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Ancestors Among Early Settlers in Palatine Migration to Tulpehocken, PA
Lenni Lenape Indians Consider War over Palatine Invasion
Updated 8:44 PM ET Jan 11, 2001

Tulpehocken, PA (1732) - A mass of Palatine immigrants from Germany, including our Kobel and Dieffenbach ancestors, migrated during the 1720s to the Tulpehocken area in Pennsylvania coming primarily from the Schoharie Valley area of New York and, in doing so, nearly sparked a war with the Lenni Lenape tribes of the Delaware Indians.

The first Palatine families rafted down the Susquehanna River in the Spring of 1723, and others followed in subsequent years, increasing tension with the local Indians as more and more Palatine families settled land claimed by the Delaware Indian Nation.

The English originally brought the Palatine immigrants to America during the Winter of 1709-1710. These German families came from the Palatinate area of Germany to escape the various European wars that commonly raged through their homelands. England offered them refuge in New York if they would in turn gather tar for the English ships. Jacob Kobel, his wife and infant son; and, Conrad Tieffenbach, his family and his mother Anna were among these Palatine immigrants.

For a couple years, the Palatines did harvest tar in the Hudson Valley of New York in return for rations from Governor Hunter of New York. But on September 6, 1712, the governor of New York cut off this subsistence. In response, about 150 Palatine families moved to the nearby Schoharie Valley. Some Palatines went there immediately and endured the winter in rudimentary accommodations, while others waited until the Spring of 1713.

These families settled and cultivated the Schoharie Valley area for the next 10 years. During this time, Jacob Kobel built a mill at the mouth of a creek in what was called New Heidelberg or Kniskern Dorf. It is said that the present day city of Cobleskill, N. Y. got its name from the mill built by Jacob Kobel at that location. Also, in a register kept by a Palatine immigrant named Ulrich Simmendinger, who returned to Germany in 1717, Conrad Dieffenbach and his wife Maria Barbara were listed as the parents of five children and as living in the Schoharie Valley village of New Annesville at that time.

From 1713 to 1723, the Palatine families as a whole prospered in the Schoharie Valley area as they cleared land for farms and orchards. However, these efforts came to an abrupt end when in 1722 Governor Hunter of New York decided they had settled on this land without permission, and he then sold the right to this land to rich merchants in nearby Albany and Schenectady, N. Y. Once again, this uprooted the Palatine families enmasse.

While some Palatines families moved to the Mohawk Valley area of New York in 1722, others negotiated with Pennsylvania's Governor Keith for possession of land along the Swatara Creek and also in the Tulpehocken area in Pennsylvania. Consequently, in the Spring of 1723, the first of them cleared a road from the Schoharie Creek to the upper reaches of the Susquehanna River. There, they built canoes and rafts for themselves, their cattle and their possessions and floated down the Susquehanna River to the mouth of the Swatara Creek. From there, many of them continued on overland to the Tulpehocken area and began establishing their new homes and farms along the Tulpehocken Creek. During the next few years, others followed.

It's clear that Jacob Kobel and Conrad Dieffenbach and their families were among these groups of Palatines migrating to Tulpehocken. In 1726, Jacob Kobel built a grist mill in the Tulpehocken area in what was called Plumpton Manor, a location most likely in present day Womelsdorf. In September 1727, Conrad Dieffenbach ("Conrath Diffenbach") signed a petition for a road "to be laid out Beginning at the Lutheran Meeting House at Tolepehockan to end in ye Highroad at ye Quaker's meeting house near George Boone's Mill in Oley".

This migration however also proved to be potentially unsettling to the families involved, but this time the Pennsylvania Governor apparently sided with the Palatines. The problem in Pennsylvania rested in claims by the local Lenni Lenape Indians that these immigrants were invading their homelands and that this land was still part of their Delaware Indian Nation. The Indians insisted the land had not been purchased by Pennsylvania for settlement by these immigrants.

The Indians vigorously objected to these settlements, especially during negotiations for the Treaty of 1728. Colonial records give fleeting indications of their anger, and these same records appear to justify the Indians claims as they reflect some of the internal political conflicts caused by this situation within the Pennsylvania government. This potentially grave dilemma was not finally resolved until 1732 when Pennsylvania officially purchased all these lands, and the Indians moved into the mountain valleys a short way to the Northwest.

However, the whole episode probably cultivated long-standing resentment on the part of the Indians, and possibly contributed to raids and retaliation issued by the Indians upon the settlers during the French and Indian War some 20 years later in 1755. One such tragic instance of these raids befell upon the family of Jacob Kobel's eldest son, Johann Heinrich (or Henry) Kobel in 1755, when Indians slaughtered most of his family in what's known historically as the Kobel Massacre.

Footnote: The Palatine immigrants Jacob Kobel and Conrad Dieffenbach were each a 6th great grandfather to Wynter Reed Newhouse.

References: George Irgang's Genealogical Notes from "The Defenbaugh Reunion News" published during the 1930s and the 1940s; the "Notes on the Tulpehocken Lands" by Charles Berwind Montgomery and published in the "Historical Review of Berks County" in July 1936; and Shirley J. Turner's study "Jacob Kobel (1682-1731) of the Palatinate, New York, and Berks County, Pennsylvania" printed in September 1981 in the "National Genealogical Society Quarterly".

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