The Amer­i­can­ism ‘Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch’ still pre­ferred to­day

The Southern Berks News - - LOCAL NEWS - Richard L.T. Orth A Look Back In His­tory

Since Colo­nial times our an­ces­tors were re­ferred to as the Amer­i­can­ism, “PA Dutch,” a term widely used to de­scribe these im­mi­grants by sub­ur­ban Philadel­phi­ans, who fol­lowed the lo­cal Quak­erAmer­i­can col­lo­qui­al­ism, as peo­ple to­day. This 18th Cen­tury Amer­i­can­ism, “Deitsch” in Ger­man, trans­lated to Dutch in Eng­lish, was used in Colo­nial times, and in­clud­ing the Swiss (Amish and Men­non­ite), French Huguenots, and Hol­land Dutch, in ad­di­tions to large Ger­man num­bers, all who left Europe’s Rhineland Val­ley for the New World. Many of these im­mi­grants sought free­dom of re­li­gion in Penn’s Holy Ex­per­i­ment. But in par­tic­u­lar, the Swiss re­li­gious sects like the Old Or­der Amish and Menno- nites were ex­cluded in the con­no­ta­tion of the in­ac­cu­rate term “Penn­syl­va­nia Ger­man,” as well as the French Huguenots like Al­liene DeChant (afore­men­tioned in pre­vi­ous col­umn), un­justly, than this broader, more in­clu­sive “PA Dutch” id­iom.

Al­liene DeChant be­came such a tal­ented Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch jour­nal­ist by be­com­ing very fa­mil­iar with our Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch peo­ple: their folk­ways, tra­di­tions, and opin­ions. Born of French Huguenot PA Dutch lin­eage and a Chris­tian hu­man­i­tar­ian with her fa­ther be­ing a Gospel min­is­ter, she had a com­pas­sion for the Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch peo­ple. In 1953, she fol­lowed up “Of The Dutch I Sing” with the de­light­ful book, “Down Oley Way,” which in­cluded his­toric ar­chi­tec­tural sketches made by Florence Star Tay­lor il­lus­trat­ing Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch farm­steads. Many of these lo­cal struc­tures dated from the 18th Cen­tury, and the book has been reprinted with suc­cess, at least twice. DeChant then went on to write her last book, “I Came This Way” (1958), and ded­i­cated it to Fredric Klees, an Eng­lish pro­fes­sor at Swarth­more Col­lege even though she had grad­u­ated from Hood Col­lege in Fred­er­ick, Mary­land. Klees, Born in Read­ing, PA, taught in the win­ter months and spent his sum­mers vis­it­ing all parts of the Dutch Coun­try to work on his ar­tic­u­late and de­fin­i­tive book, “The Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch,” reprinted 16 times, I be­lieve be­tween (1950-1958).

The bulk of these Rhinelanders lived in south­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia, known as the “Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch Coun­try,” fol­lowed a num­ber of re­li­gious Plain sect the­olo­gies and ma­jor Church re­li­gions, in­clud­ing the Mo­ra­vian church, known largely for their set­tle­ment in Beth­le­hem. But the Amish and Plain Men­non­ite paci­fist groups stood out as the most ac- tive fol­low­ers of a most mer­ci­ful God, fol­low­ing their Bi­ble and plow into the New World. How­ever, in this 21st Cen­tury, there is no New World fron­tier for Old World farm­ers to im­mi­grate to and seek free­dom of re­li­gion. That’s why the prin­ci­ples of the United States Con­sti­tu­tion and Bill of Rights guar­an­tee of free­dom of re­li­gion are so cher­ished in a World that needs des­per­ately to re­spect the dig­nity of man and his divine abil­ity to make his own choice.

Dr. Don­ald Shel­ley of the Oley Val­ley cer­tainly gave Amer­i­cans in­sight to the col­or­ful Ger­manic folk art sym­bols of the PA Dutch peo­ple ex­press­ing their love of the New World, known as Frak­tur. But the sheer num­ber of Ger­manic peo­ple in Penn­syl­va­nia, which al­most out­num­bered the Eng­lish in fron­tier days, was al­ways an eth­nic in­gre­di­ent that com­prised the cul­tural makeup of A dis­tin­guished and im­pos­ing Al­liene DeChant with Kutz­town Univer­sity in the back­ground. No one loved the na­tive Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch peo­ple as much as she, and wrote ex­ten­sively on her shared her­itage in her pop­u­lar nov­els and as edi­tor of the Kutz­town Pa­triot news­pa­per.

multi-na­tional Amer­i­can civ­i­liza­tion. Al­though the Plain Dutch, such as the Amish and Old Or­der Men­non­ites, sel­dom en­gaged in bold col­or­ful folk art as seen by the Church Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch, both groups were known for their re­li­gious folk art


writ­ings known as Frak­tur in the 17th and 18th Cen­turies. Many of the off­spring born in the New World were given col­or­ful folk art dower chests to cel­e­brate the be­gin­nings of that branch of the fam­ily in a land of free­dom of re­li­gion and lib­erty.

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