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Palatines and other German immigrants

Updated on September 12, 2011

Servants In A Strange Land

Germans have had a long colorful history and played a major role in the creation of our nation. Their entry began in the earliest of Colonial times. Most Eastern Europeans lived under the rule of the Holy Roman Empire. From 1138 to 1254 many lived under the rule of the Hohostaunfen Dynasty. The Holtenzollerns of Nurenberg was also part of the Holy Roman Empire. Palatine Germans lived on the border, along the French and German line.

The first wave of German immigration began in the 1600's. On a ship named the Concord, thirteen German families braved the crossing of the cold Atlantic in hopes of a better life. They were brought to Philidelphia, Pennsylvania in 1683. They were weavers and cloth makers, a common trade they were skilled in back in their homeland.

In 1710 Southwestern Germans were settled in Newburgh, the Schoharie Valley, and along the Mohawk. Many Germans were brought to New York State by the English. Their journey began when Louis XIV broke up the West Franconian area of the Rhine Valley and deposed the Palatine Germans. At this time a propaganda publication gave rave reviews to the possibilities of life in America. So many Palatine German refugees came to Enland that the people were living in tent cities in London. The British Government sent some to Ireland to become farm laborist on the Southwell Plantation in Limerick. The rest were sent to America to face a harsh life as indentured servants.

They came to New York in 1710. They were settled around the pine covered hills of the Mohawk Valley as well as along the wooded Schoharie Creek. Governor Hunter put them right to work clearing forest and making pine tar called pitch. Pitch was used for many things such as in soap, insulation, and even glue. The industry was not a success and eventually failed as a business enterprise. They were encouraged to out right purchase the land they were on directly from the Iroquois. They were considered peasantry farm laborists by the English Colonial authorities who had no respect for the workers or their plight in the New World. They were forced to seek English land deeds as well and at a high price. Some refused to pay twice for the land they had worked. Those who refused to comply were forced to move again. Many Palatine Germans moved to Pennsylvania or areas farther south.

By 1776, 100,00 Germans lived in Pennsylvania alone. In 1825 another influx of Germans flooded the shores of America. This took place following the Napoleonic Wars. Immigrants spent at least 12 weeks on a ship to the United States. In the 19th century many Germans became disgusted with working conditions for factory workers and became active in the American Labor Movement.

In 1848 there was a complete fall out of the Liberal German Revolution. A new wave of Germans came as political refugees. They were called the 48ers. These people hoped and prayed that conditions would improve back home and looked foward to the day they could eventually return to their homeland. For most, that day never came. Many 48ers settled in the mid-west in cities such as Davenport and Chicago. In the 1850's they became active in the anti-slavery movement and helped elect Abraham Lincoln.

German Americans were often feared during World War II. Many were investigated. In the American population of today it is common for those of European decent to have a least some German ancestry. I myself have a small German ancestry. I am related to a family from London who came to Baltimore in the 1840's. There name was Huhn.

I think it is most important to know ones own ancestry, to honor and respect those who lived before us who fought for freedom, labor rights, rights for women, and rights for all. It keeps us grounded and fills us with hope. This is the hope we inherited from them.

 

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