Like the generations that came before him, Johann Ludwig was tired of religious persecution by the church. Political oppression was driving him, along with thousands, to Pennsylvania. He told his people, “Take what you can carry, and onward to the asylum from the harassed and depressed sons and daughters of the relics of the Reformation.” Johann Ludwig was very outspoken about the Luther movement. Peter Lee, his father, had a passion for Luther’s message, and he passed on this passion to him. Both men felt very blessed to know the Truth of the Gospels and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Like his father, Johann Ludwig was found many times alone on his knees in prayer. He was the undesignated spiritual leader in his community. Johann Ludwig felt the responsibility, and he carried it well.

Johann Ludwig also heard the other side of the story from people who had been to America and had come back to their homeland. He had spoken directly to a man named Wolfgang. He told him, “I took my entire family and put them under the trust and leadership of the notorious John Law.” Wolfgang went on to say, “He misled my people by promising that the garden of Eden was waiting for us on the banks of the Father of the Western Water.” The man broke down and sobbed uncontrollably. It took Johann Ludwig several minutes before he could calm him down enough to be able to continue telling his sad story.

John Law

After he had a few sips of water, Wolfgang was able to say, “John Law dropped us off on the land bridge at Biloxi near Mobile. We were left there exposed to the weather without any shelter or enough provisions. We had no protection against many different foes that did not want us there. For over five years, there was no way to leave that place. Not one of us entered the promised paradise.”

As in all new countries, the Palatines were exposed to trials and privations. And the hardships of trying to settle on land that Native Americans already occupy. Johann Ludwig had already heard by word of mouth the story about one hundred of them were massacred by the Tuscarora Indians, September 22, 1707.

Johann Ludwig asked him, “What happened to your family?” He was not ready to hear what Wolfgang told him next.

“Two thousand of my people were consigned to the grave. I lost my wife and two small children in the first year.” Again, sobbing, Wolfgang cried out, “I had no time to grieve them for the fight just to stay alive. Each day was a battle itself.” He told them that, “Far as I could tell, there were about three hundred of us pallid survivors. We finally seated on the banks of the Mississippi about thirty or forty miles above New Orleans. Our hopes were to catch a ship back to our homeland before the new world took us all.”

Johann Ludwig and all who head this man were faced with a serious decision. They all had to choose between accepting things the way they were or taking a significant unknown risk at a chance of getting to America safely. Johann Ludwig was not about to put his family in more harm’s way. He would have to put some considerable thought and prayer into his decision for his future. 

John Law had, through his agents, engaged twelve thousand Germans and Swiss to leave everything, trust him, and go to America. Johann Ludwig was not going to make the same mistake. The sad fate of those of Biloxi has spread abroad, which deterred others from coming to participate in the promised blessings of the “Eden Fields” or to possess the Eldorado. 

The fabled city of gold Eldorado

These stories filtered back to Johann Ludwig’s homeland. Their telling was quite worrisome to each man, woman, and child that was looking towards America for a better chance at living. What was the right thing to do? They were being driven from their country and their homes. All because of their unswerving attachment to the principles of the Gospel. Johann Ludwig called for a group prayer to express their sincere gratitude to the Lord, who had been to them a strong rock, a house of defense to save them from the world.

One of his fondest memories of his father, Peter Lee, was the celebratory communion meal that he served once a month to each member of his family.

The communion meal

The cup Elisabeth Luther had given to a young Peter Lee had been passed on to Johann Ludwig when both men were older. The story that was passed down of the Knauss family’s first communion meal was very real and personal to Johann Ludwig. It was as if it had happened to him. He remembered his father’s voice was so full of hope and blessed assurance with each telling. The family gathering together and celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was a bond that could not be broken. 

Johann Ludwig always trusted his father’s teachings, and he relied on that knowledge to make his decisions now as a husband and father himself. But his family now included other families that trusted and relied on him to make the right decision. What he should do next was obvious to him.

He asked all his people to gather together, sit down, bow their heads, and have a word of prayer with him. When everyone was still, he prayed, “Our precious Heavenly Father Jesus Christ, we know you are the creator of all things.” He was forced to pause before continuing because he got a little choked up. Johann Ludwig had a personal relationship with Jesus, and he felt humbled by just saying his name. 

A get down on your knee’s prayer

He began again, “By your word, we know the truth through the Gospels, and we are thankful for all who have passed this on to us.” He paused to think, then he spoke softly, “Like little children, we can come to you when we have a problem and pretend to just drop it in a basket at your feet. We know you hear and answer all our prayers, Lord. We know you always give us one of three answers, yes, no, or wait. We cannot wait any longer, Lord. So, bless us while we unite together as one people and move to this land that is promised there for us in America.” 

The Armor of God

He took out his Bible and read to them as their heads were still bowed. “We will put on the Whole Armor of God so that we may stand and defend ourselves against all our enemies. We will gird our loins with the Truth and put on the Breastplate of Righteousness. Our feet will be shod with the Gospel of Peace, and we will stand together against the wisdom of the Devil. In Jesus’s name, we pray, Amen.” One by one, each person lifted their heads after they had finished their prayer to the Lord.

Praise to the Lord

Then Johann Ludwig took out a small leather bag from his bedroll. Inside was the little glass cup he saw his father use many times. As he looked at it again, it held the same beauty that his father saw in it many years before. After dusting it off, he carefully set it down, using a rock for a table. Just how he found a tiny bit of dry bread was a mystery to everyone, and he used the river’s water for the wine. After the meal, he put the glass cup back into its safe place, ready for travel.

From the very beginning of the Knauss family, a character personality trait was passed down throughout the generations. This was the willingness to leave one’s home at the time and emigrate to some other land. They would take root and build new homes for themselves and their children and their children’s children. It was this inner-being that led them to trade their native country of the Palatinates for Pennsylvania. 

The scarcity of land in Europe forced people to look toward the open spaces in the new world. Social and religious conditions became intolerable, unacceptable, and un-liveable to them. Famine and war had left the land so desolate it could not support the Knauss family and the other people who lived there. It was all this that in the eighteenth century sent the Palatinates and Swiss to Pennsylvania.

A scarcity of land in Europe

There were many reasons for the desire of the Palatines to emigrate to the New World: oppressive taxation, religious bickering, hunger for more and better land, the advertising of the English colonies in America, and the favourable attitude of the British government toward a settlement in the North American colonies. Many of the Palatines believed they were going to Pennsylvania, Carolina, or one of the tropical islands.

Now, new and terrifying stories were being spread around Johann Ludwig’s community. They told of terrible mistreatment by the military along with some of the local people on their neighbors. Families were being forced out of their homes and put into boats, canoes, and just on rafts to be set adrift in the river. These people were being sent anywhere downstream without a paddle. There were also reports of persons being thrown into the river left there to drown. Johann Ludwig knew he could not wait any longer. So, he decided to pack up his family and follow William Penn to the new world.

Johann Ludwig was a great fisherman, and he always had his own boat. This time when he shoved off from shore, he knew he would never land his craft there again on his homeland. He had only one regret, “I wish we had a bigger boat so that we could take more people with us, hopefully to a safer spot.”

1600’s Rhine river map

The trip down the Rhine took the Knauss family six weeks to get to their destination at the seaport. All along the journey, as they floated through different territories, tolls and fees were demanded by the authorities, or they would not let them pass. Each member of the family saved whatever they could to help pay for the journey to America. Sometimes their stored food stock and dried fruit had bought them more than gold or silver could. All the peoples in that area were hungry, and food was more precious than precious metals.

Six weeks on the river

The Johann Ludwig Knauss family and a small band of his persecuted brethren, Mennonite German immigrants, embarked to America in 1723. Twelve families comprised men of various order and occupations, including clergy and physician, farmers, carpenters, and tradesmen. They were all ready to risk it all for a chance of a better life in the New World. 

They were all ready to risk it

They had heard the stories of fortune and tragedy. However, they were still willing to take the risk of the long and dangerous voyage traveling across the Atlantic Ocean. They stood together and held onto the belief that through their prayers for the Lord’s guiding hand and with their faith in Him, He would protect them on their journey.

Many of the immigrants were too poor to pay for the journey. So, they indentured themselves to wealthier colonialists. They sold their services for years in return for the price of the passage. When one has served his or her term, he or she is entitled to a new suit of clothes at parting. And if it has been so stipulated, a man gets, in addition, a horse, a woman receives a cow.

Indentured serfs

It often happened that whole families, husbands, wives, and children, are separated by being sold to different purchasers. Especially when they have not paid any part of their passage money. Johann Ludwig thanked the Lord that he had enough money to pay for his whole family.

None of the stories that they all heard had prepared them for the misery of sea travel that typically lasted seven weeks. The immigrants and families from different parts of Europe were overcrowded into a small wooden ship, rocking and rolling at the mercy of the sea. 

Men, women, and children endured hardships and tried to survive to live in terrible misery. Because of the cramped quarters, there was nowhere aboard the vessel to avoid the horrible stench of man and animal. Each passenger experienced seasickness, vomiting, and dysentery. Many died miserably from the lack of provisions and terrible foul drinking water. The lice thrived and were so rampant, particularly on sick individuals, that they could be scraped off the body. 

alone at sea

Passengers and sailors alike were always too cold or too hot, living in dampness and anxiety. Each hour Johann Ludwig was awake he tried to encourage his brethren to stay healthy for their families. “The Lord Jesus himself is with us, any time there is two or more gathered together in My namesake I AM there also.” He told them this, and he believed it.

aboard ship

Children under the age of seven years rarely survived such a treacherous voyage. If a child had not been exposed before, they quickly caught measles or smallpox on board the ship, and most of them died from it. Their parents are forced to watch as their children suffer miserably and die from hunger, thirst, and sickness and then see them cast into the water. Johann Ludwig watched and prayed over as no less than thirty-two children who were thrown into the sea during his passage.

Women in this confinement had to bear the suffering of their innocent children. During the trip from Europe to America, and few escaped with their lives. Many a mother was cast overboard into the sea, still clutching her child as soon as they were both dead. One day during a heavy gale, a woman was to give birth but could not under the circumstances. At the extreme objection of the passengers led by Johann Ludwig, the men working the ship pushed her out through a porthole. They dropped her into the ocean because she was far in the rear of the vessel and could not be brought forward in the rough seas. Sharks were always present over the side rails. They were used to following slave ships as they ejected their dead. And it would only be moments before a body would be pulled under the water deep out of sight.

Their faith was tested when a gale raged for two days and three nights. The wooden ship was tossed around out of the control of its navigators. Every rope and board that held the small boat together was tested to its endurance, and you could hear them cracking and moaning. Each person believed that the ship would go to the bottom of the sea with all on board. Someone was praying all the time, a voice heard over in the corner, someone shouting “God Save Us,” or that silent prayer said only to one’s self.

A report of a leak in the boat reached the passengers, and death seemed inevitable. All able body men were called to duty to help the sinking ship either by stopping the leak or bailing out the water coming in. Every effort was made to save the boat, but after resorting to every possible proposition without success, all persons left alive expected the ship would soon sink. When they had exhausted all ideas of finding and fixing the leak, Johann Ludwig tried to hold his people together. 

The ruff voyage

He gathered to himself as many that could and told them, “I have been thinking that perhaps it might be encouraging for us to pray for future generations of the Knauss family that have not yet been born. We must remember our history and pass on truthful information relative to our ancestors. Thereby to trace the goodness and faithfulness of a convent-keeping God. He will preserve himself a people in this lineage for many generations.” 

Rough seas

The seas were so rough now that Johann Ludwig had to stop speaking. Even though he was sitting down, he still had to stabilize himself from falling over before continuing. “I pray that the succeeding descendants of this family may recognize that faithfulness of God in covenant-keeping and mercy with their ancestors. These men and women walked before HIM in truth. We humbly hope and trust that Almighty God will reserve in this family a seed to serve HIM from one generation to another. Until Christ shall appear the second time without sin to salvation.”

At this time, even the very sick and all the children now fell upon their knees on the flooded floor and prayed to God. They prayed for a time that every minute seemed like hours. As they prayed, the water around them slowly stopped rising, and it started going down a little as the men kept bailing with whatever they could. The leak had stopped, and each person aboard said, “Thank you, Lord,” in their own personal way. After the storm had passed, they were able to sail for two days more before they reached dry land in America.

They landed at Philadelphia with seventy souls that survived the voyage. After landing, an examination was made of the ship. And to their astonishment, it was found that a large shark had thrust its head through the opening in the ship’s hull, where the leak was. 

Philadelphia immigrant city

Johann Ludwig told his family that “The shark had become an instrument in the hand of God in preserving their lives.” This loathsome fish was already in a state of decomposing, and only the head remained; the rest of the body had probably been eaten by other sharks. This dead carcass could not have held back the leak if their voyage had lasted another day.

After getting resupplied, the twelve families traveled many miles into the forest and bought a section of land from the Indians to set up their new township. They cut out a fair settlement from the virgin forest, but after a time, the Indian’s title was proven a fraud. The land they had settled on was the possession of another tribe, and they came to drive the settlers away.

Johann Ludwig and his family had a kind and friendly relationship with the original Indian tribe. Each group of people benefited from trade between them. These friendly Indians were warmly attached to these foreign-speaking white settlers. They gave them a timely warning to leave the settlement because the other tribes were going to burn it down. The Indians told Johann Ludwig, “Know your days by the fingers on your hands.”

Trading with the Indians

Anna Knauss, his wife, very discreetly secured a large quantity of silver and gold from a hiding place in their cabin. Along with her children, the entire settlement left for Boston. Johann Ludwig having so much confidence in the friendship of the Indians and not wanting to leave the settlement unguarded, ventured to stay behind and see how the situation would play out.

Johann Ludwig could not think that those friendly Indians would take his life or even compel him to leave, but in this, he was severely mistaken. Finally, the chief of the other tribe, along with ten of his braves, stood before his cabin and gave him a ten days-notice. 

They said to him in hand sign language, “If you value your life, pack up and be gone.” They also told him that “They would fire the settlement. And if he was not gone at the expiration of ten days,” the chief counted on his fingers and pointed to the ten braves, “Then his time would be no more.” Each day, as the sun was just rising the chief, returned outside his cabin, with one less brave, and held up his fingers to let him know the number of days he could stay. Then they left him to make his own decision.

A war party

One friendly Indian that always helped Johann Ludwig during the harvest time loved him dearly. He came to him every day during the ten-day-standoff, counting each day a, finger less. And as the Angles took hold of Lot to hurry him out of Sodom, so did the poor Indian hurry this crazy white man to leave the forest and save his life.

Johann was stubborn, and regardless of all the warnings, he tarried until the tenth day when the whole tribe came and fired their guns at his house. They were carrying burning torches and shooting flaming arrows onto his roof. He had already sent his wife with the valuables and the children to safety. In haste, he threw a sack of wool upon his back, the only thing left worth anything, and fled for his life into the wilderness.

Indians attacking

As he made his escape, the Indians were in close pursuit, and they continuously fired upon him long after he cleared the settlement. The shooting only stopped about a mile outside of Boston, and he re-joined his family there. Anna, his wife, took from his back the sack of wool and found deposited therein seven bullet balls and an equal number of holes in the bag. 

Anna Knauss proclaimed to her husband, “This simple sack of wool was another instrument in the hands of God saving his life and preserving the Knauss posterity in America.” She looked upon her misfortune as grievous to bear, and in the bitterness of soul, she would often exclaim, “Alas, alas, what have I come to.”

Johann Ludwig, after he escaped from the Indians, was willing to forget the past. He remembered instead the providence of God in the preservation of his life by land and by sea. And in the view of so much prosperity, he dedicated himself to the service of Almighty God. Martin Luther’s preaching had converted him; in his mind, he was saved two times by the Holy Spirit. He was soon after ordained a preacher of righteousness by the elders.

The Knauss family finally settled in Whitemarsh county, Pennsylvania. There Johann Ludwig became a landowner, being mentioned among 47 landholders in 1734, at which time he was the owner of 100 acres of land. He also dropped the first name of Johann and went by the name Ludwig. He told his family, “I will start with a new name in this new world.” 

Old Battle of Whitemarsh map 1777

There would also be new members added to the Knauss family. Ludwig and Anna had 14 other children together. As the family spread out, they always stayed in touch, writing letters whenever they could, and keeping safe the ones they had received, to be read over and over again. All the Knauss family’s children took great pride in their penmanship. They were also excellent readers and had a strong knowledge of the Bible.

Ludwig donated some land and helped fall the trees to build the first log cabin church. And in July 1728, he was a deacon in the Whitemarsh Reformed Church. But this church dispersed in 1746 because of the dwindling membership. He is included in a list of Germans who were naturalized 1738-1739, the Philadelphia records.

Log cabin church

James Logan, the Colonial Secretary, voiced his concerns about the high influx of German emigrants, “They are unscrupulous about complying with the rules of the Land Office. They come here in crowds and as bold indigent strangers from Germany, where many of them have been soldiers. All these people go on the best vacant lands and seize upon them as common spoil.”

Logan went on to complain that they rarely approached him on their arrival for the purpose of purchasing land. He said, “They justify their right to occupy the land because they had been solicited by publications in Europe to come there and be colonists. They came in pursuance of those representations, without bringing with them the means with which to pay for any land.”

From 1735, settlements in Pennsylvania multiplied rapidly. It extended over vast regions west of the Susquehanna, where the Scotch-Irish had led the way through the wilderness. The German settlement kept pace with the native peoples. 

While the Spanish and French war in 1746 was being fought, some settlements were laid to ashes by Indians down from Canada. Some of the settlers were massacred, others were abducted and taken far away from their homes. There were a few that made their escape and were dispersed in the north. 

Indian captives

But, most of these people were never heard from again. A great many died from the ill-treatment received at the hands of the native people who thought the settlers were invaders and squatters on their homeland. The raided settlements remained in ruins for years.

The native people called the mountain range that extended from the Delaware river hundreds of miles westward the Kautatnchk (ca-oo-ta-tin-chunk). But they were called the Blue Mountains by the New Landers. They did not find them to be an insurmountable barrier, and they crossed over into the Indian homeland and laid out farms. They should have remembered in their own life experiences with invaders, the inhabitants, like themselves, will fight to keep their homes.

Now, these immigrants from the Old-World oppression were exposing their wives and children to the torch, hatchet, and scalping knife by the savages of the New World. Hundreds fell victim to the relentlessly cruel savagery of the midnight assault and slaughter along the north and south of the Blue Mountains.

There were more than 300 Germans massacred by the hostile tribes. They had come to America and settled in Pennsylvania about the same time the Ludwig Knauss family traveled there. Ludwig’s small group of families were well-armed and banded together. They were familiar with defending themselves against marauding armies and mercenaries. All they had to do in the past was just cooperate with them a little, and they might just leave them alone.

But when they tried this with the native people, the Indians saw this as a sign of weakness. And with great force and cruelty, they attacked. There was no communication between the Indians and the New Landers, just fighting on sight.



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