The said County has very much increased in large well cultivated Farms, and in the Number of its Inhabitants, by whom very great Taxes, and other Duties to the Government, are regularly paid and performed, and near the Centre of the said County there is a large flourishing and increasing Town, settled by an industrious, thriving People, who carry on a great Trade with the adjacent Country, and with the City of Philadelphia. . . .
-- Votes and Proceedings, . . . Province of Pennsylvania, March 29, 1763, 255
The above description of Berks County by petitioners for an additional representative in March 1763 serves as a vivid statement of the attributes of Pennsylvania's seventh county. The early settlers were not great agitators; all they wanted was the representation they believed had been guaranteed in King Charles II's charter to William Penn. Their initial grievances against the government of the province, however, ultimately led them to become the "First Defenders" of American liberty. After British soldiers fired on Massachusetts militiamen in April 1775, Berks soldiers were among the first to report to Commander-in-Chief George Washington.1
The European immigrants who settled in the region that became Berks County represented nearly every part of northern and western Europe and the