The Heritage of Daniel Haston


Emigration from Europe to America

In Search of Our Roots

Richterswil, Switzerland Rise & Persecution of Anabaptists Ibersheim, Germany Emigration to America

An estimated 80,969 Rhinelanders entered America through the port of Philadelphia from 1683-1775.*  For the Hiestands, and most of the other Swiss-German Anabaptists/Mennonites who eventually emigrated to America, their emigrations took place in two stages:
  • First, from Switzerland to other places in Europe, such as (for the Hiestands and many others) the Palatinate of Germany.
  • Second, from their adopted post-Switzerland homes in the Palatinate, or elsewhere in Europe, to America. 

Reasons for Emigration

General Reasons Mennonites Emigrated to America

Some Swiss-German Mennonites left Europe for America because of religious persecution.  Even though the types and degrees of persecution they experienced in the Palatinate was light compared to what they had endured in Switzerland, the religious toleration for Mennonites of the Palatinate was always limited.  They were forced to pay "protection fees" and lived under constraints not applied to Catholics or members of the Reformed Church.  And the rules and limits of toleration changed with the empowerment of new rulers.   Thus, many of them sought the promise of greater religious toleration in America, especially in William Penn's "Paradise of Pennsylvania."

Others sought peace.  They fled their European homes to escape the frequent wars that repeatedly devastated their farms and plundered their homes, especially those who lived in the common battle zones of the Palatinate. Some historians have referred to the Palatinate of the 18th century as "the Land of Wars."

If religious persecution and war were the "push" behind the waves of Mennonite emigration from Europe, the "pull" was the promise, or at least hope, of economic prosperity.  Many of the industrious, but often impoverished, Mennonites were lured away to America in search of land, freedom from severe taxes, and an overall hope of gaining economic prosperity.  Rulers of the Palatinate restricted the number of Mennonite families living there, forcing younger family members to find another place to live when they married and started a new family.  And even if they could remain near their extended families, the available farm land in the villages was not sufficient to accommodate new family units.  To these up and coming generations of Mennonites, the promise of abundant good land - and relatively cheap! - in America offered hope of a level of living that most of them would never hope to enjoy in Europe.

Mennonite emigration occurred in three phases: 

1683-1709 - Religious persecution was the major emigration propellant during this era.  And most of the émigrés fled in small and large organized groups.

1709-1714 - The brutally harsh winter of 1708-1709 - the coldest European winter in 500 years ("The Year that Europe Froze") - killed wild animals, livestock, trees, and destroyed crop plants and vines.  When the spring finally arrived, food was scarce and many people were starving and hope for the near-future was dim.

1717-1775 - Although religious intoleration and harsh weather continued to be emigration factors in this period, overpopulation in farming villages and land scarcity were the major reasons Mennonites, and other Europeans, fled the continent for America.  Daniel Haston's father, Henrich Hiestand, emigrated approximately nine or ten years into this third phase.

Source of three phases of emigration:  Introduction and Chapter 2 of Hopeful Journeys by Aaron Spencer Eogleman.  (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1966)

Probable Reasons Henrich Hiestand Emigrated to America

According to a grandson of Henrich Hiestand (Joseph Hiestand, son of Henrich's oldest son Jacob), his "grandfather Hiestand was also a native of Germany, and emigrated to Lancaster County, PA in 1727."**  This Joseph Hiestand was a nephew of our Daniel Hiestand/Haston.

Ship passenger lists were not recorded and kept until September 14, 1727 and none of the ship lists after that date contain the name of Henrich Hiestand.  So we do not know for sure if Joseph Hiestand's 1727 date for Henrich's arrival in America was accurate or not, but we have no solid reason for questioning it.  Perhaps he arrived in 1727 a few weeks or months prior to the resolution adopted on September 14, 1727 by the Pennsylvania Provincial Council "holding shipmasters to a strict accountability and ordering an examination into the matter of bringing aliens into the Province."***

Late in 1727, James Logan (the Penn family's agent in America) "reported that instead of the three ships of German-speaking settlers that were expected, a total of six with more than twelve hundred foreigners had arrived."

Source: Page 170 of  "Caspar Wistar: German American Entrepreneur and Cultural Broker" by Rosalind J. Beiler in The Human Tradition in Colonial America, edited by Ian K. Steele and Nancy L. Rhoden.

Only five ships were recorded as having arrived to Philadelphia in 1727 after passenger lists were required on September 14, 1727.  That seems to indicate that one ship of German-speaking settlers arrived in 1727 prior to the ship list requirement.  It is possible that Henrich Hiestand could have been aboard that pre-September 14 ship, but we have no evidence to support that supposition. 

If Henrich Hiestand arrived in 1727, prior to his October 8 birthday, he would have been 22 years old at the time he landed in Philadelphia.  So we can assume that one motivating reason for his emigration to America was to secure land to own and farm in order to build a life for himself.  The Swiss-Germans practiced partible inheritance, meaning they believed that every son should receive part of the parents' inheritance rather than primogeniture inheritance (through which the entire inheritance went to the oldest son).  Although partible inheritance is much more fair and equitable than primogeniture, generational divisions of the "family farm" meant that the descendants eventually found themselves trying to live off such small parcels of land that it was impossible to sustain families with such limited real estate. 

But historical evidence suggests that he have also have been motivated by a desire to escape religious oppression and future wars that were threatening the Palatinate.  "Beginning with 1726, and owing partly to renewed oppression on the part of the Palatine government, and partly to a new war scare, the Mennonites of the Palatine again became uneasy and desirous of emigration to a more secure land."****  A combination of these factors no doubt contributed to surge of emigrations from the Palatinate in 1727. 

In the year 1727...

...the German and Swiss were pouring in so rapidly that the Government determined that they should put under an oath or promise of allegiance.  Ship owners were required to make accurate lists of all of these people who came over to Pennsylvania.  Many came before 1727 as the County was pretty largely filled up before that time.  But accurate and reliable information as to just how many there were, is to some extent wanting; but from 1727 onward we have reliable information.  The Colonial records show, that in 1727, five ship loads of these people came making a total of about 1,000 persons of whom 270 were male heads of families.*****
Note: Jacob Hiestandt and Johannes Hiestandt arrived on the ship "Friendship" from Rotterdam by way of Bristol, England on October 16, 1727.  These two Hiestandts settled near Henry Heestant in Lancaster County, PA and were naturalized at the same time and place that Henry Hiestandt was naturalized.

*Page 44 of Trade in Strangers: The Beginnings of Mass Migration to North America by Marianne S. Wokeck (Philadelphia: The Pennsylvania State University, 1999).
**Page 368 of Authentic Genealogical Memorial History of Philip Powell by Rev. John Powell.  Originally published in 1880, but reprint now available from
***Source of Provincial Council quote: Page 37 of The German Immigration into Pennsylvania by Frank Ried Diffenderffer (2003 reprint by Genealogical Publishing Co, Inc).
Source:  Page 179 of The Mennonite Immigration to Pennsylvania in the Eighteenth Century by C. Henry Smith.  (Norristown, PA: Pennsylvania German Society, 1929)
*****Page 229 of Swiss and German Pioneer Settlers of Southeastern Pennsylvania by H. Frank Eshleman (originally published in 1917 and reprinted in 2000 by the Genealogical Publishing Company of Baltimore, MD).

The Emigration Route

Down the Rhine to Rotterdam (Netherlands)

The Rhine River has been called the "River of Destiny."  Hundreds of thousands of Swiss and Germans sought their destinies by floating down the Rhine, from the mid-17th century until the mid-19th century. 

With its headwaters in Switzerland and its mouth in the Dutch North Sea, the Rhine flows 768 miles (1,236 km) at Rotterdam.  Originating in Switzerland and flowing through the Palatinate of Germany to and through the more religious-tolerant Netherlands, the Rhine provided a somewhat convenient escape route for Mennonites who were fleeing persecution and other hardships in Switzerland and Germany.  Rotterdam was generally the port of choice because it was easier to reach by emigrants from the Palatinate and many Rotterdam merchants had connections with other merchants in Philadelphia.  And from Rotterdam they could easily board ships headed for America.

Under good river conditions, the trip down the Rhine from Worms to Rotterdam (approximately 350 miles) could have taken only four or five days of actual floating time.  But there were many toll stations (associated with toll castles) along the way; maybe as many as thirty or so were active in the early 1700s.  The toll castles belonged to territorial lords or to their authorized vassals. 

In addition to collecting tolls and searching the ships, the stops also delayed boats long enough to encourage (or coerce) passengers to spend money with the merchants of the castle.  Consequently, toll station stops probably extended the river trip from Worms to Rotterdam from taking a few days to taking a few weeks, perhaps a month or so.

At Rotterdam, aspiring travelers to America had to make arrangements to board a ship for the Atlantic crossing.  This process probably took several weeks or more, depending on the time of the year.  Fortunately for Mennonite travelers from the Palatinate (and other areas of Europe) to America in the 1700s, there was a substantial population of Mennonites in the Netherlands, many of whom had gained wealth as merchants.  And these wealthy Dutch Mennonites were known for their sympathetic generosity, especially with regard to suffering brethren in other lands.  The Dutch Relief Fund for Foreign Needs was established in 1726 as a permanent fund to aid distressed Mennonites in and from other countries.  No doubt, many Mennonites awaiting passage to America in the Netherlands found refuge in the homes of compassionate Dutch Mennonites.  And out of the Dutch Relief Fund, ship passage fees were paid for many of the most needy Mennonite refugees who were seeking religious toleration, peace, and economic prosperity in America.

Across the North Sea to Cowes on the Isle of Wight (or Another English Port)

Prior to 1783, ships sailing through the English Channel were required by British navigation laws to stop in one of several English ports.  Only British-owned and operated ships were allowed to engage in business with the British colonies.  The most popular port for these journeys was the port of Cowes on the northern coast of the Isle of Wight.  Contrary winds in the channel sometimes turned a normally eight-days trip from Holland to England into an adventurous two to four weeks. 

There was another delay of a couple of weeks or more at the British port, as the ships waited to pass through the custom house.  Everything on the ship was examined and passengers again paid custom duties.  Additional cargo was on-boarded as passengers were compelled to spend money in the port during the docking, as well as purchase what provisions they could afford for the trans-Atlantic journey.

When the winds were good, the ships weighed their anchors at the English port and set sail.  Then, writes Mittelberger, "the real misery begins with the long voyage." 
Source: Page xxxiv of Pennsylvania German Pioneers by Ralph Beaver Strassburger and William John Hinke, Volume 1 -- 1727-1775, (1934).

The Atlantic Journey

Most passenger ships sailed across the Atlantic in the mid-year season of late spring through early autumn, May through October.  If the weather and wind conditions were favorable the journey could have taken as few as seven weeks, but eight to twelve weeks were more common.  Occasionally, extreme weather would blow a ship off course and the trip would be even longer.

Much has been written about the conditions that existed on these ships.  In some cases, the journey was relatively easy when weather was favorable and the ship's captain and crew were decent people.  But many of these voyages were nightmarish.  

The Atlantic nightmares began when greedy ship captains overloaded their ships, packing passengers in sleeping quarters so tightly that they were barely able to move.  Often there was no room left for personal belongings and passengers were forced to leave their trunks of family heirlooms behind. 

Living conditions on many of the ships were deplorable:

  • Passenger ships were packed well beyond comfortable space.  Bunk space was commonly limited to six feet long and one one-half feet wide with very limited vertical space.
  • Food quantities were limited and when the journey took longer than expected, the amount of food was rationed to such small amounts that passengers were constantly hungry and some of them starved to death.
  • Food quality, which was never good from day one on the ships, only worsened throughout the voyage.  For example, biscuits became dirty, hard and crusty, and and infested with worms.  Meat, even though heavily salted, spoiled.  In some cases, passengers were forced to resort to eating mice and rats.
  • Drinking water was limited, sometimes becoming dark and thick and full of worms.  Often passengers died of typhoid fever from drinking the water.
  • Lice infestations abounded, to the point that lice were sometimes so thick on the bodies of people that they were scraped off in swarms.
  • Extreme temperatures, both heat and cold, took the lives of many passengers.
  • There were no provisions for sanitation, so filth and stench from vomiting, sweat, urine and feces was unimaginable. 
  • Sometimes gales lasted for two or three days and nights and passengers tumbled over each other, both the sick and the well.
  • Impatience mounted and passengers cursed and fought each other, even their own loved ones.
  • Cheating and theft were commonplace.
  • Children and the elderly were often the first to die.  Many parents watched their children die and their bodies cast into the ocean.
  • Overall, the mortality rates on some of these ships were incredible.

The classic account of these Atlantic crossings was recorded by Gottlieb Mittelberger, a school master and organist, who traveled from Germany to Pennsylvania in 1750 on a ship primarily filled with poor immigrants.  Read excerpts from Mittelberger's description of his experiences.

Unfortunately, there is no known record of which ship carried Henrich Hiestand to America or any extant reports of his experiences en route to Pennsylvania.  Whether he was one of the more fortunate travelers or one of the miserable survivors of a horrendous trip, we do not know.  IF he made it to America in 1727, prior to September 14, 1727 (when ships' passenger lists were kept), then his early arrival in the shipping season would seem to indicate that the conditions of his journey would have been more favorable than most.  Fortunately for Henrich Hiestand and those of us who have descended from him, he did survive the trans-Atlantic passage.  Many other European emigrants of his era were not so fortunate.

It is therefore safe to say, that the 30,000 German Swiss immigrants who arrived here from the year 1700 until the times reaching up to the Revolutionary War may not have been more than two-thirds or three-fourths of those who started to reach America.  That is to say, it is wholly likely that out of nearly 45,000 or 50,000 immigrant who set sail for America in that time, 15,000 to 20,000 of them died on the voyage by diseases, hardships and exposure.  And perhaps, many entire ship loads of them went down, of which we have no record in America at all.  Those 30,0000 who arrived here during that time, may simply be survivors of a list of nearly 50,0000 who started.

Page 267 of Swiss and German Pioneer Settlers of Southeastern Pennsylvania by H. Frank Eshleman (originally published in 1917 and reprinted in 2000 by the Genealogical Publishing Company of Baltimore, MD).

Henrich Hiestand, our immigrant ancestor, was a courageous young man to leave his immediate family behind in Germany - probably to never see them again - and board the boat on the Rhine River, heading for America.  No doubt he had heard many of the glowing reports of religious liberty and rich and plentiful farmland in Pennsylvania.  But, it is likely that he had also been apprised of the risks associated with the journey.  But, realistically, his options were limited.  He could remain in Germany without much hope of peace and protection from invading armies, complete freedom to worship, and sufficient farmland on which to rear a family and enjoy a comfortable life.  He could emigrate to some other country in Europe but most of those countries were prone to the same kinds of oppression he had known in the Palatinate.  So, he chose to face the risks and hope for the rewards. 

The more we learn about his life in America, it is apparent that he made the right choice.  For example, in the era of 1700 to 1750, one villager (Hans Horch) in the Palatinate owned 21 pieces of land that together totaled 26 acres.  Horch was one of the richest farmers in the parish.*  But within less than ten years after his arrival in Pennsylvania, Henrich Hiestand owned nearly ten times as much as Horch owned in Germany when he purchased 226 acres in Hempfield Township of Lancaster County.  By the the time he died, Henrich owned nearly 1200 (792 + 400) acres in Virginia.  How much land is 1200 acres?  A square mile is 640 acres, so Henry Hiestand owned nearly two square miles of land when he died in 1779.  Had he remained in Ibersheim or some village in Germany until his death (or elsewhere in Europe), how would he have fared economically in his lifetime?

*Page 59 of Hopeful Journeys by Aaron Spencer Fogleman (Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996).

Arrival in America

An engraved sketch by George Heap, of Philadelphia viewed from New Jersey depicted as it looked in the 1730's.

When a ship with German immigrants entered the Philadelphia harbor, their drama was not over.  The authority for de-boarding was vested in Philadelphia health officials, as well as the captain of the ship.  And in and after the late 1720s, naturalization officers also conducted the oath of allegiance to the king of Great Britain before granting freedom to enter the colony. 

First, passengers were inspected for contagious diseases by an authorized port physician.  Some of them, who had survived the journey for months and had come so far, did not live to leave the ships.  Others were left on the ships until they could be cleared on dangerous contagious diseases.  By 1743, Philadelphia built a "pest hospital" (lazaretto) on Province Island in the Delaware River for the purpose of quarantining sick ship passengers. 

Second, passengers had to settle their debts with the ship's captain.  If they could afford to pay, they were allowed to leave the ship as soon as their financial obligations were settled with the captain.  But many of them were unable to make the necessary payment.  Even if they did leave their homes with money, often their funds were depleted by the time they paid all of the custom fees and other expenses associated with the various required landings and delays from home to the Atlantic. 

Once researcher* estimates that about half of the German-speaking immigrants were compelled to sell their services for several years as servants to wealthy masters in order to be released (into the custody of the master) from their ships.  These indentured servants became known as "redemptioners" because they had to redeem their freedom. 

*Page 73 of Hopeful Journeys by Aaron Spencer Fogleman (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996)

Some passengers who could pay the voyage fee were left with little or not money.  And unless they had family or friends awaiting them in America, they were forced to find a way to survive with winter approaching.  Many of them were forced to beg on the streets and from house to house until they could find some means of supporting themselves in America. 

This story continues, with a specific focus on Henrich Hiestand's arrival in Philadelphia and his years in Pennsylvania, on the "Henrich Hiestand's Life in Pennsylvania" page.

Henrich Hiestand's Life in Pennsylvania