A Shared Ger­man Ver­nac­u­lar

The Amer­i­can­ism, Pa Dutch, has al­ways in­di­cated a broader group of im­mi­grants in pre-Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion­ary pe­riod from Europe’s Rhine Val­ley

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

This proper Amer­i­can­ism, and founded a sub­urb Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch, of Philadel­phia, known as has al­ways in­di­cated a Ger­man­town. broader This is where Christopher group of im­mi­grants Sauer printed the first Ger­man Bi­ble in the Free who came World, and thus, Quak­ers to Amer­ica and Men­non­ites were able in the preAmer­i­can to wor­ship God with­out be­ing forced to join a na­tional Rev­o­lu­tion­ary church or get any gov­ern­ment pe­riod in­ter­fer­ence within from Europe’s Penn’s Com­mon­wealth. In Rhine time, Ger­man­town be­came Val­ley, which the print­ing cen­ter for the should be pre­ferred by all PA Deitsch re­li­gious texts se­ri­ous schol­ars over the and doc­u­ments for the term Penn­syl­va­nia Ger­man Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch Protes­tant or Ger­man-Amer­i­can, since re­li­gions, un­til the the lat­ter of which are not Ephrata Clois­ter’s press Amer­i­can­isms. Hardly had was be­gun. Shortly there­after, Wil­liam Penn be­came the PA Ger­man print­ers pro­pri­etor of the Bri­tish were es­tab­lished in all colony of Penn­syl­va­nia in the ma­jor cities of the PA the New World when Ger­man Dutch Coun­try where the Protes­tants ac­cepted Chris­tian re­li­gion was fol­lowed. his in­vi­ta­tion, as early as The lure of go­ing to 1683, to be­gin a Holy Chris­tian Amer­ica where there was set­tle­ment by his “So­ci­ety both free­dom of op­por­tu­nity of Friends,” known and an abun­dance of as Quak­ers. These Ger­man farm­land and ma­te­rial re­sources Quak­ers and Men­non­ites war­ranted many ar­rived in his “City of Rhinelanders to sell them­selves Broth­erly Love,” Philadel­phia, into servi­tude just to un­der their leader, pay off their ocean pas­sage Fran­cis Daniel Pas­to­ri­ous, by Colo­nial sea cap­tains.

These large num­bers of Ger­manic peas­ants, beg­ging for a new be­gin­ning, soon out­num­bered Wil­liam Penn’s English colonists to num­ber a third of the set­tlers in the early Com­mon­wealth of Penn­syl­va­nia. The fact that so many Con­ti­nen­tal Euro­peans shared a Ger­man ver­nac­u­lar, did not seem right for them to be given a Ger­man la­bel by Dr. Arthur D. Gra­eff, a very strong ad­vo­cate of the term, “Penn­syl­va­nia Ger­man” in the 1960s. Only could Penn­syl­va­nia Ger­man be proper when re­fer­ring to folk art, namely il­lu­mi­nated birth cer­tifi­cates of these peo­ple, since the ba­sic text used on these doc­u­ments was in Ger­man, writ­ten in an 18th Cen­tury script known as Frak­tur. But when talk­ing about the so­cial in­ter­ac­tion of the Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch cul­ture that evolved from 1683 to the present, among the sev­eral groups of Swiss Amish and Men­non­ites and French Huguenots, the ex­clu­sive use of the term “Ger­man” is not fair to these other as­sim­i­lated groups of vary­ing eth­nic­ity!

There can­not be any mis­take that the Ger­man di­alect is still the tongue that binds all the Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch. But “Penn­syl­va­nia Ger­man” pro­po­nents of the past and present have been blinded to the melt­ing pot process, that through ac­cul­tur­a­tion, the Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch cul­ture is in and of it­self a unique Amer­i­can in­sti­tu­tion. As a more ur­ban Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch­man who grad­u­ated from col­lege, I was not ex­posed to the Penn­syl­va­nia Ger­man Di­alect, and amused by old-timers whom I in­ter­viewed early on teased me. A small nar­row-minded group of Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch who did not be­lieve my pedigree, be­cause I could not “Sch­wetz Deitsh” (speak Dutch).

Al­ways ad­mir­ing the re­search and writ­ings of Doc­tors Shoe­maker, Yoder, Stoudt, Weyge­andt, Kauff­man, Robacker, along with his­to­ri­ans and folk­lorists Frances Lichten, Fred­eric Klees, Robert Bucher, Richard Shaner, Al­liene DeChant, Florence and Rus­sell Baver, among nu­mer­ous oth­ers, I was cer­tainly knowl­edge­able of the cul­ture and its rich, near 350-year his­tory.


Pa. Dutch were work­ing true-grit in­di­vid­u­als. Pic­tured is an old photo of farmer John Hoch of the Oley Val­ley. Photo taken in the early 1900s by Aman­dus Moyer.

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