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History of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present online

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jjeared to be somewhat abstracted; when one
of the brethren rose and called his attention
to the fact that classis was waiting his good
pleasiire to proceed. Whereupon the presi-
dent looked inquiringly about the room, and
then said. "Well, is Mrs. Gerhart here, too?
If she is, we will proceed to business; the
dark will bleas call the roll."



A vast majority of Pennsylvania German
Christians ai'e members either of the Lutheran
or ( German) Reformed denomination. Their
church edifices, especially in the rural dis-
tricts are, usually very plain and simple, but
neat and substantial, and like those of other
denominations, much more comfortable than
in former times. The old goblet-shaped
pulpits with their over-hanging sounding-
boards, the long side galleries, high, stiff-
backed pews, brick, or tile floors, and huge,
unsightly box-stoves (for burning cord sticks),
the "fore-singer's," latticed nook, and the
Klingelsacks (or black velvet collection bags
with great black tassels, deftly concealing
the little silver-plated bell, carried by the
deacons at the end of long poles), have all
disappeared, and been succeeded by more
modern and fashionable conveniences. Brick
churches are gradualy taking the place of
wooden ones, and in many instances they are
surmounted by neat belfries and spires, and
now, even in the country^ the stillness of the
Sabbath morning and evening is broken by
the sweet sounds of the chiuch-going bells,
reverberating through the glens and dales, and
the remnant of the fast-falling forests where
the fathers of these people, little more than a
century ago, worshipped in log huts, guarded
by their shot-guns and their rifles against
the tomahawk and the scalping-knife of lurk-
ing and evei - threatning Indian foes.

In almost every such Pennsylvania German
congi-egation there is a well-organized, welf-
attended and well-regulated Sunday-school,
in which all the exercises are successfully
conducted by teachers, male and female, of
Pennsylvania German parentage, in the Eng-
lish language. A special feature of these (as
well as of other Sunday-schools) is the singing
by the children; the deep interest taken by
their teachers in teaching them vocal music;
and in very many even of these humble
little churches, the singing both at regular
service and Sunday-school is accompanied
with instrumental music — organ or melodeon.
Another remarkable feature is the almost
incredible number of English Scripture verses
which many of these little Pennsylvania
"Dutch" boys and girls memorize from Sab-
bath to Sabbath, and the ease and grace with
which they recite them. And still another
remarkable feature of these country Sunday-
schools is found in the fact that many of the
children and teachers who do these things
are members of families in which the Penn-
sylvania dialect is spoken almost exclusively;
and, although owing to severity of weather
and badness of roads, the schools are necessar-
ily suspended during the winter months, they

annually revive, and the children return with
the spring as naturally and as joyfully, aye,
and as freely and beautifully, as the birds
and the flowers.

Young women of Pennsylvania German
descent are. largely, the pride and the hope
of the race. There can be no doubt that
the habits and customs, yea, and the costumes
of modern fashionable life, are rapidly under-
mining the moral and physical health of
society. Happily the young woman, whose
home and employments are in the country,
is far less exposed to these influences and
temptations than she who lives and labors
(if. indeed, she does labor) in a large town
or city. The daughters, like the sons
among these people, are naturally, as well as
by training, inclined to active employment,
and they seek it and find it either at home
or abroad. Much is said nowadays about
respectable emjiloymeut. In the estimation
of Pennsylvania Germans, perhaps more
peculiarly than of any other class of people,
almost any honest employment is more re-
spectable than idleness or ignoble ease. Even
Solomon's glowing, poetic descriptions of a
virtuous woman, would hardly be too sti'ong
to be sung of many a noble mother or
daughter of our goodly land. " Her price is
above rubies; the heart of her husband doth
safely trust in her; she will do him good and
not evil all the days of her life. She seeketh
wool and flax, and workelh willingly with
her hands. She girdeth her loins with
strength and strengtheneth her arms. She
layeth her hands to the spindle, and her
hands hold the distaff. She maketh fine
linen and selleth it, and delivereth girdles
unto the merchant. Strength and honor are
her clothing, and she shall rejoice in time to
come; and her children shall rise up and
call her blessed." Thousands of the best
wives and mothers that ever thus blessed a
family were Pennsylvania German women
who have gone to their reward, and tens of
thousands such there are now living in this
great Commonwealth, who though they may
never have traveled beyond its limits, or
figured in fashionable society, or been with-
in the walls of a theater, are nevertheless
the Marys, who have chosen that better part
which renders their worth above the price of
rubies. And thousands of them were at one
time poor hired girls doing general house-
work at low wages, who, when the day's
work was done, instead of folding their
hands in idleness, or wasting their time in
useless or hurtful amusements, however pop-
ulur, were busied with the needle or the dis-
taff, providing for themselves the ha


quilt, the fleecy coverlet, the snow-white linen
and other needful things against the day of
their own marriage, and the furnishing of
their own house and home. Not only so,
but in hundreds of instances they have been
known to contribute, for years, of their
meager earnings toward the support of indi-
gent, aged and enfeebled parents. Nor are
they all married to farmers or mechanics,
living in rural obscurity. "Who does not
know, however some would fain conceal it,
that many, very many, who once were just
such noble-hearted, hale, hardy, industrious
country-girls, are now the honored wives of
ministers, lawyers, doctors, editors, mer-
chants, bankers, and the mothers of some of
the fairest and best of our youth '? The world
cannot yet afford to ridicule and contemn such
wives, mothers and daughters, merely because
they are Pennsylvania Germans, have not been
abroad, and are not "smart." May that
time never come, nor the day when men or
women shall be ashamed of honest labor, or
seek to conceal the fact of their German ori-
gin by changing the manner of spelling their

But no insinuation could be farther from
the truth than that Pennsylvania Germans,
as a rule, do not go abroad, but spend their
lives where they were born. Every day's
observation on all the lines of local travel
and on all trains between eastern Pennsyl-
vania and all parts of the great West, proves
the contrary; and of some twelve or fifteen
residents of York County, mostly from the
borough of York, who have traveled abroad
(in foreign lands) within as many years, at
least ten were Pennsylvania Germans.

Pennsylvania Germans are not opposed to
education, nor are they generally prejudiced
against the English, or opposed to their
children learning to speak, read and write
the national language. The very avarice of
which they are accused, would seem to con-
tradict such an assertion, for how otherwise
could they successfully deal with only Eng-
lish-speaking people? A careful examina-
tion of the subscription lists of the York Daily
and York Weekly newspapers reveals the fact
that at least seventy pel- cent of the regu-
lar issues of these papers go into Pennsyl-
vania German families. An examination of
the subscription lists to this history shows
that at least sixty per cent of the subscrib-
ers are Pennsylvania Germans.

A similar state of things, doubtless, exists
throughout all sections of our country occu-
pied by these people, and it is simply due to
our admirable system of common school
education, to the large circulation of English

literature among them, and their disposition
to avail themselves of the uses, benefits and
advantages of these things, that the large
body of Pennsylvania German-speaking peo-
ple, speak and write English about as well as
their very respectable and intelligent neigh-
bors of other nationalities.

There is hardly a family in which a family
Bible containing a family record of marriages,
births and deaths, and at least a limited
number of standard religious and historical
works are not found ; besides in many
families more or less of the current Sunday-
school literature of the day; and it is no un-
common thing now, in passing these quiet,
peaceful Christian homes at twilight, or on
the Sabbath, to hear the voices of the young
people mingle in sacred song with the solemn
melodies of the cottage or the cabinet organ.
Such exercises, together with social readings,
spelling-bees, Sunday-school picnics, and
surprise parties, have, let us hope, for the
better, taken the place of the ruder, though
in their day, equally enjoyable customs and
amusements, of the huskings,the apple-butter-
boilings, the country-dances, the singing-
schools, the quiltings and the carpet-rag
parties of the gay and goodly olden

It is conceded that while Pennsylvania
Germans have not been opposed to education,
they have been, and probably are, generally
speaking, so far indifferent to the education
of their children in the higher branches (in
which they formerly included everything be-
yond reading, writing and arithmetic), aa,
virtually, to amount to opposition. And is
some of the morethoroughlvGerman localities
this feeling of opposition — rather, however,
to being taxed for the supposed superfluous
education of other people's children — mani-
fested itself with considerable stubbornness
at the time of the proposed adoption, or ac-
ceptance of the provisions of the law estab-
lishing a system of common school education.
And although the arguments against it were
not without plausibility, if not soundness,
there is probably not a district remaining in
the State to-day that has not accepted those
provisions; and far indeed would the traveler
have to go now, before he would And even a
childless lax payer who would presume to utter
a word against it.

And the encouraging fact is worthy of
mention, just here, that one sect even of the
Tankers — "The Brethren,"" have advanced so
far in the matter of education as to establish
an institution of learning (called, it is
believed, a Normal College), at Huntingdon,
conducted on the general plan of other


similar schools, and which is under the
exclusive supervision and control of men of
that particular faith. Elder James Quinter
is its president, vrho together with H. B.
Brumbaugh, Dr. A. B. Brumbaugh, J. F.
Oiler and J. B. Brumbaugh, constitute the
board of trustees, and "\V. J. Swigart treas-
urer; all Pennsylvania Germans, except per-
haps. Elder Quinter. The number of students
during the year just closed was 205 (107 !
males and OS females). At the recent annual i
commencement exercises " the college chapel
was beautifully and profusely decorated with '
flowers and evergreens; the attendance was
large. The exercises consisted of essays, 1
orations, declamations, etc., by members "of '
the graduating class, interspersed with music
by the Normal Choir, the Donizetti Club, and
a vocal trio. Degrees were conferred upon
the members of the graduating class by the
president of the college."

During a series of similar exercises at
Muhlenberg College, at Allentown, in a grad-
uating class of fourteen young men, fully
one-half were Pennsylvania Germans; and at
a like recent occasion at the Keystone Xormal
School, Jit Kutztown, (Berks County) out of
twenty-nine male and female graduates, more
than half were Pennsylvania Germans.

Indeed, it is hardly conceivable that a
j)eople forming, confessedly, so large a pro-
portion of the entire pojiulation of a great
commonwealth, and having free access to all
the advantages of a .system of education, the
value of whose school property approximates
§30,000,000, embraces nearly 20,000 free
schools, with over 21,000 'teachers, many of
whom have been trained in the (fourteen)
Normal schools; the annual expenditures of
all which amount to about §0,000,000, with
a school-going population of nearly 2,000,-
000^ and an average daily attendance of near-
ly <00,000, could be an ignorant people.
And when it is considered that there are, in
addition to all these, some twenty-eight col-
leges, seventeen theological seminaries, a law
department in one of the universities, and
live medical colleges, besides hundreds of
private classical and select schools, it is not
surprising that the percentage of illiterate
persons, over ten years of age, in Pennsylva-
nia, should compare quite favorably with that
of her great and intelligent sister common-
wealth of Ohio, and even of New York;
that of Ohio being 4, of New York 4.8, and
that of Pennsylvania 5.8. Connected with
each of these colleges and seminaries, there
are of course extensive and valuable libraries.
Besides, there are numerous public libraries
in various parts of the State, of these it

would not be in place to speak of further
here. But among the writer's personal ac-
quaintances there are many Pennsylvania
German gentlemen, residents of the counties
specially mentioned in this chapter, who have
large and well-selected private libraries, and
which are by no means (as is too often the
case) mere matters of ornament, but sources
of constantly increasing knowledge and en-
joyment. They contain works historical, bi-
ographical, jioetical, philological, scientific,
religious, political, etc.

As to the habits, manners, customs and
general mode of life among the Pennsylvania
Germans, little need be said. Enough has
been shown, if indeed there had been need
for it, to prove that they are good citizens;
but to be simjsly a good, quiet citizen, is like
being merel_v a good,quiet Christian — a merit
not generally much esteemed. To go into
details on this subject would necessarily pro-
tract this paper (already too long), still much
farther beyond its originally intended limits.
Suffice it to say, that as a body, they are
among the best, trustworthy class of people
in this or any other countr3^ Their ambi-
tion is. ever has been, and may it ever con-
tinue, to be good rather than great, solid
rather than brilliant, honest rather than rich.
As practical farmers, they are unsurpassed; as
mechanics, they are skillful, reliable and re-
spectable; as merchants and financiers, they
have shown equally with others that truth,
candor, honesty and fair-dealing are the very
handmaids of success in business. As sol-
diers and civilians, as clergymen and lay-
men, and, indeed, in all the various relations
of life, we have seen them, on the average,
equal to emergencies as they chanced to
arise, and fully abreast of the times with
their fellow citizens of othei' nationalities.
As colonists and pioneers in the great work
of civilization they were behind none of

As the miners follow the richest veins of
ore, so the Pennsylvania Germans from their
fii'st settlements have followed the most fer-
tile valleys in pursuit of the best farming
lands. Thus, we find them in the great cen-
tral Nittany, Kischicoquillis, Canoe, Kreuz
Creek, Sinking Spring and other smaller val
leys, and in Morrison's Cove, Friends Cove,
McConnell's and other Coves — the " remarka-
ble limestone threshing-floors of Pennsylva-
nia." Says a writer in the American Reprint
of the Encyclopedia Britannica " (vol.xviii, ar-
ticle Pennsylvania): "The limestone plain
of Lancaster spreads west across the Susque-
hanna into York County, and east into Berks
and Chester Counties to within twenty miles



of Philadelphia. The whole plain swarms
with life; the houses are small, but the stone
barns are of colossal size, 100 and even 150
feet long and from 30 to 50 feet high, the
I barnyard wall supported on ranges of heavy
columns, while on the other side of the
building an earthen slope ascends to the
great barn door."

Without stopping to criticise the assertion
of a " barn-yard wall " being " supported on
ranges of heavy columns," exception must be
taken to the statement that " the houses are
small." Of course, farm-houses are meant, and
so far from these being small, the fact is that
a large proportion of them are substantial
structures of brick or limestone, almost as
colossal in size as the barns A few hours'
ride along the great turnpike-road leading
through the heart of Kreuz Creek Valley —
from the Susquehanna twenty miles westward
toward Gettysburg, would alone be sufficient
to demonstrate this to the traveler.

Not only are these Pennsylvania farm-
houses and barns large, airy and commodious,
but almost invariably in good order and
rei^air, well painted or stuccoed, and usually
wearing an air of comfort and cheerfulness
conspicuously absent about the homesteads
in many other portions of the country, notably
in even the richest limestone valleys of Vir-
ginia, where many Pennsylvania German
farmers are settled, and whose homes, as is
often remarked, can be readily distinguished,
even from a distance, by their resemblance,
in this respect, to those in our own valleys.
Almost everywhere the homestead premises
of Pennsylvania German farmers are models
of neatness and order, with, moreover, a gen-
eral appearance of thrift and prosperity.
Their houses are usually well furnished, ac-
cording to their means, with good beds and
well-supplied tables as specialties. The
women are noted, the world over, as good
cooks and thrifty housekeepers, and especially
for their cleanliness in all things. Who that
has lived among them has not seen a crock of
milk, cream and all, dashed into the swill-
tub, because, forsooth, an insect had dropped
into it, or a cat had touched it with her tongue?
The very atmospheres of their spring-houses,
cellars, dairies and kitchens are appetizers;
and scrubbing, and scouring, and washing
and cleaning, so far from being regarded as
menial labors, appear to be enjoyed as pleas
ant pastimes, especially by the buxom young
country lasses. So far from living in rude,
filthy, floorless huts or houses, their very
kitchens are carpeted, and that with home-
made. Indeed, so careful are they in this
respect, that during the season of flies, they

occupy summer kitchens in neat out-houses,
built apart and arranged specially for the
purpose ; and here, unless strangers or visit-
ors are present, they eal their meals, and
enjoy them too, with weary limbs and sweat
ed brows, often, it may be, but with clear
consciences and good digestions withal.

Nor are these people less noted for their
hospitality. Friendly visiting, and receiving
and entertaining visitors, are good old cus-
toms, and the many social enjoyments inci-
dent thereto are among the pleasures and
amusements that lend to their holidays their
sweetest charms, and serve to lighten the toils
of every-day life. Their custom of furnish-
ing meals, that sometimes almost rise to the
dignity of feasts, at funerals, and at vendues
of the estates of deceased persons, is so old,
popular and well established, that it has, to
some extent, become a law, at least so far as
that com'ts have, in some instances, allowed
the reasonable expenses thereof out of the
estates. And while no people are more dis-
posed to discourage and discountenance idle-
ness, indolence, beggary and crime, such is
their Christian charity and fellow-feeling
that, with many, the rule of the household
is, to turn no one, not even a well-behaved
tramp, empty away.

Again, the same writer says: " The eight
counties which lie along the face of the South
Mountains, in the southeastern region of the
State, are in the highest state of cultivation,
and resemble the most picturesque rural dis
tricts of England — a country of rolling hills
and gently sloping vales, with occasional
rocky dells of no great depth, and low cas-
cades, utilized for grist-mills, factories and
machine-shops ; a country of wheat, rye,
maize, potatoes, tobacco, turnip-fields, or-
chards, meadows and patches of woodland ;
a country of flowing water, salubrious, fer-
tile and wealthy; dotted with hamlets, vil-
lages and towns, and with the country-seats
of affluent citizens."

If to this, so far a true picture, had
been added churches, schoolhouses, col-
leges, seminaries, academies, normal schools,
railroads, canals, turnpike-roads, "colossal"
bridges, telegraphs, telephones, iron-ore
mines, furnaces, forges, rolling mills, foun-
dries, palatial alms-houses, and hospitals,
for the care and maintenance of the indi-
gent poor, and that a very large propor-
tion of the people who inhabit these coun-
ties, and have borne their full share in
establishing, maintaining, operating and
governing all these things, are Pennsylvania
Germans, the descendants of the Palatinate
colonists, the statement would still have been



strictly within the bounds of historical

Without recurring again to the specially
enterprising Pennsylvania Germans of other
counties, mention should be made of the
Fricks and Geisers, of Franklin. George
Frick, the inventive genius, founder and
general superintendent of the Waynesboro
Steam-engine and Boiler Works, is a native of
Lancaster County, a Pennsylvania German
farmers son. who removed to Franklin
County when George was twelve years cild.
George learned the mill-wright trade, but
soon after began building agricultural im-
plements, and for his own use, and from his
own patterns, and guided by his own native
skill and ingenuity, built a stationary steam-
engine. Such was his success in Isusiuess
that in a few years he was enabled to lay the
foundations of the present extensive works.
"Eclipse" steam engines, (stationary and
traction), being the great specialty, are of
the highest reputation for safety, complete-
ness and efficiency, and many of which are
shipped to foreign parts. In 1S70 C. F.
Bowman, another Pennsylvania German, was
taken into co-partnership, and in 1873 a
stock company, of nearly all such, with a
capital of §100,000 was organized, and has
since been incorporated with a largely in-
creased capital, under the name of the Frick
Company. Its works have been much enlarged
and are now simply immense. It employn
several hundred hauds who turn out an almost
incredible amount of work, the reputation of
which, for superiority, like that of the pro-
prietors for honesty, responsibility and fair
dealing is rapidly becoming world-wide.

George Frick was also the founder, in
(I860,) of the extensive business establishment
in the same place, now and for a long time
past conducted under the name and auspices
of the Geiser Manufactui-ing Company.
This also is a company of enterprising and
intelligent Pennsylvania German business
men, consisting, formerly, of Daniel Geiser,
B. E. Price, Josiah Fahrney, Joseph Price,
J. F. Oiler, A. E. Price, Daniel Hoover, John
Phillips, J. S. Oiler and others. They were
incorporated in 1860, with a capital of §134,-
000; their buildings alone cover about two
acres of ground; they employed about 200
workmen in 1878. building agricultural im-
plements, chiefly the celebrated Geiser
Thresher and Separator, turning out not less
than four such machines a day; the number
of hands employed and work turned out are
now much larger.

And so, coming back to York, and going
through our extensive car-building shops,

foundries, vai-iety iron woi'ks, rolling mills,
lumber yards, chain works, shoe factory,
carpet factories, haircloth factory, agricul-
tural implement-works, breweries, tanner-
ies, cigar manufactories, furniture establish-
ments, candy manufacturies, clothing houses,
hardware, forwarding and commission houses,
drug and dr}' good houses, our extensive sys-
tem of flouring mills, our agricultural soci-
ety and its sjalendid annual fairs, our gas
works, paper-mills, and our wonderfully
improved water-works, and we shall see that
they have been nearly all originated, organ-
ized, and are being successfully carried for-
ward, chiefly by Pennsylvania German labor
and capital. And who are our principal

Online LibraryJohn GibsonHistory of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present → online text (page 57 of 218)