Lesson 1 Table of Contents Lesson 3

L e s s o n 2


1. Key personalities

Franz Daniel Pastorius (1651-1720). German pietist leader who in 1683 led the first group of German settlers aboard the Concord. He established the community of Germantown, now part of Philadelphia. He was a learned lawyer, historian, linguist, poet and teacher. In 1688, together with three fellow citizens, Pastorius wrote the first protest against slavery. His writings, filling five volumes of manuscripts at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, remain largely unpublished.

Heinrich Melchior Muehlenberg (1711-1787). A clergyman who came to Pennsylvania in 1742 and played a leading role in organizing the Lutheran Church in Colonial America. His son John Peter Muhlenberg (1746-1807) was prominent in the American Revolution and became a well-known political figure. John Peter's brother Friedrich August Muhlenberg served as first Speaker of the House of Congress 1789-1791 and 1793-1795.

Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760). Born in Dresden, Zinzendorf became a leader of the religious sect known as the Moravian Brethren. Coming to America in 1741 he took the lead in establishing Moravian settlements at several places in Pennsylvania, most notably at Bethlehem. He later died at his estate in Saxony.

Johann Kelpius (1673-1708). Known as "the Hermit of the Wissahickon," he established a semi-monastic religious community on the Wissahickon Creek near Philadelphia. His followers later established the larger religious community at Ephrata, PA. He was a well-educated mystic and a student of the writings of Jacob Boehme.

Jacob Leisler (1640-1691). Frankfurt-born, Leisler was a wealthy New York businessman and senior captain of the militia. In 1689 at a critical time in the colonies, he seized control of the City and ruled as governor for two years without being recognized by the British, who deposed and hanged him for treason in 1691. In 1695 the Parliament in London rescinded the judgment. Leisler is considered the first martyr in the struggle for American liberty.

2. Main trends

While individual Germans had been in America as early as 1608, the first to arrive as a group were religious dissenters who landed at Philadelphia aboard the Concord in 1683. These settlers were from Krefeld, Frankfurt and the Palatinate and were led by a young lawyer, Franz Daniel Pastorius. Germantown, the settlement they established near Philadelphia, became a point of entry for later waves of German immigrants to Pennsylvania. Many of those belonged to nonconformist sects such as the Mennonites, Amish, Moravians, and Schwarzenau Brethren, known also as Dunkers. The main body of German settlers in Pennsylvania, however, were Lutherans.

The eastern counties of Pennsylvania became the center of German immigration to America during the colonial period, but there were several other important areas of settlement. One of these was New York state, including the Mohawk Valley region around Utica and the area around Schoharie. The latter area was settled by so-called Palatines, Protestant refugees from the Palatinate in southwest-central Germany. The Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia was also an important area of German settlement in colonial times. Other areas were in Georgia and the Carolinas. Salem, NC preserves many historic buildings reminding one of early German settlement there. New Bern, NC has a name which indicates that some of its early settlers were from Bern, Switzerland.

Many of the German settlements in Colonial times were established by groups who came for religious reasons. The Salzburger Protestants were exiled by a 1731 decree of the Catholic archbishop. Some 30,000 left Austria for exile in Protestant states such as England and Prussia. Many of the Salzburgers settled in Georgia.

3. Suggested further reading

Lucy F. Bittinger. The Germans of Colonial Times. New York: Russell and Russell, 1901. (Reprint 1968).

Dieter Cunz. The Maryland Germans. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1948.

Klaus Wust. The Virginia Germans. Charlottesville: Univ. of Virginia Press, 1969.

P.A. Strobl. The Salzburgers and Their Descendants. Athens, GA: Univ. of Georgia Press, 1953.

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Created: 4 August 1998, SEL
Updated: 17 November 2007, BAS
Comments to: Eberhard Reichmann, reichman@ucs.indiana.edu
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