Sunday, May 8, 2016

Combing Through the Misinformation

My last post was a cobbling-together of a lot of odd tidbits of information I found doing a casual search on the Internet for information about Frederick's early history. While I was hoping that the statement about the town primarily speaking German until Irish immigration would turn out to be true - because how awesome would that be?! - the more I read, the more it looks like national pride tinged with wishful thinking. 

First of all, even though the statement is found on a couple of different organizations' websites, it's never backed up with facts or citations. And as I tell my Biblical Theology students, lack of citations makes Baby Jesus cry. Second of all, what I have found is plenty of evidence that the Germans/Pennsylvania Germans were not the only settlers in early Frederick. Logically, it doesn't make sense that a bunch of English settlers would switch from using English to using German all the time. So here's what I can cite.

Edward T. Schultz's monograph "First Settlements of Germans in Maryland" from 1896 gives us a fairly complete look at the early settlement of Frederick:

             "In 1735 there arrived about 100 families from the Palatinate Germany by way of Chesapeake Bay, landing at Annapolis or Alexandria (both of which towns were then more important ports of entry than Baltimore). Their leader or headman was Thomas Schley, "their schoolmaster" ... These settlers located on lands belonging to Daniel Dulaney, of Annapolis, who was a large landowner in that section of the province. Here ten years later (1745) a town was laid out on both sides of Carroll Creek, and three miles from the Monocacy River. In compliment to Frederick, son of Lord Baltimore, then a youth of 14, it was called Fredericktown... Germans from Pennsylvania, as well as direct from the Palatinate, continued to arrive, and these being reinforced by settlers of English, Scotch, and Irish extraction from the lower counties of the province, the wilderness was soon transformed into cultivated fields..." (Schultz 7-8).
So already we can see that the idea that Frederick was founded solely by Germans is incorrect - like many other colonies, it seems to have been a mixture of ethnicities and thus, assumedly, a mixture of languages. 

It is worth noting that the German presence was significant enough that a German language newspaper, Bartgis' Marylandische zeitung, was published alongside Bartgis' Federal Gazette from 1785 to 1789. A single remaining copy of this newspaper is on microform at the Library of Congress.

More evidence for the prevalence of German is given in Louis P. Hennighausen's History of the German Society of Maryland from 1909:

As early as 1779, less than three years after the Declaration of Independence, a resolution was introduced in the senate of the general assembly of Maryland that Messrs. Hanson, Beale and Fischer translate into the German language certain acts of the assembly, and, in 1787, it was ordered by the house of delegates that the printer of Fredericktown be directed to translate into the German language the proceedings of the Committee on Federal Constitution and the resolves of the general assembly thereon to be distributed, and print 300 copies to be equally distributed in Frederick, Washington, and Baltimore counties...This was the first official recognition by the State of the existence of the German language among its inhabitants (Hennighausen 39).
Germans were there, in large numbers, but not so isolated from the English-speaking world as hinted at around the Internet. I believe we're looking less at an Amish situation, in which the language and culture fossilized, and more at a slow assimilation, probably hindered by Frederick's relative isolation from larger cities and heavier influences. 

More to come.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Palatinate Settlers

While poking around online for book recommendations about German immigration during the Colonial period, I stumbled across several history pages about my town. I live in Frederick, a small town in Western Maryland, up among the Catoctins a few miles from the West Virginia border. It's a somewhat sleepy place with a moderately interesting Civil War history and a really interesting modern recession & recovery cycle.

I suspected a German presence in the area, mostly because a. my commute to work outside DC passes straight through Germantown, MD and b. the Schifferstadt Museum in town probably wasn't given a funny German name for no reason. Here's a quick summary of what I found:

The earliest settlement in the area was in Monocacy, just north of Frederick, sometime before 1730. That settlement was abandoned before the Revolutionary War.

1738: Evangelical Lutheran Church founded in Monocacy by Rev. John Caspar Stoever, Jr.

1742: Frederick becomes the seat of Frederick County. All Saints Anglican Church founded.

Frederick settlement was built by Daniel Dulaney prior to 1745. The first house was built by Johannes Thomas Schley, a German Reformed schoolmaster from the Rhineland Palatinate (Rheinpfalz). He brought his wife and a party of German settlers with him. They founded a German Reformed church and settled the land along Carroll Creek (which runs through historic downtown Frederick today).

Schley's group migrated south from Pennsylvania, and they opened the way for more German and German-American - mostly Pennsylvania Deutsch - to follow.

1752: Evangelical Lutheran Church moves to Frederick, construction of a new building begins

1756: Schifferstadt House built by Joseph Brunner

1762: Evangelical Lutheran Church opens

1772: Rev. Robert Strawbridge and Francis Asbury found Calvary Methodist congregation.

During the Revolutionary War, the British army garrisoned a regiment of German Hessians in the town, many of whom remained after the War

1792: Calvary Methodist Church built; Rev. Jean DuBois assigned to the Frederick Catholic Mission.

1793: All Saints Church hosted the first confirmation of an American citizen

1800: St. John the Evangelist Catholic church built.

1818: Old Hill Church (now Asbury United Methodist) founded

1831: Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal opens; Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) railroad completes its Frederick branch

1846: the first waves of Irish immigration reach Frederick; town residents begin to speak English for the first time

I stopped there, because it strikes me that this one sentence might be a window into one of the great debates among modern living historians regarding immigrants; namely, how quickly did they assimilate into mainstream American culture? One prevalent view is that immigrants would cast off their language, clothing styles, etc, pretty much as soon as they arrived. And yet, in Frederick, it appears that the common or possibly only language the town spoke for a little over 100 years was German.

I wonder what else they hung on to, out there in the mountains?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Kit Maintenance #1: Shoes

Over the weekend, some dear friends and I had a little get-together to clean our historic shoes. My group is fairly active in several different time periods of both living history and "historical recreation," so we tend to have multiple wardrobes of kits that need tending.

I don't always get to my shoes as often as I should. I think it's a by-product of living in a consumer culture that encourages replacement rather than repair, and the fact that modern shoes (unless rather expensive) aren't always of a quality that makes repair and maintenance worthwhile. However, we just came off a rainy weekend at Fort Frederick Market Fair, and everyone's shoes need a good cleaning.

So we sat down with our brushes and rags, saddle soap and mink oil and polishes and waterproofings, and prepared our shoes for the coming summer season. There will be another shoe party later, in preparation for Pennsic (our annual two-week medievaloid camping trip to the wilds of Western Pennsylvania), and another to recover from the trip. There will be much mending and patching 'round my parts, too. I'll try to remember to include photos of the more interesting bits.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Ragamuffin Reform'd

Fort Frederick Market Fair was this past weekend, and if I learned anything at all, it's that I am in desperate need of new 18th century clothing. My current set of togs - not even enough pieces to make a unique outfit for all of three days - are at least five years old. I snapped a tie on my favorite petticoat last year, and only got around to mending it (with a mismatched tape) on Saturday morning. I only own bedjackets, which are not appropriate for either the time and place I want to re-enact or the circumstances in which I normally wear them. My shoes need cleaning, my petticoats need hems, and I should really, really invest in more shifts.

This year at Market, I picked up a splendid new silk bonnet, a new handsewn cap, a handful of patterns, a tiny bit of fabric, and some jewelry. So now, my promise to myself is that I will:

  1. Actually sew up the stays pattern I cut out a year ago
  2. Make at least one new garment that "goes" with the new bonnet
  3. Men and/or finish the pitiful rags I already have

My goal is to put together a small wardrobe that wouldn't embarrass a shopgirl or lady of very modest means. I lean to portraying a middling-class sort of lady, since I have neither the time nor the resources to pull of an aristocratic or even moderately wealthy impression.

At the moment, I'm considering throwing in with a friend and doing primarily German-American, of which there was a substantial presence in the mid-Atlantic. I should also have a couple of changes of French/French-Canadian clothes for working in the shop (we sell French-Canadian historic pottery). In the next few posts, I'll start laying out a plan and gathering research.