Moravians and Anabaptists

The Early Emigrants    •   The Anabaptists    •   The Moravians

The Early Emigrants

The Zurich area of Switzerland was the home of our earliest known ancestors, Marti Frey and Ursula Wysy. Marti Frey was born about 1521, and Ursula in 1524. The Freys were Anabaptists, radical Christians who were persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th and 17th Centuries. The name Frey meant “free” and was a common name taken by freemen, those who owed no indenture or loyalty to the aristocratic class.

The Freys continued to live near Zurich, in the village of Knonau for several generations, until the end of the Thirty Years War, when the Edict of Nantes promised peace to the protestants. About 1650 Gregorius Frey migrated with his wife Varena (Oberdorfer) and several small children, north down the Rhine to the town of Wingen, Alsace. Alsace, now a part of France, came at that time under protestant control, and was a more hospitable environment for the anabaptist heretics.

Beside the Anabaptists, among the settlers in Alsace were French Heugonauts, Calvinists (the Reformed Churches) and Lutherans. Among the families living in the area of Wingen were many more of our ancestors, mostly German speaking people. These include the family names of Schaub, Schmidt, Schlaeber, Fricker, and Mang.

In 1688, in an effort to expand his territory, King Louis XIV of France declared war on the Palatinate, and most of the German speaking villages of the Alsace were sacked by his troops. In 1689 the war was expanded and became The War of the Grand Alliance. Between 1689 and 1697, the French ravaged the Palatinate, precipitating the first migration of Palatine refugees to America and England. The Alsace territories on the west bank of the Rhine became incorporated into France.

The winter of 1709 was another disaster for the war-decimated Palatines. Their homes burned by the French, thousands suffered a season so cold the Rhine froze over for months. The bitterness of that winter caused the second wave of emigration to America.

Most of our Alsation relatives survived both the wars and the Winter of 1709, and remained until the third wave of emigration in the 1730s. This time, it was the promise of land, employment and religious freedom that caused the people of Alsace and the Palatinate to leave their homes for a new land.

In 1733, Johan Peter Frey, and his wife, Anna Barbara (Schmidt), set sail from Rotterdam for Philadelphia on the Samuel. With them were children Anna Eva, age 15; Valentin, age 12; Anna Barbara, age 10; Anna Maria, age 8; Hans Peter, age 4; and Christian, age 2.

In Pennsylvania, Peter Frey joined the Moravian Church, and in the 1840s he was among a group of a fifteen men who traveled to North Carolina to purchase land from Lord Granville for a Moravian settlement. The men were welcomed and given lodging by a farmer named Johan Jacob Wagner, another ancestor of ours.

Anna Eve Frey married Hans George Hage in 1736 at Muddy Creek Moravian Church (Berks County, PA). The Freys themselves did not migrate to North Carolina until 1765. Their daughter, Anna Maria Hege married Adam Hedrick, Sr.

The Early Emigrants    •   The Anabaptists    •   The Moravians

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