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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 31: Migration of Palatines to America.

[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 457-467 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. Some images have been relocated to the area in the text where they are discussed. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Migrations of 1708-1709-1710-1712 to America and New York State — Residence in London — Assistance of Queen Anne and the British government — Settlement in Ireland, North Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey — First location in the province of New York at Newburgh, in 1709 — Great migration of 3,000 Palatines to New York in 1710, and location on the Hudson River.

The settlement of the Palatines, along the Mohawk and Schoharie rivers in 1712, was a direct outcome of the Reformation. Benton [i.e, Nathaniel S. Benton, A History of Herkimer County: including the Upper Mohawk Valley, from the earliest period to the present time, etc.] says: "The outbreak of the Reformation in 1517, under the conduct of Martin Luther, an Augustinian friar and professor of theology in the University of Wittenberg, Saxony, is the first great event to which our attention is directed; that being the epoch from which we can trace the causes that drove the Palatines of the Lower Rhine to seek a home in the then Province of New York, nearly two hundred years afterwards."

The Palatines, who settled in the Mohawk watershed, were mainly from the Lower Palatinate of the Rhine, whose princes early adopted the Reformed religion, some being Calvinists and others followers of Luther. During the two centuries following the beginning of the Reformation, the people of the Lower Rhine Palatinate were mainly Protestants, generally changing from Calvinists to Lutheran, and vice versa, according to the religious leanings of the reigning prince. In considering the horrors of the religious wars which followed the Reformation, it must be remembered that religious and political issues were often entangled in a manner most confusing to the present-day reader who is unacquainted with their many ramifications. The intention of this History of the Mohawk Valley is to keep its story free from the bitterness of these historic religious issues, wars and hatreds, and to tell the story of the Palatines as truly as can be gathered from the records.

Benton's "Herkimer County and the Upper Mohawk Valley" [i.e, Nathaniel S. Benton, A History of Herkimer County: including the Upper Mohawk Valley, from the earliest period to the present time, etc.] concisely tells the story of the ravages of the religious and political wars in the Palatinate, which were the causes of emigration from the Rhineland to Holland and England and thence to America.

"There were, perhaps, two motives that induced the people of the Palatinate to look to England for succor, at the commencement of the eighteenth century. Frederick, then Prince Palatine, who had married Elizabeth, daughter of James I, King of England, was in 1619, elected king of the states of Bohemia; but, in the year following, he was signally defeated at the battle of Weisenberg by the Emperor of Germany, driven into exile and all his estates were confiscated. This was during the thirty years' religious war in Germany. By the treaty of Westphalia, the eldest son of the banished Frederick was restored to his patrimonial estates of the Lower Palatinate. This prince was cousin to Anne, daughter of James II, who ascended the British throne in 1702, on the death of William III. The Palatinate was occupied by the imperial armies in 1623, when the magnificent library of Heidelburg was seized and presented to the Pope of Rome. It was restored in 1815.

"The Lower Palatinate was invaded by the French in 1689, many of its towns burnt and the country devastated, while the defenseless inhabitants, who begged for mercy on their knees, were stripped naked and driven into the fields, then covered with snow, where many of them perished. One historian, in speaking of the cruelties committed by the French on this occasion, states that 'the Elector beheld, from his castle at Manheim, two cities and twenty-five towns in flames, and where lust and rapine walked hand in hand with fire and sword.' Thus, for nearly seventy-five years, was this fair country, described as one of the most beautiful in Germany, the theater of wars, and the scene of rapine, ravages and desolations, until the remnant of the population could no longer find a hiding place in the fatherland. The Catholic rulers of France, for a time, sided with the Protestant League in Germany during the Thirty Years War, and soon afterwards cut the throats of their Huguenot subjects at home.

"The continental wars of Europe, at the close of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth centuries, seem to have been promoted very much by religious considerations. The see of Rome was determined to 'crush out' heresy, and exerted all its spiritual and temporal powers to accomplish it, and well did the Catholic powers and princes of Europe second the papal injunctions, except when reasons of state intervened to prevent. The majority of Europe adhered to the Romish faith.

"From the proximity of the Lower Palatinate to France and the Netherlands, it is probable that it received accessions of population from both of these countries during the religious wars; and Manheim, a strong and well-built city at that day, was, in the year 1576, appointed as the place of retreat for the families of the reformed religion, at that time driven from the Spanish Netherlands, which considerably enriched this electorate. A historian of the last century describes the people of the Palatinate as 'the most civilized and polite of any in Germany; extremely open and hospitable to strangers, and generally well informed.'"

Historians of the Mohawk Valley have often failed to record the close connection between the imperial quarrels of the French Louis and the Holland Dutch William with the settlement of the Palatines in the Mohawk Valley. We have seen the devastation and horrors produced by the French and their Indians in the Province of New York and the Mohawk Valley during King William's war (1689-1698) — notably in the burning and massacre at Schenectady in 1690. Greater ravages of this same great war in the Rhine Palatinate three thousand miles overseas, produced the Palatine exodus from that desolated country and the ultimate location of these people on the Hudson, Schoharie and Mohawk rivers and within the boundaries of Pennsylvania, where they became the original "Pennsylvania Dutch." The early settlement of the Atlantic coast of the United States was the natural result of religious wars and persecution following the great religious movements and upheavals of the Reformation. These mighty movements of history tended to make the British colonies in America strongly Protestant in feeling, with the exception of the province of Maryland, which, similarly, was founded as a refuge of English Catholics.

Louis XIV had long coveted the rich lands of the Rhine Palatinate. When Charles, The Elector Palatine, died in 1685, Louis figured that his opportunity had come to grasp this country. He denied the right of Philip William of Neuberg to the succession and demanded the Palatinate for his brother Philip, in right of his wife, the sister of the dead Palatine. The demand roused all the German princes in opposition and the League of Augsburg was formed against Louis. The accession of William, Prince of Orange and Stadtholder of the Netherlands, to the throne of England, following the bloodless revolution against James II, was another cause of the disasters which overtook the Palatinate and caused the exodus of a great part of its people. Says Cobb, "The war raged for nine years and in the Palatinate with unparalleled ferocity. Louis, anticipating the action of the allies, sent 50,000 men into the Palatinate under General Montclas. History accredits to Madame de Maintenon an insatiable rage against the Palatine and his people for the asylum afforded to the Huguenots and to her intrigues and persuasions that Louvois urged upon the king that 'the Palatinate should be made a desert.'" A policy of extermination was agreed upon and mercilessly put into effect. Macaulay says:

"The French commander announced to nearly one-half million of human beings that he granted them three days of grace, and that within that time they must shift for themselves. Soon the roads and fields, which then lay deep in snow, were blackened by innumerable men, women and children, flying from their homes. Many died of cold and hunger, but enough survived to fill the streets of all the cities of Europe with lean and squalid beggars, who had once been thriving farmers and shopkeepers."

The desolation wrought by the armies of the "Great Louis" on the Palatinate shores of the Rhine was nearly as dreadful and complete as the swath cut over two centuries later by the armies of another "war-lord" — that of the devastating hosts of William of Germany in their march through Belgium into Northern France.

Thousands of the Palatines fled into Northern Germany and Holland. It is probable that the latter country had a considerable influence upon the Palatines who went thither, just as prior immigration of Flemings into the Palatinate must have influenced the blood of its people and have produced similarities of thought as well as religion, which we note when Hollander and Palatine met later on the banks of the Mohawk and Schoharie.

Queen Anne's War, which raged from 1701 to 1713, was the immediate cause of the migration of the Palatines from their Rhineland homes to America. Marshal Villars led a French army into the little state, in 1707, which again burned and ravaged this fair land. Following this invasion, the exodus began which brought many of the Palatines to America and to final homes along the Mohawk and Schoharie rivers.

Historical controversy has claimed this matter of Palatine immigration to America and involved it in fruitless argument. It has been claimed that land agents, working among the Palatines, had induced them to migrate to America. The Palatine immigrants admitted this to be the case but claimed that the devastations of the French and the exposed position of the Palatinate and the constant danger of such incursions, had prompted them to lend a ready ear to the representatives of American Colonial land speculators. Whatever the cause may have been a large number of Palatines moved over into England, where they eventually became a burden upon the English people. There is no record of any of these land speculators having profited by the Palatine immigration.

The first settlement of Palatines or any other Germans in America was a small party of Lutherans who fled to Holland in 1705 and who came to America, in 1707, and located in Morris County, New Jersey.

In the spring of 1708, Rev. Joshua Kockerthal addressed a petition to the London Board of Trade, on behalf of himself and other poor Lutherans, from the Palatinate, asking that they be sent to America as settlers. They formed a company of Palatines who had come to London early in the year. Before this party embarked for America, they were joined by fourteen others, making their number fifty-five in all. Kockerthal's company sailed from England with the new governor, Lord Lovelace, in the autumn of 1708. These Palatines were settled on Quassaick Creek in the present city of Newburgh. The name of the city is a memorial to this first Palatine immigration into New York inasmuch as the prince of the Lower Palatinate was of the House of Neuberg. The Newburgh region was granted to the Palatines in 1719, under the name of the German patent. This was the first considerable German settlement in America and occurred ninety-five years after the Hollanders made their first permanent location on the Hudson, at present New York City.

The Rev. Joshua Kockerthal was a man of strong character and a leader of his people in all their later settlements on the Hudson River. After locating this first company at Newburgh, he returned to England and was instrumental in bringing out the second large expedition of 1710, which was that from among whose members came the Palatine pioneers of the Schoharie and the Mohawk valleys.

The winter of 1708-9 was a most severe one in the Palatinate, which, combined with the ravages of Queen Anne's war and the constant fear of further invasion, started an exodus from every part of the little principality. As Conrad Weiser later described it: "A migrating epidemic seized upon the stricken people and, as a wave, thirty thousand Germans washed along the shores of England." "Both for charity's sake and in their own defense, the people of Rotterdam speeded them over the channel into England, where their swarming numbers put to the proof, not only the ingenuity of the government to provide for their future destination, but also their ability to provide for their pressing and immediate needs." The Palatines began to arrive in London in May, 1709, and they came to the number of 13,000 by the end of October. The Crown and the English people, although naturally perturbed by such an influx, met the situation in true hearty English fashion. The people were lodged in army tents, warehouses, barns, empty houses and four houses were erected in the west of London for these people which are yet called the Palatine Houses. Queen Anne took a kindly interest in these pilgrims and furnished much toward their support from her private purse. Cobb says that "It is estimated that the sums expended by the government and contributed by the people of England, for the support and final establishment of the Palatines in Ireland and America aggregated the enormous amount of 135,000 pounds."

The good treatment accorded Kockerthal and his companions in America evidently appealed to the Palatines and they hoped and asked to be sent thither. Kockerthal also asked the English government to have them sent to New York. The first shipment of these people was made to Munster in Ireland, where 3,800 people were settled. Their descendants are numbered among the most substantial citizens of Ireland. Seven hundred were later sent to the Carolinas, where they became a strong element in the early Colonial population. They made their first settlement at the junction of the Neuse and Trent rivers, which they called New Berne, in honor of the two Swiss land proprietors, DeGraffenried and Michell. About 600 Swiss accompanied this migration. Governor Spotswood, of Virginia, also settled a small body of the Palatines at a place he called Germanna on the Rapidan, at about this time.

We now come to the great Palatine migration to America in 1710, the one which brought these pioneers to our Valley and the first great movement of Germans to the New World. This was the largest immigration of any people in one body to the Western Hemisphere in Colonial days. Strange to say the coming of the Palatines to the Mohawk and Schoharie rivers is closely associated with the history of the Mohawk Indians and it was a Mohawk Indian chief who presented the Palatines with the land along the Schoharie, which became henceforth the "promised land" of at least a portion of these destitute Germans, then subsisting on the bounty of the English people.

We have previously noted the visit of Colonel Peter Schuyler and Colonel Nicholson to London, in 1709, accompanied by five Mohawk chieftains. Mention has also been made herein of the interest excited by the journey of these noted red men to the British metropolis, which was promoted for the purpose of awakening the English government and the English people to the importance of the dominion overseas and to the need of its defense from French aggression. In a large way, the mission of Schuyler and Nicholson was successful.

While the New York Provincial and Mohawk embassy was in London its members came in contact with the Palatines who were much in evidence. The Mohawks went everywhere in London to see the sights, with which they were immensely impressed. "In their walks in the outskirts of London, they saw the unenviable condition of the houseless and homeless Germans; and one of them, unsolicited, and voluntarily, presented the Queen a tract of his land in Schoharie, N. Y., for the use and benefit of the distressed Germans." (Rupps, "Berks Co.," p. 189.) [perhaps Israel Daniel Rupp, History of the Counties of Berks and Lebanon] Weiser says that "five chiefs of the Mohawk Indians saw and pitied the wretched condition of the people, and offered to open to the perishing mass their hunting grounds beyond the sea." In reference to this gift of land by the Mohawk chief, [Sanford Hoadley] Cobb, in his "Story of the Palatines," says: "Certainly, the larger portion of these three thousand emigrants left London with Schoharie as the synonym of their hope and were not satisfied until they looked on its level meadows and lordly hills."

Within two days after the Palatine contingent was sent to Ireland the Board of Trade suggested, to Queen Anne, that as many of the Palatines as possible be transported to and settled on the Hudson River at the expense of the government, that they should be supported for one year, supplied with all needed tools and granted lands for their support. Governor Lovelace had died and Colonel Robert Hunter was selected as his successor in the Province of New York. Hunter was an ambitious Scotchman who had married the wealthy Lady Hay. He was made a brigadier-general at the time of his appointment as governor of New York. On November 30, 1709, he proposed to the Lords of Trade that three thousand Palatines be sent with him to New York, to be there employed in the production of naval stores. He later proposed that the Palatines "be servants to the Crown for a certain term, or at least 'till they have repaid the expense the Crown is at in settling them at work and subsisting them whilst they can not subsist themselves."

In line with this letter, the Board of Trade recommended to Queen Anne, that the Palatines be settled in the region of "the Mohaques and Hudson's rivers," there to be engaged in the arduous labor of producing turpentine, tar, rosin and pitch and similar products which were dignified by the name of "Naval Stores." The Board specially indicated "a Tract of land lying on Mohaques River, fifty miles by four, and a Tract lying upon a Creek which runs into said River, between twenty-four and thirty miles in length, of which your Majesty has possession." The report advises the government to settle the Palatines upon these tracts in a body or in separate settlements, each family to be granted forty acres "after they shall have repaid the government." The report, including the suggestion that these Germans be employed in the making of "Naval Stores," was approved by the Queen. The situation of the prospective land along the Mohawk River and its tributary, the Schoharie, is important to notice, because it enters into later difficulties between the Palatines and the New York Provincial authorities. The Queen had come into the possession of the lands in question through the vacating of several extravagant grants by act of the New York legislature in 1698, by which several enormous patents given by Governor Fletcher were made void. One of these was a patent which gave the entire Schoharie Valley to Colonel Nicholas Bayard, who later appears in the story of the Palatines.

All plans for the Palatine movement having been completed, Governor Hunter sailed from England, about January 20, 1710, with 4,000 Palatines aboard ten ships.

The voyage of the Palatines to America was much longer than usual, the Governors ship taking nearly five months to cross the Atlantic. Disease broke out among the passengers on the overcrowded ships and 470 Palatines died during the voyage while many of those who finally arrived in New York harbor, were in a deplorable and sickly condition. One of the boats was shipwrecked on the eastern end of Long Island, but all of its people and most of its cargo were saved. This event was distorted, as to the facts, through the passage of the years, and became the theme of Whittier's poem, "The Palatine".

The first ship to arrive in New York was the Lyon. The city authorities were alarmed at the sickness prevalent among the immigrants and therefore quarantined them on Nutten Island, now known as Governor's Island. Here the Palatines were located during their stay in New York harbor and huts were built for them. The little city of New York then numbered less than five thousand people and it offered no accommodations for such a large body of newcomers. The Attorney-General made several appointments of leading Palatines as justices to assist in the civil government of the island and its people. Among them was John Conrad Weiser, the son of a magistrate of Great Anspach in the Duchy of Würtemberg. He was the father of Conrad Weiser, then a boy of twelve years, who later became the leading figure among the Palatine Germans of America.

The Palatines remained five months at Nutten Island, while Governor Hunter's surveyors were mapping the lands on the Mohawk and the Schoharie. During this time the Governor issued an order apprenticing many children of the German immigrants, "which may be set down as the first of the oppressive actions of the government towards those people." The Palatines were greatly exercised at this act and, in a statement of grievances made several years later, they recite that "He took away our children from us without and against our consent." Among these apprentices was John Peter Zenger, whose father had died at sea, who was apprenticed to William Bradford, the printer of New York. Zenger later on appears as the champion of the freedom of the press in one of the many popular conflicts with Royal authority in the Province.

The surveyors sent to survey the prospective lands for settlement by the Palatines were so inefficient that their report was prejudicial to the location of the German immigrants along these streams. These surveyors may have been influenced by Bayard and Livingston, under whose influence Governor Hunter came, as well as that of the aristocratic or Tory party. Bayard, at this time, was evidently hopeful that he might realize something from his former grant of the great Schoharie Valley, which the Palatines now wished to enter. Hunter's acquaintance with Bayard and Livingston may have prompted him to change his prior attitude toward the location of the Palatines along the Mohawk and Schoharie and to turn such settlement to the possible profit of Livingston. Hunter's honesty is not questioned but he probably was influenced by his rich and powerful Provincial friends. Henceforth, Hunter was unalterably opposed to the location of the Palatines on the Schoharie.

Governor Hunter now turned to Robert Livingston, who had large holdings of land along the Hudson, the largest estate in the Province next to Rensselaerwyck. About October 3d, Hunter bought 6,000 acres of land from Livingston. Here the greater part of the Palatines were located, on the east side of the Hudson River, while some were settled on an 800 acre tract on the west side of the Hudson near Sawyer's Creek. The East Camp of the Palatines is now known as Germantown, while the west shore settlement is known as West Camp. The original villages numbered five, three on the east shore and two on the west. Rhinebeck also takes its name from this Palatine settlement, many of its people having descended from these pioneers. About five hundred Palatines remained in New York City, mostly widows, women and children, when the main body located on the Hudson.

The Manor of Livingston was acquired by Robert Livingston, through patent from Governor Dongan in 1686, and was confirmed in 1714 by Governor Hunter. The Manor extended sixteen miles along the Hudson River and twenty-four miles eastward to the Massachusetts line.

It is mainly from the Palatine German settlements on the east bank of the Hudson, located in the present town of Germantown, Columbia County, that the Palatines came who settled in the Mohawk and Schoharie valleys. No serious attempt was made to force the settlers on the west shore of the Hudson to make "Naval Stores". They were left to clear the land and establish homes and farms, where their descendants reside to this day. The "Naval Store" enterprise on the east shore seemed doomed from the start. After getting rid of a great part of its Palatine German population, by emigration to Ireland and America, the Lords of Trade and the English government seem to have lost all interest in the Palatines or the enterprises in which they were engaged. Indeed, there was a marked change of feeling concerning them in London after the Germans had departed, a feeling which is reflected in the historical consideration of the Palatines, like many other historical schisms.

The East Camp of the Palatines on the Hudson contained about 1,200 people. These pioneers came there in the fall of 1710 and their first work was to build shelters for the winter, during which they suffered greatly from the cold, largely because of an insufficient supply of clothing furnished by the government and because of the short and poor rations which they received. The people were bitter and discontented from the first. They looked upon their detention at Livingston Manor as nothing short of slavery and were ever anxious to go to the Schoharie lands which, they said, "the Queen had given them.' One of them is related to have said that "We came to America to establish our families and to secure lands for our children on which they may be able to support themselves after we die." They wanted to settle on farms and they did not want to make "Naval Stores".

In 1711, calls were made for volunteers for the Montreal expedition against the French and three companies of militia were raised in the East Camp, consisting of 105 men, one company of which was commanded by John Conrad Weiser. The names of the Palatine volunteers include Hen. Hoffman, Warner Dirchest, Fred. Bellinger, Hen. Wederwachs, Frantz Finck, Martin Dillenback, Jacob Webber, William Nellis, George Dachsteder, Christian Bauch, Mich. Ittick, Melch. Folts, Niclaus Loux, Hartman Windecker, Hans Hen. Zeller, Jno. Wm. Finck, Jno. Hen. Arendorff, Johan Schneider, Henry Feling, Joh. Jost Petry, Lud. W. Schmit. The foregoing names, or their modernized forms are those of many of the best American families of the Mohawk Valley of today.

The desire of the Palatines for the fulfilment of the promise to settle them along the Schoharie and their natural desire to farm rather than make "tarr" brought on a state of mutiny in the settlement. Governor Hunter came with a company of British soldiers and disarmed the settlers, who constantly demanded the Schoharie lands which had been promised them by Queen Anne. In addition to these grievances, the Provincial government took the cost of tar barrels and the salaries of agents out of the funds provided for the food of the Palatine settlers. During the summer, the people worked steadily at tar making, but their discontent was increasing although concealed from the government overseers. Additional troops were brought to the Manor and the conditions under which the Palatines worked were little short of slavery. A second winter, that of 1711-12, was passed at Livingston Manor, without sufficient food or clothing.

In 1712, Governor Hunter abandoned the great "Naval Stores" enterprise and the Palatines were left to shift for themselves, but were forbidden to leave the provinces of New York or New Jersey. The project had ruined Hunter. He had spent 20,000 pounds in the venture besides 8,000 pounds furnished by the Lords of Trade. Hunter was never repaid for his outlay for the Palatines and his connection with the tar making enterprise was unjustly made the cause of harsh criticism of him by his enemies. Hunter's administration covered a period of intense political bitterness in the Province.

The failure of Hunter's scheme to use the Palatines for the work of the British navy, rather than for their own advantage, had an important result in the subsequent settlement of these pioneers in the Schoharie and Mohawk valleys.

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