In January 2016, the German-American Heritage Museum of the USA inaugurated the exhibition series “German Entrepreneurship” with “Colony 1714: Germanna and the Ironworkers.” This was a fitting start to showcase the early stages of influence of German-speaking immigrants in the transatlantic economy of colonial America.
This exhibit presented the story of the founding of the westernmost settlement of the British Empire, and the surprising fact that it was German speaking from the very beginning. The visitors came away with a deeper understanding of how the imperatives of trade, transatlantic migration, and geopolitics drove Virginia’s colonial Governor Alexander Spotswood to identify, recruit and settle talented ironworkers from the German Siegerland to a small fort on the frontier of European civilization.
The settlement of the 42 colonists of the Reformed faith from the iron-working Siegerland doubled three years later by the arrival of 20 German-speaking Lutheran families, with more to follow. The ancestors of the Germanna colonists came from modern-day North Rhine-Westphalia, the Palatinate, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Austria, and Switzerland.
Major themes of this exhibit were transatlantic history, trade, immigration, entrepreneurship, and family continuity. Access to the database of 100,000 Germanna descendants will help the visitor identify a personal tie to the Germanna colonists.
We are excited about this collaborative exhibit and our ongoing relationship with the Germanna Foundation (www.germanna.org), founded in 1956 to preserve and make known the history of Germanna and its families. The Germanna Foundation welcomes you to tour its Brawdus Martin Visitor Center, Memorial Garden, and hike the trails through the 230 acres of the original settlement along the Rapidan River in Orange County, Virginia. Your group may wish to schedule a briefing with Dr. Eric Larsen about the exciting field work now being conducted at this important German-American archaeological site.
This exhibit is part of the increasing effort of the German -American Heritage Foundation of the USA to showcase the ongoing work of its Member Clubs, and is made possible by the generosity of our members.