Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

Excerpts from "The History of Montgomery Classis, R. C. A., 1916", by W. N. P. Dailey

Palatines of the Rhine

The Palatines have played so important a part in the settlement and development of the Mohawk Valley, to which they came about 1720, from the Hudson River settlements and the Schoharie Valley, and because they almost wholly made up the Committee -of Safety of Tryon County and the forces that won the . Battle of Oriskany, we have deemed it of importance to speak of them in this work. The term "Palatine" (in use in America over three centuries) in English and early colonial history meant a "lord" or "proprietor." In the times of the Merovingian Kings, the first Frankish dynasty in Gaul (fifth to eighth centuries) was an officer called "comespaltii," who was the master of the royal household. The king also gave his like authority to provincial rulers, to act for him in their province, and who were called Count Palatine, and the province Palatinate. Among the provinces into which Germany was divided in the 16th century, one of the most extensive, fertile and prosperous was known as the lower Palatine, or the Palatine of the Rhine. Its chief city, and the seaport of its government, was Heidelberg, where the Catechism, one of the three doctrinal standards of the Dutch church, was published 350 years ago. Manheim was the next city of importance. Into this Palatine country Protestantism did not enter to any large extent until late in the period of the Reformation, and when the controversy was fully developed. Being on the border, the country formed an easy asylum for a great number of Calvanistic refugees from Holland and France, with the natural result that the Rhine country became a common battlefield on which the hostile armies of Rome and Protestantism were wont to meet for the settlement of religious and territorial disputes. And it came to pass that many of the Palatines of the Rhine, tenacious of personal liberty, as their Teutonic forefathers were, and emulating their Puritan predecessors, who a century before fled the violence of persecution in the old land, began to dream of liberty and freedom to worship God in' another land. Toward the close of the 15th century the Germans of the Rhine country, in large numbers, began to settle in London, and soon became an actual burden to the English government. In less than three months 10,000 of them had come. During 1708 and 1709 they had cost England nearly 136,000 pounds.

To relieve herself of the cost of supporting these refugees, England planned to send at first 3,000 of them to her American colonies, but with this double ulterior motive, namely--that she might curb the threatened French-Canadian invasion of the province of New York with a human barrier at the outposts of civilization, and secondly that she might develop a great tar industry for British naval and commercial purposes.. And so it came to pass that the Palatines who left their vineyards in the dear old Rhineland, so often laid waste by cruel war, were destined for a still more savage one in the American wilderness. But "man proposes and God disposes." The German Palatines, became an unconquerable human barrier 'to the progress of British colonization in America, while the "tar bondage," conducted by that modern Pharaoh, Governor Hunter, scatterd these German white slaves throughout the Schoharie and Mohawk valleys, and wrought out of them the advance guard of the white man's supremacy in this northern wilderness. We have been profoundly surprised in our researches for this address, to discover that many of the best works on American history hardly mention this early German immigration. More surprised yet have we been in discussing this story of the Palatines with their descendants here in this valley, to find how little they know of the early struggles and privations and hardships their fathers and mothers had to suffer, or of the patriotic services they rendered during the first birth of the republic. And among the historians who-do speak of them there is a difference of opinion as to their character-Mrs. Lamb placing them on a par with the Coolies of the Pacific coast, while Macauley (1829) says that their genius and industry was such as to enrich any land fortunate enough to afford them an asylum. In Mrs. Grant's "An American Lady" (published in London in 180S), which is the autobiography of an English woman living-for some years during the middle of the seventeenth century at Albany, and frequently meeting the Palatines in their homes, we find this comment--"The subdued and contented spirit, the simple and primitive manners, the frugal and industrial habits of these genuine sufferers for conscience sake, made them an acquisition to any society which received them, and a most suitable leaven among the inhabitants of this province."

The Palatines were of the same importance to New York as the Puritans and Pilgrims were to New England. They chose to become the farthest outpost of white men in the country of the fiercest aborigines, the Iroquois confederation. They braved all the dangers of the Wilderness and settled in the midst of the Mohawks, the most war-like of all the Indian tribes. The Palatines, moreover, were the founders in this country of a free press. John Peter Zenger of Philadelphia, a Palatine, was jailed because he dared to criticise Governor Crosby the King's representative, in his paper, "The Weekly Journal." He was defended by James Alexander Hamilton. His acquittal was one of the greatest victories for law and freedom ever won on this continent. Prof. Fiske, the eminent historian, says "that the most obstinately fought and bloodiest battle of the Revolution was that of Oriskany," the most sanguinary battle of the Revolution. wherein 200 Palatines lost their lives. The presence of so many former neighbors on both sides made it a fratricidal contest. You will recall that "Honikal" Herkimer, who was the general in command, was of German descent, and his army was made up almost wholly of Palatines (cf Note on "Tryon Co. Com. Safety"). Despite the stupid idiocy of his officers (cf Note on "Battle of Oriskany"), the wounded Herkimer fought this battle to a finish and won the victory over St. Leger and the savages, which meant so much to the cause of liberty in this western land. Bennington prevented the arrival of Burgoyne's supplies and Oriskany his expected reinforcements. This decisive battle of the Revolution resulted in the turning back of St. Leger to Canada and in the surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga, in the union of the northern colonies and in the final evacuation of the Hudson and Mohawk valleys by the British. The battles of Oriskany and Stone Arabia were as great contests as Concord and Bunker Hill. At the close of the struggle there were upwards of four hundred widows in five districts of Tryon county.

The very first known Palatines that came to America (they numbered fifty-five) were conducted hither by Re. Joshua Kocherthal, a Lutheran minister, born in 1669, who came to America in 1708 and for two or three years was a pastor at West Camp. The Quassaic (Newburgh) Colony came over with Kocherthal. After being denizened in England by royal order, August 25, 1708, they were later sent to America with Lord Lovelace. The work of Brown puts the date of their coming a few months before coming to New York. Kocherthal visited England in 1709 in the interest of the colony. Kocherthal died in 1719 and is buried at West Camp. Kocherfthal's first wife died in 1713, December 6. His second wife who survived him married Rev. W. C. Berkenmeyer, a Lutheran missionary, who was the first pastor of the Palatine Lutheran Stone church (1733-1743). The first Germans from the Rhine Palatine who came in any considerable numbers to New York, arrived June 14, 1710, and numbered three thousand, the largest of any single immigration to America up to that date. This date, June 14, was religiously observed for many years by the early settlers, and might well be annually kept now in unison with Flag Day which falls on the same day. Before the Palatines left England they had heard of the wonderful valley of the "Schorie" (an Indian term for drift wood), Schoharie, and longed for this "promised land." But the statesmen of Queen Anne's time thought that the Palatines ought to repay some of their "keep" in England as well their transportation, so they conceived a plan whereby these Germans were to get out timbers for the royal navy and pitch and turpentine and resin, needed naval stores. Great Britian had furnished $40,000 and out of his own fortune Gov. William Burnet furnished $140,000. They were settled at Livingston Manor on the Hudson, and set to work. It proved to be a modern effort of making "bricks without straw," and after years of vain pleadings to be allowed to go to the promised land in the Schoharie valley, they finally rose up, rebelling. against "Pharaoh" Hunter and left the tarless pine trees for the rich, alluvial soil of the Schoharie, tho not a few went into Pennsylvania.

About the time of the German exodus from the Hudson settlement not a few of the Palatine families found their way into the valley of the Mohawk, at least one-third of all the Germans in the Schoharie valley coming into this community between 1722 and 1725. To these were added quite a goodly number who had just enetered the country, among them Nicholas Herkimer of Oriskany fame, who came to America in 1722. England now began to grant great tracts of land, among them being the Governor William Burnet's Patent, land bought of the Mohawks in 1722-consisting of all the country on both sides of the river from Little Falls to Frankfort, 100 acres being given to each of the 70 persons named in the patent settling there, subject only to quit rent to be paid forever to the Crown. German Flatts (Fort Herkimer) was once called "Burnetsfield." On October 19, 1723, another patent, similar to this one of Burnet's, officially recorded in the office of the Secretary of State, was given at Stone Arabia, consisting of 12,000 acres, and costing $750 in Indian goods (all but a small portion being in the town of Palatine), was disposed among twenty-seven Palatine families who entered, upon the land in the spring of 1723). Simms' "Frontiersmen" gives the names of the men). The Mohawks just previous to this had given deeds of lands to certain settlers who began to locate near the Palatine Stone church. For twenty-five miles the Mohawk is a Palatine or German river, as witness the towns-Palatine, Oppenheim, Frankfort, Manheim. Newkirk, etc. This district had the fewest Tories because the German settlers, while they were of inestimable value to England in the war with France, were the most ardent patriots, and toryism did not flourish in such an environment. At Stone Arabia, in the tavern of Adam Loucks, who lies buried in the cemetery adjoining, was held the first meeting of the "Tryon County Committee of Safety," August 27th, 1774, whose deliberations and activities counted so much for the independence of the colonies. New York led all the colonies in their bold stroke for freedom, while Tryon county (Montgomery) led all New York in the spirit of independence displayed by its citizens. Like the Star of the East, which led the wise men to the Khan of Bethlehem, where the World's Redeemer was born, the vision of liberty was filling all the sky of the seventeenth century, and by its light the mightiest men that ever peopled the earth were led to the cradle of freedom in this western land. There were the Holland Dutch. the English Puritans (who also came from Holland), the Scottish Covenanters, the Pilgrim Fathers, and last, but not least, the Germans of the Palatine. These were the five tribes o f God's Israel, who laid the foundation of Christian civilization in America, who were the founders of our institutions, the builders of the republic, and all alike caught their inspiration and won their victories through their genius for religion and their unwavering faith in the Almighty God.

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