Just who are the “Pennsylvania Dutch”? When and why did they emigrate to colonial America? Who founded their various colorful communities, and what was their style of life? If you’re looking for answers to these and related questions about the Pennsylvania Dutch, you’ll find them in Oscar Kuhns’ classic treatise, The German and Swiss Settlements of Colonial Pennsylvania.
In scarcely 200 pages, Professor Kuhns has surveyed the factors that compelled roughly 100,000 emigrants from the Palatinate, Wurtenberg, Zweibrucken, and other principalities in southern Germany to settle in Pennsylvania between 1683 and 1776 and establish a new way of life in their adopted homeland. The author pinpoints the different waves of colonial Germans and Swiss and illustrates the pivotal roles played by such personalities as William Penn, Francis Daniel Pastorius, and Henry Melchior Muhlenberg in helping launch communities in Philadelphia, in Lancaster and Berks counties, and ultimately throughout Pennsylvania. The entire process of immigration is captured in vivid descriptions of (often unscrupulous) immigrant recruitment, the difficult passage across the Atlantic, indentured servitude, and settling on the land. Most of these immigrants were farmers, and their customs and manners are recounted in an examination of housing, provisions, agricultural methods, superstitions, and so forth. There is a chapter on language, literature, and education and a separate appendix on German family names. Perhaps the most informative chapter in the book covers the extraordinarily diverse religious life of these Protestant Germans, which, while dominated by the Lutheran and Reformed churches, also accommodated Moravians, Mennonites, Brethren, Dunkards, Seventh-Day Baptists, Schwenkfelders, and others. Concluding as it does with a chapter on the Revolution, in which we discover which Pennsylvania-Germans were patriots and which were pacifists, The German and Swiss Settlements of Colonial Pennsylvania is one volume that will hold the interest of Americans of colonial German descent from cover to cover.