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The Kochertal Party

By Barbara (Boring) Bauer

Editor's note -- Cousin Barbara (Boring) Bauer, a genealogy volunteer with Palatines to America in Columbus, OH, has done extensive research on the identity of our Pennsylvania-German ancestors, Friedrich and Eva Maria (Weber) Meinert, and Jacob and Anna Weber. The Webers were members of the Kochertal Party, a group of Evangelical Lutheran Germans who emigrated to New York State in the early 1700s. Barbara has graciously written her findings into a narrative that is provided here for your review and consideration.

During the Seven-Years War (1641-1648) the Germans living in the Palatinate or Pfalz area west of the Rhine were frequently raided by King Louis XIV’s armies who plundered the peasants and collected tribute from the local ruling Electors. In 1674 this area was again thoroughly devastated by Louis XIV’s armies under Marshal Turenne.

In 1688-89 Louis sent Marshal Montclas with 50,000 men “that the Palatinate should be made a desert.” This Commander gave the nearly one-half million inhabitants three days notice that they must leave their homes. Many died of cold and hunger. The former farmers and shopkeepers who survived became beggars on the streets of European cities.

In 1707 yet another French army under the leadership of Marshal Villars came to invade, pillage and destroy this area again. His army occupied the Palatinate for a year, sending plundered money and goods back to enlarge King Louis XIV’s treasury.

William Penn's treaty with Native Americans, from a famous steel engraving, as published in 1860 by Selmar Hess, New York.

William Penn of England had made two trips through the Palatinate trying to persuade the Palatines to go to his new colony, the Province of Pennsylvania. Labor was very scarce and expensive at that time in the Colonies. Penn promised these Protestants they could become naturalized, practice their religion, purchase land and engage in trade. Families and neighborhood groups began secret discussions about emigrating from the Palatinate.

The Rev. Josua Harrsch (von Kochertal/from the Kochertal region), an Evangelical Lutheran pastor in the three-point charge of Eschelbronn, Mönchzell and Daisbach, between Heidelberg and Sinsheim in the Northern Kraichgau area of Baden, Germany, had made a trip to England in 1706 to acquaint himself with conditions for settlement in the English Colonies. When he returned he wrote a widely-circulated booklet emphasizing the attractive possibilities in America.

Charles II's charter to William Penn

Under his leadership in 1708 sixty-one persons, poor Lutherans from the Landau area, mostly vinedressers who had been impoverished by the occupation of the French army, secretly left their homes and began the journey to Frankfurt am Main, hoping to gain assistance there from an English government representative.

When they reached Frankfurt, they found that they would receive no assistance there, so in March 1708 Rev. Harrsch and forty-one Palatines continued their journey to seek help from “good Queen Anne” of England. In London, through his efforts, plans were approved to send them to the Hudson River Valley in the Province of New York. Queen Anne granted them naturalization without a fee, free transportation to New York, 500 acres of land for a church and its support (a glebe), 50 acres of land for each person, money for tools and the first year’s support.

In addition to Harrsch and his family (who assumed the name Kochertal), the other original heads of families, hereinafter called the Kochertal Party, were Lorenz Schwisser/Schweitzer, Melchior Gülch, Henry Rennau, Andreas Volck, Michael Weigand, Jacob Webber, Jacob Pletel, Johannes Fiscar/Fischer, single men: Isaac Türck and ___ Hennicke, totaling 41 individuals. Fourteen more families were added in London: those of Isaac Feber/Faber, Daniel Fiere, Peter Roos/Rose, widower Peter Hübertsen and son, Peter Wemar’s widow and daughter and bachelor Herman Schüneman, in all 55 persons including wives and children.

In October 1708 they left England with the newly-appointed Governor Lovelace on the Ship Globe, arrived at New York harbor, then sailed up the Hudson River, disembarking on New Year’s Day, 1 January 1709 at the mouth of Quassaick Creek, on the west side of the Hudson River, about sixty miles north of New York City near present-day Newburgh.

The Kochertal Party was the first group of German Palatines to arrive in New York and had several advantages over those who came later in 1709-10. From the time of their arrival the Kochertal Party members established themselves on farms on the west side of the Hudson River near Newburgh, even though the land was not patented to them until 1719 under the German Patent of Newburgh. Here they built homes and a small log church. But their farms, mostly stony, rocky hillsides, proved to be unproductive and by 1751 all but one Palatine descendant had left. The 500 acres of land that had been designated for the support of the Lutheran Church were taken over by the Anglican Church after a bitter court battle.

Copyright © 2003 Barbara (Boring) Bauer. Published with permission.