Editor’s note: This genealogy column ran in the Nov. 30, 2014, issue of the Tribune-Star.
The Palatines of southwest Germany had immigrated to New York colony in 1710. They believed they were going to be given 40 acres of farmland immediately after arriving, and had signed a contract in English. Most were illiterate and there was no written form of the contract in German. The actual terms of the agreement were that they were to be indentured servants for seven years before freedom and land was to be granted them. They were destined to work off their commitment by making pitch, tar, resin and ships’ masts for the English navy. Their sponsor was Governor Hunter of New York colony.
Hunter was responsible for providing for the Palatines and for the implementation of the navy project. To this end, he had purchased two tracts of land from the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Robert Livingston, which included 6,000 acres located on the east side of the Hudson River. In addition, he had purchased another 800 acres on the west side of the Hudson from another source. These three tracts became known as “Livingston Manor.” A fourth tract was made available through negotiations with the Mohawks. The tribe gave land to the Queen of England specifically for the Palatine settlement. The Mohawk parcel was located on Schoharie River and was called “Schohere” by the Indians. Since this tract did not have the needed pitch pine trees growing on it, it was deemed unsuitable for the project. The Palatines were settled on Livingston Manor, assigned 10 acres per family on which to grow food, and put to work. They rebelled, and the governor brought in troops to quell the angry settlers.
The naval project ultimately failed, however, because Livingston had misled the governor by selling him land that did not have the appropriate pitch pines growing on it. The governor went bankrupt and became unable to support the Palatines, who were still under contract but had nowhere to work and no sponsor to support them.
In the Palatines’ mind “Schohere” was the promised land. Bypassing the governor, 130 Palatine families went directly to the Mohawk leaders and negotiated with them to buy the Schoharie Valley land (which had previously been presented to the Crown for Governor Hunter’s project). In 1712-1713 the Palatine families began moving to the valley after purchasing it from the Mohawks. In 1714, the first of the land challenges occurred, brought forward by a man named Bayard. His claim was that the Mohawks had sold him the land prior to selling it to the Palatines. Bayard sold his claim to a group called the “Seven Partners,” who were investing in the natural resources of the area. The Seven Partners gave the Palatines an ultimatum: pay us for your use of the land, or leave the area. The Palatines ignored the order, and ran off several agents for the Seven Partners who came to evict them.
In 1717 Governor Hunter tried to enforce the Seven Partners’ edict. The Palatines again ignored Hunter and sent their own ambassadors to England with a list of complaints for the London board of Trade. Unfortunately, their representatives suffered a series of disastrous incidents (including an attack by pirates, having their money stolen, being put into debtors’ prison upon arrival in England, and ultimately perishing there). The sole remaining representative failed in the negotiations.
In 1720, a new governor of New York was appointed by the Crown. He offered the Palatines settlement lands on the western frontier throughout the Mohawk Valley. About 1,000 people moved there. Their settlements acted as buffer zones between Albany County and the dangerous frontier. Meanwhile, authorities in Pennsylvania colony had allowed the Palatines to settle there on the Tulpehocken Creek. From 1717 through 1733, about 100 families moved from Schohere to Tulpehocken Valley in Berks County, Pennsylvania.
Continued next week.
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