Fwd: History of the Palatine Region - Derrell
Subject: Fwd: History of the Palatine Region
From: Derrell
Date: April 27, 2000

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Sent: Thursday, April 27, 2000 5:31 PM
Subject: History of the Palatine Region

History of the Palatine Region
Contwig, Germany--1600-1800s
By Janet M. Roseen
Reprinted from Biffle Researchers, Volume 1, Number 1, March 1993

The history of the Biffle family does not begin when Paul Biffle and his
family landed in Philadelphia. The Büffel family can be traced to the town
Contwig, in what is now Germany, as early as the 1640s. What was life like
the Palatinate region of Europe in the seventeenth century? What would make
family embark on a hazardous journey to a new world?

The story of the Palatinate region and the many conflicts it endured begins
with Luther's Reformation in 1521. Until that time, the Palatinate, a
prosperous area of flat valleys and gently rolling limestone hills, was
by Roman Catholics. Luther's Reformation added the new dimension of
conflict to the area. In 1556, Elector Otto Henry made Lutheranism the state
religion. According to the Treaty of Augsburg (1555), the Catholic and
Lutheran Churches were recognized as legal religions. However, Calvinism
(a.k.a. Reformed Church), the Protestant faith propagated at Geneva by the
French reformer John Calvin, was not. The treaty also made the religion of
the Elector (the ruler) the religion of the people. In 1559, Frederick III
the House of Semmern (Zimmern) came to power. He was a Calvinist, which
the conflict among the Protestants. The "religious seesaw" (Cobb, p. 30), in
which all the power of royal favor and influence went between the Calvinists
and Lutherans with each new Elector, continued for the remainder of the
sixteenth century.

There was much infighting among the various Protestant sects. This allowed
the Roman Catholic princes in the area to unite and mount a counter
reformation. The Protestants united against their common enemy, and warfare
broke out in 1618 between the newly formed Protestant Union of German
Princes, headed by Elector Frederick IV, and the Catholic League. This was
the beginning of the Thirty-Years War, which ended in 1648 with the Treaty
Westphalia. The treaty restored the old religious order, and recognized
Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists. (Baptists and Mennonites were still
outlawed and persecuted.) However, the war left the area so devastated that
France was able to step in and take territory it wanted and dominate
politically the rest of the area for years to come.

Charles, the last Elector of the House of Zimmern, died in 1685, leaving no
male heir. He was succeeded by Philip William, a Roman Catholic of the House
of Nueberg. King Louis the XIV of France claimed the land in the name of his
sister-in-law, Elizabeth Charlotte, duchesse d'Orléans. He invaded the
Palatinate in 1688, initiating another general European war, the War of the
League of Augsburg. Louis XIV sent an army of 50,000 into the Palatinate.
claim was eventually disregarded, but not before much bloodshed. "Peasants
were driven into their fields to freeze or starve; rich burghers were
compelled with their own hands to tear down their city walls; in one day,
Elector, from the walls of Manheim, saw twenty-three towns and villages
to flames." (Green, p. 12)

Philip William died in 1690 and was succeeded by John William, another
Catholic. John William again attempted to coerce the populace back to the
Catholic Church, after over 130 years of Protestantism. "He simulated Louis
XIV in tyranny towards the Protestants." (Cobb, p. 45)

To the devastation of war, the oppression and heavy taxation of the "petty
princes imitating the Sun Monarch [Louis XIV], and the religious bickerings"
(Knittle, p. 11) was added the winter of 1708-09. Europe suffered through
of its most severe winters. The rivers froze, livestock perished, fruit
and vines died, and spring came too late for planting. Starvation and hard
times followed. Between April and October 1709, 15,000 Palatines made the
trip down the Rhine to Rotterdam and then on to England.

By the time Paul Biffle [Paulus Büffel] emigrated in 1738, the Palatine
emigration to England and America had been in full force for almost thirty
years. Rather than ask why he and his family left, we might ask why the rest
of the family stayed. However, one can speculate as to why Paul and his
family left at this time (according to the records he left for America
September 11, 1738 aboard the Robert and Alice). His mother died in June of
1738 and his father was in his mid-70s (Paul was 39 years old). As the
son, Paul probably wasn't going to get an inheritance, if there was one. Or,
his family may have given him money to buy passage for him and his family,
lieu of an inheritance.


Cobb, Sanford Hoadley. The Story of the Palatines. New York: G.P. Putnam's
Sons, 1897.
Green, Maria Louise. The Palatines as Founders and Patriots: An Address at a
Meeting of the Connecticut Society of the Order of the Founders and Patriots
of America, September 7, A.D. 1907. New Haven: The Tuttle, Morehouse &
Co., 1904.
Jones, George Fenwick. The Georgia Dutch: From the Rhine and Danube to the
Savannah, 1733-1783. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992.
Knittle, Walter Allen. Early Eighteenth-Century Palatine Emigration.
Philadelphia: Dorrace & Co., 1937.
Walter, Wittmer, comp. Einwohner de Gemeinde: Contwig und Stambach, mit den
dazugenhörigen Höfen vor 1800, 1982

Palatine Emigrants
The winter of 1708-1709 was very long and cold in the Rhineland. It was a
very bleak period. People huddled around their fires as they considered
quitting their homes and farms forever. By early April, the land was still
frozen and most of the Palatines' vines had been killed by the bitter
weather. Since 1702 their country had been enduring war and there was little
hope for the future. The Thirty Years War lay heavy on their minds, a period
in which one out of every three Germans had perished.

The Palatines were heavily taxed and endured religious persecution. As the
people considered their future, the older ones remembered that, in 1677,
William Penn had visited the area, encouraging the people to go to
Pennsylvania in America, a place where a man and his family could be free of
the problems they were now encountering.

To go to America meant a long, dreadful ocean voyage and a future in an
unknown land, away from their past and family. Everyone knew that the German
Elector would stop any migration as soon as it was noticed. Only a mass
exodus from the Palatinate could be successful. Many wondered how they could
ever finance such a journey even if they wanted to attempt it. Small boats,
known as scows, would have to be acquired for the long ride down the Rhine
River and then there was the price for the ocean voyage. While some of the
people had relatives that could assist them financially, many were very
Soon enough, their minds were made up for them as France's King Louis XIV
invaded their land, ravaging especially the towns in the Lower Palatinate.

In masses, the Palatines boarded their small boats and headed down the Rhine
for Rotterdam. It was April 1709 and the first parties were afloat on the
Rhine, many with only their most basic goods and their faith in God as their
only possessions. The river voyage took an average of 4-6 weeks through
extremely cold, bitter weather. By June, 1709, the people streamed into
Rotterdam at a rate of one thousand per week. The Elector, as expected,
issued an edict forbidding the migration, but almost everyone ignored it. By
October, 1709, more than 10,000 Palatines had completed the Rhine River

The Duke of Marlborough was assigned by Queen Anne to transport the
immigrants to England. British troop ships were also used. The Queen assumed
these Protestants would help fuel the anti-Roman feelings developing in
England. The ships from Rotterdam landed, in part, at Deptford and the
refugees were sent to one of three camps at Deptford, Camberwell, and
Blackheath outside the city wall of London. Many Londoner's welcomed the
Palatines, but the poor were not, as they felt their English food was being
taken from them to feed the Germans. British newspapers published mixed
accounts of the Palatines, some praising them while others cursed them.

Over 3,000 of these Palatines were sent to Ireland, again to reinforce the
Protestant faith in that land. The trip from england to Ireland was short,
taking only about 24 hours. Included among these immigrants were a line of
possible ancestors, Sebastian ROCKEL (later called RUCKEL, RUCKLE, and
RUTTLE)and his wife and children. They settled on Lord Southwell's estate
near Ballingrane in County Limerick, Ireland. Several branches remained in
Ireland, becoming known as the RUTTLE's. Other branches came to New York in
the mid-1700's.

Meanwhile, streams of Palatines went to America, with most going to
Pennsylvania. The ocean voyage was harsh, with over-crowded, under-supplied,
and unsanitary ships. What provisons were supplied were generally the least
expensive available to the ship's master. Water frequently ran out, as did
food. Dreadful mortality occurred on many voyages. In addition to those
the Palatines faced robbery, deception, and worse from those transporting

Estimates on the number of Germans in Pennsylvania during this period varies
From author to author, but a common estimate is 10,000-15,000 by 1727 and
70,000-80,000 by 1750. A good source for reviewing German arrivals to
Pennsylvania is Rupp's "Thirty Thousand Immigrants in Pennsylvania" which
contains numerous ship passenger lists and has an excellent surname index.
Another good resource is Walter Knittle's "Early Eighteenth-Century Palatine

Immigrants not only came from Germany, but also Bohemia and Switzerland.
were either Lutheran, Reformed, or Mennonite in religious belief.

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