Baron Christoph de Graffenried, Worb, Canton Bern, Switzerland
Worb, Canton Bern, Switzerland

Baron Christoph von Graffenried and Regina Tscharner, my eighth great-grandparents, married in Bern, Switzerland three hundred thirty years ago. In time Christoph gathered a group of persecuted Palatine Germans and Swiss to colonize the Carolinas, founding New Bern, North Carolina. 

I sometimes imagine how the story might have unfolded …

Baron von Graffenried’s Dream 

(Click arrow above for an audio recording of this story opening)

still-life-667436_1280Es ist ein Zeichen, I tell you!” Christoph Von Graffenried pounded the tabletop, toppling a pewter stein. A circle of brew spread outward like dark molten glass.

A sign, mein Mann?” his wife Regina said as she sopped the spill. What had come over her ordinarily genial husband? 

My dream! Natürlich! Of course!” Christoph bounded upward, sending his chair careening backward with a swat.

Niederzulassen,” she said with her hands over her ears. “You must settle down. Remember your heart.”

He batted aside her warning. “I’m as strong as an ox, and so is my heart. I saw Palatines in my dream. They need a place of their own, and I’m the one to provide it!”

dome-267140_1920Had her husband lost his mind? Certainly Christoph, like herself, had been born to nobility, but Castle Worb was but a moderately fine castle in the tiny Swiss village of Worb in Canton Bern, among the simplest in Switzerland, surely not sufficient to house hundreds of Palatine refugees. 

“Theirs is a sad lot, to be sure, mein husband,” she said, rising from her place at the table and moving toward him with her hands raised in a calming gesture. “But what can we do here … with so few resources?”

Standing at the mullioned window, he folded an arm at his middle and restedwindow-620766_1280 his elbow atop it, a fist grazing his chin as he mulled. “Not here, of course, Regina. In the Americas.”

She started. Christoph knew no contentment in running a baron’s estate, to be sure. He was enthralled with exploration and adventure like that of Franz Ludwig Michel who told of riches in the New World awaiting men willing to bear hardships and deprivation for a little while. Even still … 

“The Americas, Christoph? Why, the colonies are around the world from us. What can we do for the Palatines from such a great distance?”

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A Voyage to the Carolinas

In my dream Franz Ludwig is standing before Queen Anne, pointing across the sea toward America with a Palatine leaflet in his hand. But she has turned her head away, as if to ignore him.”

What did Herr Michel’s venture have to do with Chrisoph? She waited for her husband to continue.

“I did not accept Franz Ludwig’s suggestion to invest in the George Ritter Company to mine silver deposits, nor to relocate indigent Anabaptists, but my dream …” He threw open the window and set his hands on the casing, leaning forward with his eyes traversing the courtyard below and the forest beyond. “My dream has altered my vision. I see land stretching from horizon to horizon not in Pennsylvania and Virginia but the Carolinas. And Palatines populating it.”

“The Carolinas?” Aghast, Regina brought her fingertips to her lips. “Why that’s savage country.” d7022ea1-bb9e-41bd-82c5-95e599a2f5d5

He humphed. “I’ve faced more than one savage in my time.”

Certainly Christoph knew not an inkling of fear, nor a moment of doubt, but would he make the journey across the great ocean to the Americas? Surely not. He was approaching fifty years of age. “If I may be so bold, my dear, as to suggest …” 

He turned his fiery eyes to hers. “Suggest what?”

“Is it not true that the uncivilized forest men you encountered in the hinterland do not compare with those in the Carolinas? Besides, how will you acquire this land?”

“I‘ll speak with the Queen, of course.” crown-759297_1280

“If Her Majesty ignored Herr Michel, why would she have interest in your vision?”

My power of persuasion, of course. Her Majesty will not ignore me.” He whipped around and strode toward the door.  “I must leave. Straightaway!” He flung aside the door with a whack and called, “Bartholomew, my man! Kommen! We must pack!”

Regina could only stare after the man she had married, this baron burdened with wanderlust. Where would the latest of his dreams take him? And what would become of her family?

To be continued …

Linda Brooks Davis divider

5 thoughts on “Baron Von Graffenried’s Dream

  1. Judy Wille

    Linda, I am a granddaughter of Lon and Grace, my mother was Angie (Elizabeth Angeline) the only surviving sister of Leo and Darrel. Am I to assume you are descended through Darrel ? I spent the summer in Coquille shortly before Darrels death, I have had no contact with any of his family since. Please email me at aljo@cableone.net I’d love to exchange information.

     
     
  2. Pamela Womack-Canon

    My great grandmother was Grace Myrtle DeGraffenried Choate & she was always proud of her heritage. She actually made a tapestry during WWII because my uncle was a Marine fighting at Iwo Zima & she could not sleep. She made it all out of dyed underwear & hosiery!

     
     
    1. How wonderful to hear about “our” family connection. I’m proud of the DeGraffenried name also. Maybe we can meet sometime. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

       
       
  3. Thank you. It’s a lot of fun to imagine what life might have been like for ancestors such as these two.

     
     
  4. Teresa Brooks

    Yet another great story! Well done!

     
     

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