Early German Settlers... - R. W. Hughes
Subject: Early German Settlers...
From: R. W. Hughes
Date: May 17, 1998

The following information was extracted from the book entitled: "The
Germans In Colonial Times", by Lucy Forney Bittinger, published by
Russell & Russell of New York, in 1968, transferred to microfiche on 15
Mar 1989 by the LDS Church, microfiche # 6048681.  This is from the
section dealing with South Carolina, found on pages #121 thru #129

The Germans in South Carolina

The first German settlement of the Southern States was the unlucky colony
of Purysburg, in what was subsequently South Carolina.  A certain Jean
Pierre Purry, of Neufchatel in Switzerland, conceived the design of
planting a colony in the Carolinas.  It was with him a matter of business
and hoped-for-profit; no religious or humanitarian ideas entered into it.
 Purry had been a director in Law's "Compagnie des Indes", and seems to
have inherited to the full visionary and magnificent spirit of that
blower of bubbles.  After his superior's fall, Purry visited South
Carolina, and was enamoured of the climate and land, and published a
curious pamphlet setting forth the advantages of countries under the
influences of the sun at the precise angle of the thirty-third degree of
latitude.  This favored situation Carolina occupied, and he, therefore,
desired to lead a colony thither.
The proposition apparently fell flat; but in 1731 the indefatigable "Mr.
Peter Purry" sent out another pamphlet informing the public that he had
secured a grant of land "on the borders of the river Savanna proper to
build the town of Purrysburg upon".  He paints the prospects of the
colony in most alluring colors: "A man who shall have a little land in
Carolina and who is not willing to work above two or three hours a day,
may very easily live there.  If you travel into the country, you will see
stately Buildings, noble Castles, and an infinite number of all sorts of
Cattle...The people of the Palatine, those of New York, New England, and
other parts sell all that they have to come to Carolina."  The reader
wonders that any one resisted the attractions of this earthly paradise,
but the cold fact is that Purry was only able to collect one hundred and
seventy Switzers who sailed with him the next year for this "excellent
Arriving there, the governor gave them forty thousand acres of land about
thirty miles from the mouth of the Savannah River, and also provisions
for their maintenance until they should be able to support themselves.
But, the colony, in spite of a re-enforcement of two hundred souls, would
not prosper.  Sickness, the hardships of life in a new land, and
discontent were among them.  They had brought their own minister, one M.
Bignion, who had received Episcopal ordination at the hands of the Bishop
of London when the colonists tarried there on their way; but in a few
years he departed for the settlements on the Santee.  When, about the
same date, the period arrived to discontinue the allowance for the
support of the colonists, the poor Swiss were not able to take care of
themselves as they had expected.  True, we hear how in 1736 a deputation
From Purysburg; a patrician of Berne and other gentlemen, waited upon
Governor Oglethorpe of Georgia with polite speeches, and how when
Oglethorpe repaid the visit "he was lodged and handsomely entertained at
the house of Colonel Purry", but the majority of the colonists were in no
such circumstances as their leader.
Two years after this the founder died, and the prosperity of the colony
seems to have died with him.  It maintained a struggling and dwindling
existence until the Revolution.
The coast country of South Carolina was by this time ascertained to be -
save in exceptional places - malarious, and impossible for the continued
residence of white men.  The plantations were deserted for the "upper
country" in the dangerous summer, and the gay little city of "Charles
Town" in winter.  The tide of German emigration set towards the high
lands in the centre of the province; in a few years a score of colonies
had been settled there, and "by 1775 they had spread themselves over the
entire western portion of the colony".
Undeterred by the misfortunes of the Purysburg colony, perhaps encouraged
by the hard-won success of the pious Salzburgers at Ebenezer, many
persons were anxious to "undertake the transport of Palatines" to
Carolina.  Among the state papers are letter setting forth that the
writers "hear upon good authority that the agents for the Penn family
have quarrelled with the Palatines and have refused to let them have any
more going to that colony.  Next year a number of the better sort of the
inhabitants must be force to quit the Palatinate on account of their
religion.  If proper encouragement were given to a few families to go and
settle in South Carolina so that they might acquaint their countrymen
with the goodness of that province, South Carolina might very soon be
peopled with honest planters.  Then we have an enthusiastic account of
"some Palatines who were sent by their countrymen to South Carolina. 
They very much approve of the country and have made an advantageous
These personal reports seem to have been the chief cause of the
emigration of Germans to the South.  Few large bodies of emigrants seem
to have come, but in 1735 an emigration en masse took place to the
settlement afterwards named Orangeburg, "because the first colonists were
subjects of the Prince of Orange".  Subsequently this name was given to
the whole "District", which is the first of the counties on the range
back from the ocean to be colonized.  Two years after the first comers, a
third re-enforcement arrived, bringing with them, in the German fashion,
their pastor, the Rev. John Ulrich Giessendanner.  Shortly after his
arrival he was married to the person who had been his housekeeper for
more than a quarter of a century; both were well stricken in years, and
shortly afterwards this first German pastor of South Carolina died.
He was succeeded by his nephew, who bore the same name, but probably to
avoid confusion soon dropped his middle name and was known as the Rev.
John Giessendanner; he, like his uncle, was a Swiss, and labored for many
years among the pioneer Germans with general acceptation as was shown in
the disturbance which was shortly after brought into the little
settlement by a certain itinerant minister who rejoiced in the name of
the Rev. Bartholomew Zauberbuhler.  This worthy was not only a minister
but a colonizer, a land speculator, and not impossibly one of those hated
agents in collecting "Palatines" for the New World whom the Germans
branded with the name of Neulander.  It seems that the settlers of
Orangeburg had degenerated somewhat in the roughness of pioneer life, and
when their young and energetic pastor attempted to bring about a
reformation, there was some disaffection among them. Zauberbuhler heard
of this; he was at the time occupied - and one would think sufficiently
so - in settling the colony of New Windsor on the Savannah River opposite
Augusta.  But he found time to intrude into the Orangeburg parish, and in
1742 appeared before the provincial council with a petition reciting that
"there were a great many Germans at Orangeburg, Santee, and thereabouts
who are very desirous of hearing the Word of God preached to them and
their children", and also very desirous that Zauberbuhler should be the
preacher.  He asked the council to grant him five hundred pounds money to
go to London to be ordained to the position of minister in the
established church at Orangeburg on his return; in recompense he proposed
"to bring over a number of foreing Protestants to settle in this
province".  But, before the Rev. Bartholomew could take his departure for
England on this very mixed ecclesiastical and colonizing mission, the
Orangeburg settlers sent a most indignant petition to the council "to
permit the said Mr. John Giessendanner still to officiate for them in
divine service free from any further disturbance or molestation".  Upon
this, Zauberbuhler subsided and we hear nothing more of him.
But, a few years after Giessendanner took the step threatened by his
rival, and went to London for Episcopal ordination.  The Anglican was the
established church in the colony; the Society for the Propagation of the
Gospel, though originally a non-denominational missionary society, now
threw its influence on the same side in appointing its clergyman for work
in the province, and many of the early Lutheran congregations were thus
transferred to the Episcopal fold.
Meantime, settlement advanced.  Governor Glen wrote to the home
government in 1745 of "Orangeburg, Amelia, Sax Gotha, and Fredericksburg,
towns chiefly settled with German Protestants".  Amelia Township is
northeast of Orangeburg; "Sax Gotha" is the governor's mistake for
Saxe-Gotha, the original name of the district or county subsequently
called Lexington; it formed the northwest corner or Orangeburg district. 
It was settled in 1737, two years after the elder colony; in 1741 Bolzius
of Ebenezer wrote, "We had heard nothing before of Saxe-Gotha in America,
but we have just heard the intelligence that such a town [township] is
laid out in South Carolina, one hundred English miles from Charlestown on
the road that passes through Orangeburg, and settled with German people. 
They have a Reformed minister among them with whose character we are not
yet acquainted".  This clergyman was the Rev. Christian Theus, a
painstaking and godly man, who labored for fifty years in this pioneer
community, and now rests under a tombstone whose half-effaced inscription
say, "This faithful divine labored through a long life as a faithful
servant in his Master's vineyard, and the reward which he received from
many for his labor was ingratitude".
Very probably this melancholy tribute alludes to the opposition and
personal danger in which Pastor Theus then stood from what is known as
the Weber heresy.  This wild sect, reminding us of some of the fanatical
developments of Russian sectarianism at the present time, was founded by
a certain Peter Weber, who announced to his believing followers that he
was God; another of the sect claimed to be the second person of the
Trinity, and the principal doctrine of the sect seems to have been the
scourging of members at the hands of these frantic fanatics, that they
might "be healed by stripes".  Finally, the leader selected one of his
people as the incarnation of Satan, who was commanded to be destroyed,
which was carried out so literally that the man was killed; for this
murder Weber was hanged, and the sect perished with its poor deluded
This half-insane tragedy would give a very false impression of the early
German settlers of South Carolina in general, if we took it as
representative of the pioneers, who, patient, industrious, brave, and
God-fearing, were all these years filling up the central and western part
of the State.
The fertile fields of the well-named counties of Richland and Fairfield
were first tilled by them, overflows probably from the Saxe-Gotha
settlements, as was the case in the Newberry district.  We have seen that
speculative minister of the Word, Zauberbuhler, founding the settlement
of New Windsor; this later received large accessions through the efforts
of an assister of emigration, Hans Riemensperger, who also was
instrumental in bringing many persons, chiefly orphans, as redemptioners
into the Saxe-Gotha settlements.  The story of the Carolinian
redemptioners has never been told, though we know from the scattered
notices in the Urlsperger reports that this useful but misinterpreted
kind of emigration made up a large part of the whole in the Southern as
in the Northern States.
About the middle of the eighteenth century there came to South Carolina
one of the latest colonies from the Fatherland, a number of Germans, who
"after some delay settled so near the Northern border of the province
that part of their settlements are in North Carolina and part in the
counties of Chesterfield and Lancaster in South Carolina".  They brought
with them, as was common, a minister, or rather a school-master, who
served them in divine things, subsequently studied theology and was
ordained, and finally led the greater portion of his people to "the Forks
of Saluda and Broad" [Newberry County], where they seem to have
re-enforced the previously mentioned settlement, and from this apparently
it was sometimes called "Dutch Forks".
The last Germans to settle in a body in the province of South Carolina
was the much-tried colony of "Hard Labor Creek", a name probably bestowed
by the pioneers out of the fulness of their hearts.  An officer of the
victorious army of Frederick the Great, on Stumpel, found himself after
the conclusion of peace discharged and poor, like the hero of Lessing's
immortal play "Minna von Barnhelm".  But Stumpel was very unlike the
heroic and scrupulous Major von Tellheim.  He set about retrieving his
fallen fortunes by speculating in German colonists.  He procured five or
six hundred of them, a tract of land from the British government, and
transported his "poor Palatines" to London with the intention - it is to
be hoped - of taking them to America.  For some reason he was unable to
do this, whereupon the valiant officer decamped, leaving his helpless
colonists penniless and starving in a strange land.  Their pitiful case
was brought to the notice of benevolent Englishmen.  Food, money, medical
attendance, and transportation were given them, and in the spring of 1764
two ship-loads of them arrived at Charleston and were presently sent up
the country, "conducted by a detachment of the Rangers", through the
forests and swamps to the very verge of white settlement on a tract very
inappropriately named "Londonderry".  The other name we have cited, as
well as that of Cuffeytown, was also given to the place which was in the
present county of Abbeville.  Here the deserted and beggared Germans, who
had so wonderfully found friends in their distress, settled, increased,
and multiplied, and at one time had a church of their own - "St. George
on Hard Labor Creek" - where they heard the gospel in their own language;
but in the storms of the Revolution this passed from existence.

I sincerely hope that this helps some folks out there searching for info
on the early German colonists to South Carolina.
[email protected]

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