Title to The Soil


Columbia County,

New York

By Capt. Franklin Ellis267


Germantown  was part of the manor granted to Robert Livingston in 1684, 1685, and 1686.  In 1710, Queen Anne purchased back from Robert Livingston and Alida, his wife, six thousand acres for the purpose of securing a place of settlement for certain German Palatines, who had fled to England to avoid persecution, and had also served in the British army.  This six-thousand-acre tract became the town of Germantown.  A full account of its first settlement by the Palatines will be found in the general history of the county.  The object of these people settling here was the manufacture of naval stores for the government, and this enterprise having proved unsuccessful, and the greater part having moved away, the remainder desired to have a definite title to the homes they were making for themselves and their families.  About sixty-three families were willing to remain.  Queen Anne thereupon granted "to Jacob Sharpe, Johannes Heiner, Jahannes Kolman, Christopher Hagadorn, their heirs and assigns, six thousand acres, butted and bounded as in the petition, forty acres of land for a glebe for the use of a Palatine minister, who is likewise to teach school, and the remainder in trust for themselves and the of Palatine head of families, to hold to each his and her assigns so much of said land as is improved and in their actual possession, and to hold all the unimproved lands in common for them and their assigns, to be divided amongst every of the said inhabitants share and share alike."  The six thousand acres thus passed into the hands of the sixty-three families, subject at the outset to certain quit-rents and conditions usually attached to royal grants.  The title, however, practically became absolute after a few years.

     The tract of forty acres for church purposes was deeded by John Heiner, as surviving trustee, Aug. 5, 1758, to the elders and deacons of the Lutheran church.  But the two religious societies were so nearly equal in date of organization, and both so thoroughly German in their origin, that both laid claim to the land, and it was equitably settled by mutual agreement under date of Oct. 30, 1759, each society receiving twenty acres.  Both these papers are among the documents of the present Lutheran church.

     A map of the six thousand acres was drawn by Cadwallader Colden, surveyor-general of the province, in 1741, to which reference is made in all subsequent deeds of the territory.  The original map is in possession of Erastus Coons, supervisor of the town, but nearly illegible, and difficult to trace.  He has a copy, also very old, but in good condition.

     When the Palatines made their settlement the country was wholly wild, and the first settlements were more in the nature of temporary encampments than of fixed habitations.  The name "East Camp," by which Germantown was then known, undoubtedly grew into use from this cause, and West Camp, on the other side of the river.

     The location of these encampments would be an interesting item.  The present inhabitants have little or no certain information concerning them.  It is the opinion of Mr. Thomas Fingar, a descendant of one of these pioneers, that one of the villages was at Snyder's Corners, or near North Germantown; another near East Camp landing, not far from the Lasher school-house.  The writer ventures to suggest that another one was very likely in the vicinity of the old burial-grounds, and another at the present station, or the Mountain View House.  This would divide them along the river-front at about equal distances, and at all of those points it is quite certain landings were made and business done seventy-five to one hundred years ago.  If so, very probably it was the case seventy-five years earlier than that.

     So completely have these names and villages disappeared form local tradition, that to study their history seems like looking for a lost age and a lost people,--a romance of the past, entirely separated from the real life of the present.  Yet the family names remain upon almost every page of the town records.  The baptisms of the children appear in the venerable, time-stained volumes of the churches, and it is certain that a large portion of the present people are actual descendants of the Palatines.

     In accounting for so large a population in 1711 and so few in later years, it must be remembered that the greater part of the Palatines migrated to Schoharie upon the failure of the "tar work," and of the remainder many afterwards removed east and north into other towns of this county, and some went into Dutchess and to other places.

     Even many of th sixty-three families who are said to have remained and received title in 1725 must have afterwards scattered, and their children from time to time gone to found other homes and other towns in this State and farther west.  The census of later years was not equal for a long time to that of 1711, and does not exceed it very largely at the present time.  In 1845, 991; in 1850, 1023; in 1855, 1131; in 1860, 1353; in 1865, 1278; in 1870, 1393; in 1875, 1445.

     The following are the heads of families reported as willing to remain in Germantown, Aug. 26, 1724, and for whom grants of the land improved by them were sought by petition to the provincial council.  It shows the actual settlers of Germantown after a portion of the Palatines had become discouraged and moved away:  Jacob Scherb, Christoffel Hagendorn, Jacob Schumacker, Christian Haver, Pfilbs Bernert, Peter Stobelbein, Johannes Blas, Peter Pfilibs, Necklas Laux, Johannes Kollman, Johannes Schuck, Peter Ham, William Hagendorn, Olrig Winiger, Johan Peter Lauer, David Kissler, Paulus Dirk, Bernhard Schmed, Killian Minckler, Hanry Hoffman, Herman Betzer, Hanna Man Sallbach, Peter Lamp Man, Jacob Berjer, Peter Hagendorn, Christ. Diedrig, Pfilibs Finikel, Nicklas Hes, Johannes Hoemier, Christian Muhlers Wittib, Pfilibs Scheffer, Andres Domes, Christian Dethrig, Olrig Jacobi, Samuel Muchler, Henrig Bardel, Henrig Hauerdorn, Bernent Zicherls, Friedrig Raug, Willm Hanbuch, Johannes Leuck, Bastian Lesche, Henrig Winder, Johannes Dat, Samuel Kun, Henrig Stals Wittib, Jones Schenckels, Johannes Henrig Conrad, Joery Muhler, Adam Hoff, David Schantzen Wittib, Joreg Muchler, Anna Cathri Ockelbe, Joery Schoertz, Johannes Schoffer, Olrig Bernat, Andries Bartel, Johannes Klein, Hans Peter Philip, and Johannes Heener.

    The following are reported as unwilling to remain:  Adolf Dirk, Conrad Wist, Michael Brack, Jacob Zerbin, Hans Wernershoffer, Nicklass Minsel, Johannes Schneiders Wittib, Nicklass Schmidt, Henrigh Schneider, Peter Heusser.

     In this ancient spelling many of the present inhabitants will, no doubt, discover their ancestors.

      The documents connected with the above matter consist of first the petition of Jacob Sharpe and Christopher Hagadorn, Jan. 13, 1724; second, a report by Cadwallader Colden, surveyor-general, in favor of the petition, June 13, 1724; third, the order of the council, directing the matter to be inquired into, June 13, 1724; fourth, a positive reports advising the granting of this patent, Aug. 26, 1724; and, fifth, the patent granted in trust for sixty-three families to Jacob Sharpe, Johannes Heiner, Johannes Kolman, and Christopher Hagadorn.

     The first four are in the third volume of the "Documentary History of New York."

     The following is a list of the Palatines volunteers for the expedition against Canada, 1711, as given in "Documentary History of New York," third volume, pages 571 and 572:


1 Johan. Cond. Wizer, captain   21 Nichlaus Weber
2 Christian Haber   22 William George, lieutenant
3 Andreas Bergman   23 Fred. Schaffer
4 Johannis Feeg   24 Antho Ichard
5 Matthew Kuntz   25 Jno. Pet. Sein
6 Mattheus Reinbolt   26 Jno. Jac. Munsinger
7 John Peter Dopff   27 Johan Leyer
8 John Jacob Reisch   28 Jacob Kuhn
9 Carl Nehr   29 Henry Mathous
10 Henrich Jung   30 Nicklaus Eckard
11 Hen. Hoffman   31 Martin Dilleback
12 Warner Deinhert   32 Niclaus Feller
13 George Muller   33 Jacob Schnell
14 Fred. Hellenger   34 Jacob Webber
15 Hen. Weiderwachs   35 William Nelles
16 George Matthias   36 Johannis Kisler
17 Cristo Hagadorn   37 George Breigel
18 Frantz Finck   38 John Schaffer
19 Andreas Schurtz   39 George Dachstader
20 Peter Hagadorn   40 Johannes Zaysdorf

     It is stated with this paper that there were three hundred and fifty-six men, women, and children in the village.    


1 John Christopher Tucks   11 Melch Foltz
2 John Wm. Dales   12 John Sagendorf
3 John Wm. Schaff   13 Philip Laux
4 Christian Bauch   14 Abraham Langen
5 Peter Hayd   15 John Jacob Schultz
6 Henr. Hammer   16 John Wm. Hambuch
7 Mich. Ittich   17 Niclaus Laux
8 Johan. Kyser   18 Niclaus Gottel
9 Jacob Cup   19 Paulus Reitchkoff
10 Paulus Dientzer      

     There were two hundred and forty-three men, women, and children in the village.  


1 Hartman Winedecker, capt.   27 John George Reiffenberg
2 Jno. William Dill   28 John William Linck
3 Peter Spies   29 John Mart. Netzbach
4 Herman Bitzer   30 Johannes Weis
5 Johannes Schue   31 John Adin Wolbourn
6 John William Schneider   32 John Hen. Arendorf
7 Jacob Bast   33 Daniel Busch
8 Johannes Blass   34 John Henry Conradt
9 Johan. Wm. Kammer   35 Hen. Bellinger
10 Johannes Bonroth   36 Johan Schneider
11 Johannes Bernhard   37 Marcus Bellinger
12 Sebastian Fischer   38 Phill. Schaffer
13 Niclaus Hayd   39 Johan. Kradt
14 Henrick Klein   40 Christ. Sittenich
15 Hen. Balt. Stuper   41 John Henry Schmidt
16 Casper Rauch   42 John Phill. Zerbe
17 Hans Henry Zeller   43 John Phill. Theis
18 Johannes Zeller   44 Martin Zerbe
19 Samuel Kuhn   45 Niclaus Ruhl
20 Gerhard Schaffer   46 Adam Mic. Schmidt
21 Ulrich Bruckhart   47 Cond. Maisinger
22 Jacob Ess   48 Thomas Ruffener
23 Ferdo Mentergen   49 Jacob Dings
24 Conrad Kuhn   50 Henrick Fehling
25 Valtin Kuhn   51 Joh. Jost Petry
26 Henrich Winter   52 Lud. W. Schmidt

     The men, women, and children of this village are stated at two hundred and fifty.


1 John Peter Kneskern, capt.   14 John George Schmidt
2 David Huppert   15 Conrad Goldman
3 Conrad Schawerman   16 George Bender
4 Henrick Sex   17 Jno. Hen. Uhl
5 Fredrick Bell   18 Tho. Schunmacker
6 Jacob Kobell   19 Peter Schmidt
7 Jacob Warno   20 Johan. Schwall
8 Johannes Schulteis   21 George Lud. Koch
9 Reinard Schaffer   22 Veil Musig
10 Johannes Roschman   23 Gro. Kerchmer
11 Carl Uhl   24 Christ. Hills
12 Baltz Anspach   25 Rudol. Stahl
13 Conrad Keller      

     There were three hundred and thirty-six men, women, and children in the village.

     There is a report for 1718 of the Germans on the east side of the Hudson.*

                    Hunterstown. . . . . . . . . . 25 families      109 person

                    Annsburg . . . . . . . . . . . .17      "              71     "

                    Haysburg . . . . . . . . . . . .16      "            ____

                                                                                255     "


     This does not account for Queensbury, but that may have entirely disappeared.

     This census fully shows the removal of most of the palatines to other places.

     From an old map of the south part of the county found in the "Documentary History of New York," under date of 1798, we find the names of the following property-holders in what is now Germantown.  In that part of Clermont afterwards annexed to Germantown, near the river, Mr. Salspaugh and J. Sheffer; south of the small creek, S. Winans and D. Winans; on the central road, N. Rouse, M. Mead; near Roeloff Jansen's Kill, N. Finckle, J. Ten Broeck, also Mr. Moore; between the main road running south and the river, W. Snyder, J. Post, Esq., Delamater Sharp, Kortz, Nash, Rockefeller, and Lasher; in the vicinity of the ferry, H. Jacobie, a grist-mill, D. Barringer, M. Herder, and Philip P. Clum; on the east side of the main north and south road, S. Snyder, J. Salspaugh, the Lutheran church, P. Salspaugh, L. Davis, Hermansen Cook, Brodwell P. Rockefeller, Fred. Rockefeller, Wm. Rockefeller, J. Herder, C. Smith, B. Cipperly; on the cross-road, near the old north line of the town, Wm. Schapmoos, J. Miller, widow Kline, J. Kline; going south on the east road, Phelps, Staats, and Heyse; on the cross-road from old site of the Reformed church, Rev. Mr. Shaver, Wm. Hauver, S. Rockefeller, also Dick and Kortz; on the next cross-road passing through the present village of Germantown, J. Rockefeller; at the village, J. Force, and a school-house; south of the present village, P. Lasher, P. Blass, Wm. Freth; turning east towards the southeast corner of the town, Conrad Lasher, Conrad Fingar, Philip Donspagh, and Smith Moore.  This gives us an excellent statement of the families in Germantown eighty years ago.

*Documentary History, vol. i, page 692.

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