The Germans

     Page 12 ~
The Schoharie Settlement

   In early-October 1710, the movement of the Palatines to the Livingston Manor tract was begun. They had been encamped on Nutten Island (later renamed Governor's Island) since their arrival in July through August. Not all of the Palatines would move to Livingston Manor. In 1713 some eighty-three persons, comprising twenty-three families, remained in New York City.

   The land was surveyed and five town plats were laid out by the surveyors. Three towns were laid out on the east side of the Hudson River and two on the west side. By June, 1711 seven towns had been established at Livingston Manor. Along the east side of the river were Hunterstown, inhabited by one hundred and five families; Queensbury, inhabited by one hundred and two families; Annsbury, inhabited by seventy-six families; and Haysbury, inhabited by fifty-nine families. Along the west side of the Hudson were Elizabeth Town, inhabited by forty-two families; George Town, inhabited by forty families; and New Town, inhabited by one hundred and three families.

   The towns were platted to consist of individual lots measuring approximately forty feet in frontage and fifty feet in depth. The Palatine families were obliged to construct their own houses and out-buildings. They did so in whatever fashion they desired, but most constructed simple log cabins chinked with mud.

   Robert Livingston provided food and many of the necessities of life to the Palatine settlers during the first two years of the settlement's existence. It might be argued that were it not for his generosity, the settlement might not have survived.

   Initially, the Livingston Manor Settlement thrived and grew without discord except for the religious squabbles that erupted, almost as soon as they arrived in the New World, between the Lutheran and the Reformed congregations. To aggravate the situation between the two faiths, the Reverend John Frederick Haeger had been sent to the settlement by the London Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to convert the Palatines to the Church of England. One would be induced to believe that the religious difference between the three faiths would induce a breakup of the settlement, but that would occur as a result of other concerns.

   Certain of the Palatines, in fact between three and four hundred of them, formed a secret association during the Spring of 1711 and plotted a rebellion. Tbeir complaint was that they felt that they were being cheated in the contractual arrangement, the covenant, by which they had come to the New World. Back in England prior to their departure, Governor Hunter had expressed to the Secretary of State, Charles Spencer (aka the Earl of Sunderland) the need for a contract between himself (as Governor of the Province of New York) and the Palatines. The covenant was needed, according to Hunter to prevent the Palatines "from falling off from the employment designed for them, or being decoy'd into Proprietary Governments". The covenant stated that in exchange for the great expenditure in monies advanced by the government to provide for the transportation and settling of the Palatines in the New World and providing them with employment (in the production of the naval stores), the Palatines agreed to settle upon the lands provided for them by the government and to continue to reside there (and that their heirs, executors and administrators would continue to reside there). The covenant contained a clause that stated that on no account or manner of pretense would the Palatines attempt to leave the settlement or break the covenant without the consent of the Governor. The Palatines were to agree to remain in the employ, essentially as indentured servants, until they should "have made good and repaid to her Majesty, her heirs and successors, out of the produce of our labors in the manufactures we are employed in, the full sum or sums of money in which we already are or shall become indebted to her Majesty". In exchange, the governor would grant forty acres of land to each person free from, taxes and quit-rents for seven years.

   The rebellious group claimed that they had incorrectly been told the stipulations of the covenant prior to their embarkation. They claimed that the way it was read to them was that 'seven years after they had been given forty acres, they were to repay the Queen with naval stores of their production'. Rather than receive their forty acres per person, they had received only a small lot. They felt they had been cheated into servitude. One of their demands was that they receive the land that had been promised to them by the Queen, which they believed lay in the Schoharie Valley.

   Governor Hunter replied in force. He called for a military detachment from Fort Albany, who disarmed the rebellious Palatines. They were forced to submit, and most of them asked for pardon. On 12 June, 1711, Hunter established a court to oversee the Palatines. The court had the authority to judge and punish the Palatines for anything it deemed to be "Misdemeaners, Disobedience or wilfull Transgressions". The imposition of a military state of rule over them angered more of the Palatines than simply the original three or four hundred dissenters.

   The issuance of "subsistence supplies" provided another source for agitation throughout the settlement. Bread, beer and meat was supplied by Livingston and issued to the people by Commissaries of Stores. The Palatines were not permitted to provide certain of their own subsistence supplies, which including the baking of bread. The issuance of the subsistence supplies was on a somewhat irregular schedule, and the quantities issued were not uniform. The quality of the food also varied. According to a letter sent by one of the commissaries to Governor Hunter, "I never saw salted meat so poor nor packed with so much salt as this Pork was. In truth one eighth of it was salt."

   Adding insult to injury, John Bridger, the individual hired by Governor Hunter to instruct the Palatines on the techniques of manufacturing the naval stores, gained Hunter's permission in the latter part of 1710 to go to New England. In the Spring of 1711, when Hunter requested that he return to the settlement in order to continue training the Palatines on how to manufacture the tar and pitch, Bridger refused. Hunter found a substitute instructor in the person of Richard Sackett, a local famer who claimed to know the procedure. He proceeded to direct the debarking of nearly 100,000 trees in the vicinity. Sackett's method resulted in the production of 200 barrels of the tar, which was far less than anticipated. An investigation into the reasons for the low level of tar production revealed two major problems. First, Sackett's method of girdling and debarking the trees was not efficient and resulted in loss of the valuable resin into the ground. Secondly, the type of pines that grew in the vicinity were white pine, which were not conducive to producing the same quality of resin as the true pitch pine. The English government was not interested in the reasons for the production failures, no matter how valid; the Board of Trade was only interested in results. Therefore the funding that Governor Hunter expected to receive was directed elsewhere.

   On 06 September, 1712, Governor Hunter gave orders that the industry was to be halted and that the Palatines would receive no more subsistence supplies. The Palatines were to provide for their own needs by obtaining employment where they could, but certain of the rules established the previous year would still remain in effect. The Palatines would be permitted to find work only in the provinces of New York and New Jersey. They would be required to register their new place of residence and employment so that they could be called back to the Livingston Manor settlement in the event that the naval stores industry could be revived.

   The cutting off of the subsistence supplies so abruptly and just at the onset of winter caught many of the Palatines off guard. They suffered miserably through the winter of 1712/1713. The Reverend Haeger sent a letter on 06 July, 1713 to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in which he stated that the Palatines were obliged to eat boiled grass and leaves.

   Many of the Palatines left the region. Risking imprisonment by the court, some fled southward to Pennsylvania. Most of them, though moved closer to the vicinity of New York City and Hackensack, New Jersey. On 31 October, 1712 Governor Hunter sent a letter to the Board of Trade in which he stated that "some hundreds of them took a resolution of possessing the land of Scoharee & are accordingly march'd thither".

   Governor Hunter was upset by the fact that the Palatines had moved to the Schoharie Valley without permission to do so, nor with the proper legal arrangements that should have been undertaken. In the spring of 1713 Governor Hunter sent orders to the Schoharie Valley which forbade the Palatines to settle there. But then, he was not in a position to provide subsistence for them any longer and their removal from Livingston Manor relieved him of such obligation.

   The Palatines, ignorant of the British claims to the Schoharie tract, entered into their own negotiations with the local Mohawk Indians for the purchase of the Schoharie Valley lands. The Indians, although they had already presented the tract as a gift to the English Queen, were more than willing to be paid for it by the Palatines.

   During the autumn of 1712 approximately one hundred and fifty families moved to the vicinity of Schenectady and Albany while the negotiations with the Indians progressed. About fifty of those families moved directly to the Schoharie Valley and erected crude shelters. During the following spring, the rest of the families moved to Schoharie. A number of small villages were created by the Palatines: Kniskerndorf, Central Bridge, Gerlachsdorf, Fuchsendorf, Schmidsdorf, Brunnendorf, Hartmansdorf, Weiserdorf, and Oberweiserdorf.

   During the first year that the Schoharie Settlement was in existence, the people were very industrious, building their houses and plowing the land to sow corn, wheat and other grains. Because they had not taken many hand tools, farm implements or furniture from their Livingston Manor homes for fear of being charged with theft, they were without many of the necessary implements to either create a new life or live comfortably in one once it was created. They obtained some supplies from Schenectady, about forty miles away. Others, they received from the friendly Mohawk Indians. In regard to food, the Indians recommended various edible plants that were growing in the region, including potatoes. And the congregation of the Dutch Church of New York sent them some supplies in 1713. Despite the hardships, the Schoharie Settlement prospered and survived.

   As might be expected, Governor Hunter grew increasingly upset with the situation. In 1715 he sent an order to the Schoharie settlers that they would either have to purchase or lease the land on which they had settled, or they would be forced to move from it. The Palatines became beligerent in their attitude toward what they felt was encroachment on their rights to the land promised to them by the Queen of England. A sheriff sent by Hunter to serve a warrant for the arrest of Johann Conrad Weiser, who was implicated in intending to travel to England to present the people's grievances against Hunter to the English government, was beaten and abused by the Palatine womenfolk before he could effect his escape.

   In 1717 Governor Hunter organized a conference between himself and Johann Conrad Weiser and three men from each of the Schoharie villages. He informed them that they would need to come to an agreement with the true owners of the land, which were seven residents of Albany (known as the Seven Partners) to whom he had sold the Schoharie tract in 1714. If they did not, they would be forced to move.

   In 1718 Johann Conrad Weiser, William Scheff and Gerhart Walrath made a trip to London to argue their case against Hunter, but before they got there they were robbed by pirates. When they did arrive, without money to pay for the passage, the three were locked up in the debtor's prison. In the meantime, Governor Hunter, receiving word of the Palatines' intentions, traveled to London. He arrived there before Weiser and the others could get out of prison and presented his side of the story. The English authorities, of course believed his claims that the Palatines had been treated with fairness, and that they were simply being rebellious so as to cheat the proprietors. It was ruled that the Palatines would have to move from the Schoharie Settlement. By the time Weiser, Scheff and Walrath were freed from prison, the decision had been made. Orders to have the Palatines removed from Schoharie were sent to Governor Hunter's successor, William Burnet.

   In 1721, Governor Burnet offered the Palatines a number of choices, including one that they could purchase lands from the Mohawks in the Mohawk Valley, some eighty miles from Albany. Governor Burnet also raised the restrictions that had previously been placed on the Palatines against moving into the other proprietary colonies. As a result, about fifteen families left Schoharie in 1723 and moved southward to settle in the Tulpehocken Valley of the Province of Pennsylvania. Certain of the Schoharie Settlement residents conceded to the assertions of the provincial government that the lands were legally the property of the Seven Partners of Albany. They negotiated purchases or leases from the Seven Partners and continued their residence at the Schoharie Settlement.