Alsace to America – part 2

Alsace to America

When they arrived in Pennsylvania, they already had a place to go. Somehow, Hans Peter Sr. had arranged to buy 200 acres of land in Bethel Township, Lancaster County. Records show that he began payment March , 1740, almost a full year before they left for America. This brings new light to our previous notions of the first Wamplers.

First of all, they were not farmers, but linen weavers (leineweber- Swiss German ) – all of the men of the family stated this as their profession. Secondly, they were Lutheran or Reformed, not Brethren. The church to which they belonged was led by educated clergy, they were not pacifists, they supported public education and they certainly were not poor. Linen weavers were quite prosperous in the old country and were in great demand when they came to America. William Penn’s invitation was answered by several groups, for various reasons. Granddaddy Wampler believed that our ancestors came for religious reasons, that they had fled Germany because they were pacifist and didn’t want their sons in the German army. It was also his belief that they came to Pennsylvania to farm. While some of these reasons may have been true, there may be more involved. “A part of the immigration was driven by commerce and capitalism,” says John E. Wampler (Website- Tracks of Peter Wampler) some came as indentured servants and some came in response to many ads for “land and for jobs for linen weavers.” (ibid) which as we know was the Wampler occupation all the way back to Switzerland, then in Alsace. Linen weavers had plenty of work. Over 30,000 yards of linen were woven in Lancaster County alone in one year at that time.

The Wamplers also may have used the land they owned to grow their own flax for weaving. In reading about the linen weavers of all denominations of that time, I found that they were leaders in their communities and very philanthropic. A case in point – Andrew Carnegie and his family were linen weavers from Scotland. The Wamplers, from the beginning, immigrated from country to country, buying considerable tracts of land, leaving it and monies in their wills and continued this practice all the way down to Sunny Slope Farm. So as much as we’d like the romantic notion that our poor, farmer, Dunkard ancestors fled from religious persecution, the more likely scenario is that they were free men and well off, taking advantage of the opportunities in the new world. This is not to say that they weren’t deeply religious as well, and as we go forward in time, we will see how religion was of great importance, particularly in their involvement in the Brethren Church.

Life for our ancestors was most likely very difficult in the new world. These were linen weavers, not hearty pioneers and most of the 200 acres they had purchased was probably wooded and had to be cleared. They had to build their own buildings, learn a new language, and set up their linen weaving business all at the same time.