Germans in Virginia

    German Glassmaker

    Skilled German Craftsmen

    The first Germans arrived in Jamestowne in 1608 aboard the vessel Mary and Margaret under the command of Captain Christopher Newport, who had served as captain of the historically successful voyage to Jamestowne the previous year.

    The Germans — about five glassmakers and three house builders — were recruited to work by the Virginia Company of London and encouraged to establish residency in the New World. Within the year, the glassworks enterprise

    By 1620, German sawmill wrights arrived and moved farther inland along the James River. Needing swift-moving waters to power the wheels of the sawmills, they tried occupying lands controlled by the Native Americans. They also tried recruiting additional workers to build the sawmills. But within seven months, all but one German died, either from starvation or disease. The lone German survivor sailed back to Europe.

    Regions and Years of Settlement

    1714-1727 Germanna | 1863-1775 Migration from Philadelphia
    Shenandoah Valley Germans | Blue Ridge Highlands Germans
    Other German Sites


    Virginia's Germanna Settlements

    a cast iron fireback for use in a fireplace CREDIT: Virginia Historical Society
    A cast iron fireback with
    the Virginia Company's seal

    The first Germans to actually settle in Virginia came in 1714 and were miners from the northwestern Siegen region of Germany. About 42 of them settled in present-day Orange County in Central Virginia and excavated the iron ore found in the Rappahannock River basin.

    They were followed by 100 Germans from the northern Baden-Württemberg region in 1717 who were sold as indentured servants to Governor Alexander Spottswood in Spotsylvania County in Northern Virginia.

    A third and smaller group of Germans came in 1721 and settled at the Little Fork in Culpeper County in Northern Virginia. Many of them were relatives of the German emigrants of 1714. By 1727, the Germanna settement had nearly reached as far west as the Blue Ridge Mountains!


    painting of Fort Germanna The first German settlement
    Fort Germanna is in Orange County.


    Learn more about German settlers at the Virginia Historical Society.

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    Protestants Travel
    the Great Wagon Road

    Between the years of 1683 and 1775, the second generation of German emigrants — numbering about 100,000 — came down the Great Wagon Road from

    They were fleeing war, ruinous taxes and religious persecution in Germany and first sailed to Philadelphia, where religious freedom was welcome. Along each side of the Great Wagon Road, people farmsteaded. Good land had already become occupied, so the Germans kept traveling southwestward to Virginia and the Carolinas.

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    Shenandoah Valley Settlers

    The German Farm at Frontier Culture Museum The German farmstead at the Frontier Culture Museum

    Many Germans settled in Rockingham and Shenandoah counties in the northern Shenandoah Valley around the 1740s. A German mill was built as far south in Fincastle, Botetourt County. The influence of these German settlers can be still be seen in the region's architecture — log cabins and two-story barns built into hillsides called bank barns.

    By 1790, about 28 percent of the white population were Germans living between Strasburg in Shenandoah County and Harrisonburg in Rockingham County. One of their leaders, Jost Hite, had been granted 100,000 acres that he resold in family farms of 100-500 acres.

    See a German farmstead at the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton. The German farm originally stood in the small farming village of Hordt located in the Rhineland-Palatinate

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    Germans in the Blue Ridge Highlands

    Germans also settled in the Blue Ridge Highlands around Franklin County in the late 1700s. Visit the Blue Ridge Institute & Farm Museum in Ferrum. See a Virginia-German farmstead, and learn some of the old German traditions and regional folklore.


    Other German Sites & Events


    Germans participating in a Volkssport
    CREDIT: National Park Service
    Volkssport is a German parade during Oktoberfest celebrations.


    Blue Ridge Highlands | Central Virginia
    Northern Virginia | Shenandoah Valley


    Blue Ridge Highlands

    Wytheville - Visit the Wohlfahrt Haus Dinner Theatre in Wytheville with its Matterhorn Lounge, a full-service restaurant specializing in German favorites, and its Edelweiss Gift Shop. In the spring and summer, enjoy the Bier Garten with live entertainment every weekend.


    Central Virginia

    Blackstone - See a fully restored Revolutionary War era tavern — Schwartz Tavern, which means "black" in German, and it became known as "Black's." Another tavern in Blackstone was operated by a man named White. The crossrods stops for stagecoaches was named "Black's and White's" after the two rival tavernkeepers!


    Northern Virginia

    glass of wine and sign pointing to tours Enjoy German Wines!

    Madison - The Hebron Lutheran Church was built by German settlers in 1740 and is the oldest Lutheran Church in countinuous use in the United States.

    Lovettsville - Learn about the German settlement at the Lovettsville Historical Society Museum, and research your family's roots through various genealogical records.

    Waterford - Loudoun Valley Vineyards features a glass-walled tasting room and wraparound decks overlooking the vineyards. Taste wines made with German grapes, and enjoy special events, such as Oktoberfest.


    Shenandoah Valley

    Middletown - Belle Grove Plantation presents its annual Of Ale and History: Beer Tasting Festival every May, featuring 35 speciality beers to taste.

    Maurertown - North Mountain Vineyard presents its annual Oktober Wein Festand German Heritage Day in October. Enjoy German food, folk dancing, yodeling and German entertainment. Learn about the German hertigage, meet diplomats from the German Embassy and see German crafts. Wear your

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Last Updated: 4/1/2015 10:53 AM
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