Sunday, December 15, 1901 - Page 1, columns 1 & 2 top to bottom

The First German Immigration to America

Every German-American and a some of those citizens, who only speak English, already know that the Germans played an important role in every facet of the development of this free land; they made significant physical, intellectual and political contributions, putting their lives and their possessions on the line towards the formation of this mighty republic. But most German-Americans have only a fuzzy idea of just how greatly German immigration exerted an influence over the past hundreds of years, how they created a new spirit, contributed fresh blood, exhibited diligence, piety and contentment in their lives, and imparted true German muscle when it was necessary to protect the new home and fatherland.

To a large extent the Pennsylvania German Society, established in 1891, is to be thanked for the work they have done to clarify the historical importance of the German Community in the history of the United States along with Germans in other States who followed the Society's example. It's understandable that the above named society limited its work to the Pennsylvania Germans but the history itself takes in other States and may serve as a reflection of the history of German Americans in general.

The N.Y. Journal writes: We are in a favorable position to supply proof for this assertion. There are two volumes concerning the Pennsylvania German Community: 1. The German Immigration into Pennsylvania and 2. The Redemptioners by Frank Ried Dieffendorfer, ex-President and former Secretary of the Pennsylvania German Society. The work contains an astonishing amount of interesting material that may find a wider audience.

The following small sketch may serve as an example:
The educated daughter of the great Swedish King Gustav Adolph established a colony on the Delaware in 1638 and the colonists spoke so highly of it that a large number of Pommeranian families settled there. However the true beginning of the large German migration began nearly half a century later when Franz Daniel Pastorius established Germantown with forty Crefelder natives.

A century earlier a man appeared before the populace on the Rhine, evidently of the upper class but one who went among the simple people as a friend and brother. He spoke to them of the Savior and taught about the afterlife. He brought comfort to the suffering, help for the poor, and in short he understood how to win their hearts. As with others in every period of time, it was simple for him to view the German Rhine as beautiful but the people were poor and oppressed, the fury of war had devastated the region and religious persecution of every horrible variety was the order of the day. In one area in particular the followers of Menno Simon, called Mennonites after their leader, were especially taken with the manner of this stranger. They compared his teachings with those which they followed and found many parallels.

This stranger was the Quaker William Penn.

Despite the difference in social status and education he felt himself drawn to these pious, simple folk. And perhaps it was easier for him to recognize their worth since his mother was a native of Holland and besides English he spoke Dutch and German and he considered the Rhineland people distant relatives of common ancestry.

It was only natural that he thought of them years later when he became the owner of the large and beautiful tract of land he called Pennsylvania. The Quakers were the first people he settled around himself but in the Laws of Settlement, which he established in 1682, it was specifically stated that no religious sect, no nationality and no race should be prohibited from settling there.

Thus began the immigration in ever increasing numbers. In the Rhineland the news spread rapidly among the people that the young Englishman, who had won such popularity, was now in America the owner of a territory larger than Bavaria, Württemberg and Baden put together and that all were invited to live there in freedom and peace. William Penn sent agents to Germany and left brochures, which he himself had written, in order to acquaint his friends with the advantages of the new land. And no modern real estate agent could have made his territory seem more desirable than William Penn had done. He described the fertility of the soil, the plenitude of the wildlife and fish, the abundance of forests, the liberal assistance available to those without financial means, and let's not forget to mention the customary drinks — beer and punch. "In our large estate," concluded the paragraph, "there is a capable man, who has built a large brewery, so that the people here as well as those up and downstream may be supplied with good drink."

William Penn was far too good and cleaver a man to be a water simpleton [someone who advocated the prohibition of alcoholic beverages].

The measures he took also proved especially bountiful; Pastorius, who along with his friends purchased 25,000 acres of land and established the Germantown Settlement, set things in motion and others followed first slowly and then in every greater numbers. Johannes Kelpius with members of his Pietist sect came in 1694 and Daniel Falkner brought more in 1704. From 1708 on the wave of immigration increased; thousands of Germans, primarily from the Palatinate, arrived with kith and kin to find a new home on Pennsylvania soil. Registration of immigrants first took place in 1717 after Governor William Keith alerted the Legislature to the fact that a large number of Germans, who were settling in Pennsylvania, had not pledged an oath of allegiance. Ten years earlier this oath had been established to secure the provincial loyalty of immigrant subjects of King George II and his successors.

At that time crossing the ocean was no pleasure cruise for the emigrants. If they were lucky they found a reputable means of transport, did not suffer from hunger and were not robbed of their crated possessions but in many cases they became the victims of unconscionable greed. With only the exception of the immigrant ships arriving in the harbor in Philadelphia, there were accusations from the human transportees of the shameful way in which the sick were robbed and the way in which those who had died during the journey had completely disappeared.

Of particular notariety were the accusations raised by the passengers of the Rotterdam ship "Love and Harmony" against Captain Lobt. They publicly accused him of murder. The ship was at sea for twenty-four weeks and soon after it had departed there was a shortage of provisions. During the last eight weeks of the voyage only one pint of nourishment was rationed daily for every five individuals. In order to prevent starvation they ate rats and mice, which the crew caught and sold to the misfortunates for 20 to 25 cents apiece. Of 150 passengers only 34 reached their destination. All the others had died miserably along the way. And the captain forced the survivors to pay in full for those who had died on the voyage.

Not only this but when some of the lucky survivors had publicly accused the villainous captain and the case was brought to trial in Massachusetts, after a lengthy examination not only was the captain acquitted but his accusers were charged for the costs of the court case and they were imprisoned until such time as they could produce the money to pay for it.

Despite all these hardships and difficulties the "Praised Land" wound its spell and unstoppable hordes of immigrants arrived. They did not stay long in Philadelphia — the majority of them were farmers and they wished to remain farmers in the new homeland. In the first two decades after the arrival of Pastorius almost all went to the Germantown Settlement, then they began to strike out past these borders. The joy of owning one's own piece of land was then as it is today a national trait of the Germans — the immigrants had the collective desire to stand on their own feet. Earlier immigrants in great numbers sold their already cultivated farmland to the new immigrants so that they could begin anew in the wilderness. The farthest reaches of the forest held no terror for them and they knew how to work that land.

They knew that the soil there among the deeply wooded forests was the richest and the giants of the forest would be felled by strong arms wielding swinging axes. They built their modest homes wherever a cool stream flowed, on the verdant slope of a hill or in the depths of the forest.

The politics of government fundamentally contributed to the German immigrants being pushed beyond the borders of the State — therein danger threatened. When certain knowledgeable American historians contend with the pride of pharisees that the Quakers were so mild mannered and generous towards the natives that "the Indians never drew a drop of Quaker blood" these remarks must be taken with a grain of salt. It wasn't just their mild manners and generousity which protected them from the Indians, it was the fact that the settlements of the Quakers were all in a fifty-mile radius of Penn's estate. The circumference of this circle was made up of robust Germans, the Reformists, the Lutherans, the Tunkers, the Mennonites and the Mahrish brethren, whose settlements formed a strong bastion by which the Indians were hindered from drawing Quaker blood. The tomahawk and the scalping knife performed many a bloody operation on the German settlers — more than 300 men, women and children from the shores of the Rhine were slaughtered by them at the foot of the Blue Mountains from 1754 to 1763,

[Column 3, top]

but no Quaker blood was shed.

German courage and German tenacity were sharpened in the face of these foes; the settlements grew, flourished and prospered and until the middle of the last century there were entire villages and districts in eastern Pennsylvania in which German was spoken exclusively. German communities also spread to the north, south and west, approaching the Appalachian Mountains and pressing into the regions of the wilderness near the Ohio River. But the pioneers of the culture did not just stay there; today they can be found in the most fertile and beautiful areas of the western expanse.

Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska and other States, in fact every State in the Republic, count among their finest citizens the progeny of the men who were first attracted to Pennsylvania — with Bibles in their hands and the language of Schiller and Goethe on their lips. Wherever they went they brought their true but never oppressing piety with them. And thus they remain the truest and most loyal supporters of the new homeland, standing firm in good times and bad with German constancy.