Why Did Wampflers Emigrate?
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Why Did the Wampflers Emigrate?
by John E. Wampler

Section 1.3

Last update: 11/2000

The Pennsylvania Dutch were composed of a number of groups drawn to William Penn's colony by the lure of religious freedom and the abundant land. They came from the German Palatinate, Holland, Saxon, Alsace, England and Switzerland.

Oscar Kuhns in his book "The German and Swiss Settlements of Colonial Pennsylvania" (Kuhns, 1971) describes the conditions of the German Palatinate and Switzerland that lead to the mass immigration to the new land (over 100,000 immigrants prior to the American Revolution). The time line of changes in these lands is supported by writings contemporary to the period in Eshleman's book (1917). The German lands had been in the constant throes of war for a century and at the beginning of the 18'th century the Protestants of this region were persecuted by the Catholic upper classes. At this time the majority of the inhabitants were either Lutherans or Reformed. Swiss Menonites and other pacifist sects had been driven out. The feudal system drove a wedge between the classes that made peasant life very difficult.

The Swiss federation, on the other hand, was not touched by the Thirty Years' War and its aftermath, but did have a feudal system entrenched which gave the peasant class little freedom. In particular, religious persecution of the Menonnite and other pacifist sects drove many to immigrate to the new world. This persecution was prompted by the "traffic in soldiers" that supported the Swiss elite in the 18'th century. The anabaptists and mennonites driven from Switzerland first settled in the Palinatate and Alsace around 1671. The authorities in Berne were particularly determined to drive them out. In 1709 they began to actively remove them to America.

A third "Pennsylvania Dutch" group was also driven to immigrate by religious concerns, the Marovians from Saxony in the North of Europe. However, they seem to have been driven by mostly by missionary zeal rather than persecution or poverty.

Another group, a subsect of the Menonnites, was the Amish formed in Switzerland and settled in the German Palatine, following more severe strictures on dress and focusing their worship in private homes with no regular ministers. Another sect, the Dunkards, from a background of the Reformed Church and radical pietist were followers of Alexander Mack of Schwarzenau, Germany. They relocated to Pennsylvania in the 1720's.

Thus, the term Pennsylvania Dutch lumps together some very different groups of immigrants. The German Reformed and Lutherans, Morovian missionaries from Saxony, the Swiss Menonites, the similar German Dunkards and the strict Amish.

Finally, a part of the immigration was driven by commerce and capitalism. The German-American papers of the time (Knauss, 1922) report the work of the "newlanders," agents paid by the shipping companies to enlist passengers for the new world and the system of "redemption" wherein passengers sold themselves into indentured service to pay their fare. There were also many ads for land and for jobs for linen weavers in these papers. The latter was the occupation of the Wampfler immigrants (see below)

After the initial wave of immigration, the immigrant community in America to a large extent maintained their religiousb and social heritage, establishing ethnic communities and continuing use of their native tongues. Some of the first large scale charitable organizations of Pennsylvania were formed within these communities to help the poorer arrivals.

The role of religion in the daily lives of the Pennsylvania Dutch was a predominant influence. However, there was a sense of cooperation and tolerance between the various sects (Knauss, 1922). The Lutheran and Reformed communities tended to merge, oft-times using the same meeting facilities. They had common beliefs in an educated clergy and in public education. They did not hold the pacifist beliefs of the sectarians (Dunkards, Mennonites and Amish). The Marovians were also strong supporters of education.

The indications from Fred Wampler's (1986) studies of our early ancestors suggest that they were not poor farmers, but linen weavers and property owners, and that their religious affiliation was Reformed or Lutheran. However, the route of their migration follows that of the Swiss anabaptists who were persecuted in various ways both in Switzerland and in Alsace. We have no evidence that the immigrant Wamplers were members of these sects before coming to America. The Brethren Encyclopedia (1984) sketch indicates that the first Wamplers of that faith, an offshoot of Swiss Mennonites, were second generation converts of the immigrant families. However, the first Wampflers of this faith appears to have been Hans Peter Jr.[he1-2] and his wife Barbara (in 1754) and his sister Anna Veronica [he1-4] and her husband Jacob Brennessen sometime around 1762. Peter and his wife Barbara were baptised into the Conestoga Congregation in 1754. Reverend Stoever's records (page 233 of Egles 1898 compilation) indicates that Anna Veronica and her husband left the Evangelical Lutheran Church and became "Tunkers" around 1762. They are listed as members of the list of the Little Swatara Congregation in 1770. The other immigrant families remained active in Lutheran and Reformed congregations for many generations.

Linen weavers had plenty of work in the new world in the 18th century (Knauss, 1922). The majority of the first settlers of Germantown were weavers and flax was an important crop of the time. A published report from 1769-70 indicates that over 30,000 yards of linen were woven in Lancaster county during a year's period.

The early Wampfler immigrants appear then to have been free men of some substance, perhaps pioneers driven to settle the new land rather than emigrants from the motherland fleeing persecution. In the case of the Wampfler immigrants traced by Fred Wampler (1986), only two households of five siblings emigrated from Alsace.

Over the next several generations, Wamplers and their descendants were among the early settlers pushing westward through Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and beyond.

There were serious and dangerous obstacles to settlement in North America in the 1700's. The French and Indian War drove many early Pennsylvania settlers to move back to the more populated regions (Knauss, 1922, p. 67). Indeed, an Indian incident where four of his children were taken (Fred Wampler, 1980, reporting from Rupp, 1844) may have prompted the move of Hans Peter Wampfler Jr. from Lancaster Co. PA, to Frederick Co. Maryland around 1760. The cryptic note in her Baptism record that his wife, Barbara was "killed under a tree" suggests that she may have also been a victim of these Indian attacks. Later in the century there were devastating yellow fever epidemics in Philadelphia (Knauss, 1922, p. 68). Rupp (1844; p. 74) quotes the September issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette as follows:

"Our accounts, in general, from the frontiers, are most dismal; all agreeing that some of the inhabitants are killed or carried off; houses burnt and cattle destroyed daily- and that at the same time they are afflicted with severe sickness and die fast, so, that in many places, they are neither able to defend themselves, when attacked, nor to run away."

Of course, the revolutionary war was no small matter! Again from Rupp' History of Berk and Lebanon counties (1844; page 311)

"During the revolutionary war of 1776, many residents of this place... took up arms in common with many of their fellow patriots... and were engaged in the battle of Trenton, New Jersey, Dec. 25, 1776, when the Hessians were routed with great slaughter and one thousand of them taken prisoners and not a few of them taken to Reading and to Lebanon, where they were confined in the old Lutheran Church in town and the Morovian Church below town."

The new arrivals seem to have been involved in commerce early. In 1751 Christian Wam()ffler was a signatory of a petition for a Tavern License by one Melker Keenor in York County, PA (The South Central Pennsylvania Genealogical Society, 1981). Jacob Wampler was considered a pioneer of Westmoreland County PA (Cushing, 1975). His son Joseph built the first sawmill in McKeesport PA in 1828. The Wampler Tannery was built in Mechanicstown MD in 1810.

Table 1. Wampler/Wampfler Emigrants to America, arriving at the Port of Philadelphia
Name (as recorded)
Arrival Date
Place From
Hans Peter Lydia 9/29/1741 40 Rotterdam Linen Weaver*
Hans Peter, Jr. Lydia 9/29/1741 18 Rotterdam Linen Weaver*
Hans Michael Lydia 9/29/1741 16 Rotterdam Linen Weaver*
*Anna Veronica Lung (Wife of Hans Peter) Lydia 9/29/1741   Rotterdam  
*Hans Georg Lydia 9/29/1741 <16 Rotterdam  
*Anna Magdalena (daughter of Peter & Anna) Lydia 9/29/1741 21 Rotterdam Linen Weaver*
*Anna Fronica (Veronica) Lydia 9/29/1741 ~15 Rotterdam  
*Anna Barbara Lydia 9/29/1741 ~12 Rotterdam  
*(one male child, Hans Adam?) Lydia 9/29/1741   Rotterdam  


The Brethren Encyclopedia (1984), The Brethren Encyclopedia, Inc., Philadelphia, PA. 3 Volumes.
T. Cushing (1975) "A Genealogical and Biographical History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania," Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore, Md.
H. Egles (1898) "Notes and Queries," reprinted by the Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, 1970.
H. Frank Eshleman (1917), "Historic Background and Annals of the Swiss and German Pioneer Settlers of Southeastern Pennsylvania," Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore.
James Owen Knauss, Jr. (1922), "Social Conditions among the Pennsylvania Germans in the Eighteenth Century, as Revealed in the German Newspapers Published in America," Pennsylvania German Society, The New Area Print Co., Lancaster, PA.
Oscar Kuhns (1971), "The German and Swiss Settlements of Colonial Pennsylvania", Gryphon Books, Ann Arobor, MI.
I. D. Rupp (1844) "History of the Counties of Berk and Lebanon: Containing a Brief Account of the Indians," G. Hills, Proprietor, Lancaster PA.
Fred Wampler (1986) Fred Wampler (1980)

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This page maintained by: John E. Wampler
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Dedication: These pages are dedicated to Ward Edward Wampler, Jr. (1918-1993), who had a strong and abiding sense of family.