Back to Table of Contents


Further Information on the Deutsche Origins of Applers

Eberhardt Ebler (c.1716-1768), an 18th Century German Immigrant:    The 1976 Appler Family History cites to documentation that the Applers originated with one original immigrant recorded as Eberhardt Ebler in Philadelphia in 1736, on an English ship via Rotterdam. Eberhardt settled in Maryland. Based on my own fact checking, the History’s summary is correct to identify Eberhardt as being most likely to be our direct immigrant ancestor in this family line. But exactly where he was from in Germany, and the Ebler surname history, is not an attempted subject in either of the two Appler history books. But, today we have the advantage of the Internet and more research sources. With these tools, we can at least start the research and analysis.

I have not yet delved into Eberhardt’s German background, and would at least like to start the discussion. In this case, we are very fortunate to have an extremely reliable historical source of passenger lists and surrounding history. We know Eberhardt was born in approximately 1716, based on what he told the colonial authorities in Philadelphia.

So then, why the spelling “Appler”?  The 1976 Appler Family History posits Eberhardt was illiterate in English, and thus it was left up to others to spell his name in legal documents. But the History also opines that “[h]e was in no sense an ignorant man”, a conclusion buttressed by the fact that he acquire large plots of land. In addition, scriveners often assigned an anglicized version of names to German immigrants. This ultimately led to variations in spelling throughout different documents. In the end, Appler was an Anglicized derivation of the original German name.

The History book states that Eberhardt’s origin was “the Palatinate, Bavaria”. It’s evident that the source of the information regarding “Palatinate” is directly from the original colonial ship passenger records that were recorded as the ships arrived. At least some of the logs survived to be published; most contain only a few facts about the passenger, but some few more significant details.  Some logs were published in 1934 in the book Pennsylvania German Pioneers; A Publication of the Original Lists of Arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia from 1727 to 1808. It’s fortunately one of many resources available online with historical and documented information on the 18th Century migration of Germans from the Palatinate to North America. It discusses several waves, beginning in the late 1600s and well into the 1700s.

I cannot find any reference to the specific part of Bavaria in either of the two history books. Nor on a basic search can I find any other verifiable evidence of Eberhardt’s German origins. I thought I saw a distant cousin of ours had identified the specific village, but I am now thinking this was just a statement on someone’s family tree — and I did not save the reference, likely due to not also seeing any source citation for the fact. In any event, I do believe that modern research resources today online may well yield meaningful information about the Ebler German history that was not available when the two Charles Ross Applers each wrote their books.  This is a hot area for future research!

Eberhardt’s arrival at Philadelphia in 1736 occurred as the same time and under the same circumstances as one of a series of waves of migration during the early 18th Century from the Palatinate to the Atlantic Seaboard, including Philadelphia. Many of the immigrants who traveled settled in Maryland, as well as Pennsylvania and New York. (Throughout this blog I will use the German name Pfalz instead of the English name Palatinate, because Pfalz is shorter.)

The two Charles Ross Applers, in their respective Appler history books, do not point to any  circumstances or situation prompting Eberhardt’s migration to the U.S.  No evidence has been found that he was fleeing poverty or  religious persecution, or even to preserve his faith. But I note that Germans who immigrated into Philadelphia in the last 17th Century and into the 18th Century tended to be Protestant (specifically, Lutheran).  The Roman Catholic Church still held a lot of power in Palatinate area, and Protestants were still discriminated against and blocked in  opportunities for social and economic advancement. But they were also a relatively prosperous people, hard working in their culture; many had good family businesses and saved their money for the trips abroad to better their conditions. However, I note that we don’t know for sure Erberhardt’s situation, as it’s equally possible that as a young emigrant to America he needed to make some great sacrifices to escape a bad situation.

In the case of Eberhardt, his name appeared on a list of 151 passengers on the Ship Harle. The list, written up by port officers, contained the following introduction:

At the Courthouse of Philadelphia, September 1st, 1736. One hundred fifty one Foreigners from the Palatinate & other Places, who, with their Families, making in all three hundred eighty eight Persons, were imported here in the Ship Harle, of London, Ralph Harle, Master, from Rotterdam, but last from Cowes, as by Clearance thence, were this day qualified as usual.” From the Minutes of the Provincial Council, printed in Colonial Records, Vol. IV, p. 58 f.

[List 41 B] Palatines imported in the Ship Harle, Ralph Harle, Master, from Rotterdam, but last from Cowes. Qualified September the [1st] 1736.”  [1]


I cannot tell from the book the type of sailing vessel that the Ship Harle was. I understand that the basic model of passenger ships was the sailing ship, and the basic operations did not change much from the 17th until the 19th Centuries, when steamships became the norm. Of course, there were many different kinds of ships with different degrees of technology and safety during this time frame.[2]   But my limited research shows may passenger boats were “Packet” Ships that were normal cross-Atlantic commercial routes used for both hauling cargo but also groups of immigrants crowded into smaller parts of the ship.

Here is an image of the English Ship the Montezuma from 1822. Granted, this was 80+ years after the Ship Harle, but it should illustrate how fragile the passengers must have felt while being tossed around in rough seas:

18th Century Packet ship image from Wikimedia Commons Montezumapacketship

The Montezuma, a “packet ship” from back in the day.  Anyone care to be packed on to this ship for 7 weeks with 150 other passengers, and tossed around during a fierce storm?


One article cited that between 1730 and the 1750s, some 55,000 German migrants arrived in Philadelphia. Many of the migrants travelled on privately owned ships controlled by a market of shipowners who, in modern language, one might label “ship slumlords”. They held monopolies on British and Dutch licenses to operate passenger ships, and charged outrageously large sums of money — and then forced the passengers to endure unbearable, overcrowded, unsanitary and dangerous conditions.[3]

The Pennsylvania German Pioneers book also cites to and quotes the personal report of one Mittelberger, a German scholar who traveled to America in 1750 and then returned 4 years later. In his reports, Mittelberger gave his own personal account as a passenger on the ship. This was, just 14 years after our own Eberhardt Ebler himself braved the trip.

Mittelberger discussed how many migrants often ran out of resources and food during their journey from Germany to the ports at England or Holland – thus requiring them to commit to indentured servitude as a means to pay for their voyage across the Atlantic. I just need to quote Mittelberger directly, since the story is so horrible and needs to be repeated so we recall what our ancestors went through:[4]

“… But even with the best wind the voyage lasts 7 weeks.

But during the voyage there is on board these ships terrible misery, stench, fumes, horror, vomiting, many kinds of sea-sickness, fever, dysentery, headache, heat, constipation, boils, scurvy, cancer, mouth-rot, and the like, all of which come from old and sharply salted food and meat, also from very bad and foul water, so that many die miserably.

 Add to this want of provisions, hunger, thirst, frost, heat, dampness, anxiety, want, afflictions and lamentations, together with other trouble, as c. v. the lice abound so frightfully, especially on sick people, that they can be scraped off the body. The misery reaches the climax when a gale rages for 2 or 3 nights and days, so that every one believes that the ship will go to the bottom with all human beings on board. In such a visitation the people cry and pray most piteously.

 When in such a gale the sea rages and surges, so that the waves rise often like high mountains one above the other, and often tumble over the ship, so that one fears to go down with the ship; when the ship is constantly tossed from side to side by the storm and waves, so that no one can either walk, or sit, or lie, and the closely packed people in the berths are thereby tumbled over each other, both the sick and the well—it will be readily understood that many of these people, none of whom had been prepared for hardships, suffer so terribly from them that they do not survive it.

 I myself had to pass through a severe illness at sea, and I best know how I felt at the time. These poor people often long for consolation, and I often entertained and comforted them with singing, praying and exhorting; and whenever it was possible and the winds and waves permitted it, I kept daily prayer-meetings with them on deck. Besides, I baptized five children in distress, because we had no ordained minister on board. I also held divine service every Sun day by reading sermons to the people; and when the dead were sunk in the water, I commended them and our souls to the mercy of God.

 Among the healthy, impatience sometimes grows so great and cruel that one curses the other, or himself and the day of his birth, and sometimes come near killing each other. Misery and malice join each other, so that they cheat and rob one another. One always reproaches the other with having persuaded him to undertake the journey. Frequently children cry out against their parents, husbands against their wives and wives against their husbands, brothers and sisters, friends and acquaintances against each other. But most against the soul-traffickers.

 Many sigh and cry: “Oh, that I were at home again, and if I had to lie in my pig-sty !“ Or they say: “0 God, if I only had a piece of good bread, or a good fresh drop of water.” Many people whimper, sigh and cry piteously for their homes; most of them get home-sick. Many hundred people necessarily die and perish in such misery, and must be cast into the sea, which drives their relatives, or those who persuaded them to undertake the journey, to such despair that it is almost impossible to pacify and console them. In a word, the sighing and crying and lamenting on board the ship continues night and day, so as to cause the hearts even of the most hardened to bleed when they hear it.

 No one can have an idea of the sufferings which women in confinement have to bear with their innocent children on board these ships. Few of this class escape with their lives; many a mother is cast into the water with her child as soon as she is dead. One day, just as we had a heavy gale, a woman in our ship, who was to give birth and could not give birth under the circumstances, was pushed through a loophole [port-hole] in the ship and dropped into the sea, because she was far in the rear of the ship and could not be brought forward.

 Children from 1 to 7 years rarely survive the voyage; and many a time parents are compelled to see their children miserably suffer and die from hunger, thirst and sickness, and then to see them cast into the water. I witnessed such misery in no less than 32 children in our ship, all of whom were thrown into the sea. The parents grieve all the more since their children find no resting-place in the earth, but are devoured by the monsters of the sea. It is a notable fact that children, who have not yet had the measles or small-pocks, generally get them on board the ship, and mostly die of them.

 Often a father is separated by death from his wife and children, or mothers from their little children, or even both parents from their children; and sometimes whole families die in quick succession; so that often many dead persons lie in the berths beside the living Ones, especially when contagious diseases have broken out on board the ship.

 Many other accidents happen on board these ships, especially by falling, whereby people are often made cripples and can never be set right again. Some have also fallen into the ocean.

 That most of the people get sick is not surprising, because, in addition to all other trials and hardships, warm food is served only three times a week, the rations being very poor and very little. Such meals can hardly be eaten, on account of being so unclean. The water which is served out on the ships is often very black, thick and full of worms, so that one cannot drink it without loathing, even with the greatest thirst. 0 surely, one would often give much money at sea for a piece of good bread, or a drink of good water, not to say a drink of good wine, if it were only to be had. I myself experienced that sufficiently, I am sorry to say. Toward the end we were compelled to eat the ship’s biscuit which had been spoiled long ago; though in a whole biscuit there was scarcely a piece the size of a dollar that had not been full of red worms and spiders’ nests. Great hunger and thirst force us to eat and drink everything; but many a one does so at the risk of his life. The sea-water cannot be drunk, because it is salt and bitter as gall. If this were not so, such a voyage could be made with less expense and without so many hardships.

 At length, when, after a long and tedious voyage, the ships come in sight of land, so that the promontories can be seen, which the people were so eager and anxious to see, all creep from below on deck to see the land from afar, and they weep for joy, and pray and sing, thanking and praising God. The sight of the land makes the people on board the ship, especially the sick and the half dead, alive again, so that their hearts leap within them; they shout and rejoice, and are content to bear their misery in patience, in the hope that they may soon reach the land insafety. But alas!

 When the ships have landed at Philadelphia after their long voyage, no one is permitted to leave them except those who pay for their passage or can give good security; the others, who cannot pay, must remain on board the ships till they are purchased, and are released from the ships by their purchasers. The sick always fare the worst, for the healthy are naturally preferred and purchased first; and so the sick and wretched must often remain on board in front of the city for 2 or 3 weeks, and frequently die, whereas many a one, if he could pay his debt and were permitted to leave the ship immediately, might recover and remain alive.


 The sale of human beings in the market on board the ship is carried on thus: Every day Englishmen, Dutchmen and High-German people come from the city of Philadelphia and other places, in part from a great distance, say 20, 30, or 40 hours away, and go on board the newly arrived ship that has brought and offers for sale passengers from Europe, and select among the healthy persons such as they deem suitable for their business, and bargain with them how long they will serve for their passage-money, which most of them are still in debt for.


 Many parents must sell and trade away their children like so many head of cattle; for if their children take the debt upon themselves, the parents can leave the ship free and unrestrained; but as the parents often do not know where and to what people their children are going, it often happens that such parents and children, after leaving the ship, do not see each other again for many years, perhaps no more in all their lives.

 When people arrive who cannot make themselves free, but have children under 5 years, the parents can not free themselves by them; for such children must be given to somebody without compensation to be brought up, and they must serve for their bringing up till they are 21 years old.




It often happens that whole families, husband, wife, and children, are separated by being sold to different purchasers, especially when they have not paid any part of their passage money.”


Eberhardt seems to have done very well for himself in the end. But we also know that the conditions under which he lived in Germany, the horrible traveling conditions, and the fact that, since indentured servitude relationships were so common, he may well have been dependent on “the man” – an indentured servitude agreement — for at least some period of time, in order to get himself started.

I touch upon German history more in discussing the Bergers.  But as far as the Applers are concerned, I am encouraged more can be found out about Eberhardt’s personal and family background.





[1]      Pennsylvania German pioneers; a publication of the original lists of arrivals in the port of Philadelphia from 1727 to 1808, compiled by Strassburger, Ralph Beaver, 1883- 1959 and Hinke, William John, 1871-1947, and published by the Pennsylvania German Society, Norristown, Pennsylvania (1934).

[2]   See also the excellent summaries at the Pirate King website,

[3]      Grubb, Farley, The Market Structure of Shipping German Immigrants to Colonial America, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Historical Society of Pennsylvania (January 1987)

[4]  Gottlieb Mittelberger’s Journey to Pennsylvania in the year 1750 and Return to Germany in the year 1754, Containing not only a Description of the Country According to its Present Condition … Translated from the German by Carl Theo. Eben, member of the German Society of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: John Jos. McVey, 1898 (published by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania).





Me (on the phone): "That's "C-r-e-s-a-p".

%d bloggers like this: