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American Lutheranism by Friedrich Bente

JOSHUA KOCHERTHAL.

22. Palatinates in Quassaic, East and West Camp. -- Wearying of the afflictions which the Thirty Years' War, the persecutions of Louis XIV, and Elector John Wilhelm, who was a tool of the Jesuits, had brought upon them, hosts of Palatinates came to America in quest of liberty and happiness. The cruelties and barbarities which the French king, the French officers, and the French soldiers perpetrated against innocent men, women, and children are described by Macaulay as follows: |The French commander announced to near half a million of human beings that he granted them three days of grace. Soon the roads and fields, which then lay deep in snow, were blackened by innumerable multitudes of men, women, and children flying from their homes. Many died of cold and hunger; but enough survived to fill the streets of all the cities of Europe with lean and squalid beggars, who had once been thriving farmers and shopkeepers. Meanwhile the work of destruction began. The flames went up from every marketplace, every hamlet, every parish church, every country seat, within the devoted provinces. The fields where the corn had been sown were plowed up. The orchards were hewn down. No promise of a harvest was left on the fertile plains where had once been Frankenthal. Not a vine, not an almond tree, was to be seen on the slopes of the sunny hills round what had once been Heidelberg.| (Wolf, Lutherans in America, 175.) Great numbers of emigrants from Hesse, Baden, and Wuerttemberg whose fate had been similar to that of the Palatinates, joined them. Permission to settle in the New World was sought from the authorities in London, where in 1709, according to various authorities, from ten to twenty thousand Palatines, as they were all designated, were assembled, waiting for an opportunity to emigrate. Joshua Kocherthal, Lutheran pastor at Landau in Bavaria, was the leader of the emigrants from the Palatinate. In 1704 he went to London to make the necessary arrangements. Two years later he published a booklet on the proposed emigration. In 1708 he sailed for the New World with the first fifty-three souls, landing in New York at the close of December, 1708, or the beginning of January, 1709, after a long and stormy voyage lasting about four months. It was the first German Lutheran congregation in the State of New York. After spending the winter in the city, they settled on the right bank of the Hudson, near the mouth of the Quassaic, where Newburgh is now located. Every person received a grant of fifty acres and the congregation five hundred acres of church land, which, however, the British Governor in 1750 awarded to the Episcopalians. In July, 1709, Kocherthal, entrusting his congregation to the care of Falckner, whose acquaintance he had made during the winter in New York, returned to London to obtain, through a personal interview with the Queen, grants of money which were needed to supply the utterly destitute colonists with the necessary means of subsistence until the land was made arable. He returned in June, 1710, with a multitude of emigrants in eleven ships. But, while 3,000 had sailed from London, only 2,200 were destined to reach their homes in the New World, 800 having died while en route and in quarantine on Governor's Island. A tract of land comprising 40 acres for each person was assigned to them at the foot of the Catskill Mountains, about 100 miles north of New York. They settled on both sides of the Hudson, naming their settlements East and West Camp, respectively.

23. Hewing Their Way to the Mohawk Valley. -- The immigrants had been promised prosperity; but the English officials were actuated by selfish motives and shamefully exploited the colonists. They were ordered to engage in the production of tar and pitch, and were treated as slaves and Redemptioners, i.e., emigrants, shamefully defrauded by |the Newlanders (Neulaender),| as Muhlenberg designated the conscienceless Dutch agents who decoyed Germans from their homes and in America sold them into slavery, at least temporarily. The contract for provisioning the Palatinate colonists was let to Livingston, a cruel and greedy Scot, from whom (Governor Hunter had purchased the land on which the Palatinates were settled. Livingston now sought to enrich himself by reducing both the quantity and quality of the food furnished to the colonists. Hunger was common among the settlers, becoming especially acute in winter, as they had not been given sufficient time to plant crops for themselves. Dissatisfaction spread throughout the ranks of the Palatinates, and when the Governor refused to heed their appeal for relief, fifty families left the settlement and hewed their way through the primeval forest to the Mohawk Valley, where they obtained fertile lands from the Indians and founded the Schoharie congregation in the winter of 1712/13. The governor declared the fugitives rebels; but still more followed in March, making their way through three feet of snow. The Lutherans of Schoharie were the first white people to live at peace with the Indians. In order to obtain a clear title to the lands in the Schoharie Valley, which the governor refused to grant them, John Conrad Weiser was sent to England. On his way he was plundered by pirates; in England he was thrown into a sponging house on account of debts. After regaining his liberty, he was compelled to return to Schoharie broken in health and without accomplishing his purpose. The result was that 33 families left Schoharie and settled in Tulpehocken, Pa., in 1723. Among those who remained in West Camp was Pastor Kocherthal. He continued faithfully to serve his congregations, including Schoharie, until his end, December 27, 1719. He lies buried in West Camp. A weather-beaten stone slab marks his resting-place. The inscription calls him |The Joshua and pure Lutheran pastor of the High Germans in America on the east and west bank of the Hudson.| In the original the epitaph reads complete as follows: |Wisse Wandersman Unter diesem Steine ruht nebst seiner Sibylla Charlotte Ein rechter Wandersmann Der Hoch-Teutschen in America ihr Josua Und derselben an Der ost und west seite Der Hudson Rivier rein lutherischer Prediger Seine erste ankunft war mit L'd Lovelace 1707/8 den 1. Januar Seine sweite mit Col. Hunter 1710 d.14 Juny Seine Englandische reise unterbrach Seine Seelen Himmlische reise an St. Johannis Tage 1719 Begherstu mehr zu wissen So unter Suche in Welanchtons vaterland Wer war de Kocherthal Wer Harschias Wer Winchonbach B. Berkenmayer S Heurtein L Brevort MDCCXLII.| (111.) The successors of Kocherthal were: Justus Falckner, until 1723; Daniel Falckner, the brother of Justus, who had served several German congregations along the Raritan, till 1725; Berkenmeyer; and from 1743 to 1788 Peter N. Sommer, who preached in thirteen other settlements and baptized 84 Indians. He died October 27, 1795. Sommer's aversion to the Halle pastors probably was the reason why he took no part in the organization of the New York Ministerium at Albany in 1786.

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