The Germans

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The Journey To The Island Of Pennsylvania

   The New Bern and Livingston Manor/Schoharie settlements are the most memorable of the New World settlements of Palatine German and Swiss emigrants. But smaller groups of Palatines had emigrated from their homeland with the Province of Pennsylvania as their destination.

   Because of their lack of knowledge of the North American Continent, many of the early emigrants believed that Pennsylvania and the Carolinas were part of the West India Islands. Their papers requesting permission to leave their homeland stated that their destination was the "island" of Pennsylvania.

   The Reverend Henry Melchoir Muehlenberg traveled throughout the Province of Pennsylvania after his emigration in 1742. He kept journals of his travels. In his journals, Rev. Muehlenberg commented on the Palatine emigration and early settlements in Pennsylvania. He noted four distinct phases of Palatine emigration:

"In the first period, namely from 1680 to 1708, some came by chance, among whom was one Henry Frey, whose wife is said to be still living. He came about the year 1680. About the same time some Low Germans from Cleve sailed across the ocean, whose descendants are still to be found here, some of whom were baptized by us, others still live as Quakers."

"In the second period, in the years 1708, 1709, 1710, to 1720, when the great exodus from the Palatinate to England took place, and a large number of people were sent by Queen Anne to the Province of New York, not a few of them came to Pennsylvania…."

"In the following third period, from about the year 1720 to 1730, the number of High German Evangelical Christians, from the German Empire, the Palatinate, Wurttemberg, Darmstadt and other places increased largely. Also many from the State of New York came over here, who had been sent there by Queen Anne…"

"At the end of this and the beginning of the next period a still larger number of Germans came to this country…"

   The first period of the emigration mentioned by Muehlenberg included the party led by the Reverend Francis Daniel Pastorius, who settled in the vicinity of Philadelphia that became known as Germantown. It also included a party known as the 'Mystics of the Wissahickon' led by John Kelpius, and who settled in the vicinity of 'the Ridge', where the Wissahickon Creek empties into the Schuylkill River.

   The second period was defined by the emigration of Palatine and Swiss Mennonites who settled on 10,000 acres of land near the head of the Pequea Creek in the part of Chester County that would become, in 1729, Lancaster County. The first of these emigrants arrived at Philadelphia on 23 September, 1710. Seven years later, In September, 1717, three ships arrived in Philadelphia carrying 363 German and Swiss emigrants.

   In 1723 some fifteen families moved from the Schoharie Settlement in the Province of New York to settle in the Tulpehocken region of Pennsylvania. It is claimed that they were invited to settle there by Lieutenant-Governor William Keith. By 1725 there were about thirty-three German families residing in the Tulpehocken district. The increasing numbers of these settlers aggravated the relations between the Provincial authorities and the local Indian tribes.

   The continuing emigration of large numbers of Germans from the Palatinate began to make the provincial authorities uneasy. When Patrick Gordon took office as Pennsylvania's lieutenant-governor in 1726, he took action to institute an Oath of Allegiance & Subjection to naturalize the emigrants as subjects of Great Britain. The action was enterred into the Minutes of the Provincial Council on 14 September, 1727 and read as follows:

"The Governour acquainted the board, that he had called them together at this time to inform them that there is lately arrived from Holland, a Ship with four hundred Palatines, as 'tis said, and that he has information that they will be very soon followed by a much greater Number, who design to settle in the nack parts of this province; & as they transport themselves without any leave obtained from the Crown of Great Britain, and settle themselves upon the Proprietors untaken up Lands without any application to the Proprietor or his Commissioners of property, or to the Government in general, it would be highly necessary to concert proper measures for the peace and security of the province, which may be endangered by such numbers of Strangers daily poured in, who being ignorant of our Language & Laws, & settling in a body together, make, as it were, a disctinct people from his Majesties Subjects."

"The Board taking the same into their Consideration, observe, that as these People pretended at first that they fly hither on the Score of their religious Liberties, and come under the Protection of His Majesty, its requisite that in the first Place they should take the Oath of Allegiance, or some equivalent to it to His Majesty, and promise Fidelity to the Proprietor & obedience to our Established Constitution; And therefore, until some proper Remedy can be had from Home, to prevent the Importation of such Numbers of Strangers into this or others of His Majesties Colonies."

"Tis ORDERED, that the Masters of the Vessells importing them shall be examined whether they have any Leave granted to them by the Court of Britain for the Importation of these Forreigners, and that a List shall be taken of the Names of all these People, their several Occupations, and the Places from whence they come, and shall be further examined touching their Intentions in coming hither; And further, that a Writing be drawn up for them to sign declaring their Allegiance & Subjection to the King of Great Britain & Fidelity to the Proprietary of this Province, & that they will demean themselves peacably towards all his Majesties Subjects, & strictly observe, and confirm to the Laws of England and of this Government."

   The emigrants aboard the ship, William And Sarah, were the first of the Palatines to be so required to take the Oath. Between the years 1727 and 1775, it has been estimated that approximately 65,000 Palatine and Swiss emigrants arrived in the Port of Philadelphia. That number, given in Volume I of the book Pennsylvania German Pioneers, by R. B. Strassburger and edited by W. J. Hinke, was based on 36,129 known passengers, of which 14,423 (males) signed their names to the Oath.

   The emigrants from Germany who arrived during the period from 1727 to 1775 settled primarily in the southeastern region of the province of Pennsylvania. But settlements were also made all along the Atlantic seaboard from Nova Scotia to South Carolina. Just prior to the American Revolutionary War period a migration route southward from Pennsylvania through the Shenandoah Valley opened up. German families began to travel that route and homestead in western Maryland, the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and in both of the Carolinas. From North and South Carolina, the Germans moved westward into what would later become the states of Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee. Following the close of the Revolution, a number of German families migrated northward into the Niagara region of New York. The major thrust, though, was westward into the Ohio Valley. That westward route traveled along the roads cut by Braddock and Forbes in the 1750s through the southcentral part of Pennsylvania, which included Bedford County.

   Although exact figures are not available, certain estimates can be made concerning the German population in the 1700s by looking at census records. From the 1790 United States Census we find that German families made up approximately 32% of the total population of Bedford County at that time. It has been estimated that of the Germans who arrived in the New World, at least seventy percent settled in Pennsylvania. The large numbers of German settlers in the province of Pennsylvania, as compared to the other predominantly British colonies, made Pennsylvania seem like a foreign nation.