Germanna

Peter Jefferson's 1747 map of the Fairfax Grant included Germanna and the Tubal Furnace
Peter Jefferson's 1747 map of the Fairfax Grant included Germanna and the Tubal Furnace
Source: University of North Carolina, "Early Maps of the American South," A Map of the northern neck in Virginia (by Peter Jefferson, Robert Brooke, Benjamin Winslow, Thomas Lewis, 1747)

In 1713, Reverend John Henry Hager led 42 German immigrants from Siegen (near modern-day Bonn) to England. There they met Baron von Graffenried. He had returned from Virginia after the failure of his effort to settle 600 "poor Palatines" and 150 Swiss at New Bern in Carolina. The revolt of the Tuscarora in 1711 had forced Graffenried to use all of his resources to support survivors in the colony.

Before sailing back to Europe, Graffenried met with Governor Alexander Spotswood in Williamsburg and discussed possibilities of launching another setlement initiative. Graffenried thought, together with Frantz Ludwig Michel, that there were commercially-valuable silver deposits near where the Potomac River cut through the Blue Ridge. Graffenried anticipated recruiting skilled miners seeking to flee from what today is Germany, and using them to establish a new settlement in Virginia to extract silver.

Though Graffenreid had no funds, he still managed to arrange for the Germans to be transported to Virgina. They had experience as miners, and that made them especially attractive to the Virginian leaders seeking to discover and exploit silver, iron, and other minerals in the colony.

Graffenried introduced the miners to Colonel Nathaniel Blakiston, former governor of Maryland and the agent in London for the Virginia colony. They arranged a deal where Graffenried promised the ship captain that Spotswood would pay the transportation costs for the immigrants.

When the ship arrived, the governor was surprised to discover that he was responsible for the debt. The immigrants agreed to work for four years as indentured servants. Spotswood sent 42 people who had come originally from villages near Siegen, in North Rhine Westphalia, to start a new settlement on the Rapidan River.

Spotswood's main goal was to get cheap labor to develop a speculative silver deposit, but he told officials in London that the Germanna settlement was intended to fortify the frontier After learning of the arrival of Germans sent by Graffenried, Spotswood got approval from the Governor's Council in Williamsburg to send the immigrants to his land located at a ford on the Rivanna River and to let the settlers avoid paying taxes:1

The Governor therefore proposed to settle them above the falls of the Rappahannock River to serve as a Barrier to the Inhabitants of that part of the country against the Incursions of the Indians and desiring the opinion of the council whether in consideration of their usefulness for that purpose, the charge of building them a fort, clearing a road to their settlement & carrying thither two peeces of cannon & some ammunition may not properly be defrayed by the publick.

The crossing of the Rivanna River was renamed Germanna Ford after the arrival of the new colonists. A five-sided Fort Germanna had been constructed before John Fontaine visited the Germanna settlement in November, 1715. Fontaine also returned to the fort with the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe expedition in 1716. He reported in 1715:2

The Germans live very miserably...

[T]he town...is pallisaded with stakes stuck in the ground, and laid close the one to the other, of substance to bear out a musket shot. There is but nine families and they have nine houses built all in a line, and before every house about 20 feet from the house they have small sheds built for their hogs and hens, so that the hog stys and houses make a street. This place that is paled in is a pentagon, very regularly laid out, and in the very centre there is a blockhouse made with five sides which answers to the five sides of pales or great inclosure. There is loop holes through it, from which you may see all the inside of the inclosure.

This was intended for a retreat for the people in case they were not able to defend the pallisadoes if attacked by the Indians. They make use of this Blockhouse for divine service. They go to prayers constantly once a day and have two sermons a Sunday. We went to hear them perform their service, which was done in their own language.

Mine Run was named because "there was an appearance of a silver mine by it." No silver was discovered, but iron was plentiful.

Spotswood needed more workers as the original indentures were expiring, and to have enough settlers to patent the 40,000 acre land grant he arranged for himself west of Fort Germanna. The governor advised ship captains that he was willing to pay the transportation costs of immigrants they brought and who were willing to be his indentured servants.

Captain Andrew Tarbett, who was briefly confined in Debtors' Prison in London, recognized he could make a quick profit. He agreed to take 20 families who had come from the Palatinate and Baden-Wuerttemberg area to Pennsylvania, but then sailed instead to Virginia. There he sold the immigrants to Governor Spotswood., and in 1737 he had a second supply of workers that could clear land and mine iron on his land at Germanna.3

Amish, Mennonites, and German Pietists in Virginia

Aquia Sandstone and Government Island Quarry

Early Settlement Up the... Rappahannock?

Frantz Ludwig Michel

German Immigration into Virginia

Orange County

even at the start of the French and Indian War, there were few settlements between Germanna and the Blue Ridge - and even fewer west of the mountains
even at the start of the French and Indian War, there were few settlements between Germanna and the Blue Ridge - and even fewer west of the mountains
Source: Library of Congress, A general map of the middle British colonies, in America (Lewis Evans, 1755)

the remains of the Enchanted Castle of Governor Spotswood are now an archeological resource
the remains of the Enchanted Castle of Governor Spotswood are now an archeological resource
Source: Virginia Department of Historic Resources, 068-0043 Germanna Site

Links


Source: AHHA Productions, Germanna America in Embryo

References

1. "Welcome!," Germanna Research Group, http://germannacolonies.org/; William J. Hinke, "The 1714 Colony of Germanna, Virginia," The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Volume 40, Number 4 (October, 1932), https://www.jstor.org/stable/4244476; John Blankenbaker, "Germanna History," short note #557, http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~george/johnsgermnotes/germhs23.html; Germanna Foundation brochure, https://germanna.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Germanna-Brochure-English.pdf; "Today in 1714: Virginia Gov. Spotswood takes note of new colony of Germans," Germanna Colony, April 28, 2014, https://germanna.org/2014/04/28/today-in-1714-virginia-gov-spotswood-takes-note-of-new-colony-of-germans/ (last checked May 13, 2022) 2. Edward Porter Alexander (editor), The Journal of John Fontaine, and Irish Huguenot Son in Spain and Virginia 1710-1719, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1972, p.77, https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Journal_of_John_Fontaine/C355AAAAMAAJ (last checked September 15, 2021)
3. Edward Porter Alexander (editor), The Journal of John Fontaine, and Irish Huguenot Son in Spain and Virginia 1710-1719, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1972, p. 103, https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Journal_of_John_Fontaine/C355AAAAMAAJ; "Germanna Record 18: The Second Germanna Colony and Other Pioneers," Germanna Foundation, June 12, 2019, https://germanna.org/2019/06/12/germanna-record-18-the-second-germanna-colony-and-other-pioneers/ (last checked May 13, 2022)

Germanna was located on the southern side of the Rapidan River, outside the area claimed by Lord Fairfax
Germanna was located on the southern side of the Rapidan River, outside the area claimed by Lord Fairfax
Source: Library of Congress, A new map of the western parts of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and North Carolina (Thomas Hutchins, 1778)


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