Re: First German Immigrants in America/Philadelphia

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Posted by Elaine on April 15, 2000 at 21:28:15:

In Reply to: First German Immigrants in America posted by Goody Sandy on April 15, 2000 at 15:27:39:

: The First German Immigrants

: When a small group of German Quakers and Mennonites, living in Krefeld, Germany, heard that the famed William Penn had established a refuge in Pennsylvania for people that were being persecuted for their religious beliefs, they made preparations to leave their homeland and immigrate to America.

: This group of immigrants, under the leadership of Francis Daniel Pastorius made their way to the coast, and booked passage for the New World. The ship they chose, known as the Concord, was described in her day as "a Brave ship of 500 tunns burthen and 26 guns." The vessel was over 130 feet long and nearly thirty-three feet wide. She could carry a maximum of 140 passengers, along with cargo and sufficient supplies of food and water for a three to six month voyage.

: To make the trip from Germany to the New World, these first America-bound Germans had to pay a fare of five pounds per head for all those above twelve years of age, fifty schillings for children under twelve, and nursing babies traveled free of charge. On June 7, 1683, the Concord set sail and carried the first German settlers toward their new home in America.

: According to the personal record of Pastorius, the voyage was quite an ordeal. He described the event as follows:

: "After I had arrived at Deal, I hired four male and two female servants, and on the 7th day of June, 1683, I set sail on the Concord with a company of eighty passengers. Our ship drew thirty feet of water. Our fare on board was poor enough. The allowance of provision for ten persons per week was as follows: three pounds of butter; daily four cans of beer and one can of water, every noon; two dishes of peas; four times per week salt meat, and three times salt fish, which we were obligated to cook, each man for himself, and had daily to save enough from dinner to serve for our suppers also. And as these provisions were usually very poor, and the fish sometimes tainted, we were all compelled to make liberal use of liquors and other refreshments of a similar nature to preserve the health amid such bad fare..."

: Pastorius did not dwell on the additional hardships passengers had to face. However, it was not uncommon for many passengers to die from either starvation or the dreaded "ship fever," during the three to six months it took to make the trip to America.

: The first German immigrants landed in Philadelphia on October 6, 1683, and purchased land to build the community of Germantown, which today is part of Philadelphia. My own ancestors immigrated from Germany, England, Ireland and Scotland -- a common mix of nationalities in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

: The Amish and Mennonites

: During the Reformation in 16th century Europe, Luther and Calvin promoted the concepts of individual freedom and the priesthood for all believers. In what has been called "the radical reformation," some religious reformers took these beliefs to their logical conclusion; they preached that the believer should separate themselves from all secular activities. One of the largest groups was the Anabaptists.

: These groups were simple associations of adult Christians. Most groups were wiped out in wars or programs of genocide, which were organized by various governments and main-line churches. The Mennonites were named after Menno Simons, a Dutch Anabaptist leader. They were severely persecuted and fled to Switzerland and other remote areas of Europe. The Amish began as a split-off sect of the Swiss Mennonites during the late 17th century. Their founder was Jacob Amman, who based his beliefs and practices on the writings of Simons and on the 1632 Mennonite Dordrecht Confession of Faith. The split with the Mennonites was mainly over the practices of foot washing and avoidance. The Amish and Mennonites have remained similar in belief, and differ mainly in some practices.

: Some Amish migrated to America as a result of William Penn's "holy experiment" in religious tolerance. Many settled in Lancaster Country, Pennsylvania during the 1720's. Other groups settled in or moved to Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and Ohio. They have attempted to preserve the elements of late 17th century European rural culture. They reject most of the developments of the modern society. During the 1860's, a series of conferences were held to deal with modern pressures. Partly as a result of these conferences, the Amish split into a number of divisions, including the conservative Old Order Amish and various more liberal groups.

: Membership in the main Amish church, the Old Order Amish Mennonite Church is not reported. The other Amish groups are relatively small. Probably the total of all Amish groups would be on the order of 100,000 in 22 states and Canada.

: In their homes and in conversations with each other, the Old Order Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch, which is a dialect of German. When children go to school they learn English. In their worship services the sermons are given in German. The German language, "Deitch," is also taught in Amish schools. Only a small percentage of Pennsylvania Germans are Amish.

: Best wishes,
: Goody Sandy

Hi Sandy,

Of Germans, Quakers, Philadelphia & Religious Freedom ... interesting history!

In the American colonies from 1704 until the
Revolution, public Catholic churches were forbidden. In fact, for about one year services even in homes
were prohibited by the penal laws legislated against Catholics. The accession of Queen Anne did see
domestic worship permitted for Catholic colonists. The few priests in English America at that time would
then either say Mass in their own house chapel or ride about on circuit to various "Mass- houses."

There was, however, a unique exception to the penal laws--old Saint Joseph's Church in Philadelphia.
About 1733, Father Joseph Greatin opened a tiny permanent chapel near Fourth and Walnut Streets, the
only open Catholic church in Great Britain or its American colonies. This was possible due to the
tolerance of the Philadelphia Quakers who rebuffed persistent complaints. Saint Joseph's Church started
with a few Irish, English, and German parishioners and grew to a congregation of 1,200 by the time of the
American Revolution. In writing about the Acadians from Canada, Longfellow depicted Saint Joseph's:
"Under the humble walls of the little Catholic churchyard,/In the heart of the city they lie, unknown and

During the French and Indian War, strong pressure was put upon the city fathers to close the church.
This intensified when news was heard of General Braddock's defeat in 1755. The Catholics were said to
be conspiring with their French coreligionists. Still, the Quakers refused to deny public worship to their
Catholic fellow citizens. In fact, the structure of Saint Joseph's was enlarged in 1757. And to this day the
church remains open.

Maryland had its counterpart to Philadelphia in an illegal church built in 1731 at Newtown in Saint
Mary's County. Saint Francis Xavier Church was built of wood to somewhat resemble a tobacco barn. It
is safe to speculate that neighbors were not unaware of its true purpose. As the Revolution neared and
the French were now allies, a brick front providing a vestibule and choir loft was added. Later a brick
sacristy and small belfry announced that it was indeed a church. Saint Francis Xavier is presently the
oldest Catholic church structure still standing in what were the British colonies.

--Reverend Paul Liston

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