Palatine Emigrants

Palatine Emigrants, by Kraig Ruckel

Emigration from the Rhineland to America - Eigtheenth Century

Palatine Emigrants
by Kraig Ruckel

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The winter of 1708-1709 was very long and cold in the Rhineland. It was a very bleak period. People huddled around their fires as they considered quitting their homes and farms forever. By early April, the land was still frozen and most of the Palatines' vines had been killed by the bitter weather. Since 1702 their country had been enduring war and there was little hope for the future. The Thirty Years War lay heavy on their minds, a period in which one out of every three Germans had perished.

The Palatines were heavily taxed and endured religious persecution. As the people considered their future, the older ones remembered that, in 1677, William Penn had visited the area, encouraging the people to go to Pennsylvania in America, a place where a man and his family could be free of the problems they were now encountering.

To go to America meant a long, dreadful ocean voyage and a future in an unknown land, away from their past and family. Everyone knew that the German Elector would stop any migration as soon as it was noticed. Only a mass exodus from the Palatinate could be successful. Many wondered how they could ever finance such a journey even if they wanted to attempt it. Small boats, known as scows, would have to be acquired for the long ride down the Rhine River and then there was the price for the ocean voyage. While some of the people had relatives that could assist them financially, many were very poor. Soon enough, their minds were made up for them as France's King Louis XIV invaded their land, ravaging especially the towns in the Lower Palatinate.

In masses, the Palatines boarded their small boats and headed down the Rhine for Rotterdam. It was April 1709 and the first parties were afloat on the Rhine, many with only their most basic goods and their faith in God as their only possessions. The river voyage took an average of 4-6 weeks through extremely cold, bitter weather. By June, 1709, the people streamed into Rotterdam at a rate of one thousand per week. The Elector, as expected, issued an edict forbidding the migration, but almost everyone ignored it. By October, 1709, more than 10,000 Palatines had completed the Rhine River journey.

The Duke of Marlborough was assigned by Queen Anne to transport the immigrants to England. British troop ships were also used. The Queen assumed these Protestants would help fuel the anti-Roman feelings developing in England. The ships from Rotterdam landed, in part, at Deptford and the refugees were sent to one of three camps at Deptford, Camberwell, and Blackheath outside the city wall of London. Many Londoner's welcomed the Palatines, but the poor were not, as they felt their English food was being taken from them to feed the Germans. British newspapers published mixed accounts of the Palatines, some praising them while others cursed them.

Over 3,000 of these Palatines were sent to Ireland, again to reinforce the Protestant faith in that land. The trip from england to Ireland was short, taking only about 24 hours. Included among these immigrants were a line of my possible ancestors, Sebastian ROCKEL (later called RUCKEL, RUCKLE, and RUTTLE)and his wife and children. They settled on Lord Southwell's estate near Ballingrane in County Limerick, Ireland. Several branches remained in Ireland, becoming known as the RUTTLE's. Other branches came to New York in the mid-1700's.

Meanwhile, streams of Palatines went to America, with most going to Pennsylvania. The ocean voyage was harsh, with over-crowded, under-supplied, and unsanitary ships. What provisons were supplied were generally the least expensive available to the ship's master. Water frequently ran out, as did food. Dreadful mortality occurred on many voyages. In addition to those woes, the Palatines faced robbery, deception, and worse from those transporting them.

Estimates on the number of Germans in Pennsylvania during this period varies from author to author, but a common estimate is 10,000-15,000 by 1727 and 70,000-80,000 by 1750. A good source for reviewing German arrivals to Pennsylvania is Rupp's "Thirty Thousand Immigrants in Pennsylvania" which contains numerous ship passenger lists and has an excellent surname index. Another good resource is Walter Knittle's "Early Eighteenth-Century Palatine Emigration".

Immigrants not only came from Germany, but also Bohemia and Switzerland. Most were either Lutheran, Reformed, or Mennonite in religious belief.

My earliest known Pennsylvania Palatine settler was Johanne Balthasar ROCKEL who was born in Germany in 1707. His exact arrival in Pennsylvania is unknown. The earliest records I have found is a 1755 tax record in Allen Township and a 1760 baptismal record for his son, Johanne Jurg ROCKEL at Schmaltzgass, in 1760 at Northampton County.

The State of the Poor Palatines As Humbly Represented By Themselves Upon Their First Arrival In This Kingdom, About June, 1709 (from London, England) We the poor distressed Palatines, whose utter Ruin was occasioned by the merciless Cruelty of a Blood Enemy, the French, whose prevailing Power some years past, like a Torrent rushed into our Country, and overwhelmed us at once; and being not content with Money and Food necessary for their Occasions, not only dispossest us of all Support but inhumanely burnt our House to the ground, where being deprived of all Shelter, we were turned into open Fields, and there drove with our Families, to seek what Shelter we could find, being obliged to make the cold Earth our Lodgings, and the Clouds our Covering. In this deplorable condition we made our Humble Supplications and Cries to Almighty God, who has promised to relieve them that put their Trust in him, whose Goodness we have largely Experienced, in disposing the Hearts of Pious Princes to a Christian Compassion and Charity towards us in this miserable condition, who by their Royal Bounties and large Donations, and the exemplary Kindness of well-disposed Nobility, Gentry, and Others, We and our poor Children have been preserved from Perishing; specially since our Arrival into this happy Kingdom of GREAT BRITAIN. While not only like the Land of Canaan, abounds with all things necessary for human Life, but also with a Religious People, who as freely give to the Distressed for Christ’s sake, as it was given to them by the Almighty Donor of all they enjoy. Blessed Land and Happy People! Governed by the Nursing Mother of Europe, and the Best of Queens! Whose unbounded Mercy and Charity has received us despicable Strangers from afar off into Her own Dominions, where we have found a Supply of all things Necessary for our present Subsistence; for which we bless and praise Almighty God, the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty and all Her good subjects, from the Highest Degree to those of the meanest Capacity; and do sincerely and faithfully promise to all our utmost Powers, for the future, to render ourselves Thankful to God, and Serviceable to Her Majesty, and all her Good Subjects, in what way soever her goodness is pleased to dispose of Us: and in the mean time be constant in our Prayers, that God would return the Charity of well disposed People a thousand fold into their own Bosoms, which is all the Requittal that can present be made by us poor distressed Protestants.


Whittier's Ship "Palantine"

(from his "Tent on the Beach")

   And old men mending their nets of twine,
   Talk together of dream and sign,
   Talk of the lost ship Palantine.
   "The ship that a hundred years before,
   Freighted deep with its goodly store,
   In the gales of the equinox went ashore.
   "Into the teeth of death she sped:
   (May God forgive the hands that fed
   The false lights over the rocky head!)
   "And then, with ghastly shimmer and shine
   Over the rocks and the seething brine,
   They burned the wreck of the Palantine.
   "And still on many a moonless night,
   From Kingston head and the Montauk light,
   The spectre kindles and burns in sight.
   "And the wise Sound skippers, through skies be fine,
   Reef their sails when they see the sign
   Of the blazing wreck of the Palatine."
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