Stone Arabia is where the first Germans of the Palatinate ended up after leaving England.
In 1705 a company of Lutherans fled to Holland. In 1707, they sailed for New York but storms drove them to Philadelphia. They set off on foot towards New York but settled on their way in New Jersey. Prior to 1709, the British government was believed to have circulated the so-called “Golden Book” to exploit the Palatines’ dissatisfaction and entice emigration to the new world. This pamphlet with its title page in gold
lettering and its frontispiece bearing a portrait of Queen Anne, was more likely produced by Rev. Joshua Kocherthal, or two Swiss land speculators. In May, 1708, Rev. Kocherthal with about fifty others went to London and applied to be sent to America. On January 1, 1709, they were settled on the shores of the
Hudson River near the present town of Newburgh, in hopes of producing pine tar products for the Royal Navy. The settlers sent reports home to the Palatine of how wonderful everything was. The heavy
taxes, the continual warfare, the wasted land and the severest winter of the century, turned the trickle of refugees into a flood. In April 1709, the Elector Palatine issued a decree of death to anyone leaving the Palatinate. Some boats were stopped and some people were imprisoned but the exodus continued.
By May, thousands had left the Palatine along the Rhine River to travel four to six weeks to Rotterdam, Holland. Both for charity’s sake and their own self interests, the authorities in Rotterdam sent them speedily over the channel to England, on the English ships, which took another four days. They began arriving in London in May 1709 and by August 13,000 had arrived. They were poor, without clothes, food, or lodging. They were sleeping in the parks and stirring the resentment of the locals. Queen Anne took these poor Palatines under her special care. They were housed in army tents, warehouses, barns, empty buildings, and four specially constructed buildings.
Although records indicate that emigration to America was the intention of most, in 1709, 3000 Catholic Palatines, who refused to convert, were sent back (at the Queen’s expense). Approximately 3800 were sent to Ireland (to establish a “Protestant presence”) and about 600 were sent to North Carolina. Another 5000 stayed in England taking work in the countryside or joining the army. A ship took an unknown number to Virginia in January 1710, but it was the 3000 people who journeyed to New York that interest us. 1.
When in 1720, the colonial governor lent an open ear to the desire of about 60 Schoharie families in the Schoharie settlement to join the others who had gone to Stone Arabia without leave, a new era dawned for the distressed Palatines. They were now to find a more tolerant and kindly attitude even though that attitude was inspired by hope of protecting the Mohawk frontier by settling these sturdy and stubborn folk along the upper reaches of the river. So the Stone Arabia and the Burnetsfield settlements were given official countenance. The grants were permitted and bestowed "for their loyalty to government" - a belated return for their help in the Colonel Nicholson expedition of 1711.
The Indian deed for the Stone Arabia land cost 300 pounds in Indian goods and bears date of 12 February 1723 and approved 9 March 1723. The warrant to grant was issued 14 September and the patent dated 19 October 1723. On the first division, most of the patentees took 100 acres, two lots of 50 acres each; in 1733 another division was made. The survey was made by Nicholas Schuyler. A third division is said to have been made but we have never seen any record of it. In 1793 the lines about the patent were re-run because of variation of compass in former surveys and disputes which had arisen with neighbors in other patents. The field books of both surveyor Schuyler of 1733 and of surveyor Beekman of 1793 are extant and were studied. The first is in the possession of Mr. Wyman of Fonda and the later and last survey is in the possession of Joseph H. Reaney of St. Johnsville. 2.
The Pine Tar production was a failure and in 1712 a group of Families abandoned Stone Arabia and ventured to Schoharie. By 1725 of the 800 or so people living in Schoharie about half went to Pennsylvania to accept the offer of “asylum” offered by Governor Keith. The rest moved to the Mohawk Valley. This second group included the Countryman family. The new settlement was called West Camp.
In the mean time the area allowed nature to take back the land until recently.
The second settlement of Stone Arabia has taken place in the past 15 years. The settlers are Amish. The first of them came in the mid-1980s from other Amish communities in New York and Pennsylvania, and now their children have begun to farm on their own nearby. The result is uncanny. In America, as a rule, farmland changes more than we imagine it does, but it changes in only three directions—toward development, toward consolidation into larger and larger farms, or toward neglect and abandonment. Around Stone Arabia, something different has happened. Average farm size has decreased since the mid-'80s, while the number of persons that each farm directly supports has increased. To put it another way, the soil is growing more farmers than it used to, farmers whose offspring want to farm. And the soil is supporting those farmers in ways that have generally been forgotten.
Some of those ways are immediately visible, as distinctive as the Amish carriages parked along the blank wall of an empty storefront at the mall in Palatine Bridge. In Stone Arabia you could see, if you knew what you were looking at, a panorama of agricultural history since the late 19th century. I stood on one Amish farm, looking across the road at three non-Amish farmers—Englishmen, as their Amish neighbors would call them—on tractors that were raking the hay and pulling an old baler that made small square bales in a way that most up-to-date farmers would call old-fashioned. Up the road a little farther, a still more modern farmer drove a much bigger tractor that pulled a machine to gather the grass, chop it, and fling it into a silage wagon trailing still farther behind him. Alone, he was doing all the work of the tractors and men down the road. 4.
1. Source: Book: Jacob Countryman, United Empire Loyalist; Ancestors and Descendants in Canada and the United States