One of the Great Population Movements in Colonial America

Elephants Love and Never Forget watercolor by Wendy Harty Aug 2020,

I’ve lived within a 100 miles radian all my life except for two years away at school. What would force a people to move and move and move again. The following is the story of my Penrod grandparents, who would be known as Palantines.

A Palatine is defined as someone who came from along the Rhine River in the Palatinate of south western Germany. The lower called Pfalz, meaning palace or castle was where Heidelberg was its capital. The Palatines were ruled by counts and boundaries changed with military successes and political fortunes. There was almost continuous war between 1684 to 1713. The troops of King Louis XIV ravaged the Palatinate, sacking the cities, burning homes, stealing property, massacring people, the armies trampled down fields of grain destroying crops and laying waste to farms. In their wake, famine spread. Taxes levied to pay for the war added to the farmer’s plight.

Mother Nature played a role in what happened also. The winter of 1708 was particularly severe and the vineyards perished. It was the coldest winter in 100 years, with three months of extreme temperatures, It was said even the birds froze in flight. Here we find a young boy named Johannes Poenradt, born June 18, 1700, huddled beneath furs, and even though the door was closed and the fire burning he was still cold and hungry. This scene was the setting for a mass migration. At the invitation of Queen Anne in the spring of 1709, 7000 harassed Palatines sailed down the Rhine To Rotterdam. Johannes was one of the “lucky” ones, along with his parents Johannes, born 1680-1725 and Gertrude born 1680-1725; however conditions in England weren’t great and young Johannes slept in army tents as their were no arrangements for transferring them to the American colonies. The British couldn’t deal with the influx of immigration and proclaimed any arriving after October 1709 would be sent back to Germany. From England, 3000 were dispatched to America to help colonize New York State under Governor Hunter. Johannes departed on Christmas Day, 1709. They were detained in the harbor for 18 weeks and finally crossed the Atlantic with 3000 others on 10 ships, that sailed for New York. They arrived June 13, 1710, after over 4 weeks at sea. Upon arrival they were quarantined for several months on Nutter Island due to typhus on board. (Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection spread through food that’s come into contact with fecal bacteria, ie: rats and fleas and lice. Symptoms can include rash, high fever, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, delirium and death.) Gertrude must have been a great nurse to get the family alive through this!

Hunter’s letter from New York dated July 24, 1710

My Lords: Arrived June 14, ships separated by weather, arrived safely except the Herbert Frigate with tents and arms, men are safe but the goods are damaged. The poor people have been mighty sick, 470 died.

Contracts were signed stipulating that each family would receive 5 pounds and 40 acres of land after they had repaid the British Government for their expenses. The terms were hard and title deeds to the land were found fraudulent. Hunter as the government contractor stinted on quality and quantity to the detriment of the stomachs of the Palatines. He cut back their rations. That first winter, Johannes found himself suffering again from the severe cold, poor food and a food shortage. Many of the children had been orphaned from the voyage and others were taken from their parents and apprenticed out.

Thus they could not begin work until the spring of 1711. Johannes Poenradt and his wife Gurtnydt (Gertrude) were promised 100 acres on the north side of the Hudson River, records found in the Three Rivers Land Patents, lot 46 and 9. (Harden’s History of Herkimer County, NY, 1893). Governor Hunter’s plan was to have them make turpentine, rosin tar and pitch beneficial to the English navy. This was an impractical plan of producing tar for the Queen’s Navy to pay their passage as the northern White Pine trees contained little pitch. In 1711, The English conscripted German Palatines to fight the French in northern New York. Conrad Weiser Sr. served as a captain in one of the Palatine contingents. Upon their return the Palatines discovered that their families had nearly starved in their absence. Again Weiser led the Palatines in complaining to Governor Hunter. By the autumn of 1712 Hunter could no longer afford the expense and the Germans were left to fend for themselves, still in debt to the crown. Disgusted some left with only the clothes on their backs for the land along the Schoharie Creek. The rest soon followed, 30 miles north to the Schoharie Valley. They traveled a fortnight through the snow which covered the ground three feet deep, cold and hungry, and joined their countrymen in the new promised land, thinking Queen Anne had promised them each 40 acres. At Schoharie, they organized themselves into seven dorf’s or villages. The Mohawk Natives showed them how to make the long huts and with help from them they survived the first year. They farmed the outer areas and in the center of town washed, cooked and made shoes and wove cloth. They grew corn, potatoes and beans and got through the following year. More food was grown and life improved and people no longer starved.

Hunter felt the move to Schoharie was a rebellion and the land was taken away and given to seven landlords by Hunter. The Germans were stripped off their titles and the promise of free land by Queen Anne was ignored. They were in an uproar and when the sheriff came from Albany the women helped drive him away. The women attacked the sheriff with their brooms, tied him to a rail, dragged him through the mud and tossed him off a bridge breaking several ribs. Was Gertrude Penrod one of those expressing her displeasure with the broken promises and her circumstances? The Germans decided to send a committee to London to plead their cause before King George I (Queen Anne had died in 1714). In 1718 3 men, Conrad Weiser, William Scheff and Gerhardt Walrath, set forth on an ill-fated journey; robbed by pirates and when they reached London were put in jail for debt, William and Gerhardt died there. In 1723 Conrad Weiser Sr. returned empty handed to find the group had fragmented. Hunter had resigned and in 1723, William Keith, Baronet Governor of Pennsylvania, was in Albany on business when he heard about the suffering of the Germans in New York. He invited them to Pennsylvania. Conrad Weiser Jr. persuaded sixty families to move south with him into Tulpehocken, Berks County, Pennsylvania. (Of note Conrad Weiser Jr. had spent 3 years with the Mohawks learning their language and he was friends with another relative Christopher Stump my maternal family history and these two were instrumental in getting treaties signed.) With the help of the Mohawks, Weiser led our relatives from Schoharie south to the Susquehanna River; they traveled along Indian paths and by canoe to present day Tulpehocken in the spring of 1723. Perhaps at some point in the journey Johannes Penrod and Christopher Stump walked together, or paddled a canoe, built a raft, or helped each other over a boulder on the mountain as they were both in this migration!

Imagine Gerturde Penrod making this trek! By this time she was a grandmother as son John had married and was starting his family. Sarah his daughter was born November 15, 1722. With this small babe in her arms they made a trail through the forest to the river and constructed rafts and canoes which floated the wives and children and house goods from the head waters of the north branch of the Susquehanna in central New York to the mouth of the Swatara Creek in Pennsylvania. One account said they moved 400 cows with them. Then they went upstream, crossed Mount Etna and descended the eastern slopes of the Tulpehocken. In 1723, they had no one to govern them and were squatters again. They did as they pleased, built their log cabins and reared their families. John and Gertrude had a son Johannes B Penrod married ? Jan 5, 1721 (some trees say to Gertrude Delbert but unless there were two Gertrudes this is incorrect and has the wrong info) and had the following children: Sarah 1722, Abraham April 1727, John Benrath “Curly” June 15, 1726 at Frederick, Maryland, Solomon Mar 18, 1727, Martin Nov 5, 1730, Mary Aug 11, 1732, James Nov 24, 1734, Phillip May 22, 1736, and Anne May 22, 1736.

After the Poenradts (Penrods-Englsh spelling) moved out of New York down to Pennyslyvania , they settled in the border areas of Penn and Maryland – Bedford, later called Somerset County, PA. In a previous blog about John Curly Penrod I told about his interesting life in the Turkeyfoot Region and The Glades. (History of Somerset County, PA).

Who knew that two centuries later descendants John Waddell (Penrod side) and Jeane Waddell (Stump side) would meet at Coutts, Alberta and marry and that I Wendy Jean Waddell Harty would have access to my ancestry and be able to research these stories of my 8th, 7th and 6th grandparents.

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