The impetus for the importation of German labor stemmed from an earlier German colony in North Carolina, led by the Swiss Baron Christopher von Graffenried. After the Indian massacre of the colony, during which von Graffenried was taken prisoner, Spotswood secured his release. The Baron told Spotswood of silver mines in the Massanutton Mountains in the Shanendoah Valley. The Baron summoned Johann Justus Albrecht "Chief miner in the service of Queen Anne" from Siegen, Germany to recruit miners from Siegen.
The miners recruited by Albrecht were experienced in mining iron ore, as Nassau-Siegen had been a center of iron mining since Celtic times. The miners had additional reasons of their own to decamp to the New World at that time, largely stemming from religious turmoil. The miners were primarily drawn from the German Reformed Church; Siegen had been the center of conflict between Reformed and Catholic rulers through much of the seventeenth century. Not only did religious oppression result from these conflicts, but warfare also took its toll on the local economy.
In bringing German settlers from the German Reformed Church to the New World, Spotswood is also responsible for bringing the German Reformed Church to the New World. The blockhouse at the center of the fort at Germanna was the first Reformed Church in North America. Additionally, the iron works erected by Spotswood, patterned after the successful furnaces of Nassau-Siegen, were the first of many that he built in Virginia.
Ultimately, however, the original colony at Germanna was short-lived. Industry was slow to take off, and subsistence was the settlers' most urgent and time-consuming concern. The Germans soon wanted to own their own property, but were thwarted by laws that only allowed citizens to own land. After the settlers had pooled their resources to pay for the naturalization of three of their number, they secured a land grant from the Fairfax estates and relocated to Faquier County.
Vann, Elizabeth Chapman Denny and Margaret Collins Denny Dixon. Virginia's First German Colony. Ricmond, VA: 1961.
Wayland, John W. Germanna: Outpost of Adventure, 1714-1956. Staunton, Virginia: The Memorial Foundation of the Germanna Colonies in Verginia, Inc., 1956.