When I was in England last month I did some research on the fascinating life of my United Empire Loyalist ancestor Michael Eisan, the subject of my next novel. The Eisan family website tells the remarkable story of his emigration from the Palatinate area of Germany.
In 1763, 20,000 acres of land in Nova Scotia was granted to Johann von Stumpel, one of the officers of George III who served in the Seven Years’ War. There he was to settle Protestant Germans “perishing under the tyrrany of the Roman Catholic Church.” My ancestor was among a group of 400 who were abandoned by von Stumpel in London when he ran off with all their money.
In 1764, the Rev. Gustav Wachsel, pastor of St. George’s German Lutheran Church informed the public in a letter to Lloyd’s Evening Post that these refugees “are now lying upon the open fields adjacent to this metropolis, without covering, without money, and, in short, without the common necessities of life.”
That very day tents arrived from the Tower of London by order of the Earl of Sandwich. Subscriptions were opened in coffee houses and banks all over the city. Even the King donated 300 pounds. A committee was set up to manage the rescue operation. By October the King made land grants in South Carolina and three ships were found to carry the settlers there.
So on September 17, 2011, when St. George’s German Lutheran Church, a building that no longer serves that function, was open to the public as part of the London Open House, I took advantage of the rare opportunity to visit this place that plays a part in my family, and in my future novel’s, history