The History of the Germans in Buffalo and Erie County, N.Y. - Part I, pages 12 - 16

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English agents, sent to the Palatinate, took advantage of this state of affairs to further increase the flood of emigration. Their efforts were aided by the extremely severe winter of 1708-1709, during which all products of the fields and the vines were destroyed by the frosts and the wines froze in the casks.

In the spring of 1709 entire fleets of rafts, boats and skiffs sailed down the river Rhine, laden with unfortunate people, who took with them in bundles, boxes and trunks the few belongings that had been left to them after this terrible time.

The emigrants crossed the channel from Holland to England, went to London, and there applied to the English Government for transportation to America.

This great multitude of German emigrants caused alarm in England. Soon it became impossible to shelter them. Camps were provided for them at the "Black Heath", near London. Here in a short time about 20,000 people from the Palatinate - accounts in reference to their number are contradictory - were exposed to great sufferings, for the English Government was unable to obtain enough craft for their transportation across the ocean. Charity, liberally bestowed in the beginning, soon relaxed and thousands died, while with the arrival of winter the sufferings increased.

To make an end to the misery the English Government sent several thousands of the unfortunate people back to Holland and to Germany. About 3,000 of them were taken to Ireland, where, in northern Munster, they founded a settlement, that even at the present time is distinguished by prosperity. At least 5,000 found paying employment in England, many entering the English army. Six hundred were shipped to Carolina, several hundred to Virginia, and more than 3,000 were at the beginning of the year 1710 sent to New York with the newly appointed Governor Hunter. Only 2,227 of the latter reached the end of their journey, the Hudson river, for 470 died while crossing the ocean, and 250 met their death on Governor's Island, where the authorities of the City of New York, fearing contagious diseases, again encamped the emigrants for several weeks. When finally this terrible quarantine was ended, the wretched people thought that the worst had been endured. This hope proved to be a delusion. They had escaped the tyranny of their native land, but their present lot was no improvement.

After the immigrants, placed under the protection of Governor Hunter, had been quartered by him in two camps on both banks of the Hudson, the East and West Camp. south of the Catskill Mountains, the wretched people for several years were exposed to oppressions of all kinds.

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They were considered to be a sort of "crown-laborers", obliged to pay back by hard work every penny of relief received by them as well as the expenses of their transportation and maintenance. They were forced to furnish suppies to the navy - tar, pitch, turpentine and rosin. Finally their treatment by the contemptible contractor, Robert Livingstone, became so miserable and oppressive, so unbearable, that at last the people refused to continue their work. They resolved to go to the Schoharie Valley, where Indian chiefs were living, who, visiting London, had seen the Palatine emigrants in their camp and promised them free land. Referring to this promise a delegation was sent to the Indians, asking permission to settle in their territory. After this had willingly been granted, the "Pfälzer" in March, 1713 left their camps, and under the greatest difficulties founded new homesteads in the Schoharie Valley. But even there they were pursued by the insatiable and pittiless [sic] avidity of their tormentors. Again they left their homes, to renew their wanderings. A part of them settled in the Mohawk Valley; another part under the leadership of Conrad Weiser went to Pennsylvania, where they founded Womelsdorf and Heidelberg.

The settlers on the Mohawk formed for years a strong frontier against the attacks of the French and the Indians. They founded prosperous communities, and the names of the villages of Herkimer, Palatine and German Flats have perpetuated the memory of those sturdy pioneers. They formed a large part of the forces which were commanded at the battle of Oriskany by General Herkimer (Herkheimer), himself the son of an immigrant from the Palatinate. Of this battle Fisk says, that it was the most stubborn and bloodiest during the whole Revolution, and it was here that the brave General Herkimer was mortally wounded by the bullet of the enemy.

The Doings of the "Newlanders"

The stream of emigration from the Palatinate, originally directed to the Hudson and later on turned to Pennsylvania in consequence of the terrible experience of the first colonists, became so strong during the first half of the 18th century, that the Elector (Kurfürst) apprehended depopulation of his possessions. He threatened every attempt at emigration with capital punishment, but found his measures useless, for the people fled, wherever they found an opportunity.

The Dutch Ship-owners, reaping big profits from this large emigration, naturally did all in their power to keep it alive. In their interest "Newlanders", i.e. people who had been in the "New Land", continually travelled through those districts which chiefly furnished emigrants, and

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pursuaded the people under pretenses of all kinds to leave their homes. They described in brilliant colors the "paradise" which awaited those, who, tired of European life, came to America. They promised those without means free transportation, even money and clothing for the journey, and often induced people in comfortable circumstances to emigrate. The poorer the emigrant, the bigger the profit, for the great advantage of the transaction was, that the passenger, not paying for his transportation in advance, was charged a so much higher price in America and for the payment of the same after landing was compelled to sell his services. After the contract was closed, the victims were finally brought on board of the ship, stowed away in the steerage which, packed with human beings, in its horrible condition baffled all description. The emigrants of to-day, crossing the ocean on board of the magnificent steamers of the present time, have no idea of the contrast.

There came, however, many letters of emigrants as well as pamphlets to Germany, describing the sufferings of the writers during their journey and after their arrival in the New World. Gottlieb Mittelberger [1.], a teacher, in 1750 published a report of his experiences (Fankfurt[sic] on Main, 1756). He writes therein that when he departed for Germany, immigrants from Württemberg, Durbach and the Palatine, bemoaning their fate after leaving their fatherland, had begged him with uplifted hands and tears in their eyes, to give everybody a description of their misery and suffering. They entreated him to inform not only the common people in Germany but also its princes and rulers, of all they had to endure, in order to prevent still more innocent souls, betrayed by Newlanders, from leaving their homes and being led into slavery.

Influence of the German Element

But in spite of all difficulties, notwithstanding all troubles and afflictions, most of those immigrants, after having passed a time of trials and tribulations, found in the New World a happier and better existence than the old country ever could have offered them.

The records for a reliable account of the number of German immigrants to the English Colonies during the 18th century are incomplete. The statements differ between a total of one hundred thousand and two hundred thousand, no doubt a considerable addition to the small population of the Colonies, the more so, as immigration was mostly confined to New York and Pennsylvania. German life became a very prominent factor in New York and even to a large extent in Pennsylvania, and especially in the latter state secured a political influence, which never has again been reached in later periods. A number of prominent statesmen, scholars and heroes of the Revolution came from the ranks of the German immigration during the first decades of the 18th century.


[1.] Left Column, Paragraph 3 Translator's note: The sentence in German states "Gottlieb Mittelberger, a teacher who went to Pennsylvania in 1750 and who published a description of his journey in Frankfurt on the Mainz in 1756..." Return to text

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Shortly after the War of the Revolution the question of the use of the German language in the legislature and in the courts of Pennsylvania was voted upon, and the motion was defeated by only a small majority. This fact serves as conclusive evidence of the influence of the German element at the end of the last century, at least in the state named, at that time the most important of the Union.

Before the beginning of the war of the Revolution, German settlers generally had organized communities of their own, and like the English and Dutch colonists, formed independent and separate parts of the population. The end of the war drove them from their separation into the great political movement. The decrease in the number of immigrants and the interruption of the connection between the Germans in the old and the new country during the war favored this important change. Scarcely had the people of the United States begun their existence of independence and the restoration of peace enabled the reopening of immigration, when the great European wars during the following twenty-five years caused another interruption of the intercourse between the Fatherland and America. It was not until the second decade of the present century that immigration was renewed on a larger scale.

The mightiest development of this Republic dates from the last thirty years, and it is a remarkable fact that this time also represents the period of the largest German immigration. The German element has taken an active and successful part in this magnificent development of the new world. Everywhere in the populous Atlantic Middle States, along the shores of the Great Lakes, in the fields and valleys of the wide territory of the Ohio and Mississippi, over the endless grasslands and prairies of the central West, and further to the sunny slopes of the Gold Coast, and where the Columbia river rolls its majestic waves to the Pacific Ocean through endless forests of firs, where the wealthiest cities, the most prosperous towns and villages, the most beautiful country seats and farms greet our eyes, - there surely the German element had settled, worked and toiled, and often contributed in the greatest degree to all this wonderful success.

Kahquas and Iroquois

Forty-two years after the discovery of America, in the year 1534, the French navigator Jacques Cartier sailed up the St. Lawrence river, to the point where Montreal now is situated, and in the name of his king, Francis I, took possession of the land discovered by him, naming it New France. A few weak efforts at permanent colonization were abandoned in 1543, and on account of the interior struggles of France not renewed until more than half a century later.

. In 1603 Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec and a short time later Montreal. He called the colony "Canada". French trappers and missionaries following the banks of the St. Lawrence and the shores of Lake Ontario were the first Europeans that ever reached the Niagara. This was in 1620. This region they found occupied by Indians, who called themselves "Kahquas". The new comers however named them "the Neutrals" or "the Neutral Nation", because they lived in peace with their neighbors, the Hurons and the Iroquois, tribes that were at war with each other. The settlements of the Kahquas were situated on both sides of the Niagara river: one of them, near the majestic Falls, they called "Onquiaahra", a name which since then has been shortened to "Niagara".

According to the reports of the French missionaries, who undertook the conversion of the Indians, the Kahquas, notwithstanding their peaceful disposition, were forced to war with the Iroquois. They were defeated by the latter in many fights between 1640 and 1655, and finally almost completely exterminated.

The victors, however, did not occupy the possessions of the conquered, but remained in their original settlements in central New York. Occasionally only, during more than a century, they roamed through the district described above, the Erie County of the present time, which at that period, with buffaloes, bears, panthers and wolves enlivening its virgin forests, offered to those Indians the most magnificent hunting grounds.

The Iroquois (so called by the French, but named "the Five Nations" by the English) were a powerful Indian confederation, composed of the tribes of the Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Onondagas, the Cayugas and the Senecas.

In the middle of the 17th century this confederation reached the highest point of influence: its supremacy was acknowledged as far west as the Mississippi and south as the Kentucky river [1.]. The village of the Senecas, the most powerful and largest tribe of the "Five Nations", extended west along the Genesee river. Their largest settlement was Geneseo.

The cruelties which the Iroquois, being allied of the English, in the Mohawk, Cherry and Wyoming valleys committed against the settlers during the war of the Revolution, induced General Washington in 1779, to send an army under the command of Major-General Sullivan against the Indians. Sullivan, defeating the redskins in a victorious battle near the present city of Elmira, advanced to the very heart of the dominions of the Senecas, destroying everything on his march.

The remaining members of this once proud and mighty tribe founded a new home after the treaty of peace between the United States and the Iroquois, concluded in October, 1784 at Fort Stanwix, the Rome


[1.] Page 16, paragraph 5 Translator's note: the German text says "as far south as Kentucky." Return to text


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Revised September 9, 2004
Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks