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?

1 comment:

  1. I was just talking about this very same topic this morning with some friends - German assimilation in the colonies. Since I'm trying to flesh out the impression of a descendant of the Germanna colony in Virginia, I'm wondering how much of that material culture would have been retained from the time they settled to the time their offspring started to move away from the area. Much to ponder!