Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Settling the New World

As the colonies that would later become the United States grew, thousands of immigrants came, not only from Germany, but from Austria and Switzerland as well. The term 'Pennsylvania Dutch' was used then, and is still used today, to describe many of them. When asked which language they spoke, they replied by saying Deutsch, but this was misunderstood by some to be "Dutch" - the term lives on today, as do the misunderstandings. The actual Dutch settled mainly in the region around what is now New York City, not Pennsylvania. These settlers brought with them a diversity of beliefs, starting with the first arrivals in 1683: Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Calvinists, Amish, and others. Thomas Sowell describes their settling in Pennsylvania:
The early German settlers lived in self-isolation in farming communities made up of people of a particular religious denomination. They were socially separate from the larger society and internally separated by numerous religious divisions. The English language and the culture of the British settlers had little influence within the areas settled by Germans. They imported books from Germany and published newspapers and preached sermons in German. With the passage of time, English slowly began to creep in, often with German sentence structure, to produce a peculiar local dialect known as Pennsylvania Dutch. The most isolated of these German settlers were - and are - the Amish, who today still live in farm communities very much like those of the early settlers. Pious religious people who dress in old-fashioned black clothes, the Amish avoid modern ways, drive horse-drawn black carriages, and keep their children out of public schools as a means of preserving their way of life.
Austrian, Swiss, and German immigrants soon outnumbered the English. Cengage's history book tell us that
Germany replaced England as the main source of voluntary immigrants.
Financing their trip to the America was not easy. Students of American history are familiar with 'indentured servants', but a slightly different concept was widely used to pay for trips to the New World:
Perhaps 70,000 of the free immigrants were Germans. Most of them arrived as families, often as redemptioners, a new form of indentured service that was attractive to married couples because it allowed them to find and bind themselves to their own masters. Families could stay together. After redemptioners completed their service, most of them streamed into the interior of Pennsylvania, where Germans outnumbered the original English and Welsh settlers by 1750. Other Germans moved to the southern backcountry.
As the Germans tamed the Pennsylvanian countryside, they looked for other areas in which they might be needed. Their reputation for excellence in agriculture made them welcome in most colonies. These "Pennsylvania Dutch," who were really
Germans, pushed west into the mountains and up the river valleys into the interior parts of Virginia and the Carolinas.
It was in this setting - the backcountry south and west of Philadelphia - that certain cultural images arose. The German settlers encountered farmers from Ireland and Scotland who had settled in and around the Appalachian Mountains, whose farming methods were less precise, and whose social concepts less refined.