History of the Palatines


  The winter of 1708-09 was the worst in a hundred years in today's northern Germany, a territory that time divided into small principalities ruled by independent lords. In the Rhine Valley region between Holland and Switzerland, about two dozen of these principalities made up the Palatine, a region in political and economic chaos, its farmlands exhausted and unproductive, the people discouraged and grossly overtaxed. A migration had begun in 1708, but the year's winter was so severe that families, neighborhoods and whole villages began to seek releif elswhere. Queen Anne of England, a devout Protestant, opened her arms to the refugees, as many as 30,000 of whom sailed to England.

   Fifty immigrants and a Lutheran pastor, The Rev. Joshua Kocherthal, had, on January 1, 1709, established a settlement in the Hudson Valley on the Quassic Creek at Newberg, named for a city in their homeland. Kocherthal had abetted the British Interest in finding American settlers among displaced Europeans by writing a well-received account of life in Carolina in 1706, although he never visited there. His personality was a mix of religious zealotry, paternal sympathy, pioneer sentiment, personal ambition and simple will-power that made him "our Johua" to thousands of followers, their leader, if not into a promised land at least out of a pernicious one. His 1709-1710 congregation was smaller than that of his co-leader the Rev.Johannes Hager, a German minister who took Anglican orders in 1710 and whose ministry at the Camps extended for a decade after Kocherthal's death in 1719. Kocherthal's role as principal leader emerged partly because his was the only record book to survive, and because he represented the Germans before English Officials. In the late summer of 1709, Kocherthal returned to England to secure funding for a plantation he wanted to establish as well as his congregation at Newburg, but in the meanwhile he learned of the large numbers of new immigrants who arrived in London following the severe winter. Both he and Hager worked hard to ensure the fate of these thousands of emigrants.

    The 1708 British plan for the first Palatine emigration was to settle families on the Hudson River to produce naval stores for her Majesty's fleet, but the immigrants never took up this venture an Newburgh. The debate on the fate of the 1709 immigrants continued until a decision was made on Nov. 4 (while Kocherthal was still enroute to England) to send them to America under contract to produce naval stores. More than 3,000 spent months waiting in cramped living quarters aboard ships in England before sailing for New York in the spring of 1710. These emigrants were part of a much larger migration that already began to populate the Carolina and Virginia areas and that constituted tje first and largest single migration to America in the eighteenth century. More than 500 died during the ocean voyage. the LYON as the first of the fleet to arrive, on June 13, 1710. Several others arrived the next day, the last not until Aug 21. All were quarantined on Nutten Island because the typhus continued to rage through their population.

   By October, New York governor, Robert Hunter, had obtained 6000 acres of land from Robert Livingston among the pines on the east side of Hudson's River along with a small tract on the west side of the Hudson the families disembarked on October 4, set about the building of huts, and established small hamlets or communities. The West Camp settlement included Elizabeth Town, George Town, and New Town. New Town is believed to have been located at or near the hill where St. Paul's Lutheran Church and the monument now stand. Elizabeth Town, also called Lower Town may have been at Evesport, and George Town at today's Smith's Landing. Queensbury, the largest of the East Camp communities (also called Kingsbury), was at today's Sharpe's Landing, although no continuous community exists there. Hunterstown, Annsbury , and Haysbury were at today's Cheviot, North Germantown, and Germantown station.

   The actual number of 1710 arrivals is difficult to ascertain. First year estimates range from 1,691 to 1,874 total population at the Camps. Some of the 3,000 who made it to New York and survived the ship's fever remained at Manhattan after the quarantine was lifted, and some went into New Jersey or settled with other Palantines in the Newburg vicinity or elsewhere. In addition, there was much interior movement of families, particularly with the proximity of the small Albany county congregation at Loonenburg in today's Athens. The haousehold names listed on the Monument also include just one listing for multiple families of the same name, so well more than 300 households were among the arrivals.

   The British scheme for naval stores production survived amid great discontent among the husbandmen and vineyarders who now , with their entire families, worked the cauldrons of tar reduction instead of the grain fields. The production involved a process of bark-stripping, a year's waiting period as the trupentine settled in the affected trees, and the boiling of the wood in cauldrons fitted with drains for collecting the tar in barrels. Fallen timber was taken up and boiled in the meantime. The pitch pine forest was appropriate for this industry, but stripping began in the wrong season and the sap did not flow sufficiently. This failure and the general humiliation felt by the settlers in their subsistence lives prompted their efforts to relocate to Schoharie and elsewhere. Governor Hunter, also discouraged and now deeply in debt for financing the Palatines' subsitence, finally allowed them to go in 1712.

   Many families also remained in the Hudson Valley and settled the Kingston Commons, the Rhinebeck area, Livingston's manor , and in Greene, Orange and Albany counies, constituting an early basis for the large German-American populations of today. This first great Palatine emigration was adumbrated decades thereafter in the movement of families from the same districts in the Palatinate region throughout the mid-Hudson Valley and into the Mohawk Valley, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. As with the 1710ers, not merely families but whole neighborhoods and even villages moved and stayed together, and their descendants who later emigrated joined the same family groups on their arrivals to America.

                                                                                Vernon Benjamin and Karlyn Knaust Elia

For more info on the Palatines in our area, go to:  http://www.angelfire.com/ny4/lutheranparish/palatinesgenealogy.html