History From America's Most Famous Valleys
The Book of
Especially Relating to The Early Palatines and the First Settlers in the
Compiled and Arranged by Lou D. MacWethy
Published by The Enterprise and News
St. Johnsville, NY., 1933
JOSHUA VON KOCHERTHAL
The following sketch of the career of Rev. Joshua Kocherthal was prepared by Rev. Herman F. Vesper, of St. John's Lutheran Church, Canajoharie, N. Y. The devotion and courage of Joshua Kocherthal and his part in the settlement of the Mohawk Valley should not be overlooked. Descendants of the Palatines will appreciate the scholarly contribution which follows: The publisher of this series feels indebted to Rev. Vesper for his contribution.
Twenty-one years after the close of the devastating Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), there was born at Landau on the left bank of the Rhine River, in what is now Rhenish Bavaria, Joshua Kocherthal, the man who directed the first Palatines to America. His family name was apparently derived from the beautiful valley through which the river Queich flows, for in his later church records he styles himself: "Joshua of the valley of Concord, commonly called Kocherthal." Where he obtained his theological education is not known, for though the Reformation was formally introduced into the Palatinate by the Elector-Palatine, Frederick H., in 1546, and Lutheran professors taught theology at Heidelberg until 1560, from that year on the Calvinists were in power, and the Heidelberg Catechism of 1562 made final the cleavage from Lutheranism. However, Kocherthal became a Lutheran pastor and ministered to his fellow believers at a time when persecution, plunder, and pillage ravaged the Rhine countries and laid waste whatever had survived the horrible devastation of the Thirty Years' War.
In 1668 war again broke out, and in 1673 Louis XIV of France began his marauding expeditions for the purpose of extirpating the heretics. Destructive raids laid waste the Palatine countryside, and this ruthless pillage continued until 1668 when the French King himself entered the land "to make it a wilderness," as he declared. As a youth of twenty years Kocherthal heard of the burning of Heidelberg and Manheim and in May of 1689 news reached him that Speyer and Worms had been set on fire. The villages, towns and farms of the Rhine regions were pillaged and burned, their inhabitants tortured, ravished or slain. Few escaped the country, and those who survived were spared further horrors when, in 1705, England, Holland, Sweden and Prussia intervened and threatened reprisals unless this inhuman carnage ceased. The War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713) followed, but it touched only lightly the already devastated country.
Added to the horrors of war, there came further to harass the unfortunate Palatines the unusually severe winter of 1708-09. Vineyards and orchards were blasted by the cold, birds froze on the wing, fires failed to warm the shivering populace. Furthermore, oppressive ecclesiastical regulations made still more unbearable the life of these "poor Palatines." Kocherthal's powers of resistance to oppression and his influence over the sorely tried people of his own faith must have been considerable. But their circumstances had become intolerable, and their only salvation lay in migrating to other lands. Kocherthal had long entertained the idea of leading a group of his co-religionists to lands across the sea. He is said to have gone to London as early as 1704 for the purpose of negotiating such a transportation of Palatines. In 1706 he published a pamphlet in which he recommended South Carolina as a favorable site for German Colonization.
Kocherthal went to Frankfort-on-the-Main in January, 1708, to obtain from a Mr. Davenant, a British resident, passes and money for a trip to England, Davenant made the consent of the Elector-Palatine a condition of such assistance, and when his permission was not forthcoming, Kocherthal, with some 50 to 60 Germans, left in March for London by way of Holland. Queen Anne was apprised of their extreme poverty and granted them each a shilling a day toward their subsistence. This royal example of benevolence inspired others to come to the aid of the refugees and soon their physical needs were sufficiently satisfied. Pastor Kocherthal was beginning to evince his great abilities as a colonizer and as a born leader of this distracted company of exiles. He now petitioned the Queen to permit them to sail for one of the British colonies in North America. "We humbly take leave to represent," he writes to the London Board of Trade, "that they are very necessitous and in the utmost want, not having at present anything to subsist themselves; that they have been rendered to this by the ravages committed by the French in the Lower Palatinate, where they lost all they had." This request was eagerly entertained and discussed by the royal counselors and the London Board of Trade.
England desired to extend her frontiers in the New World, and there she also sought for raw materials with which to fit out her royal Majesty's ships. Concluding, therefore, that these homeless and distressed, though "honest and laborious" Palatines might profitably be engaged in the manufacture of naval stores, such as ship masts, tar and pitch, the Board of Trade resolved to transport them to the islands of Jamaica and Antigua. However, after more mature consideration, it was determined to send them to New York.
On April 28, 1708, permission was granted Kocherthal and his 53 Palatine refugees to sail for America. They were to be naturalized as British citizens before their embarkation, and they were to make the voyage with the newly appointed Governor of the Province of New York, Lovelace, on her Majesty's transport "Globe." Negotiations dragged on into the summer. On June 22, 1708, Queen Anne signed an agreement according to which her government would supply the colonists with foodstuffs for one year and with the necessary agricultural implements. In addition to these provisions her Majesty granted Pastor Kocherthal twenty pounds sterling and 500 acres of land toward the endowment of a German Protestant church. On Au gust 25, 1708 the Palatines were made "denizens of the kingdom" by a special act of naturalization.
Finally, about the middle of October, the "Globe" was ready to cross the Atlantic with the first Palatine refugees on board, a voyage of no less consequence to the colonization of the future American Republic than that of the "Mayflower 88 years before. Scant justice has been done by our historians toward these hardy Rhinelanders, who, robust in body and strong in heart and soul, accustomed to hardship, poverty, and toil, conscientious and honest toward God and man, were willing rather to face the unknown but peaceful American wilderness than political, economic and religious degradation in the war wasted lands of Europe.
Students of the European history of this period are wearied by the spectacle which the petty, fanatical, cruel and self seeking monarchs, electors, princes and ecclesiastics present. The common man's rights were ruthlessly trampled upon, the peasants, craftsmen, artisans and merchants saw lands, properties and fortunes ruined. Religious fanaticism was stirred to ceaseless activity and wanton cruelty by unscrupulous Jesuits who gained the ear of such tyrants as France's Louis XIV and John William, Elector of the Upper Palatinate. Lutherans and Calvinists longed for peace, liberty and self-expression In a new world, and they were ready, heart rending as it might be, to tear themselves away from all that had meant home and fatherland to them, in order that they might live in peace, establish homes and families, worship God unmolested and enjoy benevolent government, at least, to a degree unknown In Europe.
On such a quest Kocherthal and his compatriots crossed the mighty ocean. For eleven long weeks the "Globe" was at the mercy of wind and wave. Yet the Palatines were comforted and encouraged by good Captain Congreve and their faithful pastor. The latter preached to them and administered the sacrament. He baptized the babies who were born on board ship. He counseled with Governor Lovelace concerning the administration of the future colony and the division of the land. In this official the Palatines possessed a warm friend.
At last the shores of America were sighted and the "Globe" sailed into the harbor of New York. Then, after casting anchor off Manhattan Island so that the new governor might land and attend to certain formalities the little ship entered the mouth of the river discovered by Hendrick Hudson a century before. For sixty miles the voyage continued up the lordly stream, the first signs of Winter already visible on both banks. With the close of the year their arduous sea journey also drew to its close. On New Year's Day, 1709, the vessel anchored at the confluence, of Quassaic Creek with the river, a pleasant site on the western shore. Here Kocherthal and 53 emigrants, including his wife, Sibylla Charlotta, and their three children, landed. It was necessary to build rude huts for shelter from the wintry cold, and the ambitious men, young and sturdy and skilled, lost no time in taking their axes and hammers to hand. Their average age was between 25 and 40, only one was 52, and among them were vineyard keepers, carpenters, smiths, weavers, cabinet makers and masons. These doughty pioneers named the district Newburgh (Neuburg )after a city in the Upper Palatinate. It contained 2,190 acres which had been assigned to them by royal decree, but the deed to this land came into their possession only in 1719 through the so-called "German Patent." Before the Summer of 1709 Governor Lovelace had died, and as Kocherthal had not yet received the deed to this land, and the colonists were in need of further help from the Crown, he sent a petition to England, dated June 29. 1709, asking for a free passage to London. He proceeded to New York with his family and, leaving wife and children there, sailed back to England on behalf of the colonists. During his absence his daughter, Louisa Abigail was born. Dominie Justus Falckner, the first Lutheran pastor to be ordained in America, ministered to the Palatines while Kocherthal was abroad.
Pastor Kocherthal reached London safely, but discovered that thousands of German refugees had migrated to England since his departure the year previous. The Queen, Parliament, the Board of Trade, and Londoners in general, hardly knew what to do with all the "poor Palatines" who sought asylum in their domains. Hundreds of tents had been erected on the Black Heath in London for these homeless people, others were hospitably received into British homes, but their number increased daily until they came to be regarded as a menace to the peace of the realm. The majority demanded to be transported to other countries under the rule of the British Crown, such as Ireland, Jamaica and the American continent.
Dominie Kocherthal stood in the good graces of Queen Anna, who recognized his talents as a land agent and colonizer. She acceded to his wishes and ordered that 3,000 Palatines be sent to America with him and with Robert Hunter, the successor of Lovelace as Governor of New York. The vessels left London in January, 1710, Kocherthal sailing on H. M. S. "Medford." For six months this fleet of sailing ships with their precious human cargo was tossed about on the briny deep. At least one ship was wrecked, and 470 emigrants died during the perilous voyage, while 250 succumbed to a fever after landing at New York on June 14. Of their quarantine on Nutten (now Governor's) Island, and of their subsequent settlement on both sides of the Hudson above Newburgh this sketch need not go into detail. The "tar period", through which Gov. Hunter and the Palatines passed, is one of the sad chapters in British Colonial history. Its consequence was the migration to and the settlement of the Schoharie and Mohawk Valleys and parts of Pennsylvania.
From London Kocherthal returned in June, 1710, his mission resulting in better conditions for the Palatines on the Quassaic. A church was built on the "glebe" designated for religious purposes. The Queen donated a bell, and Kocherthal set to work to build up his New World parish. Three villages were established on the western side of the river, Georgetown, Elizabethtown and Newtown. Across the Hudson were Annsbury, Haysbury, Queensbury, and Hunterstown, each one under the supervision of a "listmaster," who was appointed by Hunter because of his individual integrity and qualities of leadership. Kocherthal ministered to these pioneer colonists most faithfully and conscientiously. During the first months of 1711 he made New York his residence, but later in that year he came to his "upper colonies", as he called them, and made his abode on the west side of the river near Newburgh. He organized a Lutheran congregation at West Camp, the site of Newtown, in that year. But his ministerial duties and activities were not confined to one parish, nor even to the Hudson Valley settlements. After 1713 he journeyed across the Catskills or by way of Albany to the Palatine colonies in the Schoharie Valley. Often Dominie Haeger of the Reformed faith undertook the trip with him. Here, too, he held services, administered communion, baptized infants, catechized the young, and united in marriage those who sought his pastoral services. His church records which have been preserved, testify to the genuine piety, the customary German thoroughness, the conscientiousness and sincerity, the scholarship and orthodoxy, which distinguish this true servant of God and friend of man. No better leader and spiritual guide could those pioneer settlers have had in those trying times. With his devoted people he remained true to his religious convictions and principles and by precept and example he inculcated standards of character that distinguish the Palatine to this day.
For ten years Joshua Von Kocherthal labored among his countrymen, ever intent upon their material and spiritual welfare. His interest in the Glebe on the Quassaic never abated and for this church land he desired to obtain clear, incontestable title. It was June 18, 1718 when he directed a petition to Governor Hunter in which he requested him to grant him, his heirs and assigns a suitable portion of the Glebe for their support. On the following eighth of October certain Palatines sent a counter petition to the Governor, asking that these 500 acres of Glebe land be assigned to some other Lutheran pastor . The reason was that Kocherthal had not lived there for nine years, and one of the conditions of the Queen's grant specified that the minister must reside upon this land. Kocherthal, relying upon his personal influence with the Queen, and convinced that this misinterpretations of the royal grant warranted another trip to England, made preparations to return to London. But his unexpected death intervened to nullify his plans. At West Camp on St. John's Day, December 27, 1719, Kocherthal suddenly sickened and died. A longer journey than the one to England was his to undertake, and that when he was but fifty years of age. The rigors and privations of pioneer life would not permit men to become old. They were simply worn out before the Biblical allotment of "three score years and ten." And so at West Camp they laid to rest the worn and weary body of the man who had done more for them than any other individual. We do not know who officiated at the obsequies of this noble servant of God. For five years no regularly called pastor served in this parish, but in September, 1724, Daniel Falckner, "pastor at Millstone and in the mountains of the Raritan" made entries in the church record. He was succeeded in the following year by Dominie William Berkenmeyer, whose entries are recorded from 1725 to 1730.
But the Glebe question was not settled with the death of Kocherthal. The Commission of the Council of the Province convened soon after to consider the two petitions. Generously they granted to Kocherthal's widow and to her three children "the whole 250 acres to them and to their assigns forever." To the counter petitioners the Commission granted "500 acres of land for the maintenance and support of a Lutheran pastor forever." For a term not to exceed seven years these lands might be rented, but these rentals and profits "shall be impropriated to the maintenance of such Lutheran minister and his successors forever, and to no other use whatever; and it being granted for a pious, intent, you may cause the quitrent to be reserved for the said Glebe land, be the yearly rent of one peppercorn, if the same be legally demanded, which nevertheless is humbly submitted." Thus the terms of the provincial authorities.
Kocherthal's wife, Sibylla Charlotta, was also born in 1669. She accompanied him from Germany to London and across the sea in 1708 with their three children, all born in the Palatinate. She, too, died at an early age, departing this life on December 16, 1713 at West Camp, aged 44 years. She died six years before her husband, and she did not live to see her oldest daughter Benigna Sibylla, who was born in 1698, married to Dominie Berkenmeyer of Loonenburgh on the Hudson. Christian Joshua was born in 1701. He was appointed one of the listmasters on the eastern side of the river and died in 1731. In 1705 was born Susanna Sibylla. She became the wife of William Hurtin, a goldsmith, residing in Bergen County, New Jersey. Louisa Abigail was born in New York on February 26, 1710. She too, was married to a goldsmith, John Brevoort of New York. Peter Lynch, a New York merchant chose Kathalina, the youngest daughter to be his wife. It was she who inherited her mother's interest, for Kocherthal's wife had died six years before the patent was granted to the original settlers. Later the brother's interest fell to Louisa Abigail.
In the year 1742 the three surviving daughters ordered a brown stone tablet to be placed over the grave of their parents at West Camp. The inscription translated from the German reads:
under this stone rests,
beside his Sibylla Charlotta,
a genuine traveler,
of the High-Germans in America,
And a pure Lutheran preacher of the same
in the east and west side
of the Hudson river.
His first arrival was with L'd Lovelace
1707-8, January 1
His second with Col. Hunter
1710, June 14
Brought his journey to England to end.
His heavenly journey was
on St. John's Day, 1719
Do you wish to know more?
Seek in Melanchton's Fatherland
Who was Kocherthal
B. Berkenmeyer, S. Huertin, L. Brevoort
M D C C X L I I
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