Sacramento German Genealogy Society

Germans to Pennsylvania

 
 
Part 1: A brief History of WIlliam Penn and Pennsylvania
Part 3: New York  (link)
 
Part 1: A Brief History of William Penn and Pennsylvania
 
“At different periods, various causes and diverse motives induced them to abandon their Vaterland. Since 1606, millions have left their homes, the dearest spots on earth, whither the heart always turns. Religious persecution, political oppression drove thousands to Pennsylvania- to the asylum for the harassed and depressed sons and daughters of the relics of the Reformation, whither William Penn himself invited the persecuted of every creed and religious opinion.”
 
                    -I. Daniel Rupp, A Collection of Upwards of Thirty Thousand Names of German, Swiss, Dutch,                                                  French and Other Immigrants  in Pennsylvania from 1727-1776…
 
In 1681, William Penn was given a vast piece of North American land by King Charles II to repay a debt owed to Penn’s father. This land included the present-day states of Pennsylvania and Delaware. By 1682, Penn and his followers had established the town of Philadelphia. Penn, a Quaker, had created a haven of religious tolerance,
 
    
 
    
William Penn at 22 possibly by Sir Peter Lely - Library of Congress, American Memories site, Historical Society of Pennsylvania
 
 
 
William Penn was born in 1644 in London to the admiral and politician Sir William Penn and Margaret Jasper. At age 22, Penn was sent by his father to Cork, Ireland to manage family lands. While there, he began attending Quaker meetings and eventually converted to the faith. Quakers were not tolerated at that time (Quaker Act of 1662) and Penn was eventually thrown in jail. His family’s prominence secured his release, but he was returned to his father in London. His father tried reason with him, but his persistence eventually ended in banishment from the family and the threat of disinheritance. Homeless, he went on to live with various Quaker families.
 
As intolerance of the Quakers and other religious sects in England continued to grow, William Penn took to writing pamphlets that criticized other faiths and in 1668 he was imprisoned in the tower of London. There, he continued to write his criticisms and arguments. Faced with possible life imprisonment, he shared a desire to see his dying father one last time. Even though he asked his father not to pay his fine, his father did so anyway, and Penn was released. His father also reinstated his inheritance and Penn came into a large sum of money upon his father's death.
 
 
Between 1671 and 1677, William Penn traveled to Germany on church business. This established a relationship that would eventually open the door for Germans facing religious persecution in their homeland to join the migration to Pennsylvania.
 
In 1677, Penn and a group of other prominent Quakers purchased land in what is now the state of New Jersey for a Quaker settlement. As conditions continued to deteriorate, Penn appealed to the King to allow a mass emigration of Quakers to the North America. In a fit of generosity, the King relented and also granted Penn a charter for land west of New Jersey and north of Maryland. Penn became the world’s largest common private landowner. At first, Penn called the area “New Wales” then changed it to “Sylvania”. King Charles II renamed it “Pennsylvania” to honor Penn’s father. In 1682, Penn met with the Lenape Indian tribe to negotiate the first land purchase survey in Pennsylvania. He then drafted a charter of liberties, creating a haven for religious freedom and political fairness.
 
 
 
    
The Birth of Pennsylvania, 1680, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris. William Penn, holding paper, standing and facing King Charles II, in the King's breakfast chamber at Whitehall.
 
         
   Penn's Treaty with the Indians, by Benjamin West, (1771–72)
 
To attract Quaker immigration, Penn wrote glowing treatises extolling the attractiveness of settling in the new land. He had them translated into several languages and distributed throughout Europe. In less than a year, he had given land to over 250 new settlers. He also began to attract other persecuted minorities, including Catholics, Lutherans, Mennonites, Amish, Huguenots, and Jews from England, Germany, France, Holland, and Scandinavia.
 
In 1683, a group of Dutch Quakers, Mennonites, and Pietists asked Franz Daniel Pastorius, a German preacher, educator and lawyer, to negotiate a land purchase from William Penn. Penn sold him 15,000 acres in the northwest section of Philadelphia, whereupon Pastorius laid out a new settlement called Germantown. Germantown was primarily a Dutch colony until 1709, when several of the Dutch families moved west and several groups of German immigrants began to arrive. This included a group led by Rev. Joshua Kocherthal (see article on German Palatines). Germantown would go on to play a significant role in American History as the birthplace of the American anti-slavery movement, site of a Revolutionary war battle, temporary residence of George Washington, and site of the first bank of the United States, among other things.