Palatine Heritage -- West Camp, New York

Location: Ulster County, New York

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Palatine Monument, West Camp, New York.

The Palatine Monument

The Palatine Monument
St. Paul's Lutheran Church
West Camp
New York

The Monument to the Palatines containing the names of the families who arrived at Hudson's River in the fall of 1710 was erected eight years ago on the grounds of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in West Camp. The Monument was dedicated by the Saugerties Historical Society on June 13, 1998, two hundred and eighty-eight years after the arrival of the first Palatine ship in New York harbor.

As Ulster County and Town of Saugerties Historian, I am pleased to provide the New York Chapter of Palatines to America with this report on the Monument.

First I am happy to report that the Monument is still there, it's in great condition, and it looks particularly beautiful in the morning sunlight. Visitors are seen there on a regular basis. Its location on the church grounds add to the formal nature of the setting.

Origin and History

The Monument originated in a suggestion given to me by LeGrand Weller of Abilene, Texas, that a memorial of some type be considered to commemorate the arrival of the Palatines. Mr. Weller, a direct descendant of 1710er Hieronymous Weller, became aware of the importance of the site after learning of his own ancestry. In 1994 and 1996, he suggested that there was a need for a “site marker” to commemorate the industry, valor, suffering and enduring faith of these families of pioneers. The following year, the suggestion came to the attention of the Program Committee of the Saugerties Historical Society and actual work began on the project in January 1998. The consent and aid of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church Council and congregation was obtained, and Council President Henry Rhodes assisted in the project.

The project was originally estimated at $600 and soon turned into a $7,500 mega-event involving three national governments and the interest of Palatine descendants all over the world.

The Monument was originally conceived as a triptych with an inscription and the names of the West Camp Palatines. It evolved into a single bronze plaque that included, at the suggestion of Wallace van Houten, former Schoharie County Historian, those who settled in the East Camp villages as well. This suggestion, although it expanded the research load, raised the importance of the Monument to a regional stature.

The question of the stone was resolved with the generous donation of Peckham Materials Corp., whose quarry resources offered a gigantic jigsaw puzzle of choices. One flat tire later, consultant Krista Keyser, of K. L. Memorials in Kingston, New York, made the final choice on the stone. It was transported by the Town of Saugerties Highway Department, power-washed, and placed face-side up at the site for the mounting of the plaque. The plaque was cast in West Virginia and mounted by Taylor Monuments of Hannacroix. The Monument was hoisted and moved into place by contractor Charles Merritt. It weighs seven-and-a-half tons.

Those who were at the dedication in 1998 will remember how the rain howled that day, and yet how fine a day it was for the Palatines of America. The church ceremony was particularly moving. The dedication included a trumpet fanfare by Charles Risley, a flag presentation by the American Legion Color Guard, a String Ensemble interlude, and a moving unveiling of the Monument just as the sun appeared over St. Paul's.

Joining more than seventy-five support staff members were several organizations, including Malden-West Camp Fire Company, Saugerties Central Schools, the United States Post Offices at Saugerties and West Camp, the Village of Saugerties, Girl Scout Troop 152, Blue Katz Men's Club, the Saugerties Area Council of Churches, and several Town of Saugerties agencies, including the Town Board, Police, Highways, and Recreation Departments. Almost two dozen businesses also contributed resources and services to the Monument's dedication.

The dedication's keynote address was given by Governor George Pataki's representative, Mary Ann Fish, a Palatine descendant and widow of the esteemed Congressman, Hamilton Fish. A Palatine Descendants Tribute was given by Henry Z Jones Jr. and a Livingston Family Tribute by J. Winthrop Aldrich, then Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Also participating was the British government's Deputy Consul-General, Patrick Gerald McCrudden, Rev. William Sacher, the Katsbaan Reformed Church pastor, and Rev. David Jay Webber, a Palatine descendant originally from Germantown, New York.

The Consul-General of the Federated Republic of Germany, Dr. Cornel Metternich, was unable to attend because the rain that afternoon also created a flash flood in Manhattan with two-hour traffic jams. Instead, he visited the Monument and the Church a month later and was given a reception by the Saugerties Historical Society at the Kiersted House.

Inscription and Criteria for Names

It was always the intention to model the stone's inscription after the inscription on the Joshua Kocherthal stone erected by his daughters in 1742. When Dr. Metternich visited the Monument, he viewed the Kocherthal stone embedded in the wall inside St. Paul's Church. His commentary was most informative. He particularly enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor in the regrets expressed by the daughters that “our Joshua” could not make that last visit to England he planned because he had been called by his Maker on St. John's Day.

The preface on the Memorial was drafted by Vernon Benjamin and went through revisions, some based on modifications recommended by Palatine descendants. For example, Mrs. John H. Wachter criticized the original wording that ended the Inscription with “the souls” of the 1710er “on the steps to this church,” and so that was changed to “the pages of history their deeds.” On the other hand, her objection to the words “reduction of the pine forest” on environmental grounds was not adopted because this was an accurate depiction of what was attempted.

The List of Names was compiled by Vernon Benjamin and Karlyn Knaust Elia and was based on a rigorous set of rules that required the appearance of the name on Governor Hunter's Lists for October 4, 1710, as well as confirmation in either the West Camp census of 1710, the Canadian Expedition Volunteers List of 1711, or the Haysbury village list of male heads of families found in the Documentary History of the State of New York.

The most treasured of the prime documents about the Palatines is the Rev. Joshua Kocherthal's “Records of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church at West Camp: Volume I (1708-1843).” This document – as translated by Frederick S. Weiser in 1976 – was a prime corroborating source, but was not accepted as a direct source because Kocherthal's ministry extended beyond the Camps even though the entry was made in the West Camp book.

The most important of the secondary sources and the best and most complete record of the names of Palatines was Henry Z Jones Jr.'s The Palatine Families of New York: A Study of the German Immigrants Who Arrived in Colonial New York in 1710 and the companion volume, More Palatine Families: Some Immigrants in the Middle Colonies 1717-1776 and their European Origins Plus New Discoveries on German Families who Arrived in Colonial New York in 1710. Although these are secondary sources, as you know the original research that they represent makes Jones the world standard on Palatine genealogy. His detailed histories of these families were substantiated again and again as the research expanded to include more than twenty additional prime and secondary sources, including the New York Colonial Documents and the Documentary History of New York.

In addition to his formidable research, Mr. Jones participated in a critical review of the names and offered substantial additional assistance in promoting and advancing the Palatine Monument.

The List of Names

The inquiries about the names were often informed, interesting, and always sincere. Many contained confirmations by descendants as well as additional spellings or other details about the 1710ers. Some questioned the name's location on either the East Camp or West Camp list. Some found one or another, but not all their descendants listed. For some of the inquires the names were already on the plaque but in a spelling that appeared obscure to the modern eye; “Edick,” for instance, is “Ittich” on the stone.

In two instances, alternative spellings were adopted on the basis of family inquiries and additional research. The family name “Klumm” was selected following a painstaking inquiry into the Clum family history in the 18th century. “Fiero” is spelled “Fuehrer” in Hunter's List, but the local family provided information that led to additional research which led to the correct spelling for 1710. The Fieros may have been transposed Italians who came to the Palatinate some time earlier, possibly as artisans working on a cathedral at Hiedleberg.

The problem with orthography was the most interesting obstacle. The idea of a single fixed spelling for a name is a twentieth-century notion that does not survive the test of an eighteenth-century document. Even among functionally literate families, different spellings were used at different times. The problem was compounded by the fact that Hunter's List was compiled by an Englishman, who transcribed what he thought he heard from a Palatine head of family who, as the Fiero name demonstrated, might not have been German after all!
In each of the instances involving detailed inquiries about specific family names and spellings, Jones's references proved invaluable.

Future Plans

To date, no additional names are recommended (in the form of an additional plaque), but that does not mean that continuing research will fail to yield additional names. A list of nearly three hundred names for 1,800 or more individuals probably is not complete even though one of the population analyses of the time demonstrated average families of six or more.

The Palatine Monument is a treasure and its creation could not have been accomplished without the assistance of the many, many descendants and the generosity of the New York Chapter of Palatines to America.