Saturday, February 23, 2013

Palatines in North Carolina

Our Palatines to America treasurer, Margie Weiler, suggested that I include information in this blog about the 1710 settlement of New Bern, North Carolina.  I  have previously written about  the 1766 North Carolina settlement of Germans in Salem.  However the New Bern settlement deserves its own mention.

Christoph von Graffenried, a native of Bern, Switzerland, born in 1661 and Franz Ludwig Michel, both part of the Ritter Company, wanted to establish a Swiss colony in the New World.  Queen Anne of England, facing a flood of Palatine immigrants made an offer of land and support for the settlement plans if they would agree to include Palatines among those they transported to the New World. 

In September of 1709, Parliament granted Graffenried and Michel more than 13,000 acres of land in the Carolinas, with a promise of assistance once they arrived.  As a result, 650 Palatines, led by John Lawson and Michael Gale, sailed from England in January 1710.  During the thirteen week voyage, they lost about one half of the Palatines as a result of the harsh conditions of the trip. When they arrived in North Carolina at the juncture of the Neuse and Trent rivers, they found that no provisions were waiting for them and no work had been done to provide shelter for them in the settlement at New Bern.

Conditions did not improve until Graffenried arrived in September 1710 with about 100 Swiss settlers.  He had the land surveyed, forests cleared and houses erected. Within eighteen months, the community seemed to be well established.  Unfortunately this good fortune did not continue for long.

The Tuscarora Indians who had inhabited the area until the arrival of European settlers, began a campaign to rid their native lands of those intruders.  In Early September 1711, Graffenried and surveyor John Lawson, who had led the initial group of Palatine settlers to New Bern, set off to explore the area north of New Bern.  The Tuscarora captured both, killing Lawson.  They let Graffenried go free because they believed that he was the governor.

While Graffenried was journeying back to New Bern, the Tuscarora attacked the white communities along the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers, killing many of the settlers.  They destroyed houses and crops and took away livestock. 

Graffenried never recovered financially from the war with the Tuscarora, and many of the original Palatines dispersed among the surviving English communities of North Carolina.  Graffenried returned to Europe.

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