The Buried Past: An Archaeological History of Philadelphia

By John L. Cotter; Daniel G. Roberts et al. | Go to book overview

7

Germantown

WYCK: GERMANTOWN'S OLDEST SURVIVING HOUSE

STENTON: JAMES LOGAN'S COUNTRY ESTATE

GRUMBLETHORPE: GERMANTOWN'S FIRST SUMMER HOME

THE DESHLER-MORRIS HOUSE: THE NATION'S FIRST "SUMMER WHITE HOUSE"

CLIVEDEN: WOUNDED VETERAN OF THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR

THE STORY OF HOW AN UNKNOWN BRITISH SOLDIER OF THE BATTLE OF GERMANTOWN REGAINED HIS IDENTITY

Until the industrial age caught up with the settlements in Philadelphia County, most of them were obscure farming villages. Germantown, however, was a unique exception. Settled in 1683 by Quakers, Mennonites, and other religious dissenters of Dutch and German backgrounds, this small community, situated six miles northwest of Center Square, quickly established its own industrial economy, and in doing so it became well known up and down the eastern seaboard for the excellence of the goods it produced.

Francis Daniel Pastorius (1651— 1719), a learned lawyer from Frankfurt am Main, was Germantown's first spokesman. In the fall of 1683, on behalf of the Dutch and German settlers, he negotiated with William Penn for the grant of Germantown's 6,000 acres. According to Pastorius, the first Europeans to inhabit these 6,000 acres were "mostly linen weavers and not any too skilled in agriculture" (Soderlund et al. 1983:356). Their skill at weaving was such, however, that the women of Philadelphia were soon clamoring to buy their "pure fine linnen cloth" at the semiannual Philadelphia fairs (Bronner 1982:62). In relatively short order, this fine stuff was known and in demand throughout the colonies.

By March 1684 the industrious Germantowners had so often traversed the sloping path to Philadelphia, two hours away, that they had, in Pastorius's words, "trodden [it] out into good shape." Forty-two in all in the winter of 1683-84, they lived along a main street and a cross street in twelve dwellings set on three-acre lots (Soderlund et al. 1983:356). By 1700 the main street was a mile long, and despite the settlers' alleged lack of agricultural skill, it was studded with orchards (Dunn and Dunn 1982:

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