Palatines Immigrate to Pennsylvania

Posted in: 1723-1730
Aug 14, 2008 - 7:34:11 PM

During May 1723 a group of families packed up their belonging and moved south from the Schoharie Valley of New York to settle in the Tulpehocken region of Pennsylvania, a distance of four hundred miles. This was wilderness, where no white settlers anyway near. Philadelphia was some seventy-five miles north east of this unsettled land. The William Penn proprietors intended that these Palatines act as a buffer between Indian settlements nearby and colonial settlements further east toward Philadelphia.


The accurate number of families who made this first journey is not known. The records are inconsistency. James Mitchell, the Justice of the Peace at Donegal, Chester County, wrote to James Logan, Provincial Secretary of Pennsylvania, dated May 13, 1723 saying, “I give you to know that there are fifteen families of Duch [Palatines] come from Albeny & are now settling upp Swatarra [Swatara] Creek.”  Conrad Weiser in his diary wrote, “Many of them united and cut a road from Schoharie to the Susquehanna River, carried their goods there, and made canoes, and floated down the river to the mouth of the Suataro Creek and drove their cattle overland. This happened in 1723.” Conrad Weiser didn’t say how many families made the journey, but he did confirm the migration year.


There is more evidence of the journey. In it George Hains becomes important. This evidence is found in the minutes of two Indian treaties held at the great meeting house in Philadelphia on June 5, 1728 regarding the Indians having been made troubled about the new settlement in Tulpehocken. Among the Indians there was considerable indignation about whether the Penn’s had purchased the lands located in the Tulpehocken region prior to the Palatines settling there.


These minutes stated that Mr. Logan wished to publish the following deposition: “The information & deposition of Godfrey Fidler, related to himself & others of this Countrymen their settling on the Proprietors & others land, in the Province of Pennsylvania. When Sir Willm Keith, lieutenant-governor, was at Albany in 1722. The Palatines who were settle in that Part of York Government applied to him by two persons of themselves appointed for that Purpose whose names were George Haine & ___________ for encouragement to them to remove from thence to Pennsylvania. This Deponent said, That the said George Haine & the other person, whose name he does not now remember, after they had been with Sir Willm Keith, returned & told those of their Countrymen who sent them that Sir Willm Keith had given encouragement for forty or fifty Family’s; to remove from thence to settle in Pennsylvania. That they to the Number Sixteen Families did thereupon remove into this Province, some of them making a Stop on Susquehanna River near Sawhatara & rest sat down at Tulpehocken. Upon information given Sir William Keith of their being settled in two places, he sent them Orders to make their Settlements nearer together that they might thereby give the less uneasiness to the Indians.”


“This Deponent further saith that sometime before Sir Willm Keith came up to Albany, one of their Countrymen name Hans Lawyer being at Philada applied to Sir Willm Keith for a tract of land for his Countrymen the Palatines to settle. That Sir Wm did give the said Hans Layer Leave to Search for a convenient Tract of land in this Province for that Purpose, & that the said Hans Lawyer upon his Return to Albany did upon the Encouragement given by Sir Willm Keith, take with him four of his Countrymen & upon searching in the Province, they found out the place call’d Turpehockan where they the Palatines are now settled..” Signed Godfrey Fidler, Oct 6th, 1726.


Upon returning to Schoharie, Hans Lawyer organized four men to scout the Tulpehocken for those families who had enough misery living for the past twelve years on land were they were not welcome, and where they could not get clear title to their land. They were looking for valley where land was plentiful, good soil and ample water for farming. Most important was finding plentiful land that they could purchase for their growing families and their sons and their growing families. This they could not acquire in Germany, and their dreams of finding it in New York had been crushed. They were still looking for their land of opportunity after more than a decade in America. Maybe it was with William Penn family in Pennsylvania.


It wasn’t until 1732 that Indian Purchase was resolved when all South Mountain to the Blue Mountain, which included Tulpehocken, was finally bought from the Indians. When William Keith met Godfrey Fedler (Fiedler) and George Haine (Hains) in Albany during 1723, he believed that the Proprietor had purchased the Tulpehocken region from the Indians. When the settler started moving onto this land, they became hostile and wanted compensation for their lands. The efforts to settle this dispute was one of the reasons for this meeting held at the great meeting house in Philadelphia on June 5, 1728. Now, it was five years after the Palatines were given permission to settle there. Meetings were still ongoing. Nothing was resolved. The immigrants settled here to purchase farmland and raise their families in peace. The Palatines again found themselves with the same unresolved land purchase problem as in Schoharie. It wasn’t until 1732 that a new treaty was signed between the Indians and the Proprietor in which the disputed lands were purchased. Nine years after the first settlers arrived in the Tulpehocken that they could get clear title to their lands. At last, this was their promised land.


Despite the title ownership problem, the Palatine settlement the Pennsylvania grew rapidly after the first settler arrived in 1723. More German settlers from Schoharie area followed the Tulpehocken Indian trail leading southeast from the Susquehanna River. In 1726, the Tulpehocken Township assessment listed thirty-six families. The following year this had grown to forty-two families. Georg Hains was listed on both these tax assessments. Conrad Weiser stayed back in Schoharie for six more years, immigrating to Tulpehocken in 1729. It’s interesting to note that Hans Lawyer decided not to immigrate to Pennsylvania after all his efforts to find hospitable living conditions for the Palatine families.

Jeri Haynes, 5/23/2008