The Settlement of Germantown 1683-1714

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The Settlement of Germantown 1683-1714

and the beginning of Germantown Meeting

Randal L Whitman

The place is named “Germantown” (rather than “Germanopolis,” the name Francis Daniel Pastorius, often called “the founder of Germantown,” preferred and promoted unsuccessfully) because the first settlers there came from Germany. Geographically, this is true, but ethnically they were Dutch (although most were born in Germany and traveled on Prussian passports). Furthermore, while we say they were Quakers, a small but intransigent group (of Mennonites) state they were all born and remained Mennonites despite their alleged conversions.

Gathering Settlers

Menno Simons (1492-1561), a Dutch former Catholic priest first articulated the views that became the fundamental basis of Mennonism. The “worst” part of these, among many heresies, as far as Catholicism was concerned-and Protestantism, too, in its turn-was a rejection of infant baptism. He attracted many Dutch followers who were severely persecuted, even in Holland (where “There were put to death for this cause at Rotterdam seven persons, Haarlem ten, the Hague thirteen, Curtrijk twenty, Brugge twenty-three, Amsterdam twenty-six, …” [1]). Holland would develop in the next century into the most liberal and tolerant nation in Europe, but rather too late for the Mennonites. Many Dutch Mennonites fled in the 16th century, mostly into other Teutonic areas of northern Europe. One group came to Crefeld, and settled there, a Mennonite community. Crefeld was a town on the Rhine River, about half-way from Amsterdam to Frankfort, in the Duchy of Cleves, a state of the Holy Roman Empire (after 1614, following political developments, Cleves (and Crefeld) became a part of the Margravate of Brandenburg, a part of Prussia, also a state of the Holy Roman Empire). After a while, the Mennonites were noticed, and repression began anew.

They were receptive in the 1670s to touring and proselytizing Friends (including George Fox, Robert Barclay, William Penn and others), newly spreading the Quaker Word; many Mennonites converted. In particular, a Quaker meeting was formed in 1679 in Crefeld (part of Amsterdam Yearly Meeting), made up of 100% former Dutch Mennonites. But Lutheran Prussia soon became about as unsympathetic as the Dutch had been, and subsequently both Mennonite and Friends communities were persecuted, including the new Quakers of Crefeld.

In 1682, William Penn acquired the proprietorship of Pennsylvania from the English crown in settlement of debts the crown owed his father and resolved to create a colony devoted to religious freedom there. Penn, aware of the persecutions, and eager to promote settlement of Pennsylvania, wrote letters and tracts to those he had encountered on his travels, urging resettlement of these oppressed communities. He found ready ears in both Crefeld’s Quakers and among the German Pietists, a religious group rather like both Mennonites and Friends, except that they were well-connected, influential and most importantly wealthy, based in Frankfort.

Francis Daniel Pastorius (usually called Daniel), a wealthy young and idealistic Lutheran German from Frankfort, trained in the law and in languages, and at the age of 29 took a two-year tour of Europe to apprise himself of the region’s moral tone. He returned, discouraged and disenchanted, to Frankfort in November of 1682. There he found congenial support from the Pietists. They told him of their plans to go to Penn’s New World to live an ordered and moral life. Pastorius became enthusiastic about this endeavor, and, more importantly, became the Pietists’ agent. In 1686 the Pietists formed the Frankfort Company, with Pastorius again their legal agent in Pennsylvania, to manage their land-holdings there. The Frankfort Company did more than buy and sell land; it also arranged (in exchange for indentured service) for transportation from Germany to Philadelphia, the contract stipulating that on arrival they shall “report themselves to Francis Daniel Pastorius.”

One of the most enigmatic aspects of Pastorius’ life is the uncertainty of his final religious home. He began clearly as a Lutheran, and perhaps became a Pietist in 1682, and very clearly associated himself with Quakers in Germantown. There is a good deal of evidence that suggests that he joined Friends, joined our Meeting, but it is inconsistent and uncertain.

In March of 1683, Pastorius set off down the Rhine River to go to England to find Penn (who was no longer there, having already left for the New World on the Welcome in the summer of 1682) and buy land for the Pietists. Along the way he came to Crefeld, where he recruited the community of Friends to this venture. They were more than ready! Some Crefelders (such as Jacob Telner and Jan Streypers) had already bought land from Penn, but no specific plans for resettlement had yet been made. While thirteen families made the trip in 1683, by 1685 all but one family of the Quakers in Crefeld had picked up and gone to Germantown. This and the removal to Germantown of not-too-distant Cresheim’s Quakers (also mostly former Dutch Mennonites) in the next few years suggests the degree of misery that religious persecution had brought them. Persecution had been intense, and Pastorius must have been compelling. Perhaps it was simply the fact that while the Quaker evangelists all spoke English, Pastorius spoke Dutch; but mostly it was probably the transparent fact that he was, even as he spoke, On His Way to the New World, and promised he would be there to help them. Crefeld Friends said they would follow him, and did, about six weeks later.

Pastorius continued to London where he bought 15,000 acres, later increased to 25,000 acres, from Penn’s London agent, and then took ship aboard the America. Among those aboard ship was Thomas Lloyd, a London Friend on his way to Philadelphia to become Penn’s Deputy Governor, and later Lieutenant-Governor. Lloyd and Pastorius became good friends, having many long conversations in Latin (Pastorius’ proficiency in English not yet comfortably achieved.) The America arrived in Philadelphia late in August 1683. There he found Penn and told him (to Penn’s delight) of the coming Germans. Pastorius immediately built himself a “cave,” a crude shelter best thought of as a covered basement, in Philadelphia (see Fig. 1). His cave was located on what is now Front Street, facing the river. On the lintel above his door, Pastorius wrote the motto, Parva domus sed amica Bonis procul este Prophani (My home is small but friendly to the Good, the Profane stay without). Penn, when he read it, laughed aloud. Educated men of that time were expected to be fluent in Latin.


Figure 1. Image of a cave from Keyser, History of Old Germantown, pg 31

The Crefelders followed on the ship Comfort, arriving on October 6, 1683 after a relatively peaceful journey. There were 42 Crefelders in 13 families that debarked in Philadelphia. Because time was short before winter came, Penn hastened the process and on October 24 Penn’s Surveyor-General Thomas Fairman surveyed fourteen lots, seven on either side of what would become the “Main Street” (and ultimately Germantown Avenue). The following morning the Crefeld settlers crowded into Pastorius’ cave to draw lots. Having drawn, they trekked two hours out to their new homesites, which consisted of a thick woodland through which ran a rough Indian trail. They began digging out their caves.

1705 Map

Figure 2. Germantown, circa 1705.

The lots were numbered 1 (closest to Philadelphia) through 7 (see Fig. 2), to the east and to the west along the track, and were mostly about 50 acres in size. Each lot was seen as coming in two parts: the main part was the 25 acres adjacent to the future “Main Street”, supplemented by another 25 acres further east or west. Some lots made up this second amount in land below the first lots (“side lots”). In this paper and on the map, I am varying from the “official” direction descriptors used: “#1 East” was called “Lot No. 1 toward Bristol” and “#1 West” was “Lot No. 1 toward Schuylkill.”

In the list of names following below, every name was spelled a variety of ways in the documents where they are found; there’s no telling which spelling was “right.” Furthermore, Dutch naming custom confusingly allows people to be formally known by their fathers’ first name (thus Herman Op den Graeff, whose father was Isaac Op den Graeff, sometimes could be known as just Herman Isaacs). I have chosen for each person-more or less arbitrarily–one name and one spelling.

#1East: Peter Kurlis, his wife Elizabeth Doors, and two children;
#1West: Willem Streypers, his wife Belcken Tuffers, and five children;
#2East: Thones Kunders, his wife Elin Doors, and three children;
#2West: Dirck Op den Graeff, his wife Nilcken Vijten [2]; perhaps his mother Margarethe;
#3East: Jan Lensen, and his wife Mercken Peters;
#3West: A double lot for Dirck's younger brothers:
          Abraham Op den Graeff, his wife Catherina Jansen, and two children;
           Herman Op den Graeff, his wife Liesbet van Bebber, and perhaps his sister Margaret;
#4East: Lenart Arets and his wife Agnes Doors;
#4West: Jan Seimens, his wife Mercken Lucken, and one child;
#5 East: Reynier Tyson;
#5West: Reserved for the Pietists and a Public Square acre;
#6East: Jan Lucken, and his wife Mary Tyson, who married just days before leaving;
#6West: Johannes Bleikers, his wife Rebecca and two children;
#7East: Abraham Tunes, and his wife Beatrix Lucken;
#7West: Reserved for the Pietists

The settlers were more than a community, they were an extended family, with almost every individual related to every other. In the above settler list, if you see names (Lucken, Tyson, Doors, etc.) that are the same, you may assume they are directly-and closely– related. One could argue that Matthias Tyson Doors of Crefeld (who died before all this started) might be considered the “father of Germantown” in so far as he is the father of 12 known survivors to adulthood, of whom 10– maybe 11– emigrated to Germantown in 1683-84, and he was the uncle of 4 more.

They most likely ganged together to clear enough trees to make space for twelve caves, one for each family. No cave was dug for Abraham Tunes, whose wife was very ill; the Tunes spent the winter in Philadelphia as Pastorius’ guests and began their residency the following year. One, Willem Streypers, occupied a cave on a lot not owned by himself, but by his brother. Jan Streypers, one of the richer members of Crefeld bought quite a lot of land, sent his brother to homestead his lot, and cut deals with several others of the settlers. He may have intended to join them eventually, and a little later did visit for a period, but elected in the end to remain in Europe; after the death of their father, Jan and Willem agreed that Jan would keep all European land, and Willem all American. The one unmarried lot-holder, Reynier Tyson, married in 1684 Margaret Op den Graeff [3], the younger sister of Dirck, Abraham and Herman, who had come on the Comfort with them. The pattern of marrying within the community would dominate through this and the following generation.

The first years

In November, the first settler died: Margarethe Op den Graeff, the mother of the three brothers, and the oldest member of the new community. That winter, Jan Seimens died. In 1685, his wife, Mercken, who had a newborn son, Peter Simons, the first born in Germantown, married Willem Streypers, whose wife Belcken had died earlier that year.

That first winter of 1683-84 was devoted to clearing trees and preparing land for planting crops. For the most part, they had little money, and no food resources, so a number of them had to work in Philadelphia to make food possible. They had no horses; the walk in to Philadelphia was six miles and took two hours. In March 1684 Pastorius wrote[4], “Two hours from [Philadelphia] lies our Germantown, where already forty-two people live in twelve homes, who are for the most part linen weavers, and not much given to agriculture. These honest people spent all their means on their journey, so that where provision was not made for them by W. Penn, they were obliged to serve others. They have, by repeated wanderings back and forth made quite a good road all the way to Germantown.” Their privations were enormous, but they managed; and by spring they were planting.

Crefeld had been known as a center for weaving; this was the talent they brought with them (and a highly prized skill at the time), and their first crops planted in the spring of 1684 were vegetables and basic grains, to eat, and flax, to weave. In 1684 five children were born, but that summer the real growth was an influx of another seven families, almost all Dutch, mostly from Crefeld, including Ennecke Klostermann, who apparently immigrated on her own. She was 24 years old and well educated, with enough funds to buy fifty acres (lot #16 East), the only woman to do so in Germantown. She would in 1688 marry Daniel Pastorius, tying him even more deeply into the family of the settlement, and bearing his two sons John Samuel and Henry. More lots were surveyed and bought, and their clearing begun. Pastorius kept track of most of these transactions in his Grund und lager buch (Ground and lot book)[5]. There was a great deal of buying and selling land on the part of the settlers throughout this period that is only dimly illuminated by the lot-ownership lists of 1689 and 1714 given in the Addenda.

Every year more immigrants came. After Crefeld completed its Quaker exodus by 1685, the next flock emptied Cresheim’s Friends (1684-87), also mostly Dutch Mennonites-turned-Friends (especially Gerhard Hendricks and the Shoemaker brothers), but also some Mennonites as well, and eventually small numbers of ethnic Germans. Pastorius had been agitating his European contacts for more Germans, as the Dutch proved harder to please. By 1689, the number of resident families on Main Street, now extending to Abington Road and lot #23 (for 44 lots in all), had jumped from 13 to 43.

Every year they produced more linen, soon adding other woven goods. They had the support of William Penn, who encouraged Provincial fairs for the demonstration of local products. From the beginning, the settlers had a ready market in Philadelphia at Second and High (later Market) Streets. Their reputation for exceptionally fine fabrics grew steadily, and by the end of the century their market was the whole of the American colonies.

Two grist mills [for grinding flour] opened just outside Germantown: one a quarter mile to the east on Wingohocking Creek toward Cheltenham, built in 1683 by Richard Townsend. He was an Englishman who arrived in 1682 aboard the Welcome with Penn, bringing from London the necessities for making a mill (see Fig. 3). Also Andrew Robeson’s mill to the west in Roxborough in 1690. The settlers lacked horses, so grain had to be brought and flour returned on the back. These roads branching off from Main Street were well used. One of the settlers, Heinrich Frei, an actual German, completed his period of indenture to Gerhard Hendricks by 1691, immediately purchased lot #18 West and married his sweetheart, Anna Catherine Levering (daughter of settler Wigart Levering). Frei is credited with importing from Sweden the first horses of Germantown, probably in the early 1690s.

Townsend's Mill

Figure 3. Townsend’s Mill, on Mill Road, no date referenced (Keyser, pg 23).

In 1687, an Amsterdamer named William Rittenhausen bought lot #19 East from Peter Kurlis. Finding a good location nearby on the Wissahickon Creek, he and his son Nicholas moved their families there in 1690 and built the first paper mill in the American colonies. Since up to this time all paper had to be imported from Europe at rather great expense, home-grown paper proved an immediate boost to the local economy. Between fabrics and paper, Germantown prospered.

An unreconstructed Mennonite, Rittenhausen’s original lot #19 East became the site of the first (1706) log-cabin Mennonite Church, and Rittenhausen its first minister. He became, in 1708, the first-ever Mennonite Bishop in the New World.

Throughout, Daniel Pastorius acted as the community’s representative in Philadelphia and legal advisor at home, and scribe for any who needed it. Only a few of the Crefelders had a little English; some were illiterate in any language. Pastorius provided all the documentation they required, keeping their records (especially of their many land transfers). He began an account book for his Germantown transactions, beginning it with a credit on behalf of the settlers: “For the Friends, Lots of Love.”

Pastorius' Cabin

Figure 4. Said to be the log cabin of Daniel Pastorius.

Germantown Homes

If they started with “caves” and moved on as quickly as they could to log-cabins (logs were among their most available resources as they cleared their lots), most settlers were in log-cabins by their second year. With the exception of Gerhard Hendricks (see below), all built right on Main Street, so that their homes lined up in two rows, gables facing each other in a very European manner. The next step for almost everyone was a stone house. The stones were there, a characteristic dark, mica-rich granite, in ready profusion as they cleared their land for planting. They certainly had plenty of trees, too, and Townsend’s mill also could serve as a saw mill, but without draft animals they had no easy way of transporting logs to the mill, or lumber back. In any case, from its earliest days Germantown was known for its stone houses.

It is not known which of them built the first stone house, just that in the end most of them did. But not all: one early house was erected by Jacob Telner. It was on Main Street on lot #9 West immediately below Benson’s Lane, “being a frame building filled in with brick…Joint meetings [of Mennonites and Friends] were often held in this house…It is said William Penn spoke at some of these meetings.”[6] It will be seen later that Telner was very rich and had a house in Philadelphia, where brick was the preferred medium. He may have bypassed both the cave and the log-cabin, and perhaps had this house built as early as 1685.

One very early stone house may have been one called “the Rock House.” Lot #8 East was drawn and bought in 1684 by two Cresheimers, David Sherkes and Gerhard Hendricks with Sherkes taking the northern half (which he sold to Isaac Shoemaker in 1697) and Hendricks the southern. In 1687 Hendricks did the unusual thing and did not build on Main Street, but instead a quarter mile to the east, on the east side of Wingohocking Creek, off Shoemaker Lane. He also may have bypassed the log-cabin stage, directly building a stone house. Sadly, he did not have much time to enjoy it; he died in 1691.

His sole heir was his daughter Sarah, then sixteen years old, making her probably the youngest lot-owner and home-owner of Germantown. She became affianced to her second-cousin Isaac Shoemaker of Shoemakertown, four miles east. They married in 1694 under the care of Abington Monthly Meeting, and lived in the house on the Wingohocking, making it the center of “Shoemaker’s First Farm,” and had five children. The pictured building (in Figs. 5 and 6) [7] in the rear may have been the one built by Hendricks, “a one-story stone house with a tall peaked roof.”

Shoemaker Farm

Figure 5. Shoemaker’s First Farm.

Shoemaker Farm

Figure 6. Rock House.

Isaac became a tanner, whose tannery was established just off Main Street (a little south of where East Coulter Street is now). Eventually, they built a new two-story stone-built house called “Shoemaker House,” on Main Street and Shoemaker Lane a little north of the tannery. The picture appears to show a three-story house, but that door is a basement door, their “back door” onto Shoemaker Lane; the main door, visible at the east end of the house (away from Main Street, common in Dutch custom) is on the ground floor.[8]

Shoemaker House

Figure 7. Shoemaker House on Shoemaker Lane.

Main Street was likely fronted on both sides with a long string of stone-built homes, although you couldn’t see that they were stone-built, since they plastered over the stone walls inside and out. One of the earliest regional historians, John Fanning Watson collected impressions and personal recollections and published them in 1830.[9] He wrote, “Most of the old homes in Germantown are plastered on the inside with clay and straw mixed, and over it is laid a finishing coat of thin lime plaster; some of these old homes seem to be made with log frames and the interstices filled with wattles, river rushes, and clay intermixed. In a house of ninety years of age, taken down, the grass in the clay appeared as green as when cut. Probably twenty houses now remain of the primitive population. They are of but one story, so low that a man six feet high can readily touch the eves of the roof. Their gable ends are to the street. The ground story is of stone or of logs-or sometimes the front room is of stone, and the back room is of logs, and thus they have generally one room behind the other. The roof is high and mostly hipped, forms a low bed chamber; the ends of the houses above the first story are of boards or sometimes of shingles, with a small chamber window at each end. Many roofs were then tiled … The doors all divide in the middle, so as to have an upper and a lower door.” Fanning goes on to note that the windows were set in leaded frames. From this we may conclude that the first stone houses were often single-storied, built butting onto the original log cabins, and that within a few generations these first stone houses were replaced by larger homes. You will note that several aspects of these houses are very “Dutch”: that the gabled ends all faced the Main Street, and that the doors were divided.

The Once and Future Borough of Germantown

Pastorius had long had the dream of completing his job by making his settlement into a formal borough of Pennsylvania, and he no doubt hectored the settlers into asking Penn for a charter. This Penn was very pleased to do in 1691, writing “And I doe by these presents nominate…the said Francis Daniel Pastorius of German Towne … to be the first and present Bailiffe [Mayor], and … Jacob Telner, Dirck Isaacs Opte Graaf, Herman Isaacs Opte Graaf and Tennis Coender to be the first and present Burgesses…” continuing on to list six others as councilmen. Germantown was now as official as it could get. Furthermore, all settlers were now proper citizens, as just earlier that same year Thomas Lloyd, the Lieutenant-Governor, had come to town to “naturalize” them all–mainly to eliminate any possibility that as non-citizens they would not be permitted to own property in the province. However, questions as to the legitimacy of this ceremony were later raised, so they had to do it all over again in 1709.

One of these names in the charter, Jacob Telner, is not of the initial list from Crefeld. Telner was a Quaker from Amsterdam, and after meeting Penn in 1677 travelled promptly to the New World where he toured the colonies. When he returned to Holland in 1681, he relocated to Crefeld, where he was probably the richest man in town, and the largest individual purchaser of land from Penn in 1682, when he bought some 5000 acres. In 1684, rather than following the townsmen to Germantown, he shipped to New York. Only two decades before, this city had still been New Amsterdam, the Dutch West India Company’s New World mercantile outpost (and not, strictly speaking, a colony). Recently (in 1664) it had been wrested away (at gunpoint) by the English and renamed. There he entertained himself bedeviling the Dutch Reformed congregations. A local minister complained, “[Telner] has dared, may God help us, to disturb public divine service at Breuckelen and Midwout [Brooklyn and Midwood]…he comes…singing into the church. He pushes himself forward and sits down near the pulpit. After public prayer he rises and calls out loudly, that it has been revealed to him by God to say something to this congregation which is now without a pastor; that they had been deceived by a false divine service, he is sent to them to preach the true and living God.”[10]

In the Spring of 1685 he showed up in Germantown and took up residence as the largest local landowner. He maintained a house also in Philadelphia, and developed a community called Telner’s Township out on the Skippack Creek.

Shortly after being appointed to high office in the new township, however, Telner returned to Europe, decided he preferred to stay there and came back to Philadelphia just to clean up his affairs before returning to Amsterdam in 1696 for good.

Pastorius, however, had misjudged his citizens, and did not take into account the central fact that they were Quakers. They all cooperatively took turns at the various offices the new township required (including, for instance, constable and fence-examiners-to enforce new ordinances of fence maintenance), but fairly quickly they became disenchanted with the business of governing. Its time requirements really interfered with their ability to run their proper businesses. But even more, they discovered that the function of government was an awful lot like the duties of being a minister: telling others what to think and do, God forbid. Serving in the court, even serving as a fence examiner, put them looking over the shoulders of their neighbors and telling them how to live. They didn’t like it, and starting in 1701, one by one they declared themselves unwilling to serve because it was against their religious beliefs. In 1707, unable to form a government, Germantown surrendered its charter, which would be reinstituted 140 years later in 1847. (At this time, apparently, Friends were more willing again to serve in public. Germantown Preparative Meeting member Thomas Magarge was the first Borough Treasurer.) Meanwhile, they went back to being a distant part of Philadelphia County, a relationship they were more comfortable with.

Germantown Marketplace

During their brief governmental phase, certain essential infrastructural changes had come about that would remain: widening of the Main Street and the formal public recognition and widening of several cross streets that had, up to then, been “private,” belonging to the lot owners. Access was necessary, of course, for those who had need to go east or west, but some of the lot owners tended to be grudging, feeling that their property rights were being invaded. Some of the earliest laws of the new borough required that such access be granted, with stiff fines for refusal. By 1707 all the roads were acknowledged public rights-of-way. These included especially:

–Abington Road (now Washington Lane), running east 5 ½ miles to Abington, where Meeting for Business will be held until 1816.

–Rittenhouse Mill Road (now Rittenhouse Street), which went west to the papermill between lots 14 and 15 West.

–Shoemaker Lane (now Penn Street) went east 4 miles to Cheltenham, between lots 6 and 7 East. Brothers Jacob and Peter Shoemaker, both 1685 settlers along Main Street from Cresheim, had a third brother George, who died in transit to Pennsylvania in 1686 aboard the Jeffries, leaving his wife Sarah to cope as best she could with her seven children. She was apparently a formidable woman; Sarah did not join her brothers-in-law in Germantown but went instead to the neighboring community Cheltenham, where she bought 200 acres. In 1694, her eldest son George Jr married Sarah Wall, the only child of Richard Wall (sometimes written Waln), the principal Friend of Cheltenham. When Wall died, his daughter (and her husband) inherited all his property, making the Shoemakers Cheltenham’s first citizens. It came to be called “Shoemakertown” (as it is represented on an 18th century map of Philadelphia County). Because Cheltenham was English-speaking, the Shoemakers here adapted quickly, while their cousins four miles to the west remained mostly Dutch-speaking.

–Cross Street to the Schuylkill (now Queen Lane, but variously called Ashmead and Robeson’s Mill Street also), went west 2 ½ miles to the river between lots #5 and 6 West. The Schuylkill River was navigable to the Schuylkill Falls at this time, so that Cross Street represented Germantown’s connection to the river and its freight and transportation potential.

–Most importantly, Benson’s Lane (now School House Lane) between lots 9 and 10 to the west, which continued on east of Main Street as Mill Road to Townsend’s Mill, between lots 9 and 10 East (now Church Lane). This crossing was all-important because this is where they determined to locate their center of government and market place.

This is not where Pastorius had originally envisaged the marketplace: that was an acre at the Main Street end of lot #5 West, which in the 1683 lot-drawing had been reserved for the Pietist owners (later the Frankford Company). Pastorius’s Grund und Lager Buch says that the purpose was “one acre of land for a Market, Town-House, Burying place and other public buildings.” In 1685, Pastorius sold the remainder of lot #5 West to Paul Wolff. After 1691, when the newly chartered Germantown Government decided it wanted to establish its central locus a little further north, this occasioned a complex suite of land transactions that by 1701:

    • (1) gave them a one acre square (called “the Market Green”) at the Main Street end of James Delaplaine’s lot #15 East;

(2) gave Paul Wolff a now-complete lot #5 West; and

(3) gave Germantown two new non-denominational burial grounds: Upper and Lower Burial Grounds, located just above Abington Lane and below Lot #1 East respectively. These were the first known dedicated burial grounds in town. Prior to this, dead folk were buried in their own lots.

In 1704 they built a pound and a prison on the Green. I infer from the need for an animal pound, together with an emphasis on fencing laws and enforcers, that loose animals were among their more pressing concerns. It also suggests that they now had plenty of draft animals. As to the prison, Keyser relates, “This log prison could not have been very secure. Adam Hogermoed was at one time confined there for intemperance, but his friends came in the night, pried up one corner of the building and set him at liberty…When the town lost its charter, the prison was sold and Hogermoed bought it. He then removed it to a spot near where Armat Street now is and occupied it as a residence.”

Once established in 1704, Market was held once a week on Cross Road, which Pastorius described as being lined with peach trees, with all the homes having vegetable and flower gardens. Local Leni Lenape Indians sold vegetables and other edibles here.

The court, the pound and the prison may have ended their duties in 1707, but the marketplace lived on and remained the center of Germantown life for more than a century.

The Frankfort Company and John Henry Sprogel

The Frankfort Company, with Pastorius as its agent, was then the initial owner of much of the Germantown property, sold in lots to settlers. Its Pietist owners, as previously noted, decided not to emigrate, which decision distressed Pastorius–who felt a little betrayed, as he had agreed to be their (unpaid) agent on the assurance that they would be emigrating someday soon. Communications were difficult, some of the company leaders died, some sold their interests, and what with one thing and another Pastorius became less enthused at being their agent, but agreed to continue in that role until 1700, when he resigned.

On this, the Frankford Company appointed three replacements: Daniel Falckner, Johannes Kelpius and Johannes Jawert, prohibiting any one from acting alone (but permitting two to act together). Falckner became a drunk and highly erratic. Germantown Court records includes an entry dated 28 November 1704: “Daniel Falkner coming into Court behaved himself very ill, like one that was last night drunk, and not yet having recovered his witts. He railed most grievously on the Recorder, Simon Andrews, and the Bailiff, Aret Klincken, as persons not fit to sit on a court … and more like enormities.” He was eventually, after more of the same, ejected by the Sheriff, William DeWees.[11] As a result, Kelpius refused to work with him, and eventually took himself off to become a hermit, and Jawert helplessly looked on. In November 1705, Jawert nailed a notice onto the new Friends Meeting House in Germantown that said that no one should pay “any Rent or other Debt due to the Company unto the said Falckner.” At this point, business with the Frankford Company completely stalled.

Enter John Henry Sprogel, a wonderfully classic villain out of a melodrama. He first appeared as the agent of Benjamin Furly, a Dutch Quaker and William Penn’s principal agent in Holland. Furley is also known for having advised Penn in 1682 to permit no importation of new slaves into Pennsylvania, and to require immigrants who already had slaves to free them within eight years. Regrettably, Penn did not follow his advice; perhaps it was because he owned 12 slaves on his estate Pennsbury. Furley was very busy negotiating land sales in Pennsylvania and sent Sprogel as his official agent to Philadelphia. However, as the result of Sprogel’s treatment of two young Friends (sorry, I don’t know what he did to them), Furley furiously wrote cancelling his agency, telling Sprogel to “repent and reform.” He did not. Furley’s letter arrived on a later boat, too late to prevent Sprogel’s immediate acts: when he arrived in Philadelphia, he sold off, as his own, goods he had been entrusted to bring on behalf of Furly and other Dutch merchants. Furthermore, he attempted a most brazen ploy. The British at this point were at war with the French; Sprogel said that a French ship had captured and burned the ship he was on (en route to America), releasing him in Amsterdam, but destroying all his papers, including those which he claimed showed his new ownership of the Frankfort Company! When no one paid any attention, he took the claim to Court, but, of course, without proof got nowhere. He developed good relations with Falckner, but Jawert resisted his approaches, in particular after Sprogel attempted to offer him a frank bribe.

Sprogel and Falckner now approached David Lloyd, a young man identified in Thomas Lloyd’s 1694 will as an unidentified “kinsman” and apparently on William Penn’s advisory staff. They sweetened their conversation with the offer of 1000 acres very cheap (of Furly’s land). Accepting it, Lloyd advised asking the Court for an Act of Ejectment, ejecting the Frankfort Company as the land-owner of record, and substituting Sprogel, explaining how this might be accomplished. First, the action had to be kept secret from all interested parties, so it would be undefended. This they were able to do with a few judicious bribes to those officers of the Court who would otherwise publish coming actions. Second, he advised bringing the action at the very last moment, just as the Court was breaking up at the end of its judicial season, so that the presiding Judge would be least interested in hearing any more than he absolutely needed. Third, Lloyd advised neutralizing the four Lawyers active in the County by paying them each a fee, so that the lawyers could not ethically act against them if, in the last minute, someone attempted to mobilize a defense. Fourth, Falckner would support the claim as an official (with legitimate papers) agent of the company. Finally, Lloyd would appear with them, so that assurance by his very presence would indicate that everything was on the up-and-up.

And it worked! Exactly as Lloyd had said. On January 15, 1708, Sprogel left the Court the new controller of the Germantown lands that had been still in Frankfort Company control. (Happily, it made no difference to those lots previously sold to settlers.) Within Germantown, this amounted to 5 lots only (#7 West, #19 West and the 3-lot #13 East, about 275 acres in all) but still a major windfall for Sprogel; in addition, he gained considerable other acreage outside of Germantown.

Pastorius and Jawert immediately complained to the Governor’s Council, which heard them and concluded that they were indeed victims of a monstrous crime; nonetheless, the Court action was never reversed. Sprogel thrived, and in 1719 even gave 50 of his ill-gotten Germantown acres to the Lutherans on which to build a church.

David Lloyd was a member of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting (PMM), which in 1711 was advised by Jawert and Pastorius of Lloyd’s bad behavior. Lloyd denied all illegality and any intent to defraud, and for over six months an appointed committee of PMM met and deliberated, unable to come to any firm conclusion, finally deciding to let things lie as they were, but making it clear to Lloyd that he remained with a cloud of suspicion over his head. Related or not, Lloyd and his wife Grace transferred to Chester MM the following year. PMM granted them a certificate of removal.

Germantown Friends

Even in the early winter of their first struggling year, Philadelphia Quarterly Meeting (PQM) formally recognized Germantown Meeting, which met in the home of Thones Kunders (on lot #2 East). They continued to meet there, or at Jacob Telner’s house (#9 West) (and perhaps other houses as well) until 1686, when adult membership in Germantown Meeting can be computed to be at least 58, still mostly from Crefeld (1686 is about the last year in which I can confidently estimate meeting size, since from this point on too many immigrants are not known as to their religious affiliation). Too numerous now to meet in homes, they built a log-cabin meeting house on one of Abraham op den Graeff’s lots, #8 West. Abraham was one of the richest of the settlers; he owned several lots and was one of the very few who could afford to make a lot available in this way. He subsequently sold this plot, complete with meetinghouse, to Jacob Shoemaker in 1689; Shoemaker sold it to Heivert Papen in 1693, and Papen sold it to Friends in 1705 on which to build their new larger stone meeting house (and yes, we are still here on lot #8 West, three meeting houses and 332 years later). I presume that Op den Graeff, Shoemaker and Papen all intended that, in the end, this plot would become Meeting property.

In 1688, Pastorius drafted the Petition Against Slavery, which they are said to have signed in Kunders’ home. Pastorius is widely credited with writing the Petition, but some historians cautiously point out that its English is much cruder than other works he wrote, suggesting that he translated it only (from the Dutch original), with relatively little editing. The Op den Graeff brothers and Gerhard Hendricks, the other signers, may have written it in committee. See the text at the end of this piece.

Dirck Op den Graeff, accompanied by Pastorius (who probably did most of the talking), took it to Dublin Monthly Meeting and subsequently to Philadelphia Quarterly Meeting and finally later that year to Philadelphia Yearly Meeting in Burlington, NJ. There, in effect, it died of lack of unity of support. A fair number of PYM Quakers, including William Penn, had slaves, also including at least one settler: Cornelius Bom, a Quaker baker from Haarlem who arrived on the America in 1683 with Pastorius. In a letter home, written in 1684, Bom said, “I have no servants except one negro whom I bought.” Bom moved with his wife and son Cornelius Jr from Philadelphia to Germantown in 1687. While in Philadelphia, at any rate, he had the single slave. In Germantown the climate for slave-holding would have been quite hostile, so I think it likely that he sold this slave before moving there.

Religious trouble arose in the early 1690s. An English Quaker named George Keith, who had traveled in Europe in earlier years of ministry with Fox, came to West New Jersey as Surveyor-General in 1685, but acted as a traveling minister (often called then a “public Friend”), preaching widely and very charismatically. He was convinced that Quakers were straying too far from established Christianity, and that, in particular, they had so deified the idea of the “Christ within” that they were in danger of losing the “real Christ.” This message was repugnant to Orthodox Friends in Philadelphia, but spoke loudly and divisively to many, including a number of Germantown residents (e.g., two of the three Op den Graeff brothers–Abraham and Herman–followed Keith, while Dirck remained an Orthodox Friend). In 1693, after instituting a short-lived group called “Christian Quakers” (which Herman joined), Keith was disowned by PYM. When he returned in 1694 to England he was disowned by London Yearly Meeting, too, at which point Keith became an Anglican (and later an Anglican Bishop). In the aftermath, Abraham and Herman returned to their Mennonite roots. Both brothers chose soon to relocate. In 1701, Herman and his family moved to Delaware; in 1704, Abraham moved to a Mennonite community founded by Matthias van Bebber (second son of settler Jacob Isaac van Bebber), who bought 0ver 6600 acres on the Skippack and Perkiomen Creeks and created what was quickly called “Bebber’s Township.” Two other Keithians, John Doeden and David Sherkes, returned to the meeting fold.

The state of Germantown meeting

By 1705, the Germantown log-cabin meeting house was too small; the Meeting decided to build a larger and more permanent replacement on the site of the log-cabin. They undertook a subscription from members; the list of subscribers, 26 men and one woman is not a complete list of members. It is, nonetheless interesting for another reason: it is in Pastorius’s hand, describes the list as “members of Germantown Meeting,” and includes his own name. It is, I think, the strongest piece of evidence for Pastorius’ having become a Friend and member of our Meeting.

The rest was supplied by donations from Philadelphia Monthly Meeting and the other meetings of Abington Monthly Meeting (see Pastorius’ fiscal accounts of its building in the Addenda at the end of this paper). A stone meeting house was built on the south-east corner of the Friends Burial Ground. The date 1705 was chiseled onto the stone that rested above the main doorway facing Main Street.

Hotchkin writes, “When Germantown was settled, the Mennonites and Quakers were the two religious bodies of the town. At first their meetings were held in private houses, and it is supposed that at times they worshipped together in the same house till the building of their own meeting houses. It is not known that they had a special burying place, and the dead were probably buried in their own grounds. When the Friends’ Meeting House was built in 1705, and the Mennonite Church in 1706, each building had its graveyard adjoining it for the ‘burial of members of each body’.”[12] However, if in 1686 it was the intention that this lot would become meeting property, it is possible that Friends began to use this lot as their burial ground as early as that year; but we may never know this for sure.

In 1706, The Mennonites initiated their log-built meeting house. That year, they listed 50 adults as members, their first minister being William Rittenhouse. Only some of those fifty were in Germantown; many had already moved out to nearby townships like Roxborough and Bebberstown. Of those fifty, one only was among the original 13 families: John Conrad, a son of Thones Kunders, joined the Mennonites, and that same year would marry Jan Luckens’ daughter Alice, probably the first wedding celebrated in the new Mennonite Meeting House (and leading to another switch as Alice too joined the Mennonites). Abraham and Herman Op den Graeff had both rejoined the Mennonites a decade earlier, but both had also left the Germantown community, and were not on the Mennonite 1706 list.

Unfortunately, we have no equivalent listing of Quaker names, and can only guess that our Meeting was of generally similar size, although probably a bit larger, perhaps in the 60-80 adults range.

In 1714, someone tallied up the ownership of the 43 Germantown plots (see the lists at the end of this paper). There had been some consolidation, and the number of different lot owners actually decreased from 42 to 37. By this time, however, some settlers had sold their secondary 25-acre holdings, where new homes were going up, and Germantown was no longer just a string of homes up Main Street. Furthermore, ten or twelve families had moved into the “Cresheim” and “Summerhausen” districts (all considered still Germantown) north of Abington Road, so that the number of Germantown families in 1714 was in the fifties or even more. Only four of the original thirteen owners are still listed on the 1714 list, although six lots out of thirteen had remained in the family. Thus, more than half of the thirteen 1683 families had moved on. Reynier Tyson and his family, for instance, had moved to Abington and became members of Abington Meeting.

Of the 37 families on the 1714 list, only three can be found on the first Germantown Preparative Meeting (GPM) membership list of 1807: Jansen (Johnson), Keyser and Kunders (Conrad). It would seem that a fairly high degree of mobility characterizes Quakers of the period, and probably non-Quakers equally so. And I have found it generally true, researching the individual Friends buried in our burial ground, that it is the unusual Quaker who was born into our Meeting and died there, never having moved around to other meetings during his or her life.

Thus the names changed as we shifted to the second generation; however, they remained mostly Dutch or German, and it is likely that Dutch was the predominant language of messages in meeting for worship in GPM for a good part of the eighteenth century. The Dutch and German influx greatly slowed, however, and there was a strong subsequent move, especially among the Mennonites, westward into Lancaster and York Counties, and then to Western Pennsylvania and Ohio. English-speaking people, mostly, moved in to fill the gaps they left behind.

As perhaps his most important contribution to his settlement, Daniel Pastorius created a school here which he served as head from 1702 until his death in 1719. GPM collected money towards its establishment and appointed overseers to watch over it, but it was not specifically a Meeting endeavor. It was, in fact, authorized officially by the borough. (Amazingly, there is no hint as to where this school was located, perhaps on Pastorius’ own lot (#16 E)). In its first year, 14 families sent children; by its seventh year, that number had risen to 59. Pretty much everyone, Quaker and Mennonite alike, even from the outlying communities, sent their children to Pastorius at a cost of four- to sixpence per child per week. The subjects were practical and empirical; Pastorius’ biographer, Marion Dexter Learned [13], says that instruction was almost certainly in English. That second generation was still mainly Dutch-speaking, but their children would almost surely have been English speaking, for some as a second language perhaps, but still proficient in English as their parents had not been. It is likely that, as the years moved on, the number of messages in English in our Meeting’s worship would slowly increase. It was otherwise in the Dutch Reformed and Lutheran Churches of Germantown, where the services remained firmly and exclusively in Dutch and German through the whole of the 18th century and up to about 1820.

After Daniel Pastorius died in 1719, it is often commented on that no one knows where he was buried; there is no head stone. If he were a Friend and member of our Meeting, of course, there is good reason for that lack: at that time Quaker discipline was firmly opposed to head stones.

Germantown Johnsons

There is one name on the 1714 list of owners that we should take special note of: Conrad Jansen, for he is the single foremost link between the early Germantown settlers and all the coming years of our Meeting. Conrad Claus Jansen (1634-1718) came from Holland, a widower with his two sons Claus (16 years old) and Dirck (15 years), to Germantown in 1685, buying eventually lot #5 West from Paul Wolff. They were members of the Dutch Reformed Church. About 1690, Conrad married again: to Feicken, the daughter of another settler, Jacob Neuss, who would soon move his family a little south of Germantown and establish what would be called “Nicetown”. Conrad, Feicken and his son Claus would move in 1702 to Bebber’s Township on the Skippack, becoming Mennonites.

Dirck, on the other hand, apprenticed to Paul Kastner (lot #14 East), a weaver from Saxony, to learn the trade. He met and wooed Margaret Millan, the daughter of Hans Millan, another Crefeld weaver, and they married around 1700. It is likely that at about this time Dirck became a Friend, perhaps as prelude to their marriage, for the Millans were Quaker.

It’s not certain just when Hans Millan came to Germantown, but it was probably around 1686. A widower, he brought with him two young children, Margaret and Matthias. Like everyone else, he most likely dug out a cave, and cleared his land, and built a log cabin on lot #17 West. After Hans died, Margaret and Dirck Jansen inherited lot #17 West (while Matthias inherited land in the “Cresheim” area north of Germantown) and on it built a stone house, in which they raised six Johnson children, whom they sent to Pastorius’s school. Several of these would prove to have a later impact on Germantown or our Meeting, and their descendants will appear on every membership list we have from the nineteenth century.

Their daughter Katherine would marry Caspar Wistar; they would be prominent members of Philadelphia MM, but would keep a summer home in Germantown: the house built by her father Dirck. This house would ultimately become the permanent home of GPM member Reuben Haines III, brewer and grandson of Caspar and Katherine; Reuben and his wife Jane Bowne would call their home “Wyck,” which would remain in the family for another three generations (until donated to Philadelphia in 1973).

Dirck and Margaret’s daughter Ann would marry Thomas Nedro, whose legacy (the Thomas Nedro Fund), given in 1794, is still active today, the backbone of our Assistance Committee’s resources.

Dirck and Margaret’s son John would marry Agnes Klincken (daughter of another settler) and they would have children whose families are found on future lists of members of GPM, and gravestones in both the old and new burial grounds. One of these, John Junior will have a descendant: Rebecca Warner Johnson, Dirck’s great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughter (add one more “great” to take it to Hans Millan or to Conrad Jansen; add yet another great for Rebecca and Lawrence’s daughters).

Without much further work, it is not possible to know how many members of our Meeting can trace their ancestry to Dirck Jansen, or to others of the settlers of that period. Our member Rob Smith (Robert Gilpin Smith) is descended from Reuben Haines III; if others can trace their ancestry to the original settlers, I would be very interested in hearing about it.

Resources available online:

Learned, Marion Dexter, The Life of Francis Daniel Pastorius…, William J Campbell, Philadelphia, 1908. Available on line as a Google Book.

Keyser, Naaman, et al, History of Old Germantown, Horace F. McCann, Philadelphia, 1907.

Pennypacker, Samuel Whitaker, The Settlement of Germantown…, William J. Campbell, Philadelphia, 1899.

Watson, John Fanning, Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania in the Olden Time…, Edwin S Stuart, Philadelphia, 1830, 1844, 1879 (Three editions, references here are to the third).

Other resources:

Hotchkin, Samuel Fitch, Ancient and Modern Germantown…, P. W. Ziegler & Co, Philadelphia, 1889. Republished by Forgotten Books, London, 2015.

Hull, William I., William Penn and the Dutch Quaker Migration to Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College Monographs on Quaker History, Number 2, 1935. A Kessinger Legacy Reprint.


1689 and 1714

LOT     1689 Lot holders                Arrival 1714 Lot holders

1E      Kurlis, Peter           1683            Kerling, Peter

1W      Streypers, Jan          1683            Shippen, Joseph

2E      Kunders, Thones         1683            Conrad, Tunis

2W      Op den Graeff, Dirck    1683            Op den Graeff, Nilken

3E      Lensen, Jan             1683            Lenson, John

3W      Op den Graeff, Herman   1683            Shippen, Joseph

3W      Op den Graeff, Abraham  1683            Shippen, Joseph

4E      Arets, Lenart           1683            Arets, Leonard

4W      Seimens, Jan (died)     1683            Neiss, John

5E      Tyson, Reynier          1683            von Sintern, Isaac

5W      Wolff, Paul             1684            Jansen, Conrad

6E      Lucken, Jan             1683            Castorp, Herman

6W      Bleikers, Johannes      1683            Tunen, Herman

7E      Tunes, Abraham          1683            Bonsaack, Jerod

7W      Frankfurt Co                            Sprogel, John Henry

8E(S)   Hendricks, Garret       1685            Shoemaker, Isaac

8E(N)   Sherkes, David          1684            Shoemaker, Isaac

8W      Shoemaker, Jacob        1684            Friends Meeting

9E      Simons, Walter          1684            Simons, Walter

9W(S)   van Bebber, Jacob       1687            Jarret, John

9W(N)   Telner, Jacob           1686            Jarret, John

10E(S)  Kolk, Dirck                             Delaplaine, James

10E(N)  Levering, Wigart        1685            Delaplaine, James

10W     Papen, Heivert          1685            Papen, Heivert

11E     von Bonn, Herman        1685            Bom, Cornelius Jr

11W     Klumpges, Jacob                         Conrad, Tunis

12E     Sellen, Heinrich        1685            Doeden, John

12E     Levering, Gerhard       1685            Doeden, John

12W     Siverts, Cornelius      1684            Shwardtz, Cornelius

13E     Frankfurt Co*                           Sprogel, John Henry

13W     Umstadt, Hans Peter     1685            Hogermoed, George

14E     Bonn, Cornelius**                       Kastner, Paul

14W     Schumacher, Peter       1685            Shoemaker, Peter

15E     Dilbeck, Isaac          1684            Geissler, Daniel

15W     Telner, Jacob           1686            Williams, John

15W     Hartsfelder, Julian     1684            Williams, John

16E     Klostermann, Ennecke    1684            Pastorius, Daniel

16W     Thompson, Claus                         Thompson, Nicholas

17E     Doeden, John                            Doeden, John

17W     Millan, Hans            1686            Jansen, Dirck

18E     Suplis, Anders                          Warner, Christian

18W     Frey, Heinrich(Henry)                   Zimmerman, Philip C

19E     Rittenhausen, William   1687            von Fossen, Arnold

19W     Cassel, Johannes        1686            Sprogel, John Henry

20E     Rittenhausen, Claus     1687            Engle, Paul

20W     Klincken, Aret                          Klincken, Anthony

20W     Op den Graeff, Abraham  1683

21E     Rittenhausen, Claus     1687            Lane, Hans Henry

21W     Silans, Jan                             Engle, Paul

22E     Keyser, Dirck           1688            Keyser, Dirck

23E     Streypers, Willem       1683            Engle, Paul

        (43 families)                           (37 families)

*Lot 13E had originally been drawn in 1685 by Isaac Schaeffer and Henry Bucholtz, but by 1689 they had apparently released it back to the Frankfurt Company

Quaker administrative issues

Membership in Friends resides in the Monthly Meeting, not in the “particular meeting” (which is what a real and local collection of Friends worshipping together was then called); in this case, in 1687 Germantown was a particular meeting under the care of Dublin Monthly Meeting; it was one of four such particular meetings, the other three being:

Cheltenham (which met at the home of Richard Wall);

Abington (AKA Dublin) (worshipping at the home of Richard Worrall); and

Byberry (which met first in the home of John Hart–until he decamped as a Keithian and eventually became a Baptist–and then in the home of Henry English).

Dublin Monthly Meeting for Business rotated around the three English-speaking particular meetings.[14] In 1697 a new and much larger meeting house was built in Abington at the site of its present meeting house; this was enlarged again in 1702, and from that point on all Monthly Meetings for Business met there. One other change this brought about was a change in the name of the monthly meeting in 1710 from “Dublin” back to “Abington,” which it had been originally.

Particular meetings were authorized to have their own “preparative” meetings for business (both men and women, but separately), usually meeting one to two weeks before the monthly meeting for business. They would determine what matters of membership, discipline or religious practice they needed to bring to MM for Business (which was then called “Meeting for Discipline”.) Sometimes this consisted only of their required responses to Queries, and sometimes of nothing at all (when there would be no notation in their meeting other than the date in the record). Blank entries, in fact, were very common. That didn’t mean they had nothing to talk about, just nothing to bring to MM. Germantown Meeting became “Germantown Preparative Meeting” (GPM) in 1728, which it remained from then on until 1906 when it finally graduated into Germantown Monthly Meeting.

To complete these nomenclatural and administrative changes, in 1816 GPM was shifted from being under the care of Abington Monthly Meeting (in Abington Quarterly Meeting) to the newly-created Frankford Monthly Meeting (in Philadelphia Quarterly Meeting).


Type of Meeting:  G particular Meeting                GPM                      GMM
Under the care of: Abington MM   Dublin MM   Abington MM        Frankford MM   Itself


Samuel Pennypacker certainly believes so, saying that the handwriting is like that of Pastorius, and that he was the only man at that time in Germantown who had the skills and the training to do so (especially in English). Some others are not so sure, saying that Pastorius’ command of English was better than that seen in the proclamation. One possibility is that it was written, perhaps by one of the Op den Graeffs (or even by all the three other signers, in committee), in Dutch and then translated, without undo editing, into English by Pastorius.

See for yourself: compare the Petition (building a case against Slavery) to his account of the Sprogel land affair (building a case against Sprogel and Lloyd).


This is to ye [Dublin] Monthly Meeting held at Rigert [Richard] Warrels.
These are the reasons why we are against the traffic of men’s bodies, as followeth:

Is there any that would be done or handled at this manner? viz. to be sold or made a slave for all the time of his life? How fearful & fainthearted are many on sea when they see a strange vessel being afraid it should be a Turck, and they should be taken and sold for Slaves in Turkey. Now what is this better done as Turcks doe? Yea, rather is it worse for them, which say they are Christians for we hear, that ye most part of such Negers are brought hither against their will & consent, and that many of them are stolen.

Now tho’ they are black, we cannot conceive there is more liberty to have them slaves, as it is to have other white ones. There is a saying, that we shall doe to all men, like as we will be done our selves: making no difference of what generation, descent, or color they are. And those who steal or rob men, and those who buy or purchase them, are they not all alike? Here is liberty of Conscience, which is right & reasonable, here ought to be likewise liberty of ye body, except of evildoers, which is another case. But to bring men hither, or to rob and sell them against their will, we stand against. In Europe there are many oppressed for Conscience sake; and here there are those oppressed which are of a black color.

And we, who know that men must not commit adultery, some do commit adultery in others, separating wives from their husbands and giving them to others, and some sell the children of those poor Creatures to other men.

Ah! do consider well these things, you who do it, if you would be done at this manner? And if it is done according Christianity? You surpass Holland and Germany in this thing. This makes an ill report in all those countries of Europe, where they hear of, that ye Quakers do here handle men like they handle their cattle; and for that reason some have no mind or inclination to come hither. And who shall maintain this your cause or plead for it! Truely we cannot do so except you shall inform us better hereof, viz. that Christians have liberty to practice these things.

Pray! What thing in the world can be done worse towards us then, if men should rob or steal us away & sell us for slaves to strange countries, separating husband from their wife & children. Being now this is not done in that manner we would be done in, therefore we contradict & are against this traffic of men’s bodies.

And we who profess that it is not lawful to steal, must likewise avoid purchasing such things as are stolen, but rather help to stop this robbing and stealing if possible, and such men ought to be delivered out of ye hands of ye robbers and set free as well as in Europe. Then will Pennsylvania have a good report; instead it hath now a bad one for this sake in other countries. Especially whereas ye Europeans are desirous to know in what manner ye Quakers do rule in their Province & most of them do look upon us with an envious eye. But if this is done well, what shall we say, is done evil?

If once these slaves (which they say are so wicked and stubborn men) should join themselves [together], fight for their freedom and handle their masters & mistresses, as they did handle them before; will these masters & mistresses take the sword in hand & war against these poor slaves, like we are able to believe, some will not refuse to do? Or have these Negers not as much right to fight for their freedom, as you have to keep them slaves? Now consider well this thing, if it is good or bad? And in case you find it to be good to handle these blacks in that manner, we desire & require you hereby lovingly that you may inform us herein, which at this time never was done, viz. that Christians have liberty to do so, to the end we shall be satisfied in this point, & satisfy likewise our good friends & acquaintances in our native country, to whose it is a terror or fearful thing that men should be handled so in Pennsylvania.

This is from our meeting at Germantown held ye 18th of the 2nd month 1688 to be delivered to the monthly meeting at Richard Warrels.

gerret hendricks
derick op de graeff
Francis daniell Pastorius
Abraham op den graef.

In 1713, when he was sick and forced to keep his bed for a period, Pastorius wrote up his view of the “Sprogel affair” and Sprogel’s suit against the Frankfort Company of 1708. He intended to publish it, but did not.


[this is sort of a word-play, typical of Pastorius, and can be read as “example without precedent”]

I, Francis Daniel Pastorius, having formerly (to wit these 28 years past) [since 1685] by Doctor Schutz & other honest men in high Germany, (Purchasers of 25,000 acres of land in this Province of Pennsylvania, and known by the name of the Francfort Company) been made & Constituted their Attorney, and still being concerned as Copartner with them, to clear my Conscience (as touching the administration of their sd estate) before all People to whom the reading hereof may come, as I have always endeavored to keep the same void of offence towards the all seeing Eyes of God, am, if it were, constrained to publish their short relation for as much as the aforesd Francfort Company is at present ejected out of their 25,000 acres of land, summo jure, i.e, summa injuria, by extreme right, extreme wrong. Now Intending Brevity, I shall let my Reader know that the sd Company being all persons of approved Integrity & learning became, at least some of them, personally acquainted with our Worthy Proprietary & Governor, William Penn, and purchased of him at a full rate the abovementioned 25,000 acres, & in the very infancy of this Province disbursed large of money for the transporting Servants Tenants and others; and that I, according to the best of my poor ability, (as many of the primitive Inhabitants & settlers yet surviving Swedes Dutch and English may testify) administered their affairs 17 years and a half. But conscious of my weakness, have often requested them to disburden me of this Load of theirs I took on my Shoulders by their frequent assurance to be behind my heels into this Country as soon as the Ice was broken. Whereupon the heirs of the sd first purchasers did appoint in my room Daniel Falkner, John Kelpius & John Jawert, N B to act JOINTLY and not SEVERALLY. However when the sd John Kelpius had a forecast in what channel things would run he with all speed in a certain Instrument (of George Lowther’s device who was the first Lawyer that unhappily got an hand into the Companies business) declared his Unwillingness to be any further concerned therein, and therefore termed Civiliter Mortuus, Then Daniel Falkner & John Jawert acted in the dual number as the sd Companies Attorneys for some few years.

For the sd Jawert being married and settled in Marieland, Falkner turned into such a spendthrift and Ever-drunk-Ever-dry that he made Bonefires of the Companies flax in open street in Germantown, giving a bit of silver money to one Lad for lighting his Tobacco-pipe, and a piece of eight to another for showing him a house in Philadelphia, which in his sober fits he knew as well as his own. Hereupon his Joint-Attorney John Jawert affixed an ADVERTISEMENT at the Meeting house of Germantown aforesd, dated the 9th of November 1705, wherein he forewarned all persons who had any Rent or other Debt to pay unto the sd Company to forbear paying thereof &c. And all was asleep, as Dormice do in winter, till about two years agoe, one John Henry Sprogel arrived in this Province, who being HE, that by the Collusion and treachery of the sd Daniel Falkner, by the wicked assistance of the Projectors to be hereafter spoken of, has through I know not what Fiction of the Law Ejected the sd Company out of their real estate of 25000 acres, I think it not amiss to give some little account of him. His parents I hear are of a good report and are to be pitied for such a Scandal to their Family. This Degenerate and Prodigal Child came for the first time into this Province in anno 1700, and quickly owing more than he was worth, went over to his native land in order to procure some cash of his Father whom he said to be a rich Bishop on that side. In his return he was taken by the French & carried off to Dankerk, when he escaped with an empty Brigantine into Holland, and by the (now repented of) Recommendation of Benjamin Furly & his Bookkeeper, H. L., found so much Credit with John Van der Gaegh, Merchant of Rotterdam & others as to be Intrusted with a deal of goods. After he departed out of harms way in that country, and could not be found when search’d for, in England, he came at last to Philada and there took his oath (as I am credibly informed) that all the said goods were his own directly or indirectly. Some of the Germantown people then visiting this their great Countryman and inquiring for letters were looked upon as Slaves, he being the only Anglified in all the Province in Pennsilvania. Howbeit none of us all (I believe) will ever have such a base and disloyal heart towards our Soveraign [sic] Lady the Queen of Great Britain as to get his Naturalization by the like disingenuous knack as he did, viz.:–to borrow a key & wear another man’s coat as though it were his own &c.

But to return to the Francfort Companies Concern, he the aforesd John Henry Sprogel having along with him a Letter of Attorney from the sd Benjamin Furly (afterwards though post fectum revoked) sold 1000 acres of land, part of the sd Furly’s purchase in this Province, unto David Lloyd at a reasonable price so as to have his Irreasonable advise in Law for the most unjust Entry upon the Companies land. For he the sd Sprogel, finding no means to satisfy his Old and Just Debts, was forced to find a new and untrodden way of Clearing his Scores, and to play the Gentleman sprung out of a Grocer’s Shop. Therefore among a Swarm of tedious lies (wherewith I dare not trouble the Reader) he also spread this, that he stroke a bargain for the Companies land with Dr. Gerhard van Mastricht, one of the Copartners, of whom I but newly received an extreme kind Letter to the clean Contrary thereof. Moreover the sd Sprogel to pacify the abovementioned John Jawert, who likewise had a share in the sd Company, proffered unto him 700 Pounds Pennsilvania Silver money for the land, and 100 Pounds besides as a Gratuity to himself &c. But he the sd Jawert being too honest for an Imposture and Bribe of this black stamp, Sprogel was driven to that Extremity (hap what may and let Frost & Fraud have hereafter as foul ends as they will) that he must now obtain the 25000 Acres & Arrears of Quitrents due to the Francfort Company solely & alone of Daniel Falkner, who plunged in needlessly contracted debts over head & ears, could expect no gladder tidings (as he said himself) than the same Proffer made unto him.

Here David Lloyd (whom to name again I am almost ashamed) comes in very gingerly to play his Roll [sic] FICTIONEM JURIS AD RE IPSA DETRUDENDOS VEROS POSSESSORES [Fiction of law toward the matter itself of ejecting true possessors], the which nevertheless it seems he was not bold-faced enough to do in his proper Clothes, but one Tho: Macknamara a Lawyer, if it were, started up for the purpose out of Marieland, (for a couple of Periwigs which he himself told me was all the Fee he had of this his brave Client for blushing in this Case) must be Nominally inserted in the Ejectment, lending like once the Cat her Paws to a more Crafty Creature for the drawing of the roasted Chestnuts from off the glowing coals. If any demand how this D-L [15] and Macknamara could possibly in so horrid a manner Circumvent the County Court, I suppose the fittest Answer I can Give to this Question is what Judge Grouden declared before our honorable Lieutenant Governor sitting in Council, viz: that at the tail of the Court Daniel Falkner and John Henry Sprogel did appear and the aforenamed d-ll and M. laid the matter before the Court , and none there to object (for this cheating trick was managed so Clandestinely that I and John Jawert were altogether Ignorant thereof and when Tho: Clark the Queen’s Attorney then present in Court did rise, the others suspecting he might say somewhat in Obstruction of their hainous [sic] design was gently pull’d down by the Sleeve and promised forty shillings to be quiet, when he had nothing to offer). Thus they surprised the Court and ob-et-subreptitie [a legal pun on obreptitie: fraudulently and subreptitie: in a thieving manner] compassed the ejectment [on Jan 15, 1708]. Three days after the breaking up of the afresd Court I heard of this unhandsome Juggle and gave Intelligence thereof to John Jawert, who forthwith came up and putt in his Humble Bequest to our well respected Lieutenant Govrnr and his honble [honorable] Council, we had the sd Tho: Clark assigned to pleade our Cause and so Jawert paid him a Fee of ten Pounds, but to this day the sd Sprogel still stirs his stumps in the Companies lands & Rents without the least Controlment. Since all this there arrived divers Letters from beyond the Sea, deciphering pretty fully abundance of the detestable galleries whereby the sd Sprogel ensnared and trepan’d [sliced off the top of the head] the Simplicity of upright & plain dealing people in Holland, admonishing him not to persist in his Evildoings but to Confess and make reparation to the defrauded, if not fourfold as penitent Zaccheus did, yet so far as his ill gotten griff-graff gains would reach &c &c.[All that follows is a single sentence, c200 words] And further there came also fresh Letters of Attorney from all the Partners of the Francfort Company, Living in Germany, Impowering some very able Men in Philada to redress their so horribly distressed Estate in the Province by one worse than the worst Land Pirate in the world could have done, the which I hope they will undertake and heartily wish, that the LORD (who is called a Father to the Fatherless and a Judge of the Widows, whereof there are at this instant several in the abovesd Company) may prosper their just Proceedings, and all, who reverence Righteousness and Equity countenance them therein, and not be partakers of the Spoil, nor of the Curse entailed thereon with the aforesd John Henry Sprogel, for whom notwithstanding the foreign discovery of his unheard of Villainies I retain that sincere Love as to pray God Almighty to Convict & Convert him of & from his Perverseness, that he may forsake his diabolical lies, pride, bragging & boasting, and not longer continue the Vassal of Satan and heir of Hell, but become a child of Heaven and a follower of Christ, our ever-blessed Savior, who as he is truth itself so likewise meek and lowly in heart, leading out of all cozening Practices into the way of holiness and eternal Felicity.

The last sentence of this work is around two hundred words long, illustrating many jokes about German literary style and their long, long sentences (“with all the verbs at the end”). You can compare it to the first sentence, only about 110 words long.

You may note that Pastorius even works a curse on Sprogel into his text. Unfortunately, it does not appear to have had any affect. In 1719, the same year Pastorius died, Sprogel donated fifty acres of his ill-gotten Germantown land for the site of the Lutheran Church, pretty well ensuring entry into Lutheran Heaven at least.

Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Vol 33 1909 No.3
Section: Notes and Queries, pg 375-7

Accounts Concerning the Building of the Stone Meetinghouse at Germantown, A.D. 1705

This Meeting House stood in the East corner of the Burying Ground on the Southwest side of Germantown Main Street, about 125 feet Northwest of the present Coulter Street. The following abstracts are made from the “Account,” in the custody of Germantown Preparative Meeting of Friends, written on Rittenhouse Mill paper, in the handwriting of Francis Daniel Pastorius.

“Anno 1705 the 20th of 4th month, Friends of Germantown bo’t of Heivert Papen a Lott or 50 acres of land for the sum of Sixty Pounds Curr’t silver money of Pensilvania.”

“Subscription of Friends belonging to Germantown Meeting and paid as followeth,” by Aret Klincken, John Luken, William Strepers, Denis Kunders, Lenert Arets, Peter Shoemaker, Paul Wolff, Thomas Potts, Sen’r, James Delaplaine, Isaac Shoemaker, Jacob Shoemaker, Matthew Milan, William Wilkinsen, Abraham Tunes, Francis Daniel Pastorius, Peter Clever, Johannes Kuder, Dirk Jansen, Wolter Simens, Simon Andrew, John Griffith, Paul Kastner, Andrew Kramer, Elias Burley, Mary Doeden, Anthony Loof, Cunrad Cunders (in all L48. 15s in cash and £70. 5s. 2d in work and materials).

[Similar lists also from Philadelphia MM, “Francfort Meeting,” Abington Meeting (including Reiner Tyson, John Jerrot, George Shoemaker)]

     The subscriptions in cash and materials were as follows:
                                                 £.       s.     d.
          Germantown Meeting                    119       0      2
          Philadelphia   "                      127       8
          Frankford      "                       22       8
          Abington       "                       21       6
          Byberry        "                        8       2

     Costs were
          Conveyancing, etc                       3       2      4
          Digging of stone and sand              12      18      4
          Lime at 8d per bushel                  23      13      3
          Timber, boards etc at 5£ per 1000 ft   49       4      6
          Shingles at 50s per 1000               11       9
          Carting                                22      17
          Mason & plastering                     86
          Carpentry                             157              1
          Workmen's "dieting," drink              9
          Nails and other iron work              17       5      1
          Glass windows, 63 feet                  5      17      5
          Iron stove                             10
          Making fences                           1

                                                B. W. Beesly


1. Samuel Pennypacker, The Settlement of Germantown, William J Campbell, Philadelphia 1899, page 10.

2. Dirck and Nilcken married in Crefeld in 1681 in full Friendly manner; their marriage certificate is the only known continental Quaker marriage certificate of the time.

3. This is weakly documented, but Tyson’s alternative possible wives (Margaret Streypers and Margaret Kunders) have little credible support (that is, there is little reason to believe women of these names existed in Germantown at the time). Tyson family genealogy says that Reynier married his first cousin after the meeting gave its approval, and Margaret Op den Graeff was indeed his first cousin.

4. Samuel Pennypacker, The Settlement of Germantown, Pg 88.

5. Now in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, with a translation by Marion D. Learned.

6. Keyser et al., History of Old Germantown, Horace F. McCann, Philadelphia, 1907, Pg 311. Keyser furthermore says that this house was torn down in 1795.

7. Fig. 5 comes from Keyser, pg 277, and no date is referenced. If the rear building was Hendricks’, then the two-story edifice in front was a later addition-who knows when. Fig. 6 is a 1908 photograph of the Rock House, at East Penn Street and Belfield Avenue, then still a Germantown historic site. Sometime after that the building was taken down.

8. Fig. 7 from Keyser, Pg 274. No year is referenced. The house was razed in 1842 as part of redevelopment.

9. Watson, Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania in the Olden Time…, Edwin S Stuart, Philadelphia, Three editions: 1830, 1844, 1879 (references here are to the third).

10. Pennypacker, William Penn and the Dutch Quaker Migration…”, pg 246.

11. Cf. Keyser, pg 48.

12. Hotchkin, Ancient and Modern Germantown, p 170.

13. Learned, The Life of Francis Daniel Pastorius, Philadelphia, William J. Campbell, 1908. Pastorius felt his own education, strong in philosophy, was mostly wasted because it lacked practicality.

14. Except once, in the summer of 1706, more or less in honor of the new Meeting-house in Germantown, Meeting for Business was held there.

15. Here Pennypacker puts in a footnote: “To ensure its not being overlooked, I call attention to this pun upon the names of David Lloyd and the Devil.”

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