I open the memory of my grandmother’s Huston Street home in Chase City, Virginia and enter the filtered light. I move across the living room to look out onto a small covered porch. Indirect light bathes her African violets, perched on top of their window stand, their pink and purple blooms nodding in the summer breeze. I wait to greet my grandmother with the news: Hendrich was not the Immigrant Teater after all.
Anna Florette Strickland spoke her English with a Southside Virginia accent, slowly, carefully, vowels lingering in the air. I long to sit on that couch and unfold the tale of her great-grandmother’s ancestors, and listen to her southern wonder. Her grandma was a Yankee, a northern abolitionist moved south after the War of Northern Aggression. Serena White Sayles taught French in Mecklenburg County, Virginia schools, places whose names have been lost to family memory. Serena was herself the daughter of a teacher, Nancy Teater White; in fact, Nancy Teater was the first teacher in Allegany County, New York, in 1814. This part of the story my grandmother knew and passed on. Picking up the family lore, I have discovered that Nancy Teater’s father, John Teater, was originally from Dutchess County, New York.
Last week ancestry.com sent “You’ve got hints!” mail, and I learned that John Teater was the son of Revolutionary War soldier John Teeter, Sr., and the grandson of the Revolutionary War patriot, Hendrich Teeter — both of Dutchess County, New York. I began collecting the surname variations and deduced that my forefathers had crossed the Atlantic with an umlaut — making the Immigrant Teater a native of Germany. Tödter! That is what I searched for in every data base with every search engine in my command. But then I was astounded by a document within the ancestry.com results.
Teater, Teeter, Tieter morphed into Thaeter, Dieder, Däther, an umlaut that led me back into a history along the Hudson of which I was totally unaware. And this is the story I would sit and share on my grandmother’s couch.
Conditions were bleak for residents living along the Rhine in 1708 and 1709. Repeated French invasions of the region had led to deprivations and terror, particularly for German Reformed (Calvinists) and Lutheran Protestants. The weather had been bitter and cold.
Elizabetha Dotter, wife of Hans, died July 31, 1708 in Leonbronn in what is now Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, about 14 miles northeast of Bretten. Hans (Johan) Dotter or Dother died on January 13, 1709. The three children, Lorenz, Jorg and Maria Margaretha, joined the mass emigration of Palatines hoping to find a better life among the colonies of Great Britain. Lorenz and his siblings boarded Captain William Newton’s ship at Rotterdam and sailed for England on July 3, 1709, and they were among the 2814 Palatines who left London for Queen Anne’s work camps along the Hudson in December 1709. Thus Lorenz Däther, my Teater Immigrant, was a member of the first and largest mass emigration to America in the Colonial period.
Lorenz Däther worked off his passage in Dutchess County, New York, from 1710-1712, at which time Queen Anne and the English government stopped paying subsidies to the immigrants. Some of the Palatines moved to New Jersey and Pennsylvania seeking farmland. Lorenz stayed along the Hudson, settling near Rhinebeck, New York. He married Margareta Lnu about 1710 and was naturalized in about 1715. The couple had their son, Hendrich Teeter in 1716 in what would become Dutchess County, New York, and obtained a life lease on land at the Livingston Manor in 1717.
Hendrich Teeter married Caroline Bender, daughter of Valentine and Anna Margaretha Stoppelbein Bender, in Dutchess County, New York. The couple had at least one son, John (Johannes), on March 2, 1742.
In 1775 Hendrich declared his loyalty to the fledgling colonial government by signing the Articles of Association:
“Persuaded that the salvation of the rights and liberties of America depend, under God, on the firm union of its inhabitants in a rigorous prosecution of the measures necessary for its safety ; and convinced of the necessity of preventing anarchy and confusion, which attend the dissolution of the powers of government, we, the freemen, freeholders, inhabitants of _____, being greatly alarmed at the avowed design of the Ministry to raise a revenue in America, and shocked by the bloody scene now acting in Massachusetts Bay, do, in the most solemn manner, resolve never to become slaves and do associate, under all the ties of religion, honor, and love to our country, to adopt and endeavor to carry into execution whatever measures may be recommended by the Continental Congress, or resolved upon by our Provincial Convention for the purpose of preserving our Constitution, and opposing the execution of the several arbitrary Acts of the British Parliament, until a reconciliation between Great Britain and America on constitutional principles (which we most ardently desire) can be obtained ; and that we will in all things follow the advice of our General Committee respecting the purposes aforesaid, the preservation of peace and good order, and the safety of individuals and property.”
My information is second-hand. I have read reports authored by a Philip Teeter, who digested the genealogical works of Henry Jones and Anne Cassidy, who did examine records and conduct primary research. I have perused countless public trees and genealogical message boards. I am satisfied that I have a profile, a bundle of clues, connecting my grandmother’s great-grandmother, Nancy Teater, to the Palatines of New York. Imagine the many tongues that have spoken the hard initial consonant and repeated the germanic vowel; Teater, Teeter, Tieter, Thaeter, Dieder, Dother, Däther = optimistic colonial pioneer.
Source used by most of my sources: Jones, Henry. “Palatine Families of New York: A Study of the German Immigrants Who Arrived in Colonial New York in 1710.” 1985.