As a college student, Von Graffenried met the Duke of Albemarle and some other Lords Proprietors of Carolina. These friendships played an important part in helping Graffenried to become the founder of New Bern and a leader in Swiss immigration to the American colonies.
An acquaintance, Franz Ludwig Michel, persuaded Von Graffenried to invest in a company, Georg Ritter, that purchased 19,000 acres of land from the Lords Proprietors. Graffenried purchased 5,000 acres of the land between the Neuse and Trent rivers, an area that would be New Bern. The investors recruited refugees from the Spanish War of Succession in hopes that the Palatines would help make the New Bern settlement successful.
In 1710, with the help of John Lawson, and approximately 800 settlers, Graffenried planned and created New Bern. The settlement, however, became involved in the developing horrible conflict between the Tuscarora and the English. Many of the newly arrived immigrants were massacred and Graffenried, Michel, and Lawson were taken prisoner. Lawson and Michel were executed. Virginia’s royal lieutenant governor, Alexander Spotswood, negotiated with the Tuscarora and secured the release of Von Graffenried.
Although the Baron had his life, he lost his New Bern colony and looked northward to invest in a Virginia settlement. He had no success in Virginia, so he sold his “New World” land to Thomas Pollock of Chowan County and returned to his native Switzerland. There he spent the rest of his days.
Lindley S. Butler and Alan D. Watson, eds., The North Carolina Experience: An Interpretive and Documentary History (Chapel Hill, 1984) and William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography (Chapel Hill, 1979-1996).