Monday, May 18, 2009

Germans of the Valley

From: "The Germans of the Valley," by John Walter Wayland,The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Volume X,No. 1, July 1902, pp 38-39.


The German Lutherans, German Reformed Mennonites, Cal-vinists, Dunkers, etc., forced their way up through the Valley, and furnished a varying percentage in the population of Augusta, Rockbridge. Botetourt, Roanoke, Craig, Montgomery, Pulaski, and Wythe counties. Prof. M. F. Maury{Physical Survey of Virginia,,\9>"i$) says: "This county, Augusta, as well as Rock- ingham, Shenandoah and Frederick, was settled up in a great measure by Germans, and the population has retained its German character." In Wythe, Pulaski, Montgomery and Craig counties the Germans met a number of Swiss who emigrated from North Carolina to Virginia. Schuricht quotes Captain R. B. Moorman, of Roanoke, assaying: " Rockbridge, Botetourt, Roanoke, Craig, Montgomery and Pulaski present a grateful field to the German-American historian." Salem, in Roanoke county, was for many years almost the exclusive domain of the Lutherans, and some think that a large number of German Chapels and other meeting houses may have formerly existed in the more remote valleys of the mountains.

Through the kindness of Judge W. B. Simmons, of Fincastle, Va., I am able to give the names of a number of German families that located in Botetourt county immediately after the Revolution. These, however, are evidently not the first Germans to settle in that county. " The earliest deeds to the German element in this [Botetourt] county," says Judge Simmons, " bear date from 1783. The first, or among the first, German settlers
were the Graybills, Simmons, Keplers, Gishs, Broughs, Sniders, Harshbargers, Bechmers. Amens and others. The Amens now spell their name ' Ammen.' All came in the '8o's. These Germans came into this county directly after the Revolutionary war, from Pennsylvania and Maryland,—mostly from Pennsylvania. The German element I think you will find came into Virginia about the same time all along up the Valley, a great many of them stopping in what are now Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Augusta, and the lower counties. I do not think many stopped in what is now Rockbridge. The Germans looked for good land, and have, as a general rule, held on to it. They evidently had
money and seem to have paid cash for 1heir lands, and paid as much for their lands then as the same lands are worth now. As a rule the German element are a frugal, sturdy, honest folk. For many years they made the mistake of not educating their children;* but for some years many of them are educating their children, many of whom are filling the various professions with ability."

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