We’ve all heard the
old saying, “Out of the frying pan into the fire.” Unfortunately,
that saying describes the adult life of our ancestor Benedictus Kuhn who came to American hoping for a better life.
Benedictus Kuhn was
probably born in the first quarter of the Eighteenth Century in Dielstorff, Germany. His exact date of birth is not known.
His parents were probably Heinrich Kuhn and Regula Zebelf, but this, too, is unverified.
As a young man Benedictus married Christiana Rook in Germany, and in 1744 the couple had a son, George Adam Kuhn
Migration to the Colonies
decision to migrate to the colonies is understandable, for many other Germans had the same idea and began moving to America
in the early 1700’s. Economic conditions, wars, religious persecutions,
and tales of free land and opportunities in the colonies caused this mass migration.
For example, at the end of the 1600’s, almost 500,000 Germans were turned out of their homes into the snow during
a religious persecution. By 1707 Germany had entered another war. No wonder Germans began immigrating to America in large numbers about this time.
Most of the early Germans
settled in Pennsylvania, but eventually some moved south. The majority of German immigrants to SC, however, came straight
to Charleston from Germany. During the years 1732-1765, about 7500 or 8000 Germans and German Swiss arrived in South
Carolina, and 3600 or more came between the years 1748 and 1759. Benedictus, Christina, and George were part of this
During the summer
of 1752 the Kuhn family traveled to Rotterdam Holland where they boarded the ship Upton, captained by John Gardiner,
and sailed for England. In England the ship took on provisions and water for
the long trip—normally about 60 days-- across the Atlantic.
Hurricane of 1752
Although the Kuhns
were hoping to start a new life, they had no idea of the hardships they would be facing in the new world. The Upton landed in Charleston, SC 14 Sept 1752 and anchored in the Ashley River. The next day a strong hurricane hit the city. Modern scientists
estimate that the hurricane was a Category 4. Accounts of the time tell of ships
in the harbor being carried 30 miles inland by the storm. All ships in the harbor
except one were washed ashore. Wharves and warehouses along Cooper Street were
smashed. The Upton was pushed into the marsh of Wappoo Creek on James
Island. A number of the Upton passengers were injured, and twenty of them
died from the mishap. In all 103 people lost their lives, and 16 ships were destroyed. Small boats in the harbor were turned into debris. Two hundred fifty years after the
hurricane the high watermarks were still visible. The storm surge—about
17 feet high—covered almost the entire present day downtown area of Charleston.
Most of the Charleston of the time was destroyed. When the wind shifted,
the water fell five feet in 10 minutes.
To make matters worse,
a second hurricane hit Charleston less than two weeks later on Sept 26. The combined
hurricanes devastated the area. Farm crops were especially hard hit. In 1752 82,000 barrels of rice had been harvested. After
the hurricane, only 37,000 barrels were listed for 1753. By 1754 rice was back
up to 93,000 barrels. We can imagine that Benedictus and Christiana were eager
to leave this coastal area and head inland.
Unknown to the German
immigrants, SC had an agenda in their offer of free land. Indians were plaguing
the English colonists and planters in SC. The land given to the new immigrants
would be located between the Indians and the English coastal colonies. It would
be a buffer zone to protect the already existing settled land.
a petition for a land grant on 7 Nov 1752. Romantic stories say that Christina was pregnant during the journey to America
and gave birth to their second son, Nicholas, on board the Upton. This
story is untrue, however, because land was allotted at 50 acres per family member. Benedict
received 150 acres. Had Nicholas been born, the family would have received 200
acres. Thus, we know that Nicholas was born after 7 Nov 1752. The land Benedictus
was given was located on Crim’s Creek near Pomaria in the Newberry district of SC.
In his petition,
Benedictus stated his reason for coming to SC and requesting the land: “hearing
of the benefits in settling in his Britannia Majs’ [sic] Dominion of America and that great encouragement was given
by the province to foreign protestants.” The petition was granted and John
Pearson measured out 150 acres on Crims Creek for Benedictus Kuhn
After receiving their land,
the Kuhn family traveled to what is now the Newberry area to discover that it was totally primitive. They had to face the same hardships as our TN ancestors. They
had to chop down trees, clear land, build cabins, built pens for their livestock, and so forth. In addition to these “normal” pioneer hardships, they also had to keep an eye on the forests. The French and Indian War was going on, and the Indians were not friendly. The land where the Kuhns settled was part of the Dutch Fork, the buffer zone between the Indians in the
Northwest and the English in Charleston.
Life in Newberry
Benedictus and Christiana
prospered in the new land. They added a daughter, Susannah, to their family. There are no records of other children. George
grew up to marry Rosanna Barbara Long; Nicholas married Mary DeWalt, and Susannah married Robert Hodge. It is from Nicholas that we descend.
As with many German
immigrants, the spelling of the surname changed in America. In some families
there were variant spellings among individual members in the same families, and this happened in the Kuhn family. Kuhn can be spelled over forty different ways. In our own
family, we find Coons, Coone, Koon, Koone, and Kuhn
There is an indication
that Benedict may have fallen into poor health around 1788 because that year he deeded land to his wife Christina “to
take care of Benedick Koone in sick health until the day of his death.” Benedict
probably died in 1790 because in 1791 Christiana sold the land Benedict had given her to her son George.
George and his family
stayed in SC. He and Rosanna had nine children.
Susannah’s family’s fate is unknown. After the Revolutionary
War, Nicholas and his wife sold land they had bought in Newberry to his brother George, and moved to Rutherford County, NC. Here Nicholas established a corn mill and reared a family of six children. Nicholas’ daughter Mary Jane Koon (Coone) grew up to marry John Ownby, son of James and Joanna Sims
Ownby. Mary Jane is Eli McCarter’s great grandmother. Her grandfather, Benedictus Kuhn, is Eli’s great, great, great grandfather
Benedictus Kuhn certainly
did not have an easy life. He left hardships in Germany to face equally bad or possibly worse problems in America. He is one
of our many ancestors who show the hard work and determination needed to survive and prosper in the new land.
McCarter family charts
Mulcahey, Matthew. “Hurricane Season in the Colonies,” HBS
Working Knowledge, June 20, 2005
Settlers.” The Carolina Herald, Vol. II, No. 4, Fall, 1973