Friday, June 8, 2012

Pennsylvania Settlers

English: Although, many English Anglicans settled in the area as well, the English Quakers were the dominant group of settlers to inhabit Pennsylvania. These English immigrants settled heavily in Pennsylvania's southeastern counties, which became the center of the agricultural and commercial society.

Germans: Thousands of Germans settled in Pennsylvania, and by the time of the Revolutionary War they comprised one third of the population. These German immigrants settled mostly in the interior counties of Northampton, Berks, Lancaster and Lehigh. The Germans, coming from a strong farming background, helped transform the area into one of the richest farming regions. Germans flocked to Pennsylvania to escape warfare. The Thirty Years War had ravaged Europe, and for many Germans, the only way to escape it was to flee to the Colonies. The Germans brought with them a rich religious tradition. Many Germans in the 16th and 17th centuries were farmers and led simple lives. After Martin Luther challenged the Catholic Church in 1517, he gained large numbers of German supporters, particularly those who were financially repressed. Many of these Germans worshipped at home, and were thus called "House Germans". They valued hard work and piety, and created sects, named after honored leaders. Some examples of these sects include the Schwenkfelders, who took their name from Caspar Schwenkfelder; the Mennonites, who took their name from Menno Simmons; the Amish, who took their name from Jost Amman; and the Herrites, who were named after Christian Herr. Seventeenth century Germany was so chaotic that for many, their only hope lay in work and prayer. These pietistic religious sects were very appealing because of the salvation they offered. When William Penn advertised his colony to the English, German and Dutch, the German and Dutch Mennonites immediately responded. Their agent, Francis Pastorius, went to Pennsylvania and was instrumental in creating Germantown, a colony for the Germans. Bringing Germans to America soon became a profitable business, and after 1717 Germans were brought to Pennsylvania in masses. They created a prosperous farming culture as well as a diverse religious culture.

Scotch-Irish: From 1717 to the time of the American Revolution, the Scotch-Irish (Scots-Irish) immigrated to the new world in waves, brought about by severe hardships in Ireland. In Pennsylvania these Scotch-Irish settlers were mostly frontiersmen who pushed into the Cumberland Valley region and on into western parts. By 1776 the Scotch-Irish comprised one quarter of the population. These were mostly lowland Scots who migrated to Northern Ireland in the 17th century as part of England's attempts to strengthen control over Ireland.

Irish: Most accounts of Irish in Pennsylvania are that of Scotch-Irish, who were Protestant immigrants from the North of Ireland, but there are accounts of some Irish-Catholics. Pre-Revolution Irish were most likely servants, and their presence was evidenced by the number of Irish taverns established throughout Philadelphia. In 1733, churches began to organize, which were discretely tucked away into the heart of the city.

Jews: In 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain signed an order to expel all Jews from Spain. Some of these Jews converted to Christianity, while others fled to Portugal, only to be expelled five years later. Some Jews emigrated to the north of Europe, Italy, Africa and the Ottoman Empire, and some sailed to the new world to help establish Brazil. The end of the 15th century witnessed great anti-Semitism towards Jews, but the Jews found refuge in Poland. As more and more Jews flocked to Poland it soon became the largest Jewish community in the world. When the Dutch converted to Protestantism they soon became an enemy to Spain, and in doing so, opened their borders to Spanish Jews. As a result, Amsterdam would developed a Jewish community. In 1630, the Dutch conquered northern Brazil and allowed Jews to emigrate, leading to the growth of a small Jewish community in Brazil. In 1654, the Portuguese won back northern Brazil and gave the Jews three months to leave. Some of the Jews went back to Holland, the Dutch West Indies and Dutch Guiana. A small group of Jews were captured by a Spanish ship shortly after leaving Brazil. This ship was then captured by a French ship, who dropped the Jews off in New Amsterdam, becoming the first Jews to settle in the United States. Other Jews from Brazil would follow, settling in New Amsterdam, Rhode Island, Jamaica and the West Indies. In 1648, Poland was in turmoil due to an uprising, and many Jews were killed. Jews then began moving west to Holland, then England and finally to America. A significant Jewish population grew in Pennsylvania, and the first congregation was established in 1740.

African Americans: The first African Americans in Pennsylvania were reported to have lived in the Delaware River Valley as early as 1639 and were enslaved by the Swedes, Dutch and Finns. In 1684, after the Quakers had arrived, the first slave ship arrived in Pennsylvania carrying 150 Africans. Slavery in Pennsylvania was unlike slavery in the south. Instead of plantations, the slaves were part of the commercial economy working in agriculture, charcoal-iron, sail making, and as longshoremen, mariners, street vendors and domestic servants. The years between 1756 and 1767 marked the onset of the height of slavery in Philadelphia. The German and Scotch-Irish indentured servants had dried up, so they turned to black slaves. The use of black slaves slowed some after 1767 when new batches of indentured servants were brought to Philadelphia. Opposition to slavery by both blacks and whites led to a ban on slave importation as well as the passage of the Gradual Emancipation Act in 1780.

Other ethnic groups that populated the state included a small number of French Hugeunotos, Dutch and Swedes. (source: Pennsylvania Roots © 2004 Rickie Lazzerini)

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