest European immigrant group in the United States. From a few thousand mainly peasant migrants escaping poverty, even starvation, during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the number of German-born migrants rose steadily. Some 952,000 arrived in 1851–61, largely as a result of the failure of what a British historian called “the revolution of the intellectuals ” in 1848, which led to the departure of many educated Germans. About five million Germans then made the journey across the Atlantic.5 Large sections of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Buffalo became almost wholly German speaking, as did much of rural Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, and eastern Kansas.6 Missouri, particularly along the Missouri River and the west bank of the Mississippi, was a favorite destination of rural migrants,7 attracted to the area by boosterish pamphlets and books. Widely disseminated in Germany was Gottfried Duden’s Report on a Journey to the Western States. Duden had settled near Dutzow, about ten miles southeast of Warrenton, which he extolled as a veritable Canaan, a paradise to farm, and free from the social and religious restrictions of early nineteenth-century Germany.8 Known as “the Missouri Rhineland” since most of the immigrants were from West­ Warrenton of the Middle Border 7 phalia, Warren County and adjacent St. Charles and Montgomery Counties had towns with names like Hamburg, Bernheimer, Holstein, and Herman.9 This great reservoir of German origin made Missouri an obvious location for a college to educate the children of immigrant families and to train ministers. Since instruction in local schools was via the German Bible, the German hymnbook, and German preaching, there was a need for Germanspeaking ministers. A German American college had been...


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