The First Stephanites Arrive in St. Louis

Seventy-eight days after departing Bremerhaven, Germany, the first members of the Gesellschaft arrived by steamboat in St. Louis, Missouri.  They had voyaged across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Copernicus to New Orleans, Louisiana, and then had traveled up the Mississippi aboard the steamboat, Rienzi.  Now, on January 19, 1839, they had finally arrived at that point in America where they would later rendezvous with the other members of the group to determine their next steps in settling here.

The beginning of this journey for the passengers on the Copernicus was described in the post titled, The Voyage Begins.  The pastor who accompanied this group was Rev. Ernst Moritz Buerger.  Many of this group would be part of the settlement in Perry County that he led which was known as Seelitz.

This drawing of the St. Louis waterfront may give an idea of what these new immigrants may have seen as they entered this rapidly growing city.



There were probably around 170 passengers aboard the Rienzi.  They all would be needing places to stay.  It was going to be a difficult time for the leaders of this group to find accommodations for this many people.  As you can imagine, these newcomers would also have to find food to eat as well.  To make matters more difficult, these immigrants would be required to stay in St. Louis for several months before they could move to their new homes.

A painting was done by G.H. Hillmer and F. Nuderscher which shows how they pictured the arrival of the last of the steamboats, the Selma, later in February.  This is a black and white image of that painting that is included in Zion on the Mississippi.


It was not going to be until May of 1839 before many of these immigrants are going to be taking another steamboat back down the Mississippi to the land in Perry County where they would settle.

2 thoughts on “The First Stephanites Arrive in St. Louis

  1. My gggg grandfather James C Baird died in May of 1840 in St. Louis, Missouri. In his probate records I found a slip that reads
    One day after date I promise to pay the steam boat Rienzi owners Three Hundred thirty dollars and thirty nine cents for value received and without defalcation. May 9, 1939.

    Is there any record of where this boat would of been going on those dates?


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