A Troubled World
A Troubled World
To properly appreciate the heroic and adventurous lives of our ancestors, we must journey to the beginning – to Europe and the tumultuous times in which they lived.
In 1510, Martin Luther, an ordained Augustinian monk, became aware of abuses and corruption in high ecclesiastical realms of the Roman Catholic Church. He began an intense study of the bible, particularly the writings of St. Paul. His conclusions brought him into conflict with church officials.
On October 31, 1517, Luther posted his famous 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg castle church. Although his theses were critical of papal policies, his intention was only to provide material for discussion. However, word of the controversy spread throughout Europe and eventually Luther was ordered to recant, which he refused to do. The Protestant Reformation, with seeds in the 12th century Waldensian doctrine, had begun.
The Count Palatine, a secular prince of the Holy Roman Empire, at one time ruled the Palatinate or German Pfalz, from which our ancestors probably came. It comprised two separate areas: the Rhenish or Lower Palatinate and the Upper Palatinate. The Upper Palatinate was in Northern Bavaria, on both sides of the Naab River; the Rhenish Palatinate lay on both sides of the Middle Rhine River, between the Main and Neckar tributaries.
When the Reformation began, Luther’s followers from many places -- Holland, Switzerland and Germany – gathered in the Palatine where many people shared similar religious beliefs.
Throughout the Counter-Reformation in the 16th and 17th centuries, the spread of Protestantism slowed. The Austrian Hapsburgs tried to restore Catholic authority in Germany and Bohemia, resulting in the Thirty Years’ War of 1618–1648. Eventually, the Protestant Elector Palatine Frederick V, was driven from Bohemia and deposed.
In the following years, the people of the Palatinate continued to suffer as political and religious factions raged against each other and French armies pillaged and plundered their lands. In 1702, the Palatinate was embroiled in the War of the Spanish Succession, which continued until 1713.
In the winter of 1708-09, after enduring the horrors of war and religious persecution, the Palatines were struck another deadly blow. Their vineyards perished during the harshest winter in 100 years.
It was too much. Those who could, began a mass migration to America and Ireland.
Patricia Snider Armstrong © July 2000