Pennsylvania Dutch

Pennsylvania Dutch

Pennsylvania Dutch [Ger. Deutsch=German], people of E Pennsylvania of German descent who migrated to the area in the 18th cent., particularly those in Northampton, Berks, Lancaster, Lehigh, Lebanon, York, and adjacent counties. The colony of Pennsylvania, established by William Penn as a refuge for Quakers, offered other groups the prospect of religious freedom. In 1683 the village of Germantown was established by a group of Mennonites led by Francis Daniel Pastorius, and in succeeding years other groups, such as the Dunkards and the Moravians, settled in Pennsylvania. However, the bulk of immigration occurred after 1710, when the Germans from the Palatinate first arrived. Many of these people had sought economic and religious freedom in England; from there a number were sent to the Hudson valley to engage in the production of naval stores, but with the failure of that project many Palatines moved to Pennsylvania. Enthusiastic reports brought other settlers from Germany, until by the time of the American Revolution the population of Pennsylvania, according to Benjamin Franklin, was one-third German.

At first the large influx of German settlers antagonized the English, but they were gradually accepted, and during the Revolution they provided valuable assistance. Most of the settlers engaged in farming, at which they were extremely successful. For the most part they maintained their own language and customs; the family became the principal economic and social unit, and the church was next in importance.

The aim of the various religious denominations was to establish a Christian, democratic society; for many years they opposed public schooling, preferring to retain their own standards and manners, and they strongly resisted signs of progress and worldly living. Several of the churches are completely pacifistic, such as the Amish and the Mennonites. The Amish are particularly strict in the matter of dress, maintaining a simple but distinctive garb, and also have a strong aversion to automobiles, electric lights, and telephones. The Amish have continued to oppose public schooling, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1972 that the Amish were exempt from state compulsory education laws. The Church of the Brethren, incorrectly but popularly known as the Dunkards or Dunkers from their manner of baptism, and the Schwenkfelders are two other denominations.

The Pennsylvania Dutch, or Pennsylvania German, language is a blend of several dialects, essentially Palatinate, with some admixture of standard German and English. A substantial Pennsylvania German literature, art, and architecture exists. Many written records were adorned with illuminated writing, and such articles as pottery, furniture, needlework, and barns made use of decorative motifs, often of a highly artistic nature. Their buildings are usually of heavy stone and timber construction, with steep roofs and small, irregular windows. Pennsylvania Germans have contributed much to the culture of Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania German Society, organized in 1891, has published much material relative to the history and folklore of the Pennsylvania Dutch.


See J. F. Sachse, The German Sectarians of Pennsylvania, 1708-1800 (2 vol., 1889; repr. 1971); W. Beidelman, The Story of the Pennsylvania Germans (1898, repr. 1969), L. O. Kuhns, The German and Swiss Settlements of Colonial Pennsylvania (1901, repr. 1971); A. Long, The Pennsylvania German Family Farm (1972); J. J. Stoudt, Pennsylvania German Folk Art (rev. ed. 1966) and Sunbonnets and Shoofly Pies: Pennsylvania Dutch Cultural History (1973); E. C. Haag, A Pennsylvania German Anthology (1988).

The Pennsylvania Dutch (perhaps more strictly Pennsylvania Deitsch, Pennsylvania Germans or Pennsylvania Deutsch) are the descendants of German immigrants who came to Pennsylvania prior to 1800. According to Don Yoder, a Pennsylvania German expert and retired University of Pennsylvania professor, the word "Dutch" in this case owes its origin to an archaic meaning where the word "Dutch" designated groups that are today considered German and Dutch - prior to the Thirty Years' War, the Netherlands were part of the Holy Roman Empire and the Dutch were generally regarded as one of several German peoples. Although Yoder rejects other explanations, other sources, such as Hostetler (1993) give the origin of "Dutch" as a corruption or a "folk-rendering" of the term "Deitsch". It is worth noting that the adjective "German" is "Deutsch" in the German language and "Duits" in the Dutch language. Also some southern German dialects still pronounce "Deutsch" as "Deitsch" (Daɪt). The difficulty is enlarged by the fact that the oldest native term for the Dutch language happens to be Dietsch, a stem that also shows up in the derivation of Plautdietsch. Plautdietsch developed on a mixed Dutch / Low German substrate, according to the Dutch linguist Ad Welschen (2000), which is certainly not the case with Pennsylvania Deitsch. So Deitsch etymologically means 'German', while Dietsch means 'Dutch' .

Pennsylvania Dutch were historically speakers of the Pennsylvania German language. They are a people of various religious affiliations, most of them Lutheran or Reformed, but many Anabaptists as well. They live primarily in southeastern Pennsylvania in the area stretching in an arc from Bethlehem and Allentown through Reading, Lebanon, and Lancaster to York and Chambersburg. They can also be found down throughout the Shenandoah Valley (the modern Interstate 81 corridor) in the adjacent states of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina, and in the large Amish and Mennonite communities in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, in Ohio north and south of Youngstown and in Indiana around Elkhart. Their cultural traditions date back to the German immigrations to America in the 17th and 18th centuries. Only then did German immigration from various parts the southern Rhineland, Palatinate, the southern part of Hesse, Baden, Alsace and Switzerland gain momentum, and soon dominate the area. But the Pennsylvania Dutch language is ultimately a derivative of Palatinate German.

Pennsylvania Dutch from the Palatinate of the Rhine

Many Pennsylvania Dutch are descendants of refugees from the Palatinate of the German Rhine. For example, most Amish and Mennonite came to the Palatinate and surrounding areas from the German speaking part of Switzerland, where, as Anabaptists, they were persecuted, and so their stay in the Palatinate was of limited duration. However, for the majority of the Pennsylvania Dutch, their roots go much further back in the Palatinate. During the War of the Grand Alliance (1689-97), French troops, under King Louis XIV, pillaged the Palatinate, forcing many Germans to flee. The War of the Palatinate (as it was called in Germany), also called the War of Augsburg, began in 1688 as Louis took claim of the Palatinate, and all major cities of Cologne were devastated. By 1697 the war came to a close with the Treaty of Ryswick, and the Palatinate remained free of French control. However, by 1702, the War of the Spanish Succession began, lasting until 1713. French expansionism forced many Palatines to flee as refugees. The first major emigration of Germans to America resulted in the founding of the Borough of Germantown in northwest Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania in 1683-1685. Mass emigration of Palatines began out of Germany in the early 1700s. In the spring of 1709, Queen Anne had granted refuge to about 7,000 Palatines who had sailed the Rhine to Rotterdam. From here about 3,000 were sent to America either directly, or through England, bound for William Penn’s colony. The remaining refugees were sent to Ireland to strengthen the Protestant presence in the country. By 1710, large groups of Palatines had sailed from London, the last group of which was bound for New York. There were 3,200 Palatines on 12 ships that sailed for New York and approximately 470 died en route to America. In New York, under the new Governor, Robert Hunter, Palatines worked for British authorities and produced tar and pitch for the Royal Navy in return for their safe passage. They also served as a buffer between the French and Natives on the frontier and the English colonies. In 1723, some 33 Palatine families, dissatisfied under Governor Hunter’s rule, migrated from Schoharie, NY, to Tulpehocken, Berks County, PA, where other Palatines had settled. During the American Revolution most of the Pennsylvania Dutch were loyalists. They feared that their royal land grants would be in danger with a new republican form of government.

Pennsylvania Dutch identity

Recently due to loss of the Pennsylvania German language (among others)- in many communities, as well as to intermarriage and increased mobility, especially in the more secular communities, Pennsylvania Dutch ethnic consciousness is often very low, especially among younger Pennsylvania Dutch. Many young Pennsylvania Dutch consider themselves only descendants of Pennsylvania Dutch and it is not part of their personal identity. However many of those raised in the immediate area, or those who have close ties there, still hold those ties close even if their parents don't emphasize those ties. In some communities the Pennsylvania Dutch name is reserved only for members of the Amish and traditional Mennonite communities.

See also


External links

In Pennsylvania German

Search another word or see Pennsylvania Dutchon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature