|The Palatine Emigration to America, by Francis E. Pray|
The Palatine Emigration to America, by Francis E. Pray. Given at the 1972 Annual MeetingFrom the first issue of The Gibbs Magazine, published by The Nicholas Gibbs Historical Society.
Upon hearing or seeing the title of this talk, you may well ask, "Who were the Palatines? Where did they come from? Why should I be interested in them?"
The Palatines were people from the continent of Europe, most of whom were German-speaking, who emigrated to America between 1709 and 1808. They were called Palatines by the English government because many of them came from the Rhenish Palatinate, a part of Germany.
However, large numbers came from Wurttemberg and Switzerland, and smaller numbers came from Baden, Alsace, Lorraine, the Hessian states, Franconia, and parts of Bavaria. The area from which these people came was the middle and upper valley of the Rhine extending from the junction of the Rhine and Moselle south to Basel, Switzerland, and from Lorraine east to the Bavarian Palatinate.
Nicholas Gibbs, who emigrated from Baden, was a so-called Palatine. So were many of the other early settlers of Tennessee and North Carolina, including some of the sons-in-law of Nicholas Gibbs. The Snodderlys, the Albrights, and the Sharps all were Palatines. Other early families of East Tennessee such as the Balches, the Fousts, the Aults, the Abels, Wagners and Millers, and many others were Palatines.
What reasons did these people have to come to America? Our early American historians were inclined to stress religious freedom, no doubt influenced by the well-documented history of New England, the Quakers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and the Catholics in Maryland. They ascribed similar reasons to the German-speaking immigrants to Pennaylvania. A careful examination of the documents of that time in both English and German leads to different conclusions.
The primary reasons for the Palatine migration were the following:
The Palatinate had begun to recover pretty well in the next generation, owing largely to the induatry and frugality of its people, when in 1674 the French armies under Marshall Turenne devastated the area again. Petty wars of a religious nature between the Archbishop of Mayence and the Duke of Lorraine on one side and the Elector Palatine on the other kept the province in a turmoil. In 1688-1689, the armies of the French laid the area waste again, mostly out of Louis IV's spite against the Protestant, but ostensibly because the Elector was an ally of William III, who had been put on the throne of England by the Protestant party. In 1707, at the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession, the French under Villars ravaged all southwestern Germany, including the Palatinate, Wurttemberg, Baden, and the cities of the Swabian Circle.
The people of southwestern Germany had just about had it. To a man, they united against the French. They drove the French back across the Rhine in September, but their country was desolate again.
Then the weather turned against them. The winter that began in October, 1708, was the coldest in more than 100 years. By November 1, it was so cold that wood would not burn in an open fire. By January, 1709, wine froze in its barrels, distilled liquors became solid blocks of ice, a man's spittle froze before it hit the ground, and birds on the wing dropped dead. All the rivers of northern Europe, even the Rhine froze, and ice formed all along the coasts of the North Sea and English Channel thick enough to bear heavily loaded carts and their teams. Snow fell from January 25 to February 6. When spring came, all the fruit trees had been killed and the vines destroyed. In a region that depended so heavily on the growing of small fruits and grapes and the manufacture of wines and spirits, this was a disaster indeed!
There were other causes of a more lasting and deep-seated nature. The petty princes of Germany, dazzled by the brillance of the French court and the French armies, tried to imitate them without the necessary resources. The expenses of their lavish living and their private armies had to be met by heavy taxes on their people.
Religious persecution was a reason often alleged by the emigrants and eagerly believed by the British. But actual conditions do not seem to justify this. The real religious difficulties were created by the clash of various sects, Lutheran against Calvinist, both against the Mennonites and the Catholics against all of them. To point this up, the first 1770 families who arrived in England in the year 1709 consisted of 650 Lutheran, 693 Reformed, 512 Catholic, 12 Baptist, and 3 Mennonite.
Two other potent causes were a desire for adventure on the part of the young, and the desire of family people to acquire land on which their families could support themselves after the parents died. It is surely very doubtful if these causes would by themselves have provoked such an emigration of families with young children if it had not been for the advertising of the Proprietors of Pennsylvania and the Carolinas.
Beginning about the year 1706, pamphlets extolling the life, the climate, and the fertility of the soil in the colonies in America were circulated among the dissatisfied people in the Rhineland, Thuringia and other parts of southern Germany. Agents of the proprietors of the Carolinas and Pennsylvania entered into negotiations with interested parties. Adventurers engaged to bring companies of colonists. Correspondence was carried on with prospective settlers in the names of the proprietors. One of the most potent was a book with the Queen's picture in the front and a title page in letters of gold which was chiefly a recommendation of the Carolinas. This book first appeared in 1706. By 1709 it was so much in demand that three editions were printed.
William Penn, who had a German mother, made several visits to the Rhine country, beginning in 1677. He also had printed several tracts on Pennsylvania, the royal charter of the colony, and advertised the conditions of settlement, 100 acres of land for two English pounds and a low annual rental, popular government, universal suffrage, equal rights to all regardless of race or religion. The attitude of the British government was a potent reason for the success of these efforta. Under William III, a Dutch Protestant, and his wife Mary, England became the leader and protector of the Protestants of Western Europe. The action of Louis XIV of France, who grew ever more intolerant in his old age, in revoking the Edict of Nantes in 1685 caused thousands of French Huguenots (Calvinists) to flee to Germany, England, and America, and brought the support of the English. Under Queen Anne, who had a German Lutheran for her husband, this policy was even stronger.
English economic theory after 1680 also brought support to the migration. English economists and government people came to believe that England was underpopulated and to secure her own economic well-being ought to keep her people at home. The only ones they were willing to send to America were the troublemakers like the English and Welsh Quakers who were sent to New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the Scotch-Irish who were permitted to settle along the frontiers, and the debtors who were settled in Georgia. The colonies that were settled after 1680, Pennsylvania, the two Carolinas and Georgia, had to turn to the continent of Europe and to the West Indies for settlers. And so you find Germans in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Georgia; Huguenots in the Carolinas and Pennsylvania; and settlers from Barbados, etc., in South Carolina. The absorption of these settlers was facilitated by the passing of a humane naturalization act by the British Parliament in 1709.
In 1708, a small group of settlers, most of whom came from Landau, floated down the Rhine on their way to the New World. They were led by the Rev. Joshua Kocherthal, author of one of the tracts on Carolina. Though they had no visas or money, the people along the way gave them food, money, and clothing, and they got to Rotterdam, where the city council gave them each 25 florins and put them on a ship to England. The English at first didn't know what to do with them, but after considering the West Indies, the Board of Trade sent them to New York. They were destined for the frontier west of Albany, but they stopped at Newburgh on the Hudson. For a number of years the settlement limped along, first under the protection of the colonial governor and after his death, under the protection of a wealthy landlord. It proved to be the inspiration for the 1709 emigration.
In December 1708, the British minister to the Netherlands received an unsigned letter in French telling him 800-900 Palatines who wanted to go to America would arrive in Rotterdam. They didn't get there until April 19, 1709. The Duke of Marlborough intervened with the English government to get them transported to England on empty troop transports. By June, Palatines were arriving in Rotterdam at the rate of 1000 per week. Co-religionists made them grants of money, food, etc. The British minister contracted with Dutch merchants to manage the embarkations. In July, both the Dutch and the English tried to stop them by ads refusing passage. By September the Dutch had their consuls in Cologne and Frankfort warning them not to come, and they sent 2257 Catholics back home with presents of 50 elders each. In March 1710, 900 more Catholics were sent back; and in March, 1711, 618 Catholics were sent back all the way from England. Between April 19 and October 18, 1709, some 13,146 German Protestants were sent to England.
Incidentally, someone representing the proprietors of the Carolinas was discovered to be offering them 100 acres rent-free for 10 years, or land for a house in town for 99 years.
The English were hard put to find food and shelter for them. The Palatines were lodged in tent cities in open parks and in warehouses, taverns, barns and cheap houses. They had expected to go to America immediately, but nobody was prepared to transport them. The government collected alms for the "poor German Protestants," but times were hard; they were resented by the poorer classes. Finally, the poor people and the beggars rioted against them.
Various attempts were made to relocate them. Some were scattered about England by the expedient of offering the various districts 3 pounds a head to take them. But they were not taken care of; many of them were employed at work for which they were ill-fitted; and most of them drifted back to London. About 600 were sent to the Scilly Islands and were promptly sent back by the inhabitants, who didn't want them. Some 322 entered the British Army, and 141 children were apprenticed. Some were sent to the Bahama Islands, the rest went to Ireland, New York, the Carolinas, but mostly they went to Pennsylvania.
The Irish settlement comprised 794 families, 3,073 people, of whom 1,898 were adults. A total of 633 families were divided among 43 gentlemen. Again, they proved ill-adapted to the work. Many of them slipped out and went back to England. By February 15, 1711 only 188 families remained. About 300 families got to Dublin. There their landlords abused them and took advantage of them. In September 1712, another 130 families were settled in Limerick by Sir Thomas Southwell. There, with government assistance, they made a success of growing flax and hemp. In 1745 and 1758, John Wesley preached to them and they became Methodists. A hundred years later a few of them still persisted in Ireland.
About 92 families of Palatines and 50 families of Swiss from the canton of Bern were settled on the coast of North Carolina in 1709 and 1710. The venture was a speculation by an adventurer named Franz Louis Michel and an impecunious gentleman of Bern named Christopher von Graffenried. The purpose was to mine silver. All sorts of difficulties were experienced by the colony. Many died on shipboard. The land titles were voided, the colonists were the victims of local politics, cheating by the English settlers, attacks by Indians, etc. In 1748, as a measure of settlement, many were moved to the frontier and given 400 acres each. There they soon met and mingled with Palatine emigrants from Pennsylvania, who came down by way of the Shenandoah Valley and the Roanoke River.
The largest single group of Palatines settled anywhere was a group of 3,000 who were sent to the frontiers of New York just west of Albany in 1709 to make naval stores. England was on the brink of becoming the dominant naval power of the world, for which, in this day of sailing ships, she needed ample supplies of tar, pitch, rosin, and lumber, as well as hemp for ropes and caulking. Sweden had established a monoply on all of these except hemp, and the Swedes were charging all they could get. The plan was to settle the Palatines in New York where the frontier had been weakened by French and Indian raids and indenture them to the British government for the making of tar and pitch and raising hemp. About 400 of these unfortunate people died on the way over. Most of the rest got typhus fever from the lice on shipboard and suffered terribly. They were sent to the frontier as directly as possible, for there was no place in the city of New York to keep them, and the inhabitants were alarmed at the typhus fever among them.
The colony had all kinds of trouble. The people didn't want to make tar, they wanted farms. About half of them had worked in the farms and vineyards of the Rhine Valley. Quite a large number were carpenters and artisans of various sorts. There wasn't sufficient money to pay them part of the time. Changes in the administration of Parliament from Whig to Tory caused the dismissal of the governor who was trying to make the experiment succeed. The big patroons of New York also were interested in seeing the venture fail. Mostly the thing failed from bad management, bad food, and bad faith.
At the end of the summer of 1712, the whole experiment was terminated. The suffering that winter was intense, without money and without food. Some of them moved to Schoharie, some went to New York City or New Jersey, and a considerable number went to Pennsylvania, including some of the Schoharie group who were dispossessed of their settlements.
Word of their difficulties got back to Germany, and by 1717, the Palatines could not be induced to go to New York. William Penn, whose initial advertising had helped to start the exodus, could not take advantage of it. He spent most of the year 1709 in jail on a false claim of indebtedness for 10,500 pounds sterling. After his friends got him out of jail he began to get some of the Palatines. After 1717 practically all of them went to Pennsylvania. By 1727, some 2,000 per year were arriving. This lasted until 1757, and then the migration, affected by the French and Indian and the Revolutionary Wars, gradually petered out by 1808.
Since all of the Palatines were poor people who could not afford the price of ship passage, practically all of them entered into indentures to serve a period of years, usually about five, as laborers after arrival at the colony. The procedure was, upon arriving at Philadelphia, to march them up to city hall and get them to swear allegiance to the King of England. Their names were listed and all who could signed the register. The others made a mark. Then their contracts were auctioned off to the highest bidder, very much like a slave market. Most of the bidders were prosperous farmers and merchants of the city of Philadelphia. As they were mostly Quakers, they treated the Palatines fairly well. When their term of labor were up, they were given some clothing and a small sum of money, and were free to go wherever they wished. The system worked well, except when members of families were separated.
Most of them settled in the ring of counties surrounding the Philadelphia area. As they were a prolific people, they soon began to expand westward into the Pennsylvania frontier. Wherever they went they settled on limestone land where the walnut trees grew. One stream of emigrants filled up central Pennsylvania and spilled westward into Ohio after the Revolution. Another stream advanced south following the Great Appalachian Valley (Shenandoah Valley, etc.) southward through Maryland and Virginia. They established such towns as Frederick, Maryland and Strasburg, Virginia, and settled thickly around Harrisonburg, Virginia.
By the time they got to the Roanoke area, they discovered the escarpment between Salem and Christianburg. They moved in Conestoga wagons pulled by 6-horse teams and after the long trip southward their teams were often not equal to the pull up the escarpment. So many of them went through Roanoke Gap and down into the Winston-Salem area of North Carolina.
Those who made it up the escarpment came on to Washington County, Virginia, and Sullivan County, Tennessee to settle. A settlement was made at Parrottsville in Cocke County, Tennessee very early. By the 1790's there were many of them in Knox County and Jefferson County. Most of them settled along Millertown Pike and on the flats of Roseberry and Big Flat Creek. One group of Moravian Brethern in the Forks of the River were visited by Methodist missionaries several times. A few of them even reached North Alabama. Of course, they didn't stay in these places, but their further migrations were as Americans, part of an American migration, rather than something essentially German.