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)
“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!”
Had 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?”
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?”
“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.”
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?”
“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 …