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GERMANNA COLONY

In 1710, Alexander Spottswood at the age of 34 was appointed Governor of Virginia, the first state in the 13 colonies. He was interested in increasing the wealth and prosperity of the colony, as well as adding to his own fortune. After discovering evidence of iron in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, he was eager to open mines there. He developed a plan to import skilled iron workers from Germany, where the residents were impoverished because of the developments and eager to seek their fortunes in the New World. In April 1714, Spottswood formed a group of about AtE Germans, including men, women, and children, largely from areas surrounding Siegen (Siegen was in the principality of Nassau-Siegen), and they started for America in the late summer or fall of 1713. The Germans spent a dreary winter stranded in London and arrived in Virginia in the Spring of 1714. Siegen was the center of one of the most noted iron producing and manufacturing districts in Germany. Musen, which was 15 miles northeast of Siegen, had the most celebrated mines in Germany. Spottswood made arrangements to pay for the Germans’ passage, and they repaid him by working as tenants on his land for two years.

The first German Colony of 12 families that Spottswood brought to America from Germany founded Germanna, Virginia. Johannes Kemper was among these families. The Germanna Colony was located in the summer of 1714, ostensibly to protect the frontiers from the Indians, but in reality to work the Governor’s iron works and build the iron furnace and make iron for him. Germanna was the first German settlement in Virginia; the first county town in Spottsylvania County, Virginia; where St. George’s Parish was organized; where the first iron furnace in America was built; where the first German Reformed Congregation in the United States was organized; and the place from which the famous expedition of "the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe" started. The Germans who settled there spoke High German. Although there were many religious groups, the Kempers were identified as Presbyterians. The site of this famous town was located in the northeast corner of what is now Orange County, Virginia, on a horseshoe peninsula, 400 acres, with the Rapidan River, north, west and east. The place is now only a ford in the river.

The first 12 German families later left Germanna in the spring of 1720, including Johannes and his wife, and went north about 20 miles into Stafford County, later called Prince William County, and now called Fauquier County, on the Licking River, possibly because they wanted to own their own land and Governor Spottswood would not sell them any. There they engaged in agriculture along the Rappahannock River at the settlement called "Germantown." These men were mostly mechanics and master workmen in their several trades. Germantown was eight (8) miles below Warrentown (Fauquier County), Virginia. The Kemper Family in the United States by Willis Miller Kemper and Harry Linn Wright, indicate that "the Germantown settlement was known far and wide for the thrift and comfortable living of its inhabitants. The community was an intelligent one."

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