Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The Mohawk Valley
Its Legends and its History
by Max Reid
New York and London G. P. Putman's Sons
The Knickerbocker Press, 1901
with illustrations from photographs by J. Arthur Maney

Chapter V: Immigration and Settlement of the Palatines

Among the earliest settlers of the Mohawk Valley, after the Dutch Boers, were their kindred from the Palatinate. We call them kindred because they also received the name of Mohawk Dutch and assisted in the construction of that almost untranslatable language called "Mohawk Dutch," a mixture of German, Dutch, and Mohawk, making a dialect that when found in public documents makes a puzzle to philologists.

The Story of the Palatines, by the Rev. Sanford H. Cobb, dedicated "To the Children of the Palatines, my Old Parishioners in the High Dutch churches of Schoharie and Saugerties," is very interesting. While following the records of history strictly, he attempts to correct many impressions that have prevailed in regard to the social status of the immigrations to the banks of the Hudson, in 1710. He protests against the term, "poor Palatines," and quotes Mrs. Lamb's disparaging remarks by the side of Macaulay's description of the people. Mrs. Lamb says:

These earlier German settlers were mostly hewers of wood and drawers of water, differing materially from the class of Germans who have since come among us, and bearing about the same relation to the English, Dutch, and French settlers of their time, as the Chinese of today bear to the American population on the Pacific coast.

Macaulay justly describes the same people as follows:

"Honest, laborious men, who had once been thriving burgers of Manheim and Heidelberg, or who had cultivated the vine on the banks of the Neckar and the Rhine, their ingenuity and their diligence could not fail to enrich any land which should afford them an asylum." They rather resembled the Huguenots, as they were driven from their homes by the armies of France, who laid waste their lands and destroyed their cities, and the persecutions of their won Palatine princes, who were alternately Calvinists, Lutherans, or Romanists. They came to this country for freedom to worship God, and the Calvinists and the Reformed Built their churches side by side on the Hudson and on the Schoharie and Mohawk. The exodus of the Palatines bears some resemblance to the children of Israel, from the fact that it seems to have been a movement of nearly the whole people. Some went to Holland, others to north German; but the larger number found their way to England, and thronged the streets of London to that extent that they were lodged in warehouses and barns, and in some instances buildings were erected, while on the Surrey side of the Thames on thousand tents were pitched, and the generous and charitably disposed people were taxed to the utmost to provide subsistence for this destitute army of immigrants. It became evident to Queen Anne and her advisers that something must be done to find employment or new homes for the wanderers. About five thousand were absorbed in various employments within the kingdom, while nearly four thousand were sent over to Ireland, and about ninety-two families, or in the neighborhood of six hundred persons, were sent to the Carolinas in charge of a Swiss gentleman named Christopher de Graffenreid, a native of Berne, who named the settlement Newberne.

While the Palatines were yet in London there came to England an important delegation from the province of New York, consisting of Peter Schuyler, then Mayor of Albany, and Colonel Nicholason, one of Her Majesty's officers in America, and five Mohawk sachems. Their mission was to urge the need of more generous measures on the part of the home government for the defence of the province against the French and their allied Indians.

"The arrival of the sachems, in their barbaric costume, occasioned great observation throughout the kingdom. Crowds followed them in the streets, and small pictures of them were widely sold." The court was in mourning for the Prince of Denmark, and the Indians were dressed in black underclothes, but a scarlet ingrain cloth mantel was thrown over all other garments.

The English and the Indians alike were delighted with the exhibitions. The guards were reviewed for their entertainment, and they were taken to see plays in the theatres. They were given an audience by the queen, to whom they presented belts of wampum, and represented that not only the English, but the friendly Indians needed a more efficient defence against the French. The reduction of Canada would be of great weight to their free hunting.

It is said that in the walks of the Indian chiefs about the outskirts of London, they because interested in the homeless and houseless Palatines, and one of them voluntarily presented Queen Anne a tract of his land on the Schoharie, for the use and benefit of the distressed Germans. This was in 1709. The next year a colony of three thousand Palatines under the charge of Governor Robert Hunter, as "servants of the crown," sailed for the port of New York and settled on land provided for them near the Livingston manor, and on the opposite side of the Hudson at Saugerties.

On this land, and under the direction of Governor Hunter, they attempted the production of turpentine, resin, or pitch, which proved a failure. Becoming dissatisfied with their lot, which was only a little less than slavery, they petitioned to be allowed to go to the promised land of "Schorie," which the Indians and Queen Anne had given them. Permission being refused, they rebelled and about fifty families migrated to the valley of "Schorie," as they called it, in the fall of 1712. In March, 1713, "the remainder of the people (treated by Governor Hunter as Pharaoh treated the Israelites) proceeded on their journey, and by God's assistance joined their friends and countrymen in the promised land of 'Schorie.'"

They had hardly got settled in the several settlements, before they found themselves again in trouble, with the "Gentlemen of Albany," and various other persons, who claimed the land by earlier grants from the Mohawks. Adam Vroomen, the surviving hero of the massacre of Schenectady, was one of the settlers who came into conflict with the Palatines, also Lewis Morris, Jr., and Andries Coeymans. There is also an account of their treatment of Sheriff Adams, who attempted to serve papers on some of the Germans with a posse.

The first attempt brought on a riot, in which the stalwart Palatine women took an active and leading part. Led by Magdalena Zeh, the women attacked the sheriff, knocked him down and beat him; then they dragged him through the nastiest puddles of their barnyards, and putting him on a rail, rode him skimmington through the settlements for seven miles or more, and finally left him with two broken ribs, on a bridge well out on the road to Albany.

These continual conflicts mad life a burden to the Palatines in their promised "Schorie," and at last, despairing of receiving justice from the authorities at Albany, a large number of them in 1722, accepted offers from Pennsylvania to locate in that province. Probably about three hundred remained in the Schoharie Valley, some having already settled along the Mohawk, west of the Schoharie River.

I have before me a list of some of the Palatines located along the Mohawk and Schoharie rivers, and among them find names belonging to the most respected families, who are doubtless descendants of those sturdy Germans:

Becker, Kneisker, Conrad, Schnell (Snell), Nelles (Nellis), Young, Houck, Angell, Snyder, Wagner, Nell, Newkire, Klein, Cline, Kline, Planck, Bronch, Timmerman, and a host of others.

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