It was 1709 when
, his brother
left Manweiler, commune Kaiserlautern, in the German Palatinate,
to begin the adventure of their life, coming to America. They apparently
traveled from London to New York without their
or stepfather, Philip
Mueller. It's possible they started out together and were separated after
arriving in London. In any case, New York Gov. Hunter's subsistence
list of 1710 shows Henrick the head of a family of 3, one of whom
was under 10. Margaret must have been nearly 10 since she married
five years later.
Records show that one Philip Muller, his
wife and 3 children, were returned to Holland (from London) in 1709.
Most of the people returned to Holland were Roman Catholics who refused
to pretend they were Protestants. Apparently, the Crown was willing
to finance the exodus of Protestants from Catholic oppression, but
baulked at saving Catholics from themselves. In reality there wasn't
much religious persecution in Germany at the time, the promise of free
passage to free land in the Colonies was much more motivating. Land was
scarce in Europe and farmers with large families wanted land more than
It's possible this Philip Muller was Catholic, but it's
also possible he became disillusioned with his future prospects and
returned home voluntarily. As a furrier, Philip probably expected
to continue his business in the Colonies. However, those immigrants
who were transported to New York at Crown expense were required to sign
a contract indenturing them to the Crown for an unspecified time.
Their job would be to harvest pitch from pine trees and
turn it in to tar for the British Navy. Only after all their expenses
were paid back to the Crown were the immigrants free to settle on
their own land. Since the Governor of New York controlled both the expenses
and wages it wasn't going to happen. The British needed the tar and
the Palatines might just as well have been lifers on a prison chain gang.
The trip to America was no pleasure cruise. After decades
of war, and the extreme winter of 1708/09, many of the Palatines left
their homes with little more than the clothes on their backs, rafting
down the Rhine 4 to 6 weeks before reaching Rotterdam, Holland. In Rotterdam,
they joined other Palatines in homeless camps waiting for shipment to London,
where they stayed in... homeless camps. By the end of 1709, more than 13,000
Palatines reached London. In those days London wasn't as big as it is today
and the homeless Palatines quickly became a huge problem.
Several projects were invented to relocate Palatines in Ireland
and other parts of the British empire. One which involved our heroes
was the Naval tar project in New York. Consequently, in December 1709,
they were among 2817 Palatines who were loaded on 10 sailing ships bound
for New York. Unfortunately, due to a dispute over payment, the ships did not
leave England until April 10, 1710.
Conditions onboard the ships were cramped and unsanitary.
Food was minimal and nutrition was poor. Nearly everyone became ill.
446 Palatines died during the voyage and another 24 died during the first
month in New York. Typhus was the probable cause. Then it was called Palatine
Fever. The first ship didn't arrive in New York until June 13, 1710.
The last arrived on August 2nd after crashing at the east end of Long Island
on July 7th. 30 babies were born during the voyage.
Upon landing in New York, a Palatine camp was established on
Governor's Island, near Brooklyn, New York. Two doctors were assigned
to the group but none of the Palatines were allowed to leave the island
for fear of spreading the Palatine Fever. By October they began moving
to their 'tar farm', 92 miles north on the Hudson River. The place was
called Livingston Manor, located at the present site of Germantown, New
York. The Palatines were given tools, subsistence rations, one musket
per household, and the use of a wooded lot to build a hut. By June 1711
there were 1874 Palatines living in 7 villages, either at Livingston Manor
or across the Hudson River at West Camp.
You might think the story ends here, but the Palatines were not happy.
They were farmers, not tar harvesters. They came to America for land!
If only the British would lose interest in the project, they would be released
from their obligation. And so it came to pass, the project was plagued
with difficulties. The tar yield was poor and so was the quality. Support
of the Palatines was expensive and the British failed to fund the operation past the initial voyage.
Governor Hunter continued to support the enterprise until his personal funds and credit were exhausted.
Finally, on September 6, 1712 the project was terminated. The Palatines
were released to fend for themselves. Earlier in the year, after a Palatine
uprising, their muskets were confiscated. As a result, they faced the winter
with limited means of survival.
For many of the Palatines, the real promised land was the Schoharie
Valley, 30 miles west of Albany. They heard stories about the good farmland
at Schoharie before leaving London. Seizing the opportunity, some 40
or 50 families departed immediately for Schoharie. Another 150 families went
to Albany or Schenectady for the winter. Many of these families continued
on to Schoharie the following spring. On October 26, 1713 Governor Hunter
reported that 1,008 Palatines remained in the Hudson River settlements,
500 were living in the Schoharie Valley and about 500 found work among the
Of those who remained on the Hudson site, their minister, Reverend
Haeger, wrote on July 6, 1713, that "they boil grass and the children
eat the leaves off the trees. I have seen old men and women cry that it
should almost have moved a stone. [Several] have for a whole week together
had nothing but Welsh turnips which they did only scrape and eat without
any salt or fat and bread". Those moving to Schoharie fared a little better,
getting some help from local Indians and the Dutch Church in Schenectady.
To acquire land on the frontier, citizens needed to first buy the
land from the Indians, they then needed to get the land surveyed, and finally,
they needed to get a land patent from the Governor. The Palatines had no
problem buying the land from the Indians, who had sold the same land before,
and given it to the State on another occasion. However, Gov. Hunter had
previously ordered the Palatines not to move to Schoharie. They ignored
his order. So, they had no hope of getting a patent. Undaunted, the Palatines
proceeded to organize seven villages along Schoharie Creek. Not to be outdone,
Gov. Hunter issued patents for the same land to a group of his allies on November 3, 1714.
The villages of Schoharie were on the frontier. There was no government,
no court, no sheriff. The Palatines handled their own disputes, organized
a German speaking school and church, cleared and cultivated their land,
and built homes. In 1715 when one of the absentee owners showed up,
he was assaulted and chased away. When Gov. Hunter sent a Sheriff to
arrest the Palatine leader, John Conrad Weiser, the Deputy encountered a
mob lead by a woman who treated him rather rudely, dumping him
on the road to Albany with multiple contusions and two broken ribs. After
all they'd been through, the Governor would have to send the Army, but he
Governor Hunter left office in 1720 and a new Governor, William Burnet, was
appointed. Gov. Burnet offered the Palatines land, with patents, further
West. He said he wanted to expand the frontier, but he may have just wanted
to push the Palatines as far from Albany as possible. By this time the Palatines
were having their own internal disputes. Two groups wanted to accept the
Governor's offer, if they could be separated from the other group. Still
others were willing to rent or buy the land they occupied at Schoharie.
One group, lead by John Christopher Gerlach, acquired 12,700 acres known
as the Stone Arabia Patent. They had to purchase their own land from the
Indians. The second group took up lots on 9,186 acres aquired by Gov.
Burnet and known as the Burnetsfield Patent. It was located at the confluence
of the Mohawk River and West Canada Creek. Each adult and male child was
eligible to receive 100 acres. Henrich Spohn Sr. drew lot #32 on the South
side of the Mohawk and
( about 11 years old at the time) drew
lot #7 on the North side, opposite Sr.'s lot. Now they finally had land of
At Burnetsfield, also known as German Flatts, the industrious Palatines
prospered, so much so that their food production made them targets of their
enemies, first the French with their Indian allies fighting the British, then
the British with their Indian allies fighting the Patriots. But that's
This is a pretty old topo map, it doesn't show I-90. Notice the elevation change
from the river to the flat part of Junior's lot is 100 ft. Senior's lot
goes from 400 ft elevation to 900 ft. Whoever named German Flatts had a
sense of humor.
Senior's lot is #32. The cluster of buildings is on lot #30. That's the
site of the Old Fort Herkimer Church. Here's a good look at I-90.
I can get on I-90 15 miles from my house then drive to Henrick's lot without
encountering a stoplight (if you don't count toll booths), 2800 miles.
Much of the information on this page was learned from
"Early Eighteenth Century Palatine Emigration"
by Walter Allen Knittle, Ph.D.