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The German Palatines were early 18th-century emigrants from the Middle Rhine region of the Holy Roman Empire, including a minority from the Palatinate, by which the entire group was known. They immigrated to England as refugees and were both Protestant and Catholic farmers. Towards the end of the 17th century and into the 18th, the wealthy region was repeatedly invaded by French troops during the religious wars. They imposed continuous military requisitions, causing widespread devastation and famine. The winter of 1708 was notably cold, resulting in further hardships. The term "Poor Palatines" referred to some 13,000 Germans who emigrated to England between May and November 1709, seeking refuge. Their arrival in England, and the inability of the British Government to integrate them, caused a highly politicized debate over the merits of immigration. The English tried to settle them in England, Ireland and the North American colonies to strengthen their position abroad.
The Palatine settlements did not prove to be viable in the long term, except for those settled in County Limerick and County Wexford in Ireland and in the colony of New York in British North America. In Ireland, fewer than 200 families remained after the original settlement in 1709. But they maintained their distinctive culture until well into the nineteenth century, and Palatine surnames are now diffused across the country. The largest concentration of descendants of Palatine immigrants lives around Rathkeale, Co Limerick.
The English transported nearly 3,000 German Palatines in ten ships to New York in 1710. Many of them were first assigned to work camps along the Hudson River to work off the cost of their passage. Close to 850 families settled in the Hudson River Valley, primarily in what are now Germantown and Saugerties, New York. They produced stores for the Navy in work camps on each side of the Hudson. In 1723, 100 heads of families from the work camps were the first Europeans to acquire land west of Little Falls, New York, in present-day Herkimer County on both the north and south sides along the Mohawk River. This settlement was halfway through the valley, on the frontier far beyond Schenectady and Albany. Later additional Palatine Germans settled along the Mohawk River for several miles, founding towns such as Palatine and Palatine Bridge, and in the Schoharie Valley.
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