The German Immigration Into Pennsylvania was by far greater than in any of the other States previously mentioned, but, for the purposes of keeping the record straight, when we speak of the "Pennsylvania Germans" we might just as readily include the Germans settled early in the history of Maryland, Virginia and New York.
The Germans settled in those states had the same causes for leaving the Fatherland, and, in the case of Maryland and Virginia, many were for some time residents of Pennsylvania before removing southward.
As mentioned previously, the pioneers arrived here in the main prior to the Revolution. They came in what may be called three waves: 1683-1710, beginning with the founding of Germantown to the coming of the Swiss Mennonites; 1710-1727, at which time immigration was reaching large proportions, and when publishing of statistics was begun; 1727-1776, at the outbreak of the Revolution, which, of course, put an end for the time being to all immigration.
Few came during the first period, the second increasingly, so that some sort of control seemed in order, and the third brought in large numbers.
The First Period; 1683-1710.--Like the Pilgrims, the Pennsylvania Germans had their own "ship," for in the year 1683 the "Concord" landed at Philadelphia with a small number of German and Dutch Mennonites, who came from Crefeld and Kriegsheim. It is with this group that the interesting story of the Pennsylvania German people begins.
Like many other great movements of history, religion was back of this small beginning.
Already we have noted that William Penn was greatly instrumental in that movement which came to make the Province named for him a noble experiment in religion, the arts and sciences.
As we know, the politicians and ruling families of England and the continent always found it convenient to have some sort of "religion" handy, for emergencies, if not the motivating principles of their lives.
The Reformation did to England what it did to other countries--it upset the apple-cart. It should be explained that in the case of the Lutheran church in Germany, its counterpart in England was the Church of England; the Reformed (or Calvinists) were matched by the Puritans (or Presbyterians); the continental Mennonites, or Anabaptists, were like unto the English Quakers and Baptists.
The Quakers Were Like the Mennonites.--Barclay says of George Fox, founder of the Quakers: "We are compelled to view him as the unconscious exponent of the doctrines, practice, and discipline of the ancient and stricter party of the Dutch Mennonites." The late judge, and one time Governor of the Commonwealth, Samuel W. Pennypacker, a keen student of history, says: "To the spread of Mennonite teachings in England we therefore owe the origin of the Quakers and the settlement of Pennsylvania."
Penn was a zealous missionary, making at least two trips to Holland and Germany, the second in 1677. His companions were George Fox, Robert Barclay, and George Keith, and they landed at Briel, in Holland, with the purpose in mind "to extend the principles and organization of the Quakers in Holland and Germany."
Penn visited the German cities of Frankfort-on-the-Main, Kriegsheim (near Worms) on the Upper Rhine, and Mühlheim-on-the-Ruhr, and we can thus appreciate why it was that residents in those parts were among the first to come to settle what is now Germantown, in Philadelphia.
Penn Awarded Grant of Land.--Charles II, of England, owed Admiral Penn, father of William, a debt of £16,000 sterling, and to rid himself of this obligation the king tendered, in 1681, an immense tract of territory to the son.
The wording of the grant caused some bitter fighting at times between men from Maryland and Pennsylvania, since it was mentioned in the grant that the land was situated between New Jersey and Maryland.
The land was named "Pennsylvania" by the king, over the protests of Penn.
Having thus fallen heir to such a vast holding of real estate, the Quaker who was fired with a missionary spirit, planned what he called a "Holy Experiment" in government. Here was to be the nearest thing to Eutopia thus far planned on earth; religious and political freedom should here be the lot of all.
To make the experiment, he set about at once to attract the necessary colonists; these are the ones mentioned above, in the Valley of the Rhine. Numbers of them remembered their visitor of years before, and it was but a short time until their minds were made up, and they were enroute to the New World.
Francis Daniel Pastorius, of Germantown fame, was one of those in Germany who, having heard of Penn and his plan for a place where religious freedom might be in fact, as well as in name, obtained consent from his father to sail for America--and a sum of money.
Pastorius consulted with the leaders of the intending-settlers at Kriegsheim, Peter Schumacher and Gerhard Hendricks and others, regarding the plans for the long journey, something not done every day in the year. He conferred with Thomas Kunders, Dirck Herman, the Op den Graeff brothers, and others, at Crefeld. These followed him across the terrifying Atlantic some six weeks later.
Pastorius became agent for the Frankfort Company of men from the two above-mentioned cities. He sailed June 6, 1683, and arrived in Philadelphia August 16, warmly greeted by Penn.
The Good Ship "Concord" sailed July 24, with thirteen men and their families, reaching Philadelphia on October 6, 1683, at a time when that place had about 80 houses and cottages. This group settled at what is now Germantown, then separated from Philadelphia by a thick forest, with a bridle-path the only connection.
Under Pastorius, a learned man and scholar, far ahead of his times, the settlement cleared land, built houses, and after many hardships had a prosperous community in good season. But the first winter or so was a hard one for the newcomers, since good, warm accommodations could not be made ready at once.
The success of this original settlement became known as fast as word and messengers could be dispatched to the old settlements. New arrivals came every year, and in 1694 an interesting band of mystics settled on the banks of the Wissahickon.
Some forty in number, under the guidance of Johann Kelpius, they came here to await the coming of the Lord, believing He would appear here probably where they elected to sojourn, on or about the turn of the century. In addition to practicing spiritual perfection, etc., they built an astronomical tower from which to further search out signs for the coming of the Lord.
The Wissahickon Community wasted away in a few years, to be succeeded by another "community experiment," that at Ephrata, under the famed Conrad Beissel. This, too, because it discouraged propagation of the race, eventually passed from the scene. Today we note but the remains of buildings erected by human hands, and a religious offspring which worships elsewhere, but which propigates by means of the body as well as the mind.
The Second Period; 1710-1727.--This period is chiefly concerned with the coming of the Swiss Mennonites in 1710. The movement is closely connected with that of Germantown. The Mennonites of Holland and Switzerland had always been friendly, and close; protests were made by the former to the Swiss authorities regarding persecutions, and monies were raised to alleviite sufferings of their fellow believers in the Palitinate.
The Holland group were doubtless instrumental in getting their Swiss fellows to go through their port of Rotterdam to go to America.
Of the Swiss Mennonites, it is said that they were, if anything, quite "stubborn." By that is meant, they would refuse to bear arms for the State, and it seemed that wars were conducted then, as now, for the benefit of the few--the propaganda philosophy being that "the majority are to reap the rewards." Whether the Swiss were actually engaged in wars or not, they had to have a goodly number of men under arms, especially if any of her neighbor countries were engaged in armed conflict.
Exiled time after time, these Mennonites would again return to Switzerland. Then a plan was tried to force a large number of them to proceed through Holland, hoping they would thence be deported to America. But HoIland would have none of this, nor would England.
In 1711 the Mennonites of Berne got a break--they were permitted to sell property, take their families with them with free passage down the Rhine--if they would promise never to return!
Many of them agreed, and later others did likewise. The trek began about the middle of 1710. On October 23 of that year Hans Herr and Martin Kündig, agents for others, took out a patent for ten thousand acres of land on Pequea Creek, Conestogoe (subsequently Lancaster county, organized 1729).
Figures seem somewhat elusive, for few were kept, as to the number of those early arrivals. For some years there were probably only a few scores a year, up to 1710 (the year of the Pequea settlements), when perhaps several thousand all told arrived.
In 1717 the numbers seemed to alarm the authorities, who were afraid there would be too many Germans here, eventually leading to a preponderance of the wrong kinds of people, so far as the authorities were concerned.
Tulpehocken.--Another important colony in the second period is that of the Tulpehocken, in Berks county.
Failure of certain plans for the enforced emigration of what might be termed refugees in Holland and England, which eventually forced numbers of them to go to Ireland and America, brings us to the Germans settled in New York State. Difficulties among those settled in the Schoharie and Mohawk valleys of New York, including their right to titles to the land on which they had built homes after years of hardship, forced them out of the State bounding Pennsylvania on the north.
Coming by the water route via Binghamton and Wilkes-Barre, down the Susquehanna to the mouth of the Swatara, they followed that stream to what we know as Tulpehocken, upwards of some thirty families arriving in 1723.
The Third Period; 1727-1776.--On October 14, 1727, the Provincial Council did, something for the Germans in Pennsylvania and their descendants, of great and lasting value to historians and genealogists.
Council adopted a resolution requiring all masters of vessels importing Germans and other foreigners to prepare a list of such persons, their occupations, and place from whence they came; further, these immigrants should sign a declaration of allegiance and subjection to the king of Great Britain, and of fidelity to the Proprietary of Pennsylvania.
Such lists with names, over thirty thousand in number, may be found in print. 1 They are also of interest to the amateur researcher. These lists contain also the names of the vessels, captains, port from which last sailed, and date of arrival in Philadelphia. The lists are not too detailed as to the specific parts of Germany, or wherever, that these people hailed. Generally the names are of men, from age 16 upward, women of that day not being too able to write their names, a short-coming noticeable on the lists is they pertain to men, too, by reason of the familiar "[X]."
A number of the lists did state that the arrivals were from this, or that place, and, for a time toward the middle of the 1700s, the lists would state the number of Protestants and Catholics on board. But after 1754 practically no such information is given, probably due to the excitement prevalent at that time relative to the French and Indian War.
Catholics in Canada were suspected of trying to deal with the Germans living here, but the latter would have no commerce with the French Catholics, having too vivid recollections of their persecutions in France over many long years before.
The immigration through the port of Philadelphia by so many people of the same characteristics, and with much the same objects in life, soon crowded the sections more or less adjacent to that growing city. Penetration was not long in coming, through dense forests into Lancaster, Montgomery and Berks counties.
Wherever there was limestone or black walnut trees, there you would soon find some Germans either farming, or setting up a home prior to turning the soil, for they liked limestone. This for the reason it made fine stone for building homes and churches, as well as lime for fertilizer. Walnut trees growing in healthy stands were also a good sign of fertility of the soil.
Lands Quickly Taken Up.--Once the lands on the east side of the Susquehanna were well taken up, the movements went to the west, and to the north, York and Cumberland timber falling early under the axe of the pioneer farmer and woodsman. The spread was not long in coming, once the troubles with the Indians were controlled.
The Revolution was to prove that the Germans were loyal to the land they had come to populate and to cultivate. And if they fought against the principles and demands of the English crown, they did it alongside hardlaced and stiffbacked Presbyterians whose veins were filled with blood like that of the enemy they fought.
But you must give the Germans their due: they were not among the last to fight--but among the first. It was not the Mennonite who fought with ball and musket--he fought with the plow. Others of his countrymen who had no scruples about "bearing arms" were the ones who went out with Washington to wallop the would-be "tax-leviers."
Those who did not fight were self-sustaining and self-sufficient, and their efforts at farming and making warm clothing, and those who made shot and shell, contributed no little in making a revolution of the people an American independence indeed.
In this group of arrivals after 1710, there must be noted that a number of Pennsylvania Germans under the leadership of Jost Hite, moved down the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, to settle the counties of Frederick, Rockingham and Shenandoah. The western part of North Carolina had a large number of such settlers emigrate from Pennsylvania. The French and Indian War was still simmering when some Pennsylvania Germans went to Ohio, to be followed by larger numbers at the close of the Revolution. Then to Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Texas, California, etc.
People in those states to the west of us probably feel that they are "Westerners," but would it be improper to say that they are in a large sense "Western Pennsylvania Germans?" or "Pennsylvania Germans in the West?"
1 Prof. I. Daniel Rupps "Thirty Thousand Names of Immigrants," 1856; also later dates, some editions carrying part of the text in German, as well as English. (No index).
Vol. XVII of Second Series of "Pennsylvania Archives"; with an index.
"Pennsylvania German Pioneers," by Ralph Beaver Strassburger and Dr. William John Hinke; 3 vols., Norristown, Pa., 1934. Has an index, and a volume of facsimile signatures of the original lists.