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German Settlers in Louisiana

This page [some Notes have been added] contains some early information that was researched by Dr. Glenn Conrad who was the Director of the Center for Louisiana Studies at USL. The following article appeared in Les Voyageurs, Vol. III, No. 4, December 1982, pp. 85-88.


The story of emigration to Louisiana during colonial times is certainly complex; but, regardless of the intricate details of a move, the emigrants involved were almost always seeking refuge from a social situation not of their making. Such is the tale of a group of Maryland German families who made their way to Louisiana in the early days of the Spanish regime. The discovery of the documents concerning this group will correct previously published information about them in J. Hanno Deiler's The Settlement of the German Coast of Louisiana.

The origins of the present account are to be found in the aftermath of the Seven Years' War (French and Indian War) when, according to the terms of the Treaty of Paris (1763), the Acadians who had been deported to the English colonies in 1755 were given permission to seek permanent residence elsewhere, but not in Nova Scotia. As is well known, the Acadian families of Maryland were quick to respond to the offer, and the first contingent arrived in Louisiana in 1766.

The Spanish authorities of Louisiana, unlike their counterparts elsewhere, welcomed immigration. When Governor Antonio de Ulloa arrived in the colony in March 1766, he found the Acadian migration underway. As R. E. Chandler has noted, in one of a series of articles on Acadian immigration, Ulloa recognized the value of these sturdy anti-British colonists and encouraged more to come to Louisiana, where they would be settled along the Mississippi River, the border between Spanish and English empires.(1)

Welcomed enthusiastically to Louisiana by officials and established settlers, the newcomers readily sent word back to Maryland, urging friends and relatives to join them. Thus, a group of German Catholic families, living in Maryland among the Acadians, came to learn of the Spanish offer to would-be immigrants.(2)

On May 2, 1767, Henry Jerningham, a Maryland doctor and Catholic, at the request of some German families, wrote to governor Ulloa about the possibility of Germans joining the Acadian migration to Louisiana and of receiving the same hospitable welcome.(3) Ulloa responded in July in a circumspect way, fearing that the whole matter might be a British ploy to plant spys in the colony.(4) Dr. Jerningham communicated in November that Ulloa's letter had been received but that it was ambiguous on many points. The German families, he stated, wanted explicit answers, particularly with regard to the ownership of land. He emphasized the point this was, "Men of property and fortunes must know before they dispose of their estates here on what terms they can acquire an equivalent among you . . . "(5)

Two weeks later, on December 14, Dr, Jerningham wrote to Ulloa to introduce James Walker. Apparently unwilling to migrate to Louisiana without a first-hand account of the situation in the colony, the German families selected Walker for an on-the-spot investigation. Jerningham also Ulloa to supply Walker with passports "to travel the country . . . that he may be able to satisfy his friends and neighbors who were desirous to settle among you."(6) The would-be colonists wanted to be certain of the reputed advantages to settlement in Louisiana and instructed Walker "to see the produce of the soil, at the different seasons and the manners and customs of the people, their way of living, and how the laws are executed . . . . "(7)

Walker arrived in New Orleans sometime prior to February 11, 1768, for, on that day, Ulloa informed the Marques de Grimaldi, a high Spanish official, that he had arranged for the Germans' agent to visit the settlements along the Mississippi, Red, and Cane rivers. He would also visit and inspect the Opelousas area. Ulloa was of the opinion that if these people were pleased with Louisiana "a flood of settlers" from the English colonies would follow.(8)

It is unknown how long Walker remained in Louisiana, but he must have departed from Maryland before the October rebellion in Louisiana forced Ulloa to leave the colony. There seems to be little doubt that had the cautious German farmers known of the political upheaval in Louisiana, they would not have set out for the colony. On the other hand, perhaps they had heard of events on the Mississippi, and this accounts for the fact that only seven German families and six bachelors sailed for Louisiana in early 1769.(9)

On January 5, 1769, the schooner Britania, commanded by Phillip Ford, left Maryland, bound for New Orleans. On board were one hundred passengers, fifty-six Germans, thirty-two Acadians, and twelve Britishers [sic]. The trip was apparently uneventful until shortly after the Louisiana coast was sighted on February 21. Immediately thereafter, dense fog enveloped the little vessel and a strong east wind drove it off course. The result was that the schooner passes the entrance to the Mississippi River and ended up a few days later on the Texas coast. Going ashore, the crew located a Spanish officer, Francisco Thobar [Tovar]. They requested a passport and food from him so that they might return to the Mississippi. Suspicious of the motives of those on board the ship, Thobar [Tovar] refused to aid the colonists and instead arrested them. The contents of the schooner, including the colonists' tools and animals were seized. Thobar [Tovar] then marched the unfortunate travelers off to the presidio at Goliad. There, all remained while the Spanish commandant reported the event and awaited instructions. During their approximate six- months stay in Texas, the colonists were obliged to work around the presidio. See Handbook of Texas article on Francisco Tovar

The passengers and crew of the schooner were detained until early September, when Captain Rafael Martinez Pacheco arrived with instructions concerning their futures. Because their schooner had been abandoned and subsequently vandalized by Indians, Pacheco was ordered to escort the colonists overland to Natchitoches where, it was thought, they would be settled. About September 11, this strange expedition set out on the trek of 350 miles from Goliad to Natchitoches.(10)

The overland trip required several weeks to complete. On October 27, 1769, Louis-Jean- Cesair Borme, commandant at Natchitoches, reported that the German and Acadian families had arrived at that post three days earlier.(11) Governor O'Reilly, meanwhile, decided that the Acadian families would be settled at Natchitoches because of their familiarity with the cultivation of wheat and rye.(12) Established residents of the post supplied the newcomers with food, tools, and animals.(13)

The German families, however, apparently had not planned to settle in Natchitoches, nor was it O'Reilly's plan that they do so. They therefore accompanied the English crew of the schooner to New Orleans. In a statement of their adventure, subsequently prepared for the Spanish authorities, the schooner's crew states that the Germans arrived in New Orleans on November 9.(14)

On November 16, although still in New Orleans, the Germans were given tools and money and informed that they would be settled on the site of Fort St. Gabriel de Manchak in the Iberville District.(15) Furthermore, the new colonists would be allowed to use the abandoned buildings of the old fort. On December 29, 1769, O'Reilly wrote that six German families had been settled at Manchak.(16)

Actually, in October, Borme at Natchitoches had recorded seven German families and six German bachelors. We know from census records taken shortly after the settlement of the Germans in Iberville that the "missing" family was that of Jacob Miller.(17) Miller, his wife, and four children apparently settled in St. John Parish and subsequently moved to Opelousas.

The "six" families were Nicolas Marcoff, his wife Christine, and six children; Nicolas Ory, his wife Christine, seven children and an orphan; Joseph Basbler, wife Suzanne, and four children; Adam La Maur (Talieur), his wife Catherine, and five children; Andreas Raeser, wife, and six children: and Phillip Englehardt and his wife, Marie Magdelene Ory. Also joining the six families were six bachelors: Andre Meche, Daniel Muin, Henry Thomas, Christian Pringle, Jean Legueur, and Antoine Murguier.(19)

We know, according to Deiller, that Marcoff (or Manhoffer) was married to Christine Ory; that Phillip Englehardt was married to Marie Magdelene Ory; that Henry Thomas married Barbara Ory; and that Catherine Ory subsequently married Paul Sharp, who joined the little German colony at Manchak a bit later.(20) (Based on additional information): . . Catherine Ory had earlier married Paul Sharp in Maryland, and this family accompanied Jean Baptiste Ory and Phillip Englehart when they returned from settling Nicolas Ory's estate in Maryland.  Normally, an account of German immigrants to Louisiana could have ended at this point; this, however, is but a beginning. The years down to the American Revolution would witness a continuing migration and settlement of German families in Iberville.

Those families who settled on the site of Fort St. Gabriel would not remain there for long. It should be noted here that Fort St. Gabriel was not constructed until after Governor Ulloa arrived in the colony in March 1766. Nevertheless, following O'Reilly's departure from Louisiana, Governor Unzaga learned of British plans to build not only a fort on their side of Bayou Manchac, but also establish a new town there. The decision was taken by the Spaniards in late 1770, therefore, to reactivate Fort St. Gabriel.

Descoudreau was appointed commandant of the fort and was ordered to Iberville to determine what would be necessary to put the facility on line. I early January, 1771, Descoudreau and Dustine, commandant of the Iberville post, inspected the fort site and found that it was occupied by Pierre Nicolas and Nicolas Ory as part of the lands granted to them in 1769.(21) The Spanish officials therefore recommended that the two colonists and their families be moved to vacant lands. On January 8, Governor Unzaga approved the relocation of the two German families.(22)

It might be interesting to note that Captain Descoudreau also wanted to relocate another German settler, Joseph Sylvester. In February, 1771, the captain described Sylvester as a sergeant in the militia whose farm was located about two and one-half miles from the fort. Sylvester knew the language of the local Indians and had for some time served as an interpreter. Since the Indians made frequent visits to the fort, and since no one there understood their language, Descoudreau recommended that Sylvester be asked to move near the fort.(23) When, however, the proposal was put to Sylvester, the colonist objected. He argued that he was the first person to settle in the area, even before the fort was built. He had carefully selected the land on which he lived and had worked hard to clear it, to farm it, and to build a home for his family. There was, therefore, no advantage for him in the proposed move; indeed, there would be nothing but hardship. Descoudreau dropped the subject of the move.(24) One might speculate whether Sylvester was not largely, or in part, responsible for the settlement of the German immigrants from Maryland in the Iberville District. After all, their agent, Walker, had visited many areas and may have met and talked with Sylvester about their establishment in Iberville. The fact that they did not tarry in Natchitoches may have been seen as some evidence giving substance to this theory.

In any event, Pierre Nicolas and Nicolas Ory would not long have concerns for this world. On August 12, 1771, Dutisne reported Pierre Nicolas' death and the death of Adam Talieur's wife.(25) Barely six months later, on March 20, 1772, Dutisne reported that Madame Ory had left her farm following her husband's death and had gone to live on the German Coast.(26) She probably went to live with her son, Mathias, who, that year, married Agnes Weber of St. John parish. We do know from the 1772 census of Iberville that Mathias was not then living with his family.(27) When, however, the census of Iberville or 1777 was taken, Madame Ory had returned and was living with her son, Louis.(28)

(**New Information**) . . . Nicolas Ory actually died later; he and Christine apparently moved in with Mathias and he lived there until he died sometime in 1775. Nicolas's signature was discovered on a marriage license in 1774, when Mathias and Agnes Weber married. (Archdiocese of New Orleans, Vol. 3, pp.229) Nicolas Ory left an estate in Maryland as well as one in Louisiana. On August 12, 1772, Jean Baptiste petitioned Governor Unzaga to allow him and his brother-in-law, Phillip Englehardt, to go to Maryland to settle Ory's estate affairs.(29) The two men apparently left New Orleans that same month, for Unzaga did not further discuss this matter in correspondence with Dutisne.

A year passed before the records of Iberville again mentions the Germans. On August 19, 1773, Commandant Dutisne reported to Governor Unzaga: "On August 12 three German families from Maryland arrived at my house and asked to be settled here at Manchak on the west bank of the river. They arrived here by way of Ohio River."(30) The newcomers were Johann Schlatter (better known in French Louisiana as Jean Chelatre), his wife Magdelene, and their two sons, Martin and Jacob; Louis Rein (Reine in Louisiana), Marie Barbara, his wife, and their son, Johan, and daughter Catherine. Finally there was the Paille family, Jacob, Catherine, three sons and two daughters.

While he was in Maryland, Jean-Baptiste Ory received confirmation from Governor Unzaga of a land grant. At the same time, the governor also approved a grant to Louis Reine.(31)

Two years after leaving Louisiana, Jean-Baptiste Ory and Phillip Englehardt returned to Iberville in mid-August, 1774. To the surprise of the post commandant, they were accompanied by four German families, twenty-one people in all, who were seeking to settle at Manchak. Dutisne indicated that he would have sent the newcomers on to New Orleans so that they might have petitioned the governor for residency, but the entire party was sick and needed to rest and recuperate with their relatives and friends already established in Iberville. The Germans reported that there were five more families on their way to Louisiana.(32)

The new arrivals were (according to Dutisne) Georges Petitpierre (better know in Louisiana as George Kleinpeter), his wife, Gertrude, their sons, Jean, Joseph, George, and Conrad, and their daughters, Barbara, Genevieve, Susanne, and Jeanne. Also with them was their married daughter, Catherine, and her husband, Emmerich Adam. Next were Paul Sharp, his wife Catherine, and Joseph, Jacob, Nicolas, Catherine, and Elizabeth, their children. Finally, there were Sebastien Quidre and his wife.

Upon learning of the arrival of the new colonists, Governor Unzaga instructed Dutisne to proceed with establishing them at Iberville, provided land was available. The governor preferred, however, that they be settled along Bayou Lafourche and instructed Dutisne to suggest his preference to the Germans.(33) On September 18, 1774, Dutisne informed Unzage that he had discussed with the Germans the possibility of settling along Bayou Lafourche. They absolutely refused to consider the site, saying that they had come to Louisiana to join relatives. He therefore established them on land on the west bank of the river, just north of Bayou Plaquemine. He assigned the Kleinpeter family a farm even though George Kleinpeter had died a short time after arriving. Dutisne felt certain that the Kleinpeter sons would be able to operate the farm and support their mother, themselves, and their sisters.(34)

Within a short time these latest arrivals were well established and with the older members of the Iberville German community had begun their Louisiana adventure. From the arrival in Iberville of the Ory family to the arrival of the Kleinpeter family, only five years had passed, but they must have been five perilous , yet exciting, years for all members of these German families from Maryland. Whether others came to Louisiana after 1774 to join these settlers is not certain. Dellier suggests that other families, such as the Kraus and Balsinger families, did follow. We must remember, however, that Maryland and the other Atlantic seaboard colonies were on the brink of momentous events by 1775 and once these events began to unfold, little attention was paid to migrating families. Never-the-less, it is safe to say that between 1769 and 1774 the Maryland German families had created in Iberville what might be considered to be a third German Coast.

1. R. E. Chandler, "Ulloa and the Acadians," Louisiana History, XXI (1980), 87-91.
2. Governor Ulloa, in a letter to the Marquis de Grimaldi, noted how the Germans became aware of the Louisiana situation: "Having learned of the good reception given the Acadians and their present prosperous circumstances, they are planning to change their domicile . . . " Ulloa to Grimaldi, February 11,
1768, in Lawrence Kinnaird, ed. And trans., Spain in the Mississippi Valley, 3 vols. (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1949), I, 41; hereafter cited as Kinnaird.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Dr. Jerningham to Governor Ulloa, Nov. 28, 1767, Kinnaird, I, 36.
6. Jerningham to Ulloa, Dec. 14, 1767, Kinnaird, I, 39.
7. Ibid.
8. Ulloa to Grimaldi, Feb. 11, 1768, Kinnaird, I, 40
9. An account of this attempt to settle Marylanders in Louisiana during the Spanish colonial era was written by Professor Stephen G. Reges and appeared in the Maryland Historical Magazine, LX (1965), 93-98. As it relates to this specific episode, the Reges piece stops at this point.
10. The account of the voyage from Maryland to Louisiana and the stay in Texas is found in a deposition of the crew in Kinnaird, I, 137-138.
11. Ibid., I, 142. In February, 1770, Borme was named captain of the Natchitoches militia and Athanase de Mezieres became commanders of the post. Ibid., p.158
12. Herbert Eugene Bolton, ed. And trans., Athanase de mezieres and the Louisiana-Texas Frontier, 1768-1780, . . . 2 vols. (Cleveland, The Arthur Clark Company, 1914), I, 155; hereafter cited as Bolton.
13. Ibid.
14. Kinnaird, I, 138.
15. Ibid., 142
16. Ibid., 147.
17. Seville, Spain. Archivo General de Indias, Papeles procedentes de Cuba, "Census of Iberville, May 10, 1772," Leago 202 folio 241: hereafter cited as PPC, with leago and folio numbers.
18. Kinnaird, I, 149 - 141
19. Ibid., 141.
20. J. Hanno Deiler, The Settlement of The German Coast of Louisiana and The Creoles of German Descent (1909; reprint ed., Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1969), pp. 110 - 111. Sharp appears in the Census of Iberville, Mar. 6, 1777, PPC, 190:240 - 256.
22. Ibid., 185. The fact that Descoudreau's letter to Unzaga and the governor's reply to the commandant were delivered by Nicolas Ory may indicate that thet colonist personally discussed with the Spanish governor the entire matter of the move. Ory's involvement is found in PPC, 188-B:190.
23. Ibid., 198.
24. Ibid., 202-202v.
25. Ibid., 243.
26. ibid., 189-A:35L
27. "Census of Iberville, May 10,1772," Ibid., 202:241-246.
28. "Census of Iberville, March 6, 1777," bid., 190:240-246.
29. Ibid., 189-A:356.
30. Ibid., 376.
31. Ibid., 382.
32. Ibid., 407.
33. Ibid., 408.
34. Ibid.

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