Philip Guier Irish-Palatine 1705-1788

Joker in watercolor by Wendy Harty April 2021

Philip Guier jogged along on his horse through the town of Ballingrane, Ireland. Even the Catholic Irish saluted him shouting, “There goes Philip Guier, drove the devil out of Ballingrane.

I thought when I started these podcasts the story would be one of my German ancestry fleeing the wars where they were starving and cold in the year 1709. These refugees were brought to England by Queen Anne and resettled in Ireland, where they farmed. End of story. I thought my stories would not lead to controversary but already the weather of 1709 has led to a conversation on global warming. Let’s add religion! I thought my ancestors would be meek and humble, expecting them to be fruitful and multiply, populating this earth. This they did but their names were written in history also, more than 300 years ago.

Philip Guier, born at Assenheim 1705 in the Palatinate area of Germany, was my 8th great grandfather. His daughter, Anna Marie, born in Ballingrane, Ireland in 1730 would marry my seventh great grandfather, Peter Switzer, son of Christopher Switzer in my previous blog; Christopher was the 23rd year old refugee shivering in his bearskin back in Germany, 1709. To understand this story one needs to know some religious history. The Catholics said God gave The Pope, representing Jesus here on earth the keys to the kingdom to his apostle Peter; Martin Luther said it was between God, Jesus and man; King Henry VIII asked the Pope for a divorce and when not granted said off with her head, I’ll start my own Church of England.

John Wesley was a student at Oxford University, England. He studied and read his Bible and became an Anglican Priest. He took the gospel to the working man preaching in fields, barns when it rained and street corners. John Wesley did not mean to start a new denomination but soon the groups of people who heard his Gospel message were called Methodists, with his different methods of preaching. Reverend John Wesley visited Ireland.

Philip Guier suffered from the horrors of fire and sword and had been pillaged and plundered from the French armies. Then he too nearly froze to death in 1709. At the invitation of Queen Anne, Philip made his way with 13,000 refugees of the Palatine to Rotterdam, Netherlands. There, ships awaited them. He arrived in England after a tedious six week journey on June 2, 1709. Each family was presented with a loaf of bread, “white as fallen snow”. This was a curiosity because up till then the Germans had only eaten the darken whole wheat. The English welcomed them at first, feeding them in tents outside London. Soon the English grumbled, “Have they come to eat the bread from our own mouths?” meaning they were worried these Germans if they stayed would take their jobs. Queen Anne’s plan was to send them to the American Colonies where she would gain from their taxes. She also had a Catholic Irish problem. They’d taken away the Irish tenant lands and disarmed the unruly uprisings. When Sir Thomas Southwell asked for the German farmers to come to his large estate at Castle Courtmatix at his own expense, a solution was achieved.

On August 8, 1709, they left in wagons, a trip of 120 miles to embark on a schooner to Ireland. All the Palatine men were issued muskets. I imagine the Irish they were replacing weren’t very happy!

Within four miles of the Castle four settlements sprang up, called Adare, Ballingrane, Arbela and Court Matrix. My great grandfather, Philip Guier, settled and was elected to be the Burgomaster or school teacher. Sir Southwell was so pleased with the Germans that he sponsored 150 families. This made a close knit German speaking community that would stay that way and marry within their own ethnic group.

After 40 years, the Irish Palatines had no pastoral oversight wrote John Wesley when he visited. Cursing and swearing, breaking the Sabbath and drinking, Wesley found them in the fields and preached. Philip Guier exclaimed, “This is like the preaching we used to hear in Germany!” The people began meeting in their homes. When John Wesley came back to chair the First Methodist Convention he appointed Philip Guier a preacher. Philip Guier had taught school and tutored a student named Philip Embury and his own daughter, Anna Marie. Christopher Switzer, my other 8th grandfather had his own family, three siblings that will featured in my story: Peter, Philip and Margaret Switzer, three children among a growing family of 15.

On Sir Thomas Southwell’s estate the 50 year rents were coming to an end, soon to be replaced by exorbitant ones. The families had grown and needed more space. At age 30, Philip Embury intended to make a home for himself and my Aunt Margaret Switzer, a girl half his age. Philip, a carpenter by trade, had used his time and built the Courtmatrix Chapel. On November 27, 1758 the couple wed. It was not a good time to set up housekeeping, the rents were high, and farms were crowded. An enterprising fellow, Philip Embury and new wife Margaret proposed to lead some other Irish-Palatines to start a new life in the American Colonies. Of the family of Christopher Switzer, this great aunt Margaret was the first of the Switzer family to come to America. They landed in New York in 1760. The group received a grant of 8000 acres to grow and develop the manufacture of linen. It took a while to receive the land.

Philip Embury taught school and carpentered until an incident happened at the home of his cousin, Barbara Heck. Barbara came home in 1766 and found her husband and his friends playing cards. She seized the pack and threw the cards into the fireplace. Barbara hurried to her cousin Philip Embury. “Philip, you must preach to us or we shall go to hell!” “How can I preach, I have neither church nor congregation!”, he replied. She had an answer, “Preach in your home and to family first.” There were only six in the first meeting, 2 Embury’s, 2 Heck’s, a servant and John Lawrence, one of the card players, that would marry Margaret, when she became a widow. On this day in October 1766 a trickle would become a river.

From the Embury home, the congregation grew. They rented a sail rigging loft and then the First Methodist Church was built under Embury’s charge and called John Street Church in 1768. Finally the grant of land was awarded, The Wilson patent, and the Emburys moved to the Camden Valley, New York. Philip farmed and carpentered during the week and preached on Sunday. Here, the unpaid pastor formed a Methodist Society and preached his fist sermon from behind a pulpit he had built himself.

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