Persevering toward a New World Democracy in 1776
Interaction between Dutch and English farmers important to both their well-being
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 the bed of the wagon.
This rare folk-art toolbox, with its tulips hinges and hasp, decorates the Geist wagon, dating from 1806