Becoming German

Becoming German: The 1709 Palatine Migration to New York

Philip Otterness
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Cornell University Press
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  • Book Info
    Becoming German
    Book Description:

    Becoming German tells the intriguing story of the largest and earliest mass movement of German-speaking immigrants to America. The so-called Palatine migration of 1709 began in the western part of the Holy Roman Empire, where perhaps as many as thirty thousand people left their homes, lured by rumors that Britain's Queen Anne would give them free passage overseas and land in America. They journeyed down the Rhine and eventually made their way to London, where they settled in refugee camps. The rumors of free passage and land proved false, but, in an attempt to clear the camps, the British government finally agreed to send about three thousand of the immigrants to New York in exchange for several years of labor. After their arrival, the Palatines refused to work as indentured servants and eventually settled in autonomous German communities near the Iroquois of central New York.

    Becoming German tracks the Palatines' travels from Germany to London to New York City and into the frontier areas of New York. Philip Otterness demonstrates that the Palatines cannot be viewed as a cohesive "German" group until after their arrival in America; indeed, they came from dozens of distinct principalities in the Holy Roman Empire. It was only in refusing to assimilate to British colonial culture-instead maintaining separate German-speaking communities and mixing on friendly terms with Native American neighbors-that the Palatines became German in America.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-7117-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps and Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Philip Otterness
  5. Quotations and Dates
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    The poor Palatines. Everyone had them figured out. To the people of London, who saw them flooding into their city in 1709, they were victims of French atrocities and Catholic persecution in the Rhineland. To New York’s colonial governor, who wanted to bring these poor people to his colony, they were grateful refugees anxious to repay their debt to the British Crown. And to the German-born pastors who helped succor them along the way, they were misguided and headstrong peasants seeking to escape the lot God had ordained for them. In the middle of it all stood the Palatines, simultaneously...

  7. CHAPTER 1 “A Particularly Deceptive Spirit” THE GERMAN SOUTHWEST, 1709
    (pp. 7-36)

    At the time it must have seemed the best solution to their problems. Peter and Margaretha Wagner struggled under a large debt, and their future in Dachsenhausen, a village in Hesse-Darmstadt, looked bleak. Peter was only twenty-one, Margaretha a year older. They had married in March 1708, and two months later their first child had been born. In June 1708 they had to mortgage their land to the village church to pay off a debt. They seemed destined to a lifetime of poverty. Peter’s parents were dead, and Margaretha, a shepherd’s daughter, could expect little money from her impoverished family....

  8. CHAPTER 2 “The Poor Palatine Refugees” LONDON, SPRING–SUMMER 1709
    (pp. 37-56)

    The 1709 emigration from the German southwest began in the center of the Palatinate near the confluence of the Rhine and Main rivers, not far from Joshua Kocherthal’s home in the Kraichgau. The peasants in that region must have been among the first to hear that Kocherthal’s group of fifty settlers had received land in New York at Queen Anne’s behest. Word of Kocherthal’s good fortune probably reached the German southwest in late 1708, and many Germans, eager to enjoy the same benefits, did not wait for the harsh winter of 1708–9 to end before beginning their own journey....

  9. CHAPTER 3 “A Parcel of Vagabonds” LONDON, SUMMER–WINTER 1709
    (pp. 57-77)

    The Germans’ first attempt to portray themselves as worthy of British charity relied too heavily on the truth and showed little recognition of the British prejudices that might have proved useful to them. In May, some five hundred Germans, members of the first immigrant convoy to arrive in London, appealed to the queen to help them get to America. In an awkwardly worded petition, with numerous misspelled words and phrasing that was more German than English, the immigrants described the causes of their migration as “war and other hardships, God the Almighty has send over us.” Having heard of the...

  10. CHAPTER 4 “A Deplorable Sickly Condition” NEW YORK CITY, 1710
    (pp. 78-88)

    On June 13, 1710, after a two-month voyage, theLyon of Leithwith 330 Germans on board arrived in New York. During the next two weeks, seven of the nine other ships carrying Germans arrived. TheMedford, separated from the convoy by bad weather, arrived in July, and theBerkeley Castle, which ran aground soon after leaving England, did not reach New York until August.¹ The passage had been typical of eighteenth-century transatlantic crossings—a two- to three-month voyage marked by delay, disease, and death. Thomas Benson, a doctor serving on theLyon of Leith, reported that all 330 of...

  11. CHAPTER 5 “They Will Not Listen to Tar Making” THE HUDSON VALLEY, 1710–1712
    (pp. 89-112)

    During the last week in September the Germans who were well enough to travel began moving from New York City to camps along the Hudson. By the beginning of November almost fifteen hundred people had settled in five rude villages.¹ Two more villages, one on each side of the river, were added in the spring. The villages of Haysbury, Queensbury, Annsbury, and Hunterstown, known collectively as East Camp, stood on the east side of the river on the land purchased from Livingston. They were laid out on the hillsides leading down to the Hudson in an area stretching three miles...

  12. CHAPTER 6 “The Promis’d Land” THE SCHOHARIE VALLEY, 1712–1722
    (pp. 113-136)

    With the end of the naval stores project, the Germans seemed at last free to pursue their American dreams. Yet the end of the project also revealed the extent of the Germans’ dependence on Governor Hunter. Although they no longer had to make naval stores or live in the naval stores camps, life did not become noticeably easier. Famine still threatened them, and they had not yet found the farmland they desired. Over the next decade the Germans’ sense of themselves and their place in New York would remain in flux as they resorted to Old World tactics and adopted...

  13. CHAPTER 7 “A Nation Which Is Neither French, Nor English, Nor Indian” THE MOHAWK VALLEY, 1723–1757
    (pp. 137-160)

    The German immigrants who arrived in New York in 1710 had left their homes believing that Queen Anne would give them free land in America. When they realized their faith in the queen’s generosity was misplaced, they split over what to do next. In the process, the group’s coherence and its sense of common identity, which had developed from the time the immigrants had first arrived in London, began to fade. Many of them would no longer engage in the kind of creative resistance that had pulled the disparate migrants into a coherent group while simultaneously setting them apart from...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 161-166)

    In April 1758, when the Indians and the French again attacked the German Flats settlement, the remaining settlers quickly sought refuge in a nearby fort.¹ The events of November 1757 had taught the German farmers that they could no longer trust a “private neutrality” with their Iroquois neighbors. For years the Germans had moved westward to avoid the intrusion of British authority into their lives. Now they fled eastward to escape the deadly incursions of French and Indian soldiers.

    The events of the Seven Years’ War in America transformed German ideas about their place in the New World. Instead of...

  15. Appendix. DATABASE OF 1709 EMIGRANTS
    (pp. 167-170)
  16. Abbreviations
    (pp. 171-172)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 173-212)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 213-226)
  19. Index
    (pp. 227-235)