As I get ready to plow I thought today I would touch upon something different.
In 1701 in Weilburg, Germany a Wilhelm Volland married Anna Regina Halm and they had three children over the next few years. However, the thirty years war, followed by famines, more wars led to collapse in the Palatinate area of Germany, or Holland or whomever ruled it that month as war raged back and forth.
Desperate to make a living Wilhelm saw an ad from Queen Anne of England offering British Citizenship to Germans who would settle in the new world and swear allegiance to the crown. Well, Wilhelm and Anna sold all their worldly possessions and hopped on a ship to England. So did 32,000 other Germans and the English sent back the Catholics, Anabaptists and others they deemed “undesirable.” They had not planned on so many people coming! Now, 1709 was the coldest winter in England for centuries and the Germans suffered. Come spring they almost rebelled for England was trying to make them go to the new world as indentured servants. That failing they struck a deal and sent ships over.
The crossing was terrible. Some of the worst storms seen for centuries blew across the Atlantic, the ships were overcrowded and people were sick from the sea, bad food and then Typhoid set in. Of the three thousand on 8 ships going to New York to an area off Long Island to a camp 470 died. Somewhere along the way Wilhelm died leaving Anna and two little boys and a daughter alone with no family on a ship heading to a wild and scary new world.
I can only imagine what my grandmother of so many generations ago thought as she walked off that ship with three children in tow on July 4, 1710. Alone, most likely afraid, with no money, no husband and nothing to her name she must’ve been one brave woman not to sign up to go back when they made that available. Of all my ancestors and some of them are mighty famous people Anna Regina Halm is the one I am in awe of the most. What kind of woman was she? What kind of life she had with wars, famines, bad conditions at camp and on the boat and now in a camp in a new world, quarantined till spring and all alone she didn’t collapse. She took care of her children and found a man who lost his wife on the boat coming over and in September married him and took care of his 5 or 6 children along with hers! Then, she had another child with him and when spring came they moved up the river to near Kingston, NY.
There they prospered and a big hats off to Mr. Lorentz who took care of my Grandmother Anna and the children who are my ancestors. They grew up and in 1724, at what is now called the OLD DUTCH CHURCH in Kingston, her oldest son was married. He had 18 children….. and the rest is history as they say.
So far, no one knows how long Anna lived or when she died. I would love to think she lived to be old and died with her family surrounding her. She was, after all a survivor. Her life’s record shows that. She not only raised one family, but two and actually a third one if you think of the final child as part of another family or part of each family.
One thing is for sure, she was no slow witted, blundering woman for she survived in a then very tough world, surrounded by war, disease, murder, death, pain, famine, destroyed cities, foreign powers using her as human fodder to settle a new world. Yet, she survived…… she raised my ancestors and kept my Grandfather Wilhelm’s dream alive as well as his and her family.
Is it too far to imagine that as the boat pulled up to the dock that she pulled her children from the railing of the ship, looked out at wilderness of the new world and the derelict camp they were expected to live in and brushed her hair from her face and marched down the ramp with her jaw set, her eyes flashing and her hands clenched in determination that she was going to make the most of this and prosper…… I can almost see a slight smile grow on her face as the tears of her losses dried on her cheeks…. she was too busy planning on how to survive and prosper than she was dwelling on her pain and setting a good example for her children…… for they were after all the most important part of her life. I can see her going to their assigned tent and passing a man with a bunch of little children with no mother.. and I can see her raise an eyebrow, look at the man and then walk to her tent with the gears turning on her next move……. after all if she couldn’t make it she would be on a boat going back to the terrible world she had escaped and she wasn’t about to have her children go back to that…..
A big salute to Anna Regina Halm…. whose story inspires me over three hundred years later….. somehow I can just see her walking in the hilly countryside along the Hudson River years later, surrounded by lots of Grandchildren, laughing and smiling….. followed by a determined and mouthy collie dog…..
Thats right and its name was Ginger and it was plotting Colonial Domination…… recruiting the Native American dogs to overthrow all humanity…. she would’ve succeeded if it hadn’t have been for all those meddling kids…. .. ahem….