Sailing to America background


According to a lecture by Dr. George Schweitzer, a highly regarded genealogical researcher, ship owners were very actively recruiting German settlers to the colonies at this time. England was bringing large quantities of cargo back from the colonies and to make the process more profitable they needed cargo for the western-bound journey also. They weren't as concerned about bringing in money from this human cargo as they were about the weight and ballast they could provide to "speed up" the sailings. The faster they could make the return voyage, the more profits they could realize. The port of Philadelphia showed the impact of the German recruitment. In 1735 there were 268 German immigrants who arrived in the port. In 1736 it was 736, and it rose to 1528 in 1737. Expectations were for 1738 to see even larger numbers of emigrants. But even those high expectations were shattered by the huge numbers who arrived, beginning earlier in the season than usual. To meet the high demand shipping firms contracted for extra ships. The firm Hope provided eight ships of which the Winter Galley was one.

The Preisch family sailed to America aboard the ship Winter Galley. The trip usually took from 60 to 90 days. Strassburgher(1) says the ship was under the command of Edward Paynter. The Winter Galley sailed from Rotterdam, Holland. At this time ships leaving the continent heading for the English colonies in America were required to stop at an English port to register their cargo. Winter Galley went to Deal (near Dover) for this customs clearance and arrived in Philadelphia on September 5, 1738.

The "redemptioner" system was used to help the passengers pay for the journey. All the emigrant had to do was sign a contract to pay the fare within a certain time period after arrival. They might sell something they brought with them, find friends or relatives already here to pay, or indenture themselves for the payment. This system had been working well for everyone(2). The shipping companies carried trade goods from the colonies back to England, so were happy for whatever "cargo" they could get for the trip back to the colonies. And the passengers had the added benefit of providing ballast which sped up the return trip.

The sailing season for 1738 was called the "year of destroying angels" because of the unusually large number of emigrants who died making the crossing. This was a reference to Psalm 79:49, "He unleashed against them his hot anger, his wrath, indignation and hostility-- a band of destroying angels." An epidemic swept the fleets, and it is estimated at least 1600 people died on the crossings made by fifteen ships. Until this time there had been an occasional loss of life but nothing on this scale.

There were at least 360 passengers aboard, Winter Galley but Captain Paynter only claimed 252. One reason for the discrepancy might be the duty that was enacted in 1729 on "foreigners and Irish servants imported into this Province." This law required them to take an oath to the king and pay twenty shillings. But since the duty was collected directly from the captain, it was in his best interest to claim as small a number of passengers as he could.

Three of the passengers listed on this journey of the Winter Galley are Johan Michel Preisch, August Preisch, and Philip Halass (sic). Interestingly enough some of the other passengers are Johann Peter Muller, Johann Petter Hoffman, Jerg Hoffman, and Henrich Becker. I do not know that these others were related to our Preisches but it is a possibility.

Information about the early Palatine emigration.

At the time they sailed on Winter Galley Johan Michael was listed as age nineteen and his brother Augustine at fourteen years old. Women and children weren't shown on the passenger list, but we're sure that Anna Margaretha was with her husband and that Johan Heinrich and Daniel were also aboard. It is unclear whether Agnes Preisch accompanied her children to America.

The only clue I have as to why the Preischs left Germany is an inscription on the monument at the site of St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church 1750-1885 at Price's Fork, Virginia:

"St. Peters was the first church west of the Alleghanies and the third Lutheran church in Virginia. Its original members were pioneers who, having suffered religious persecutions, had come from the Palatinate in Germany to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 5, 1738 thence to and around the Horse Shoe Bottoms on New River. This monument erected in 1946 is in memory of these sturdy, God-fearing pioneers."

(1) Strassburgher, Ralph Beaver, Pennsylvania German Pioneers, 201.

(2) Beyond Germanna









Adam Clark

Adam Jr.

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