History

The Memorial Foundation of the Germanna Colonies in Virginia, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization founded in 1956.

Its purpose is to preserve and make known the history of the Virginia Germanna Colonies, their operations under the patronage of Alexander Spotswood, his residence and activities at Germanna and in the surrounding area.

The name Germanna, selected by Governor Alexander Spotswood, reflected both the German immigrants who sailed across the Atlantic to Virginia and the British Queen, Anne, who was in power at the time of the first settlement at Germanna. Though she was to die only months after the Germans arrived, her name continues to be a part of the area.

The Germanna Colonies consist primarily of the First Colony of 42 persons from the Siegerland area in Germany brought to Virginia to work for Spotswood in 1714, and the Second Colony of 20 families from the Palatinate and Baden-Wuerttemberg area of Germany brought in 1717, but also include other German families who joined the first two colonies at later dates.

Although many Germanna families later migrated southward and westward from Piedmont Virginia, genealogical evidence shows that many of the families intermarried for generations, producing a rich genealogical heritage.

The Germanna Foundation owns land on the original Germanna peninsula, on the Germanna Highway, State Route 3, near the site of the original Fort Germanna, once the westernmost outpost of colonial Virginia.

The Germanna Foundation operates a Visitor Center on that land, 15 miles east of Culpeper and 20 miles west of Fredericksburg, Virginia.

The Foundation also owns a nearby 18th century mansion, Salubria, once the home of Governor Spotswood’s widow.

The history of Germanna is inextricably intertwined with the history of America.

Colonial Virginia sprouted the spirit of freedom with the Germanna immigrants playing an important role.

In the classic history text, The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution by Edmund S. Morgan and Helen M. Morgan, the book begins with an account of Governor Alexander Spotswood and the Germanna area.

The excerpt below is but one sample of the role of Germanna in our history as a people:

Prologue

THE PLACE WAS something out of a fairy tale, a ghost town in the wilderness, empty houses lining the street on one side, savage plants creeping toward them to recover their domain, and on the other side—an enchanted castle, where a gentleman lived with his wife and her young sister. They might have been king, queen, and princess, and the two tame deer which wandered about the house were doubtless a lord and lady transformed by some magic into their present shape. There was a rich meadow, surrounded on three sides by a winding river, and shady lanes which led past a marble fountain, and a covered bower where the princess satand bewailed the suitor who did not come.

This was Germanna, on the Rapidan River in Spotsylvania; the king was Colonel Alexander Spotswood, former Governor of Virginia, and the queen was the wife whom he had brought from London to live in this improbable paradise. The empty houses had once been the homes of the German settlers whom Spotswood had planted there but who had since deserted him.

In September,1732, the place was visited by a traveller who, like the Spotswoods, would have looked more at home on Regent Street than on the frontier of Virginia. William Byrd had come to consult with the Colonel about iron-mining,but he had a gift for recording scenes and conversations, and in his journal he snatched the whole episode out of time and left it to us, complete with Spotswood’s oracular pronouncements not only on iron-mining, but also on tar-burning, hemp, the Spaniards, the post office, and British politics. In this fantastic setting, so far from the civilized world, far it might seem from the world at all . . .

[Byrd then described how Spotswood on the banks of the Rapidan River in 1732 predicted great difficulty if England were to attempt to compel the American colonists to do things against their will.]

Spotswood’s prophecy need not be ascribed to second sight, for he had been Governor of Virginia, and he knew from bitter experience how jealously a colonial assembly guarded its right to levy taxes.

In 1715 the House of Burgesses had refused to grant the supplies necessary for defense against the Indians, because they thought that he had called some of their prerogatives in question. He had denounced them and finally dissolved them, but he had not beaten them. And he knew that any attempt by Parliament to beat them would have met with doubled resistance.

The story of Germanna reaches across time and space to reflect on our human experience which can help us better understand our own history and our place in that history.

 

John Blankenbaker provides a timeline snapshot of the Germans odyssey to America:

First Colony Timeline:

Late spring of 1713: the people left Nassau-Siegen, apparently not in a single group.

Summer of 1713: the people arrived in London.

January 1714: they left for Virginia on an unknown ship.

Late March 1714: Spotswood first learns from Col. Nathaniel Blakiston, the agent for Virginia in London, that Germans are coming.

April 1714: the Germans arrived in Virginia.

1716: they started mining operations at the silver mine.

1718, early in the year: they were instructed to search for iron.

During 1718: the search for iron continued and a statement in a courthouse says they worked until December of 1718 at mining and quarrying. Also during the year they made their commitment to buy land at “Germantown.” By December of 1718, Spotswood says he spent about 60 pounds on the endeavor so there was no iron furnace.

January 1719: they moved to Germantown. Pastor Haeger may not have moved at this time. By this time they had completed the four years of service they committed themselves to in London.

Someone else built the iron furnace after the Germans left.

 

Second Colony Timeline:

1717: Eighty-odd Germans from Wuerttemberg, Baden, and the Palatinate agree with Capt. Tarbett in London to take them to Pennsylvania in the ship Scott.

1717/1718: Capt. Tarbett hijacks the Germans to Virginia where they become indentured servants of Lt. Gov. Spotswood.

1719/1722: Some of the Germans who left in 1717 arrived in Virginia at a later time.

1723/25: Spotswood sues many of the Germans.

1725: Most of these Germans move to the Robinson River Valley.

1733: Johann Caspar Stoever becomes their (Lutheran) pastor.

1740: The German Lutheran Church (Hebron Lutheran Church today) is built with funds raised in Germany.