It had been my original idea to present a paper on the Palatines as a whole and in particular those of this region- however, I soon ascertained that the subject was not only much too large for a paper like mine, but that so much had already been written and the local matter so well canvassed as to make the idea unprofitable. I am therefore presenting to you a story of one Palatine, an ancestor of my own, who had much to do with the winning of Canada by the British- the romantic story of a kidnapped boy, a hero in his way, a British officer, a Continental soldier, a loyal American citizen, a teacher, farmer, store keeper, a builder of churches, the founder of a family.
While this paper is not an historical excursion into the story of the Palatines but in accordance with the suggestion of our president, something grouped about a person, a family native to our Ulster County environment, it seems quite desirable nevertheless to give a brief sketch of the Palatines as a people- who they were, whence they came, and why; their emigration to this country as well as their subsequent migrations, none of which summation is original but gleaned from historical records. Much was written by the Rev. Sanford H. Cobb formerly pastor of the Reformed Dutch Church in Saugerties, as still more my Benjamin M. Bring of Kaatsban, editor of Olde Ulster, author of The History of Saugerties, and custodian of the Senate House in Kingston. While I am grateful for what I have found in their publications and have no desire to seem hypercritical, I am surprised that with the records and data which they had at hand, their results were so incomplete and their summations so inadequate. While I have offered criticism of Doctor Cobb, nevertheless I feel that he has presented the most sympathetic, the most moving concept of a people who made an indelible mark across the pages of American history, less heard of than the Dutch, less written of than the Huguenots, less understood than either of them and yet no less worthy, no less valuable to our country than either of them.
The Palatinate was a former German state so named because it was the province of a count palatine. Its territories bordered on the Rhine and from the 14th century to 1620 embraced two separate regions, the Rhine or lower Palatinate and the Upper Palatine or what is now a part of Bavaria. Heidelberg was the Capital of the electors palatine and was the first great center of Calvinism Rule over the Upper Palatinate, was fiercely contested by the French, the Bavarians, the palsgraves of Aix-la-Chapelle and the Bohemians under Frederick V. The entire Rhine Palatinate was terribly ravaged by the French in 1674 and 1689, and even later when the Bavarian domination to the rest of the Rhine and French to the East had been established, still this whole region was harried by the French and the people subjected to persecution and great indignities.
The quality and importance of these people was early recognized by Queen Anne of England and anxious to increase the population of her American Colonies she made them many inducements to become British subjects, offering them grants of land, tools and provisions if they would settle in America. She also guaranteed them the certainty of what was the one moving factor in their emigration, that which they lacked at home, freedom of religious worship. As a result many families came to New York in 1710-1711 and in 1714, spreading thence to Pennsylvania, up the Hudson to Newburg, East and West Camp, and up the Mohawk to Schenectady, Stone Arabia and Palatine Bridge. Doctor Cobb tells us that prior to 1710 a small band had settled in North Carolina, 700 in number and others in Virginia, while in all about 30,000 settled in Pennsylvania. Macauley says of them, “Honest laborious men, who had once been thriving burghers of Manheim and Heidleburg, or who had cultivated the vine on the banks of the Neckar and the Rhine. Their ingenuity and their diligence could not fail to enrich any land which should afford them an asylum.”
“Their’s,” says Cobb, “is a story of severe and undeserving suffering worthily borne; a story of the stubborn and unyielding attitude of men who for home and faith, endured an almost unequaled fight of afflictions, until at last they conquered peace, safety and freedom, and while they have not left so many broad and deep marks, upon our history as have the Puritans of New England, at least one among the greatest of the safeguards of American liberty- the Freedom of the Press, is due to the resolute boldness of a Palatine.”
Judge Benton in his history of Herkimer County says: “The particulars of the immigration of the Palatines are worthy of extended notice. The events which produced the movement in the heart of an old and polished European nation to seek refuge and home on the western Continent, are quite as legitimate a subject of American history as the oft-repeated relation of the experiences of the Pilgrim Fathers.”
From 1710 on we are told that thousands of these people came to this country and were at first looked upon askance by the Dutch who queried, was it an exodus or an invasion- “Well, it was an Exodus. As we study the story of it, we see that the untaught wonder of the average on-looker at the time was correct in its expression. It was an exodus in the full sense in which Bible story has taught us to use that word- a going forth from the house of bondage to a land of promise. It was not the incoming of a rabble of distressed humanity, hurried onward by a mere force of their misery- objects only for compassions.” On the contrary it was the impulse, the patience and as Cobb says, “the hope which a genuine exodus involves.”
The Pilgrim Fathers came to this country for a principle, for freedom of worship for religious liberty, for the right to worship God in their own way. What of the Palatines? After all the real, the only strong motive that moved these people, that tore them up from the soil, these deep rooted, staid burghers, that moved them to desert their ancestral homes, their familiar environment was nothing less than a love of religious liberty- the possibility of giving expression to their own view of God, unrestricted by either principality or power.
I have given you but a brief resume of the Palatines as garnered from the writings of others and while much more of interest might be told it would hardly by pertinent to my story; it is not my purpose therefore, no more than it is my desire to undertake the colossal task of a complete and authentic story of the Palatines, not even though I am convinced from my study of the documents and available historical records that of these fugitive people the half has not been told, that Cobb, Brink and Marius Schoonmaker, each and all of them failed to grasp the opportunities at their hands to paint an epic comparable to the flight of the harried Huguenots, the great picture of the persistent, plodding Puritan, the story of the most successful of them all, the diligent, dour and determined Dutch.
So far as we are concerned with the Palatines only those who settled in this neighborhood will be considered, those who came to West Camp, the considerable number to Eveseport[?], to Smith’s Landing and the greatest number of all in and about Asbury. Quite familiar to us are the names Mauterstock, Froelich, later Freligh, Emrich, Meyer, or Myers, Dietrich, Turck, Mynderse, Rightmyer, Wortman, Coon, Allendorph, Wygant, Yeager, Russell, Schultis, Schumacher, Schoonmaker, Bronck, or Brink, and Gentner, all Palatines and all living just in and here abouts.
It is my privilege, no more, it is my duty as well as my pleasure to paint for you a picture, however inadequate it may be of a single Palatine (the subject of my little story) of all of those who left their home land either willingly to escape persecution or as did my ancestor, the hero of this paper unwillingly, Luedwig, who to me was one of the most prominent of all of those unfortunate emigrants who are called Palatines and the one who was instrumental in the determination of the history of a continent, the wresting of the domination of North America from the French by the British- I am positive that had our humble Luedwig not been kidnapped, Canada might have now been French rather than British.
Let us then proceed to the only really original part of my short paper, The Romance of a Palatine, the story of Luedwig whose name was originally Johannes Luedwig Eberhard Roessell, a fugitive from the French who had made of him a mere conscript, less than an individual and yet the one who might, could, would and did, become the humble instrument which took from them the proud ownership of what we now call Canada.
Among the most prosperous and respected burghers of the City of Wickersheim, in the Kingdom of Wurtemburg, Germany, was one Johannes Nickolaus Roessell; to him and his wife Maria Magdalena was born on May 1st, 1741 a son, christened Johannes Luedwig Eberhard. This boy at an early age showed great fondness for mathematics and he was given a considerable training in that direction, not only at home but in the not far distant City of Heidelberg with a view to fitting him for a teaching career.
At the age of nineteen, having been furnished by his parents with a small amount of money, he started forth to visit foreign parts, first going to Strasbourg in Alsace. As he sat in an inn drinking a glass of Rhine wine, two attractive Frenchmen asked permission to sit at his table and at once invited him to further libations at their expense which he returned in kind. Suddenly one of them raised a great outcry, that he had been robbed of his purse, accusing, not Luedwig, but his own comrade; the landlord proceeded to search the accused man but found nothing- not to be outdone, the innocent Luedwig, callow youth, offered his person to inspection and to, to his horror, the missing purse was found in his pocket- protests were unavailable and as the landlord prepared to send for the police the supposedly robbed man, really a recruiting agent, as you may have imagined, suggested that if Luedwig would go through the form of enlistment in the French army he would be immune; hoping to escape the disgrace of arrest as a pick pocket he promptly consented and soon found himself together with other conscripts on board a French ship bound for Nova Scotia, being lost for many years to his friends and family. From Nova Scotia he was sent to the mainland of Canada, Quebec, and made to serve in the French and Indian War. His resentment at the deception of the French burned deep and while stationed in the Citadel at Quebec he escaped having first made a map of the Heights of Abraham and the Citadel itself, as well as a list of the troops and their disposition, all of which he concealed in the sole of his shoe. Bound south for the British lines he made his devious way guided only by the sun and stars through the almost primeval forest, over twisting animal trails, over rotting logs on into the magnificent stands of awe inspiring pine and black browed hemlock, marveling at the lovely lady of the forest, the white birch, the towering beech and maple, and so on day after endless days fortunately meeting no Indians and unmolested by wild animals, crossing brawling brooks and surging rivers, finally reaching the British lines whence he was passed with their help on down into New England proper. Because of the maps and the date which he furnished the British he was given a commission in the British army and acted as a guide later when, under Wolfe they took the Heights of Abraham, the Citadel and made Canada theirs.
By this time he wrote his name Luedwig Russell, omitting the Johannes and the Eberhard. At the end of the campaign, he sought others of the Palatines and proceeded to West Camp where in 1772 he married Catherine Fiero by whom he had four sons and three daughters. When the Colonists took up arms against the British he was one of the first to enlist in the regiment of Ulster County under Colonel Johannes Snyder, serving through the war. In 1776 he wrote a curious and interesting letter from Fort Washington near New York and addressed to Capt. Matthew Dederick of West Camp. I have a photostatic copy of this letter obtained from the State Library in Albany:
One Mile by North of Fort Washington, Sept 1th, 1776
I will now acquaint you of all Operations of our Army. On the 22nd of last Month, we have had an alarm, but it proved a false one, yet a Detachment of 60 Men of each Regt. was sent out to Fort Washington, but they returned again that Evening. On the 27th we had another alarm, when the aforesaid party was sent out, of which John Brink was one, but Joh? Miller went in his place. About an Hour after 3 more parties was sent out, of which lot Peter Post Cornelius Brink and several others of our Company amounting to the number of 12 men, myself was one of them, under the command of Capt. Kortreght. We set out from King’s Bridge that afternoon, and arrived at Fort Washington near Evening. There we remained till night, when orders came that we should return to our first station at the Bridge of which we was all glad, but we were soon stopped, and ordered down towards Harlem but we could not perform it because we had no provisions so we marched a little better than a mile, from the Fort, and have remained there till this morning. At four of the clock, we marched to the Fort, there we received orders to march to the place above said. I expected to be by tomorrow at my old quarters again at the Bridge. On Tuesday evening we was informed of the Regulars being landed on Long Island. We heard a mighty great cannonading all that night, and twas three days continually. On the 28 we had news that the Regulars had lost above 2,000 men and our loss amounting to 11 or 1,200 men. All things seemed to go very well, but very sudden we had notice that two of our Generals were taken which proved to be very true, viz. Sullivan and Earl of Sterling. On Thursday I sent to the Bridge to get some things I wanted, for all our baggage was yet there. I stayed at the Bridge all that night and part of the next day. Constantly busy with writing. Near Noon I went away, and just as I was going, Pawling Regt. was alarmed, however I kept to my journey to join my Detachment a mile south of Fort Washington, on my way I was informed that our army had abandoned Long Island, and left it to the entire possession of the Ministry Troops. What it means, or what the reason of it is hardly can be found out. Our men beat the Regulars 3:4: times, but everyone conjectures that too much treachery is going forward in and about our army and what the consequences of it will be, God above only knows. I do not wonder if our army can not prosper, for I was surprised on my arrival at Washington Fort, to see so much wickedness going on, drinking, stealing, cursing and other naughty doings. We expected it should go better after the 3 Pennsylvania Regts. had gone to York and took most of their women followers with them, but yesterday I have seen them 3 Regts. returned to the Fort, but when I came to the Fort this morning Lieut. Post who was on guard at the Fort, told me that the Pennsylvanians was called to Kingsbridge last night. I am now betwixt the Fort and the Bridge. My Dear friend it is a horrid sight to see the people from York moving, some in all sorts of carriages, others on horseback & a great many women, men and children on foot, it is here and for certain reported that Lord Howe has demanded the City and in case Washington would (not?) surrender, the City should be set on fire by the ships, but it is the general opinion of all ranks that our people will set it on fire themselves, pray sir write to me if you please and inform me how things go at home, especially with my family. I have expected a letter from home long ago, but in vain, pray look if all things go well at my house, and inform me if it does not. Remember my kind Lord to my wife and every one of my neighbors and their families, and be you so good and accept of the remembering of my Love to you and all at your house. No more for the present for he grows tired who calls himself
Your very Hbl. Servt
Sept 4th Kingsbridge
Sr. Things go better now, as when I wrote you, fear not Capt. we will do well yet through the help of God.
After the war he returned to West Camp, builded himself a stone house, bought a farm and taught school.
Among the valuable manuscripts in the State Library is a manual of arithmetic which he compiled in 1768 which was given to the library by my cousin Frederick T. Russell; so valuable is this considered that it is kept under lock and key. It looks like a fine steel engraving yet was done entirely in pen and ink and is really a work of art- the pages are rich with illustrations, the languages used being Latin- all branches of arithmetic are covered even to Geometrical progressions with page after page of example while at the bottom of the pages appears such sentiments in Latin, as Soli Deo Gloria, Deo Soli Gloria, alus et honor Lewis Russell, or Principio coelum terra Moque Jehova Creavit.
With this arithmetic is an original letter in German written to a cousin which while of interest to the antiquarian is of no particular historical value. His name appears in historical documents as follows:
“Ludwigh Russel listed in the first regiment of Ulster County militia under Colonel Johannes Snyder.”- New York in the Revolution as Colony and State, v 1, p 190, 202
“Certificate #46268 for 8s 4d issued Oct. 17, 1778 to Lodewick Russell for services as private in Cpt. Mattw Dedrick’s company of Colonel Johannis Snyder’s first or northern regiment of Ulster County militia.”- Certificates of Treasurer (manuscript record) v. 10, p. 15.
“Lodewick Roessell one of the Associators at Kingston, Ulster County, May and June, 1775.”- Calendar of Historical Manuscripts relating to the War of the Revolution v. 1, p. 31.
“Ludwigh Roessell, one of the petitioners to Governor Clinton for guard for frontier of northern Ulster County, May 15, 1779.”- Public Papers of George Clinton, v. 4, p. 819.
Luedwig was a man of education, culture and refinement; a devoted member of the Lutheran Church, one of the most prominent and respected members of the community where he lived. It is said that his initials appear on one of the stones of this Katsbaan Church in the rear wall. He died at Asbury May 15, 1795 and was buried on his own farm but all traces of his resting place have been lost.
Of the several Children of Luedwig but one will be considered, Jeremiah who was born Jan. 26, 1789. His father died when he was but nine years of age and for three years he worked for different nearby farmers. At the age of twelve he took service with James Kortz who had a general store at West Camp, remaining in his service until just prior to 1807, he took his small savings and started a small store at Trumpbours Corners where he remained until 1814, thriving mightily. In 1806 he married Elizabeth Moose by whom he had five sons, John H., David M., William F., James and Peter and three daughters, Maria Catherine, Eliza Margaret and Elizabeth.
In 1814 he moved to Saugerties, then but a small hamlet which my mother has told me had but twelve small houses. Here he determined was a fertile field and his keen vision was soon rewarded even beyond his dreams. He opened a store, he bought great hemlock trees, stripping them of their bark which he used in the tannery which he built nearby; needing transportation for his timber, hides, tan bark and barrel staves, he built in 1816 a sloop the Viper; this with four other sloops which he built, he used to bring in general supplies for his store as well as for general trade. In 1825 he built the sloop Livingston and fitted it up for passengers which was at that time considered the finest vessel of its kind on the North River. This horizon was too small for him and seeing the possibilities in the bluestone trade he opened a quarry on the road to Woodstock (this quarry is still to be seen) and later together with John Kiersted and other enterprising citizens of the then thriving Village of Saugerties obtained a charter and constructed the Saugerties and Woodstock Turnpike which was without doubt the greatest factor in the prosperity of this busy and rapidly growing burgh.
In 1833 he disposed of his general store to his son William and no bank being nearer than Kingston or Catskill Mr. Russell together with John Kiersted, Asa Bigelow and other citizens of the town applied for a bank charter; failing in this effort he acted as private banker; he acted as such, to the different factories which were taking advantage of the water power, the Ulster Iron Works, the paper mills, etc., but he was best known as a genial, kindly and sympathetic money lender to his fellow citizens and remarkable to relate he was loved and respected by all to whom he loaned money. His fellow townsmen usually spoke of him in terms of respect as Mr. Russell, but more affectionately as “Little Jerry.”
Jeremiah was an uncompromising Jeffersonian Democrat, was many time supervisor of the Town of Saugerties, a presidential elector in 1828, a member of the legislature in 1842 and a member of the twenty eighth Congress of the United States.
His was an unusual makeup- notwithstanding his lack of early advantages he had culture and refinement and the greatest love of the beautiful. I am fortunate enough to have in my possession several fine old pieces of mahogany of his, an original Washington desk, an original Simon Willard clock and other handsome pieces with which he furnished his home and his office. It is said that he was a great raconteur and that he had a great fund of anecdote at his command. In his latter days he wore nothing but black broadcloth and I can remember seeing him with his black tail coat, high white stock and gold headed ebony cane, gravely presenting me, his youngest grandchild, with an orange and a peppermint drop. He greatly annoyed my New England Puritan born father by insisting that I be named Patrick because I was born on the 17th of March. His wife Catherine died in 1846 and later he married Christine Crawford by whom he had no issue.
At the time of his death in 1867 he was possessed of what was for those days of much wealth; he owned more than a hundred houses and stores as well as many farms, building lots and acre upon acre of wood land. It is said that he erected and owned in his day more real estate than any other man in Ulster County. His death was sudden and unexpected, Sept. 30, 1867, and although then 82 years of age he still was active in his business concerns. He is buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Saugerties, together with his wife Elizabeth Moose.
Having concluded my incomplete and insufficient story of Luedwig and Jeremiah, I will detain you longer only to tell you of one of the next generation, the third son of Jeremiah, a more than locally known citizen, my much respected Uncle William F. Russell. Born at Trumpbour’s Corners on January 14th, 1812, he came when two years of age with his father to Saugerties. He attended the little district school until at the age of thirteen he became clerk in his father’s store and so busy was he in this capacity that his further education was obtained only by candle light when, tired though he was, he diligently practiced penmanship and studied arithmetic and in the end his writing rivaled the beauty of penmanship of Luedwig and he was famed for his facility with figures. I have listened by the hour, fascinated by his stories of his life in the country store, of his awe on first seeing Pierre Lorrilard when he came across the Esopus Creek on the stepping stones to inspect the water power, William having hidden behind some bushes to see the great man; of his awe at the blue broad cloth tailcoat, the knee breeches and the silver buckles on his shoes, and of his wondering if someday he might possibly be able to dress as well, for William was always as I remember him, one of the most impeccably groomed men I ever knew. When he was twenty-one he and his brother-in-law Col. E. J. McCarthy purchased the business from Jeremiah on four years credit and without a dollar of cash. Their success was phenomenal from the start. Three years later the firm was dissolved and William went on to further triumphs adding to it and developing what became the greatest bluestone industry in existence. By 1849 he had become a man of large means and sold out his business to his former partner. He was postmaster from 1833 to 1840. Like his father he was always an uncompromising Democrat. In 1840 he was appointed a delegate to the Young Men’s Democratic State Convention. In 1851 he was elected to the Assembly, was appointed to investigate the accounts of the State Comptroller, State Treasurer and the Banking Department. He was elected to the thirty-fifth congress and served as navy agent for the port of New York.
In 1860, in company with other leading citizens of Saugerties he established the Saugerties Bank of which he remained President until the time of his death; he was also one of the original trustees of the Union Trust Company of New York City which position he retained throughout his life time. He was a close friend and confidant of Samuel J. Tilden and declined the urgent request of Mr. Tilden to become the candidate for Lt. Governor on the ticket with the latter. He was offered and declined the positions of Comptroller of the Currency and Post Master General proffered him by President Cleveland. His most notable success however was as receiver of the Six Penny Savings Bank in New York City, a service which he undertook reluctantly only at the urgent solicitation of Judge T. R. Westbrook and Attorney General Augustus Schoonmaker. There were thirty three thousand depositors and more than one million eight hundred thousand dollars involved and at the time of his appointment it was thought he could not liquidate for more than fifty cents on the dollar, yet in a little more than two years he paid the depositors more than ninety cents per dollar. During his lifetime he saw the Village of Saugerties grow from one hundred in population to over four thousand; he left as a monument in Saugerties "Russell Block" built on the site of the general store which had been his father's and later his own.
In 1833 he married Miss Margaret Garey Keeney of Norwich, Connecticut, by whom much to his regret he had no children.
William died April twenty-ninth, in 1896, aged a little more than eighty four years.
Today what have we here in this our county to preserve and keep us from the infiltration of the red radical, the doctrines of the Communists, the fear of dictatorship and the abrogation of our Constitutional rights, inherited from our sturdy ancestors but the determination of the Dutch, the persistence of the Puritans, the hope of the Huguenots and the patient plodding of the Palatines. Their descendants have spread themselves over our country and we hope may act as a check upon the un-American ideas which have been and today are being instilled into the minds of our youth and those who have to do with the stability of our educational institutions.
Three generations of Luedwig's family are members of this society and I mention their names in order of their descent, myself, William F. Russell, 2nd, and Mrs. Lila James Roney.
In addition to the authorities consulted and which are cited below [no such references were supplied], I have been materially assisted in the preparation of this paper by Joseph Gavit, Senior Librarian, and by Miss Edna L. Jacobsen both of the New York State Library as well as by William F. Russell, 2nd and his wife Mrs. Russell, State Historian of the D.A.R.