Thursday, March 24, 2011

Poor Palatines

I've recently been bombarded with interest in the Palatines recently so I'll see what I can do to add to the story...






The tricky thing about writing about Palatines at Clermont is that technically, they weren't really at Clermont at all. The Palatine settlement was made on Livingston Manor in 1711--before Robert "the Builder" ever got his piece divided out, built a mansion, and named it Clermont (that didn't happen until the 1730s and 40s).

Lots of times, people, especially geneologists, ask us whether or not we have records remaining from the Palatines. Sadly, we have very little here at Clermont, because the account books etc. that listed their expenses and payments were part of the perview of the Manor Livingstons and their desdendats--Philip the 2nd Lord and his progeny. We have no way of knowing where they went if they even survived (To me it always seems a funny thing to keep, really. It's not unlike holding onto you grandfather's check register from the back of his checkbook--not very interesting until several generations down the line).

At any rate, in 1711 3,000 or so "Palatines" were settled on Livingston Manor by Queen Anne in the area now known as Germantown. You can see it marked on the map above as a white rectangle in the midst of the yellow and orange. They were only a portion of the 10,000 people who had shown up in England starting in 1709. The other 7,000-10,00 remaining were either settled elswhere in the British Isles or staid near London, having depleated all sources of spare income just to get there in the first plase. They were passing themselves off as refugees from the war-ravaged Palatinate region of the Rhine Valley, but according to the recent book Becoming German: the 1709 Palatine Migration to New York, a large portion of these immigrants were not Palatine at all. They were also from neighboring regions including Nassau-Weilburg, Pfalz-Zweibricken, Wurttemberg. They were following the suggestions and promises of a travel manual they referred to as "The Golden Book," which suggested that Queen Anne would give Palatine refugees free passage to America (this was an overstatement on the book's part). After years of warfare had damaged the farming landscape and a the brutal winter of 1708-09, packing up and heading for greener pastures was an appealing idea.

The people who came to New York were mainly farmers with a few craftsmen thrown in for good measure. They were mostly families looking for better opportunities to escape their borderline poverty. So once the English government paid for these 3,000 people to get across the Atlantic and set them up with land and houses, what were they going to do with them?

The plan was to have the Palatines make naval stores, which would repay the English crown for their passage and care. Robert and Alida Livingston agreed to use some of their land (that future Germantown and Cheviot plot) for the project; the crown would get a deal on the land, provided they came up with a good price for the food. About two thirds of the total "Palatine" population America wound up here at East Camp, while the others headed across the river for the creatively-named "West Camp."

Once in East Camp in the fall of 1710, they were given 40 X 50 plots of land on which to build shelters. These plots were frightfully small to a group of people who expected to use it to supplement their foodstuffs with farming. The crown's plan was to supply them with food so official opinion was that the settlers had all they needed. They would be given 40 acre plots once they had repaid their debt, and they should be happy with they'd been given so far.

As usual with government-run programs in Colonial New York however, it was fraught with mismanagement. Supplies meant to aid the settlers in establishing their new farm were lost when the ship carrying them was sunk off Long Island. The settlers were also farmers and tradesmen, skilled with plowing, food processing or barrell-making. Boiling tar and cutting masts were a new, difficult, and probably distasteful set of tasks.

Then money meant to pay the Livingstons for grain that would feed the Palatines did not arrive. Politics in England saw to that. Without it, Alida, overseeing the project while Robert was away in Albany, was unwilling or unable to supply them with adequate food. In July of 1711 she wrote"I see that there's no money; no money [has] come out of England yet, and God knows whether money will turn up there." Soon her creditors were knocking on her door "I hope you bring the money laong, otherwise you will have an uneasy life from whom you have grain," she wrote a few days later.

Soon 300 Palatine men were sent off with the Manor Regiment to assist with the French and Indian War. Of course, they had to take food with them so not only were they leaving their wives at home alone with the kids (possibly against their wills), they were taking the food out of their mouthes to do so. The remaining families began to kick and scream for food. "There is a great crying among the wives and children that their men have gone and have no bread or beer."

Since May, the meat had been of deteriorating quality: "I never saw salted meat so nor packed with so much salt as this Pork was. In truth one eight of it was salt," wrote Governor Hunter. They complained that the loaves of bread were smaller than they were supposed to be. The quality of the beer was irregular at best. Milk was in short suppply. Then the apples ran out in August, about which Alida had great concern.

By late summer, things just got worse and worse. Several "negroes" had run off. Some Indian relations had turned ugly ("they had shot to death 8 Indians before they got David Kittele's house."). At the end of July they rioted and came for the baker, Kas. "I long for you to come here. I can not stand the crying of the people so they call for bread and beer," wrote Alida on August 7.

Through October 1711 things quieted down a little bit, but in November money had still not arrived. "I have now received the sad news that the bills of the Palatines are not paid which upsets me very much that we are so unfortunate," wrote Alida. "That we are so unfortunate"!? What about the Palatines who had hungry children crying and no reliable way to feed them? People were dieing; their losses were being recorded in the ledger.

To top it all off (from the English point of view), the Palatines were not doing as good a job as expected on those naval stores. "I myself have observed that where by mistake the trees have been first rinded on the side where the sun's heat had most influence, the ground near it was filled with turpentine drained by it from the tree," wrote Hunter in 1712.

In September of 1712, the axe fell. In fall, with little or no time to prepare foodstuffs for the winter, the Palatines were released from their contract and left to fend for themselves. They were left scrambling. Many scattered about neighboring settlements, looking for work that would pay enough to feed their fmailies. Some staid put and tried to muddle through the best they could. According to author Walter Allen Knittle, "During that winter without government aid their suffering was particularly pitiful." (Early Palatine Emigration).

During the next several years, they each sought a place in what they had believed was to be their Promised Land. Some went to New Jersey or Pennsylvania, others pushed into the Western Frontier in the Schoharie Valley.


Many staid put in Livingston Manor, accepting the rather demanding terms and stipulations of an endenture here. Some of the names of those who staid can be followed through local history, the Lascher family, who helped to rebuild Clermont in 1780, in particular (also the original builders of the Stone Jug, pictured at right).

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