Pa Dutch is univer­sal term our peo­ple re­fer to them­selves

The Kutztown Area Patriot - - LOCAL NEWS - Richard L.T. Orth

The Amer­i­can­ism, “Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch,” was a fron­tier col­lec­tivism be­gun by Philadel­phia’s English Colonists in the 17th and 18th Cen­turies who coined the term in re­fer­ring to “all im­mi­grant Rhinelanders” that ar­rived to Penn­syl­va­nia at Wil­liam Penn’s ear­lier Quaker preach­ing in 1677. The in­hab­i­tants of Hol­land and North­ern Ger­many were re­ferred to as the “Low Dutch,” among the early English set­tlers and the Al­sa­tians, Palati­nates, and Swiss far­ther up the Rhine Val­ley as the “High Dutch” at a time when Deutsch­land (Ger­many) did not ex­ist in the early English vo­cab­u­lary. But col­lec­tively, all grouped as the Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch com­ing from roughly the same re­gion.

Pro­lific writ­ers as Pro­fes­sor Dr. Cor­nelius Wey­gandt (Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia) wrote pop­u­lar books about the Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch Coun­try (1939), as Philadel­phi­ans still pre­ferred to call the home of the Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch in­stead of cen­tral Penn­syl­va­nia; a pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tion for the Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch Plain Amish. When learned Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch­men or­ga­nized the Penn­syl­va­nia Ger­man So­ci­ety in 1891, they at­tempted to cor­rect and pro­vide the na­tion with an in­tel­li­gent un­der­stand­ing of our Ger­man Dialect-speak­ing eth­nic peo­ple who were a di­verse rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the en­tire Rhine Val­ley of Europe, how­ever, their name­sake did not have the his­toric col­lec­tive con­no­ta­tion as the ear­lier pi­o­neer one: “Penn­syl­van­ish Dutch.”

But in the 1950s, the aca­demic phi­los­o­phy laid down by Dr. Al­fred L. Shoe­maker and Dr. Don Yoder, lead­ers of the grass-roots Penn­syl­va­nia Folklife So­ci­ety had ques­tioned the proper wis­dom of us­ing the term “Ger­man.” Con­cerns arose even fur­ther about stud­ies on the Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch cul­ture in re­cent decades when so­called schol­ars be­gan writ­ing about our peo­ple as Ger­man-Amer­i­cans, a term which in hopes be­came a syn­onym for “Penn­syl­va­nia Ger­mans,” among a few re­searchers, start­ing in Frak­tur.

Dr. John Joseph Stoudt of­ten re­marked how English his­to­ri­ans deleted Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch par­tic­i­pa­tion in Amer­i­can his­tory sim­ply be­cause they were not able to take the time to trans­late Penn­syl­va­nia Ger­man writ­ings in the Colo­nial towns of Penn­syl­va­nia. Con­se­quently, the large num­ber of Penn­syl­va­nia “Ger­mans” who were of the Lutheran, Re­formed, and Catholic re­li­gious de­nom­i­na­tions had for­got­ten the vast num­ber of Ger­man-dialect speak­ing Amish and Mennonite sects in Penn­syl­va­nia who were al­most ex­clu­sively Swiss in eth­nic ori­gin. Stud­ies done by Doc­tors Al­fred L. Shoe­maker, Don Yoder, and J. Wil­liam Frey at Franklin and Mar­shall Col­lege at Lan­caster in the 1950s and l960s chose the more demo­cratic grass-roots term: “Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch” since it was a broader Americana la­bel and felt much more ac­cu­rate.

For Shoe­maker and Yoder, in­stead of mak­ing the rounds speak­ing at “Grund­sau lodges,” they con­verted hun­dreds of thou­sands of Amer­i­cans to un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate the Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch cul­ture by read­ing their (The) Dutch­man news­pa­per, which nat­u­rally de­vel­oped into a mag­a­zine, and later, be­came Penn­syl­va­nia Folklife, among hun­dreds of other ar­ti­cles, book­lets, and pub­li­ca­tions the pair wrote. De­spite the aca­demic world’s pro­pa­ganda past and present to re­place the term Dutch with “Ger­man,” and this com­ing from a Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch­man through Ger­man roots (mostly)- al­most all na­tives do and will con­tinue to call them­selves Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch, and proudly! Used through­out the 18th Cen­tury on, his­tor­i­cally, to re­fer to the in­hab­i­tants of the Rhine Val­ley from the Low Dutch to the High Dutch (Ger­man). This folklife prac­tice of lo­cal, na­tive Swiss, Ger­man, and French (Huguenot) de­scen­dants re­fer­ring to them­selves as “Dutch” is in­born, and any­thing else is a fab­ri­ca­tion taught to them.

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