Carolina - The Germans/Swiss Settlers

Persecuted in Europe, the Germans/Swiss chose the New World - Primarily Pennsylvania and Carolina


German peoples, variously estimated from two thousand to thirty-two thousand, arrived in London between May and November of 1709. A year earlier a small band of fifty had preceded them. As most of the latter and the greater part of the former group came from the Rheinish or Lower Palatinate, the name Palatine was applied indiscriminately to the rest of the immigrants, although they came from the neighboring territories as well.

Devastated by war, oppressed by petty princes imitating the "Sun Monarch," the destructive winter of 1708-9, and religious bickerings, with an added desire for adventure so usual in the youth of any land, these causes created a dissatisfaction with the Germans/Swiss and their present lot, which only irritated another potent cause, that of land hunger.

A number of Palatines in New York were overheard to remark, "We came to America to establish our families, to secure lands for our children on which they will be able to support themselves after we die." But all these causes themselves would perhaps have been insufficient to call forth such a great emigration of large families with young children on their hands. How did the attraction of the foreign shore come to them?

To those Germans/Swiss dissatisfied with their lot, effected by the conditions outlined above, came the enticing advertising of English proprietors of the colonies in America. Pamphlets extolling the climate and life in the New World were disseminated throughout the Rhine Valley. Agents for the proprietors entered into negotiations with interested parties. Adventurers like Francois Louis Michel and George Ritter engaged to bring companies of colonists. Correspondence was carried on between the proprietors and prospective settlers. All these activities were in the interests of Carolina or Pennsylvania.

An interesting collection of manuscripts now preserved in the Library of Congress throws light on the advertising for New World land. This collection, known as the Archdale Papers, contains correspondence of John Archdale, one of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina. As early as 1705, Archdale was arranging for a settlement in Carolina by what was called the High German Company of Thuringia.

Polycarpus Michael Pricherbach, the German correspondent, writing from Langensalza in Thuringia, mentioned reading Richard Blome's English America, a description of the English possessions in the western hemisphere. This had been translated into German and published in Leipzig in 1697. Four deputies were sent over to London with the intention of visiting some English province in America. They met and talked with a Mr. Telner, who it seems represented the Lords Proprietors of Carolina. They then returned to Germany. The plans probably miscarried as nothing was heard of the venture later.

However, two proposals, made by the High German Company of Thuringia, suggested to the Lords Proprietors of Caroina the kind of advertising to use with the greatest appeal in the German/Swiss. On September 2, 1705, the German Company asked the Carolina Lords Proprietors to announce "that all such as shall address themselves to them, After the first Transport (Seeing it is needless at the first shipping over) and are not able to pay any monie for their passage, should be transported free by your Lordps without any payment as far as Carolina." This was to be repaid finally by years of service for the company in Carolina.

The second proposal was an inducement to be carried out only after the first transport had safely arrived in Carolina, "for what I am now going to say could not possibly be ventured sooner. There should be published by us and in our names, a short plain description of the good situation and Conveniences of the Country, with the advantageous Conditions granted to us by the proprietors, there should also circumstancially be sett forth the great eveready proffetts that might be Expected from there, and subjoyned 'thereunto Expecially this clause, that a Poor Man hath only need to provide himself to come to London and then to pay nothing for his transport thence to Carolina because upon his address to the Lords Proprietors they would maintain and transport him to Carolina whereby nothing which might recomend and make this country should be past by or omitted. Such printed and published description to be authorized by a short preffase by the Lords Proprietors, would then by good friends, left behind be everywhere made known and there being now to God no doubt but that in these hard times in Germany....," colonization would be quickened.

In pursuance of such aims, the English Parliament was bombarded with propaganda favorable to the naturalization of foreign Protestants. Under the heading, "Some weighty considerations for Parliament," John Archdale, the Carolina Proprietor referred to before, wrote that 2,000 white people in Carolina were worth 100,000 at home. He argued that this was due to their use of English goods and the products they exchanged so favorably for England."

He went on, "the body of Europe is under a general fermentation . . . which will more and more persecute an uneasy body of Protestants . . . [who] opprest with taxes, drained of their wealth and lyeing in the jealous sight of popery, are growne so uneasy, as to be willing to transplant themselves under the English Government."

During the reign of Queen Anne this idea took practical shape. Considerable sums of money were expended to assist Protestant refugees in making their way to England and the English colonies. For example, early in 1706, Secretary of State Hedges informed Governor Granville of Barbados concerning one Francisco Pavia and his family from Cadiz, whom "H. M. has not only bestowed her royal bounty upon . . . to transport them thither, but also recommended them to you, that you will give them all fitting countenance and assistance."

In the same year the Board of Trade at the behest of Secretary of State Hedges considered a proposal by Franqois Louis Michel and George Ritter to settle some "4 or 500 Swiss Protestants . . . on some uninhabited lands in Pennsylvania or on the frontier of Virginia." The last stipulation called for transportation with their effects from Rotterdam at Her Majesty's expense. The Board of Trade approved the proposal, and made practical suggestions for carrying it out. Indeed, the Board did not even find fault with the suggestion that the government should pay the cost of transportation, which it estimated would be eight pounds per head. This proposal was carried out under private auspices with a handsome subsidy. These efforts were due largely to political and commercial motives, and partly to the genuine interest which England took in championing the Protestant cause in Europe.

Still such a program of colonial development had to be pursued with caution to avoid diplomatic intervention. Not all governments were ready to rid themselves of an 'undesirable religious sect' by arranging deportation to British America as the Swiss canton of Bern did in 1710.

Indeed, as a rule, princes were not disposed to permit their subjects to be enticed from their obligations to thern. For this reason open invitations apparently were not issued. It can be concluded that the large German emigration of the second decade of the eighteenth century was due in a general way to these causes: (a) war devastation, (b) heavy taxation, (c) an extraordinary severe winter, (d) religious quarrels, but not persecutions, (e) land hunger on the part of the elderly and desire for adventure on the part of the young, (f) liberal advertising by colonial proprietors, and finally (g) the benevolent and active cooperation of the British government.


A religious schism had split the town of Bern, and the party of Mennonites, or Anabaptists as they were known in England, were forced to emigrate. They negotiated through a former citizen of Bern, Franz Louis Michel, with the Proprietors of Pennsylvania and Carolina. Indeed, some arrangements for land in Pennsylvania had already been made. William Penn, a year later, on April 4, 1710, wrote to Lord Townshend at the Hague asking him to aid in the free passage through Holland of a company of 50 or 60 Switzers under one "Mitchell," who had contracted with him for lands.

Michel was also interested in developing silver mines in the colonies. He enlisted in the latter enterprise Christopher von Graffenried, of an aristocratic family of Bern, a man of pleasing personality, but burdened with debt. The mining project appealed to him as a means of building up his fortune and in 1708, he secretly left Switzerland, having engaged a small party of miners to follow him on his call.

Accordingly, in 1709, Graffenried was in London awaiting the development of his mining plans. The delays were annoying. His partner, Louis Michel, was occupied with negotiations for the Swiss settlements. On April 28th, Graffenried came to an agreement with the Lords Proprietors of Carolina, for the purchase of 10,000 acres of land on or between the Neuse and Cape Fear Rivers or their branches in North Carolina. The purchase price was £10 for each thousand acres.

It was further agreed that 100,000 acres were to be reserved to the company for twelve years, if they desired to purchase additional land. The terms were to be at the above-mentioned rate, provided the land was taken up within seven years. After that period, the company would have to pay according to the custom prevailing there. One member of the company was to be made a Landgrave, and was to purchase 5,000 acres at the customary quit-rent. By July 14, 1709, Graffenried had joined with Michel in his settlement project, for on that date he and Michel explained to the Board of Trade their proposal to settle Swiss Protestants in Virginia.

The men and women of the 1709 Palatine immigration began to arrive, as already described, in large numbers early in May, and the British government was hard pressed to provide for them. At this juncture, English friends of Graffenried, some of high rank, advised him not to lose so favorable an opportunity to attain desirable settlers on his lands. He was assured that if he would take a considerable number of the Palatines to America, the Queen would not only grant him the money for their passage, but in addition would make a good contribution for them. The good contribution as a matter of fact amounted to almost £4,000.

Consequently, Graffenried hastened to conclude his arrangements with the Lords Proprietors of Carolina. He paid £50 for 5,000 acres on August 4, 1709, and was made a Landgrave. On the 3rd of September, Graffenried, Michel and the Lords Proprietors entered into another arrangement. Under this agreement, 10,000 acres were granted to Graffenried and his heirs, for the settlement of Palatines. Michel, who was to purchase 35,000 acres, actually contented himself with one fourteenth of that area. From these arrangements, it is apparent that the direction of the company's affairs had passed into the hands of Graffenried.

Late in September, 40 or 50 families of Palatines petitioned that they might be transported with the Swiss now going to North Carolina, and on October 10th, the Commissioners for the Settling of the Palatines permitted Graffenried and Michel to pick out 600 Palatines, about 92 families, to go to Carolina with them. They chose young, healthy, and industrious people of various trades. On the 21st, 50 more persons were accepted. Each emigrant received 20 shillings worth of clothes from the government, which also paid their passage, amounting to £5, 10 shillings each.

Preparations for the settlement in Carolina were now underway. The Lords Proprietors sent to Carolina two letters of instructions with regard to the Palatines. These were sent on September 22, 1709, the first letter being addressed to Christopher Gale, Receiver General of North Carolina. It directed him to supply "Graffenried with such necessaries and provisions of ours for the poor Palatines at such rates as you received them, taking and forwarding his receipt for the same." The Lords Proprietors intended in this way to extend two years' credit to the new settlement.

The second letter went to the "Governor or President and Council and Assembly, of North Carolina." It may be taken as a statement of British colonization aims. The Lords Proprietors stated, "We being extreamly desireous that the good of our Province should by all means be promoted, and being sencible that nothing can more effectually contribute thereto than by encreasing the number of the inhabitants and planters, who by their labour and industry may occupy the soil and improve the produce thereof, we have therefore given all reasonable encouragement to some families of poor Palatines to come and settle amongst you, . . . . . we do earnestly recommend them to your care."

Graffenried, according to his own account, took great pains in preparing for the settlement in Carolina. A supply of all kinds of necessary tools was collected. Good food was provided for the voyage. Twelve Palatines were appointed foremen among the people and the whole group was placed under the supervision of three colonial officials bound for Carolina, the Chief Justice, the Surveyor General, and the Receiver General. When all arrangements had been made, Graffenried had the Commissioners for the Settling of the Palatines inspect the arrangements on the ships. Finally in January, 1710, the Palatines sailed for America, Graffenried remaining in England to await the arrival of Michel with his Swiss Anabaptists. Because of rough winds and storms, the ships were driven off their course, and arrived in Virginia, thirteen weeks later.

The Palatines were in poor condition. They were overcrowded, which contributed to the sickness and death of many on the voyage. They were unaccustomed to the salt food. When they finally landed, many could not restrain themselves; several died from drinking too much fresh water and overloading themselves with raw fruits. Others died of fever. The band had lost more than half its members before it was settled.

One ship, carrying the best of the supplies, was plundered at the mouth of the James River by a French privateer. The Palatine party was next transported twenty miles overland, and then shipped across Albermarle Sound to the Neuse River. Here Surveyor General John Lawson placed them on the south side of the point of land along the Trent River, in the very hottest and most unhealthy locality -- this, Lawson appears to have done for his own advantage, as it was on his land or what he later sold as his land -- and there the Palatines lived until fall, when Graffenried arrived.

The Swiss portion of the settlement was meeting with great difficulties. The first group left Bern on March 8, 1710. A number of the group were men who had been imprisoned for their Anabaptist beliefs. They were really being deported to America. When they reached the Low Countries, the Dutch intervened in favor of the victims of the religious persecution. All of the prisoners were freed, but some of them continued on their way.

Meanwhile, Graffenried and Michel, on May 18, 1710, signed the contract with Georg Ritter and Peter Isot, by which they legally became members of the Bern Land Company. The enterprise was founded on the 17,000 acres actually purchased and twelve years' option on 100,000 acres. Permission was also given to take up land above the falls of the Potomac River, which would however, be held of the Crown, subject to the Governor of Virginia. The exact amount paid for the land was £175. Aside from these land grants, the Bern Company had mining rights in Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The stock of the company, consisting of £7,200, was divided into twenty-four shares of £300 each.

No one person could hold more than one share, but it was not all paid in. Michel was credited with a share to pay him for his discoveries which he claimed to have made and for the 2,500 acres he had turned into the society. One share was credited to Graffenried for his 5,000 acres and his work with the Palatines; and Georg Ritter had a share for expenses already incurred, which left only £6,300 to be paid in. When the contract was signed, others had not contributed their amounts, having until September, 1711 to pay; hence it is impossible to determine how much Graffenried had on hand to support himself and his colonists.

The report written months later (in May, 1711) indicates a shortage of £2,400, which should have been raised in some manner. Graffenried, at that time, had spent £2,228, a part or all of which he had borrowed. The shortage of £2,400 would have covered this and left a little besides. It is very likely that the keeping of the contract would have saved his colony.

Graffenried and the Swiss arrived in Virginia on September 11, 1710, carrying a letter from Queen Anne to the governor of Virginia. It would seem, too, that the more firmly-established colony of Virginia was expected to aid the new settlement nearby. After paying his respects to the Virginia authorities, Graffenried proceeded to the Palatine settlement on the Neuse and Trent Rivers in North Carolina.

He found his settlers in misery and wretchedness almost indescribable. They had been compelled to give their clothes and whatever else they possessed to neighboring settlers for food. Most of the colonists were enfeebled by ill health. The aid promised Graffenried and ordered by the Lords Proprietors was not forthcoming.

It seems that Graffenried, against his inclination, was forced to take a hand in the political struggle raging in North Carolina. In 1708, Edward Tynte had been appointed Governor of South Carolina with instructions to deputize Edward Hyde over the northern colony. Until Hyde should arrive, Tynte left in charge Colonel Thomas Cary, a former South Carolina merchant.

Unfortunately for the affairs in North Carolina, Tynte died during the summer of 1710 without signing Hyde's commission and administering the oath. Cary, in control of the government and its finances, refused to yield it to Hyde. He also disregarded the instructions of the Lords Proprietors with regard to the Palatines. Graffenried was finally forced openly to take Hyde's part.

He had to use his credit to secure flour from Pennsylvania and other supplies from Virginia. Having provided temporarily for his settlers, he busied himself with the planning of a new town on the land originally designated. With the Surveyor General and his clerk, Graffenried laid out broad streets and houses well separated one from the other. Three acres of land were marked for each family.

The village was divided to resemble a cross. In the center a lot was set aside for a church. Meanwhile a good number of Palatines and Swiss began to fell timber to build houses. Every family was given its own plot of ground, so that they could clear it, build their cabins, and prepare their soil for planting and sowing. The settlement was occupied and soon took on the appearance of prosperity. In eighteen months, Graffenried could boast that the Palatine settlement had made more progress than the English inhabitants had in four years. From a combination of the River name, Neuse, and Bern, rhe home city of the Swiss, including Graffentied and Michel, the settlement was named New Bern.

Graffenried also had "a private and very exact treaty" with the Palatines, which was projected, examined and agreed upon beforehand by the Royal Commission, too ample to be inserted here more than in summary:

1st, My colonists owed me fidelity, obedience and respect, and I owed them protection.

2d. I was to furnish each family for the first year a cow and two swine and some utensils, reimbursement to be made after 3 years.

3d. I was to give to each family 300 acres of land and they were to give me for quit-rent two pence per acre, and I on the other hand was to be responsible for the 6 pence per 100 acres acknowledgment toward the Lords Proprietors.

This contract was feudal in character. All that was needed was to make its provisions hereditary upon the descendants of the settlers as the title of Landgrave was to be hereditary for Graffenried. That the latter actually exercised authority was evident, for he incurred the enmity of a Palatine blacksmith by sentencing him to a day's log-sawing for using foul language. Some of the Palatines rebelled and left the settlement. Before they could be brought to terms, the Tuscarora Indians made a serious attack on the white settlement.

Despite Graffenried's fair treatment of the Indians, New Bern was subject to Indian attacks in the war which suddenly broke out in 1711. Houses were burned, household furniture destroyed, cattle were shot down and about seventy Palatines were murdered and captured. Graffenried himself narrowly escaped a horrible death, when he and John Lawson, the Surveyor General, were captured.

They were liberated temporarily, but Lawson insisted on quarreling with one of the Indian chiefs. As a result, they were both condemned to die. Graffenried saved himself by claiming an exemption as "King of the Palatines." His claim was allowed, but Lawson was tortured to death. Before his release in October, Graffenried was forced to arrange a treaty of neutrality for the Palatines in case of war between the Tuscororas and the English.

It came too late however, for all the splendid promise of the settlement was brought to naught by that first attack of the savages. The leaders of the settlement considered moving to Virginia or Maryland. Graffenried set out by water to get aid from the governor of Virginia. A sloop was loaded there with provisions and military supplies with the help of a prominent colonist, Colonel Thomas Pollock, but the sloop never reached New Bern, for due to carelessness it caught fire, resulting in the total loss of the supplies. A larger sloop or brigantine was sent after much delay.

The end of the Indian troubles brought the Germans little relief. Graffenried exercised one of the rights of a lord over his dependent tenants and permitted the settlers to leave the settlement for two years to work for the English planters. His partner Michel duped him concerning the silver mines he had supposedly found in Pennsylvania. Heavily in debt, Graffenried's creditors, including Thomas Pollock, became impatient.

His slaves were taken and held for their master's debts and almost penniless, his settlement in need, the mining project an illusion, his partner faithless, Graffenried retired to Virginia on September 20, 1712. There he remained until spring among his friends, trying to get help. On Easter, April 16, 1713, he began his return to England by way of New York. He reached London about September 13th.

In London, Graffenried could obtain no help. Neither the British government nor the Lords Proprietors were inclined to risk any money. A disappointed Graffenried could explain it later only by the deaths of Queen Anne and Henry Somerset, the 2nd Duke of Beaufort, one of the Carolina Lords Proprietors, which had occurred on August 1st and July 25th respectively in 1714, while he was in Bern. The party of miners, however, for whom Graffenried had arranged in 1709, were awaiting him in London. Under J. Justin Albrecht some 40 miners had set out from Germany with naive faith in the good fortune awaiting them in America after securing passage there from London.

Graffenried had written to them from Carolina, relating the all-too-evident uncertainties, among which was the fact that no mines had yet been discovered. But, he was himself so wrapped in hope that he was ill-fitted to write counsels of prudence; he had advised the chief miner and a few others to come for a reconnaissance, if they felt disposed. Accordingly, Albrecht had gathered his company together and had managed to reach London.

Hard pressed himself, Graffenried did the best he could for the miners, who refused to turn back. Finally, he found two merchants trading to Virginia, who agreed to advance the transportation and subsistence of these Germans above what they possessed, provided Governor Spotswood of Virginia would accept them and pay the ship captain the amount due him. As the governor had recommended Graffenried to a Colonel Blankistore with regard to mines in that colony, this recommendation was used to forward the arrangement.

In April, 1714, the miners arrived in Virginia, where they were well received by Spotswood and founded the settlement of Germanna on the Rapidan River, a branch of the Rappahannock. For the governor they built and operated iron works about ten miles northeast of the present town of Fredericksburg.

Graffenried remained in England only four or five weeks and then began his journey back home, reaching his family in Bern, November 11, 1713. The members of the Bern Company refused to carry out the agreement. Graffenried was too poor to sue for breach of contract. He tried but failed to interest others in the project, and finally he had to abandon his colony.

Before he departed from Carolina, Graffenried had assigned the Palatines' land to Colonel Thomas Pollock as security for the loans previously extended to him, though the land was probably worth only £200, while the debt amounted to £700. On February 10, 1715, Pollock wrote to Graffenried at Bern, asking him to pay £700 at London and keep the title to the land he had taken up. Pollock wrote a severely critical fashion but to no avail. In Graffenried's own account of the failure the accusations are so universal as to raise the presumption that he too was remiss. At least, he did not deal fairly with the Palatines, who never secured titles to the land they had taken up with him.

The Palatines at New Bern had in the meanwhile managed to survive. On November 6, 1714, they petitioned the Executive Council of North Carolina, stating that they were unprovided with the lands, stock and other necessaries promised them and that they were reduced to great want and poverty by the Indian war. They asked that they might be granted permission to take up 400 acres of land for each family at the rate of £10 per 1,000 acres, and be allowed two years to pay for it.

Nothing seems to have been done. On March 29, 1743, the Palatines at New Bern requested titles for the land, but Cullen Pollock, the son of Thomas, produced his father's patent and the Palatines' petition was dismissed.

In 1747, another petition was drawn up by the Palatines. This was sent to the Privy Council Committee for Plantation Affairs in London, and at length, on March 16, 1748, the government issued orders to Governor Gabriel Johnston to give the settlers the equivalent of the lands of which they had been dispossessed in 1743, free of quit-rent for ten years.

The North Carolina General Assembly was to provide for the expenses of surveying and granting the titles. This was done, and the Palatines were moved to the frontier. Meanwhile, other Germans had begun to move into North Carolina from Pennsylvania following the natural highway of the Great Appalachian valley. By 1750, German immigrants had settled in the counties Craven, Jones, Onslow and Duplin.


Early Eighteenth Century Palatine Emigration
A British Government Redemptioner Project to Manufacture Naval Stores
by Walter Allen Knittle, Ph.D.
Department of History
College of the City of New York
Published Philadelphia, 1937
Click Here to download a "Word" document of Christopher von Graffenried's own accounts of the settling and founding of New Bern.

 


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