Who were the Germans who Settled in the Delaware Valley?

Jeannette Holland Austin
6 min readAug 19, 2023
Courtesy of pinterest.com

The Delaware Valley was known as “the Pennsylvania Dutch Country.” But it is a story of cruelty and religious persecution that drove hundreds of thousands of Germans and other Europeans across the treacherous seas to America. In those days, storms and other disasters sank many ships into the ocean. Even at this late date, we are learning the locations of ancient vessels under the sea.

Nevertheless, an unspoken credit is due to those who risk their lives to be free!

This large area includes South Central Pennsylvania, stretching in an arc from Bethlehem and Allentown in the Lehigh Valley westward through Reading, Lebanon, and Lancaster to York and Chambersburg. They were Germans, sorely persecuted for their religious beliefs. During the persecution period, they arrived in America in droves.

Their origin was chiefly from the Upper Rhine and the Neckar region, the latter furnishing the Arabian or Rhenish Bavarian element. The Upper Rhine (German: Oberrhein [ˈoːbɐˌʁaɪn]; French: Rhin Supérieur) is the section of the Rhine between Basel in Switzerland and Bingen in Germany, surrounded by the Upper Rhine Plain.

So what is that “Dutch” reference about?

Germans refer to themselves as Deutsch, which is known as a dialect that has been corrupted or enriched by English words and idioms under a pure or modified pronunciation and spoken by natives; some of them learned no other language but mostly spoke or understood English.

Even when very young, children may speak English entirely with their parents and German with their grandparents. Of two house painters (father and son), the father always speaks German and the son English, whether speaking together or with others. The family’s males, being more abroad than the females, learn English more readily. While the father, mother, daughters, and servants may speak German, the father, and son may speak English together naturally and not have two languages, as in Russia.

Since Pennsylvania was the main port thoroughfare, this is where they found their home. The language is, therefore, South German, as brought in by emigrants from Rhenish Bavaria, Baden, Alsace (Alsatia), Würtemberg, German Switzerland, and Darmstadt. There were also natives from…

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