Per­se­ver­ing to­ward a New World Democ­racy in 1776

In­ter­ac­tion be­tween Dutch and English farm­ers im­por­tant to both their well-be­ing

The Boyertown Area Times - - LOCAL NEWS - Richard L.T. Orth A Look Back In His­tory

Among the huge num­ber of Colo­nial Rhineland im­mi­grants who ar­rived in the port city of Philadel­phia, many of them had their ocean pas­sage paid for by be­com­ing in­den­tured ser­vants to Penn­syl­va­ni­ans and English Quak­ers in New Jersey. Even Berks County’s Pow­wower, John Ge­orge Hohman’s wife, was in­den­tured to a New Jersey Quaker as late as 1802 when the cou­ple ar­rived at Philadel­phia. The in­ter­ac­tion be­tween Penn­syl­va­nia “Deitsch­ers” (Dutch peo­ple) and English farm­ers around Philadel­phia was im­por­tant to both their well-be­ing, be­cause of the Dutch­man’s lan­guage bar­rier at­tempt­ing to ne­go­ti­ate com­merce in Penn’s port city.

Sev­eral Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch farm­ers in the PA Dutch Coun­try pur­posely hired their young chil­dren out to English farm­ers who lived in New Jersey, just to learn the English lan­guage. By forc­ing their chil­dren to live in this ex­clu­sive New Jersey English en­vi­ron­ment, it was hoped that when they re­turned home to the PA Dutch Coun­try, they would have ac­quired the abil­ity to un­der­stand and speak English. Sub­se­quently, when these Rhineland farm­ers sent their goods to the Philadel­phia mar­ket, their bilin­gual chil­dren were then able to get the best prices. With­out a doubt, the city of Philadel­phia pros­pered from the crops and goods these up­state Dutch­men reg­u­larly sent to the met­ro­pol­i­tan cen­ter, so much so, that the Dutch­man’s “Pan­haas,” be­came known as Philadel­phia scrap­ple.

In spite of this pros­per­ity, by 1783, David Schopf men­tioned how huge num­bers of Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch from the Hin­ter­land were sleep­ing in their Con­estoga wag­ons at Philadel­phia’s markets dur­ing three-day trade fairs in or­der to be able to sell their food­stuffs in this port city. Of the stan­dard dishes in­cluded in the Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch diet were sim­ply bread and milk, as well as corn­meal mush. Even to­day, among the Plain Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch, bread is baked in quan­tity for home use and the sur­plus sold at road­side stands. For them, it may still be the sense of pride in do­ing so, but also cheaper to bake their own bread than to buy a com­mer­cial prod­uct. How­ever, the pref­er­ence is not one solely one of eco­nomic or even tra­di­tion, but a preser­va­tion of good­ness and qual­ity.

By 1776, all roads led to the port of Philadel­phia and thou­sands of PA Dutch farm­ers from east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia drove their red, white, and blue Con­estoga wag­ons with six-horse teams wear­ing col­or­ful brass bells to pre­vent con­ges­tion with other horse­drawn ve­hi­cles on the King’s high­way of the day, let alone stage­coaches that could hardly pass them. Lo­cal wag­goners, who had a reg­u­lar ex­port / im­port busi­ness with Sea cap­tains who docked at Philadel­phia had reg­u­lar routes, and at Colo­nial Tav­erns where they did busi­ness. These im­pres­sive, huge Con­estoga wag­ons built by Lan­caster PA Dutch had be­came an Amer­i­can way of life, some of which were used to take their cargo out to Pitts­burgh and the Ohio River, open­ing up a West­ward Amer­i­can ex­pan­sion un­der­taken in the early 19th Cen­tury.

The thou­sands of Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch, who ar­rived dur­ing the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion, en­dorsed the prin­ci­ples of the Dec¬la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence and the United States Con­sti­tu­tion that fol­lowed. And while the Con­ti­nen­tal Congress was meet­ing in Philadel­phia ev­ery year dur­ing the har­vest season, hun­dreds of Con­estoga wag­ons in­vaded the port fa­cil­ity to ship grain to a starv­ing world and to Colonists liv­ing in the other twelve colonies. These im­mense red and blue Con­estoga wag­ons with white home­spun can­vas tops were al­ways present on mar­ket days, parked to pro­vide the peo­ple of Philadel­phia with the food ne­ces­si­ties on a week to week ba­sis at their markets.


The Sny­der Con­estoga wagon from the Har­lem area of Berks County has one of the most grace­ful curves ever to be found on an early Con­estoga. Note the half moon ex­ten­sion at the base of the rear tail­gate which at one time held the reach pole se­cure to...


This rare folk-art tool­box, with its tulips hinges and hasp, dec­o­rates the Geist wagon, dat­ing from 1806

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