Original Document
Original Document
Francis Daniel Pastorius Recalls the Founding of Germantown, 1685.

On October 24, 1683, I, Francis Daniel Pastorius, with the good will of the governor, laid out another new city, of the name of Germanton, or Germanopolis, at a distance of two hours' walk from Philadelphia, where there are a good black fertile soil, and many fresh wholesome springs of water, many oak, walnut, and chestnut trees, and also good pasturage for cattle. The first settlement consisted of only twelve families of forty-one persons, the greater part High German mechanics and weavers, because I had ascertained that linen cloth would be indispensable.

I made the main street of this city sixty feet wide, and the side streets forty; the space, or ground-plot, for each house and garden was as much as three acres of land, but for my own dwelling twice as much. Before this, I had also built a little house in Philadelphia, thirty feet long and fifteen wide. Because of the scarcity of glass the windows were of oiled paper. Over the house-door I had written: Parva Domus, sed amica Bonis, procul este pro/ani [A little house, but a friend to the good; remain at a distance, ye profane.], Whereat our Governor, when he visited me, burst into laughter, and encouraged me to keep on building.

I have also acquired for my High-German Company fifteen thousand acres of land in one piece, upon the condition that, within a year, they shall actually place thirty households thereon; and for this reason, that we High-Gelmans may maintain a separate little province, and thus feel more secure from all oppression.

It would, therefore, be a very good thing if the European associates should at once send more persons over here, for the common advantage of the Company; for only the day before yesterday, the Governor said to me that the zeal of the HighGermans in building pleased him very much, and that he preferred them to the English, and would grant them special privileges ....

Concerning the Inhabitants of this Province

Of these, three sorts may be found: 1. The natives, the so-called savages. 2. The Christians who have come here from Europe, the so-called Old Settlers. 3. The newly-arrived Associations and Companies.

So far as concerns the first, the savages, they are, in general, strong, agile, and supple people, with blackish bodies; they went about naked at first and wore only a cloth about the loins. Now they are beginning to wear shirts. They have, usually, coal-black hair, shave the head, smear the same with grease, and allow a long lock to grow on the right side. They also besmear the children with grease, and let them creep about in the heat of the sun, so that they become the color of a nut, although they were at first white enough by Nature.

They strive after a sincere honesty, hold strictly to their promises, cheat and injure no one. They willingly give shelter to others, and are both useful and loyal to their guests.

Their huts are made of young trees, twined, or bent, together, which they know how to roof over with bark. They use neither table nor bench, nor any other household stuff, unless perchance a single pot in which they boil their food.

I once saw four of them take a meal together in hearty contentment, and ~at a pumpkin cooked in clear water, without butter and spice. Their table and bench was the bare earth, their spoons were mussel-shells, with which they dipped up the warm water, their plates were the leaves of the nearest tree, which they do not need to wash with painstaking after the meal, nor to keep with care for future use. I thought to myself, these savages have never in their lives heard the teaching of Jesus concerning temperance and contentment, yet they far excel the Christians in carrying it out.

They are, furthermore, serious and of few words, and are amazed when they perceive so much unnecessary chatter, as well as other foolish behavior, on the part of the Christians.

Each man has his own wife, and they detest harlotry, kissing, and lying. They know of no idols, but they worship a single all-powerful and merciful God, who limits the power of the Devil. They also believe in the immortality of the soul, which, after the course of life is finished, has a suitable recompense from the allpowerful hand of God awaiting it.

They accompany their own worship of God with songs, during which they make strange gestures and motions with the hands and feet, and when they recall the death of their parents and friends, they begin to wail and weep most pitifully.

They listen very willingly, and not without perceptible emotion, to discourse concerning the Creator of Heaven and earth, and His divine Light, which enlightens all men who have come into the world, and who are yet to be born, and concerning the wisdom and love of God, because of which he gave his only-begotten and most dearly-beloved Son to die for us. It is only to be regretted that we can not yet speak their language readily, and therefore cannot set forth to them the thoughts and intent of our own hearts, namely, how great a power and salvation lies concealed in Christ Jesus. They are very quiet and thoughtful in our gatherings, so that I fully believe that in the future, at the great day of judgment, they will come forth with those of Tyre and Sidon, and put to shame many thousands of false nominal and canting Christians.

As for their economy and housekeeping, the men attend to their hunting and fishing. The women bring up their children honestly, under careful oversight and dissuade them from sin. They plant Indian com and beans round about their huts, but they take no thought for any more extensive farming and cattle-raising; they are rather astonished that we Christians take so much trouble and thought concerning eating and drinking and also for comfortable clothing and dwellings, as if we doubted that God were able to care for and nourish us.

Their native language is very dignified, and in its pronunciation much resembles the Italian, although the words are entirely different and strange. They are accustomed to paint their faces with colors; both men and women use tobacco with pleasure; they divert themselves with fifes, or trumpets, in unbroken idleness.

The second sort of inhabitants in the province are the old Christians, who came here from Europe.

These have never had the upright intention to give these needy native creatures instruction in the true living Christianity, but instead they have sought only their own worldly interests, and have cheated the simple inhabitants in trade and intercourse, so that at length those savages who dealt with these Christians, proved themselves to be also for the most part, crafty, lying, and deceitful, so that I can not say much that is creditable of either. These misguided people are wont to exchange the skins and peltry which they obtain for strong drink, and to drink so much that they can neither walk nor stand; also they are wont to commit all sorts of thievery, as the occasion may arise.

Owing to this, their kings and rulers have frequently complained of the sins of falsehood, deceit, thieving, and drunkenness, introduced here by the Christians, and which were formerly entirely unknown in these parts.

If one of these savages allows himself to be persuaded by a Christian to work, he does it with complaining, shame, and fear, as an unaccustomed act; he looks about him all the while on all sides, lest any of his people may find him working, just as if work were a disgrace, and idleness were an especial inborn privilege of the nobility, which should not be soiled by the sweat of toil.

The third sort of inhabitants of this province are the Christian Societies.

We, the latest arrivals, being Christians included in honorable associations and companies, after obtaining royal permission from England, in the year 1681, bought certain portions of the country for ourselves from the governor, William Penn, with the intention to erect new cities and colonies, and not only to gain thereby our own temporal advantage and support, but also to make the savages gentle and docile, and to instruct them in the true knowledge of God, insomuch that I live in the hope of being able to announce more good news of their conversion to Christianity within a short time.

Credit: Francis Daniel Pastorius, "Circumstantial Geographical Description of Pennsylvania, 1700," in Albert Cook Myers, ed., Narratives of Early Pennsylvania, West New Jersey, and Delaware (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1912; copyright renewed by Barnes and Noble, 1940), 380-386.
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