Search billions of records on

Bios - Obits - Stories




Stanley K. Walborn; Historian on Early Pioneer WALBORN FAMILIES, delivered the following address at Walborn Reunion held at Hershey Park, Hershey, PA, 1937. It was copied here from a book, WALBORN (WALBURN) GENEALOGICAL HISTORY OF AMERICAN DESCENDANTS SINCE 1709 by Herman W. Walborn of St. Paris, OH.

The history and legend of the Pennsylvania Germans are treasures now simply because they have been treasured. They have been received, valued and transmitted by men and women who themselves are attune with heroism, who felt an unfeigned gratitude for a glorious past and a resolute concern that that glory should not perish.

The citizen, especially the young citizen who knows the backgrounds, has an infinitely better understanding of what he sees each day. To him a building is not a mere physical fact, a social practice is not simply so much activity. He sees the lively idea of the past dead behind each creation. He sees a process as if in a moving picture. He lives a larger, deeper life than those about him whose range of vision lacks this third dimension, and who are blind to the inner view.

It is the legend of the Pennsylvania Germans of that company which landed in New York in the early summer of 1710, and of which John Adam Walborn was one, that there were over three thousand, and that they made up the largest body of emigrants coming to this country at any one time in the colonial period.

The Pilgrim Fathers were not the only company who sought in this new western world their freedom to worship God. The fact is that if ever a body of emigrants came to America from under the hand of the oppressor -such was the plight of these Palatines, and if ever the thought of religious liberty constrained men to leave their native land for hoped-for freedom in America, such hope was powerful with these children of the Palatinate.

So in 1709, we find these people tired and weary of the ravages and destruction of the European Wars, leaving their native land in the search of freedom in America.

By the fall of 1709 about 14,000 of these Palatines had reached London, having traveled by boat down the Rhine and then to Rotterdam, Holland. The trip was a tedious one, due to the many stops made en-route, and required considerable time. Before they reached Rotterdam most of their meager resources had been exhausted, and by the time they reached London most of them were destitute and entirely dependent upon the government for subsistence.

While the Palatines were yet in London and the authorities were perplexed as to the best way to dispose of them; there came to England an important delegation from the province of New York. The chief persons in the delegation were Peter Schuyler, mayor of Albany, and Col. Nicholson, one of her Majesty's officers in America. Their mission was to urge by personal presence and speech, more urgently that was possible to any written appeal, the need of more generous measures on the part of the home government for the defense of the province against the attacks made by the French and their allied Indians. In the recent; past attacks of these foes had been very persisted and severe, while the colonists felt that the government of England had neglected to afford them all the support and aid which were their due. Col. Schuyler by a happy and inventive thought conceived the idea that the cause would be greatly futhered by taking to England some Indian Chiefs and exhibiting them in their barbaric costume, knowing that the movements of nations are often caused by the veriest trifles. He succeeded in inducing five Sachems of the Mohawks to go with him, and speedily found that he had contrived a very efficient scheme.

Now the connection between this Indian Embassy and the Palatines is found in a circumstance of which the government had made small account, but which exercised a great and determining influence on their fortunes. It so happened that while these Chiefs were in London, they came in contact with the Palatines. In their walks in the outskirts of London, they saw the unbelievable condition of the houseless and homeless people, and one of the Indian representatives unsolicited and voluntarily presented the Queen a tract of his land in Schoharie, New York, for the use and benefit of the distressed Germans.

There is an uncertainty as to the precise date of their departure from England. Conrad Weiser's Reminiscences relate "about Christmas Day 1709, we embarked in 10 shiploads with about 4000 souls were sent to America." The royal instructions to the new Governor bear date Jan. 20, 1710, and presumable were committed to him in London.

Towards the end of January then, we may suppose the largest of the immigrations to America in the Colonial era to have left the shores of England. The number of Palatines embarked must be set below the figures given by Weiser. In reality there were about 3000 of them. However, their numbers were great enough to crowd the small ships of that day almost to the point of suffocation, and pitiful as the tale is, it brings no surprise to learn that nearly one-sixth of the whole number perished by the way. The voyage was longer than usual by reason of the heavy storms and contrary winds. For near the end of January until after the beginning of June, and for some until the end of July, these weary people were battling their way across the Atlantic. The crowded quarters, the foul air and insufficient food, made them easy prey of disease, so that every day witnessed the consignment of their dead into the sea. The mortality was terrible and just have covered the fleet as with the shadow of death. Hunter writes from New York on June 15, 1710, "I arrived here two days ago. We want still three of the Palatine ships, and those that have arrived are in deplorable, sickly condition."

It had been the plan of Governor Hunter when he left England, that the Palatines were to be used in the manufacture of tar and other naval stores, but as the season of the establishment was well advanced into the late fall, no work on the trees was possible at that time of year and the first labors of the people had to be directed toward housing themselves for the winter. During that winter if we are to receive the statements of the Palatines themselves they suffered greatly from the severity of the cold and the insufficient supply of clothing from the Government.

After the failure on the part of the government to find suitable trees for the production and manufacture of the anticipated naval stores, they hailed the order to cease the work and for the people to shift for themselves, as a proclamation of freedom. They at once dispatched to Schoharie seven deputies to examine the land, deal with the Indians in the neighborhood and find the best route for the people to take thither. The Palatines statement tells of the most hospitable treatment of the deputies by the Indians. The deputies entreated the Indians to give them permission to settle on the tract of land called Schorie. This the Indians readily granted. The migration of the people was in two companies. The first company was composed of fifty families, which as soon as possible after the return of the deputies, set out upon the journey.

Hardly was the toilsome journey over before a new and different trouble began, the tale of which beginning may best be told in their own words: "Being arrived and almost settled, they received orders from the Governor not to go upon the land, and he who did so should be declared a rebel this message sounded like thunder in their ears and surprised them beyond expression!! However, after having seriously weighed matters among themselves, and finding no manner of likelihood of subsisting elsewhere but a certainty of perishing by hunger, cold, etc; if they returned they found themselves under the fatal necessity of hazarding the Governor's resentment, that being to all the more eligible than starving."

During this time the settlers suffered many privations. The barbarous people showed them no little kindness and out of their won scanty stores of maize gave freely to them. They broke ground enough in the spring to plant corn for use of the next year, but the first year their hunger was hardly endurable. The Indians showed them where to find many edible roots. Many of their feasts wee of wild potatoes and ground beans.

The people had not long been in Schoharie and were still suffering through the privations incident to their new settlement, when the first of their troubles about their lands was put upon them. The Governor meantime had granted patents to several persons at Albany and New York, who were spoken of as the five partners and they proceeded to assert their rights to the land which the Palatines occupied. They informed the poor people that they had obtained the land from the Governor and that all living upon it must buy or lease their holdings, and such as were unwilling to do either must leave the valley altogether. The reply of the Palatines was that the lands of Schoharie had been set apart for them by Queen Ann, and that now it was the King's lands and they could not agree with anybody about what was the King's. This was sufficiently explicit but not satisfactory and the five partners promptly made their appeal to the courts.

In 1717, we find that John Adam Walborn had taken the oath of allegiance and was a volunteer from Annsburg, in what was called the East Camp, located on the east side of the Hudson River about where the present site of where the city of Germantown, Dutchess County, now stands. He fought with the English against the French at Montreal and also in the defense of Albany.

In 1722 at a council with the Indians at Albany, the importance of which drew to its deliberations not only the newly appointed Governor Burnett of New York, but also Sir William Keith, the Governor of Pennsylvania. Keith became acquainted with the Palatine affairs. In whatever way Keith may have been informed he was moved to compassion for the distressed people, and offered them an asylum from all persecution, in his own province. Weiser says, "that he, hearing of the unrest of the Germans lost no time to inform them of the freedom and justice accorded to their countrymen in Pennsylvania." The experiences of the people while in New York and the disposition of the authorities toward them were of such character that at least a third of the population readily embraced the first opportunity of the establishment beyond the jurisdiction of the colony in which they had found such troubles, and accordingly they descended the Schoharie for a few miles and then under the conduct of an Indian guide crossed the mountains southwestwardly to the upper waters of the Susquehanna. On the banks of this river they constructed canoes for the carriage of most of their number. The majority of the party floated southward in these canoes, and while some of the men drove the horses and cattle on the land. The journey carried this band down the Susquehanna to the mouth of the Swatara, turning into this stream they followed its upward course, until in the region of hills and vales and fertile meadowlands where both the Swatara and the Tulpehocken have their rise, a sturdy people found at last the object of their journey and a place of permanent habitation in the land of the "Turtle Song", the Tulpehocken Valley. To their first settlement they gave the name Heidleberg and thence sent back word to their friends at Schoharie of the prosperous issue of their journey.

By their steadiness, industry, frugality religious habitudes and patriotic devotion to their new country, they not only established their own prosperity, but also won their way to the regard of the province, upon which their coming had brought unmeasured blessings. Of such influence and impression most weighty testimony is borne by to less competent a judge than Benjamin Franklin, who in 21776 testified before a committee of the British House of Commons that of the one hundred and sixty thousand whites in the Province of Pennsylvania about one third were Germans, and described them as "a people who brought with them the greatest of all wealth, industry and integrity, and characters that had been superpoised and developed by the years of suffering and persecution."

The story of these Palatine fold in Pennsylvania and in New York is in itself a sufficient evidence that, when they came over seas, they brought with them the qualities and virtues which any land might be glad to welcome, and that, like men of other stock, the Puritan, Dutch, Huguenot, etc: they conferred upon their new country blessings which it could not afford to lose.