Pennsylvania Quaker Phebe Earle Gibbons wrote her observations of the Pennsylvania Dutch between 1869 to 1882, discussing in detail their language, religion, politics, and celebrations.
I have lived for twenty years in the county of Lancaster, where my neighbors on all sides are "Pennsylvania Dutch." In this article I shall try to give, from my own observation and familiar acquaintance, some account of the life of a people who are little known outside of he rural neighborhoods of their own State, who have much that is peculiar in their language, customs, and belief, and of whom I have learned to esteem the native good sense, friendly feeling, and religious character.
The tongue which these people speak is a dialect of the German, but they generally call it and themselves "Dutch."
For the native German who works with them on the farm they entertain some contempt, and the title "Yankee" is with them a synonym for cheat. As must always be the case where the great majority do not read the tongue which they speak, and live in contact with those who speak another, the language has become mixed and corrupt. Seeing a young neighbor cleaning a buggy, I tried to talk with him by speaking German. "Willst du reiten?" said I (not remembering that reiten is to ride on horseback). "Willst du reiten?" All my efforts were vain.
As I was going for cider to the house of a neighboring farmer, I asked his daughter what she would say, under the circumstances, for "Are you going to ride?" "Widdu fawray? Buggy fawray?" was the answer. (Willst du fahren?) Such expressions are heard as "Koock amul to," for "Guck einmal da," or "Just look at that!" and "Haltybissel" for "Halt ein biszchen," or "Wait a little bit." "Gutenobit" is used for "Guten Abend." Apple-butter is "lodwaerrick," from the German latwerge, an electuary, or an electuary of prunes. Our "Dutch" is mixed with English. I once asked a woman what pie-crust is in Dutch. "Py-kroosht," she answered.
Those who speak English use uncommon expressions, as, -- "That's a werry lasty basket" (meaning durable); "I seen him yet a'ready;" "I knew a woman that had a good baby wunst;" "The bread is all" (all gone). I have heard the carpenter call his plane she, and a housekeeper apply the same pronoun to her home-made soap.
A rich landed proprietor is sometimes called king. An old "Dutchman" who was absent from home thus narrated the cause of his journey: "I must go and see old Yoke (Jacob) Beidelman. Te people calls me te kink ov te Manor (township), and tay calls him te kink ov te Octorara. Now, dese kinks must come togeder once." (Accent together, and pass quickly over once.)
I called recently on my friend and neighbor, Jacob S., who is a thrifty farmer, of a good mind, and a member of the old Mennist or Mennonite Society. I once accompanied him and his pleasant wife to their religious meeting. The meeting-house is a low brick building, with neat surroundings, and resembles a Friends' meeting-house. The Mennonists in some outward matters very much resemble the Society of Friends (or Quakers), but do not rely, in the especial manner that Friends do, upon the teachings of the Divine Spirit in the secret stillness of the soul.
In the interior of the Mennist meeting a Quaker-like plainness prevails. The men, with broad-brimmed hats and simple dress, sit on benches on one side of the house, and the women, in plain caps and black sun-bonnets, are ranged on the other; while a few gay dresses are worn by the young people who have not yet joined the meeting. The services are almost always conducted in "Dutch," and consist of exhortation and prayer, and singing by the congregation. The singing is without previous training, and is not musical. A pause of about five minutes is allowed for private prayer.
The preachers are not paid, and are chosen in the following manner. When a vacancy occurs, and a new appointment is required, several men go into a small room, chosen for the purpose; and to them, waiting, enter singly the men and women, as many as choose, who tell them the name of the person preferred by each to fill the vacancy. After this, an opportunity is given to any candidate to excuse himself from the service. Those who are not excused, if, for instance, six in number, are brought before six books. Each candidate takes up a book, and the one within whose book a lot is found is the chosen minister. I asked my friends who gave me some of these details, whether it was claimed or believed that there is any special guidance of the Divine Spirit in thus choosing a minister. From the reply, I did not learn that any such guidance is claimed, though they spoke of a man who was led to pass his hand over all the other books, and who selected the last one, but he did not get the lot after all. He was thought to be ambitious of a place in the ministry.
The three prominent sects of Mennonites all claim to be non-resistants, or wehrlos. The Old Mennists, who are the most numerous and least rigid, vote at elections, and are allowed to hold such public offices as school director and road supervisor, but not to be members of the legislature. The ministers are expected not to vote.* The members of this society cannot bring suit against any one; they can hold mortgages, but not judgment bonds.† Like Quakers, they were not allowed to hold slaves, and they do not take oaths nor deal in spirituous liquors.
My neighbor Jacob and I were once talking of the general use of the word "Yankee" to denote one who is rather unfair in his dealings. They sometimes speak of a "Dutch Yankee;" and Jacob asked me whether, if going to sell a horse, I should tell the buyer every fault that I knew the horse had, as he maintained was the proper course. His brother-in-law, who was at times a horse-dealer, did not agree with him.
Titles do not abound among these plain neighbors of ours. Jacob's little son used to call him "Jake," as he heard the hired men do. Nevertheless, one of our New Mennist acquaintances was quite courtly in his address.
This last-mentioned sect branched off some fifty years ago, and claim to be reformirt, or to have returned to an older and more excellent standard. They do not vote at all. Their most striking peculiarity is this: if one of the members is disowned by the church, the other members of his own family who are members of the meeting are not allowed to eat at the same table with him, and his wife withdraws from him. A woman who worked in such a family told me how unpleasant it was to her to see that the father did not take his seat at the table, to which she was invited.
In support of this practice, they refer to the eleventh verse of the fifth chapter of First Corinthians: "But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat."
We have yet another sect among us, called Amish (pronounced Ommish). In former times these Mennists were sometimes known as "beardy men," but of late years the beard is not a distinguishing trait. It is said that a person once asked an Amish man the difference between themselves and another Mennist sect. "Vy, dey vears puttons, and ve vearsh hooks oont eyes;" and this is, in fact, a prime difference. All the Mennist sects retain the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper, but most also practise feet-washing, and some sectarians "greet one another with a holy kiss."
On a Sunday morning Amish wagons, covered with yellow oil-cloth, may be seen moving toward the house of that member whose turn it is to have the meeting. Great have been the preparations there beforehand, -- the whitewashing, the scrubbing, the polishing of tin and brass. Wooden benches and other seats are provided for the "meeting-folks," and the services resemble those already described. Of course, young mothers do not stay at home, but bring their infants with them. When the meeting is over, the congregation remain to dinner. Bean soup was formerly the principal dish, but, with the progress of luxury, the farmers of a fat soil no longer confine themselves to so simple a diet. Imagine what a time of social intercourse this must be.
The Amish dress is peculiar; and the children are diminutive men and women. The women wear sun-bonnets and closely-fitting dresses, but often their figures look very trim, in brown, with green or other bright handkerchiefs meeting over the breast. I saw a group of Amish at the railroad station the other day, --men, women, and a little boy. One of the young women wore a pasteboard sun-bonnet covered with black, and tied with narrow blue ribbon, among which showed the thick white strings of her Amish cap; a gray shawl, without fringe; a brown stuff dress, and a purple apron. One middle-aged man, inclined to corpulence, had coarse, brown, woollen clothes, and his pantaloons were without suspenders, in the Amish fashion. No buttons were on his coat behind, but down the front were hooks and eyes. One young girl wore a bright brown sun-bonnet, a green dress, and a light blue apron. The choicest figure, however, was the six-year-old, in a jacket, and with pantaloons plentifully plaited into the waistband behind; hair cut straight over the forehead, and hanging to the shoulder; and a round-crowned black wool hat, with an astonishingly wide brim. The little girls, down to two years old, wear the plain cap, and the handkerchief crossed upon the breast.
In Amish houses the love of ornament appears in brightly scoured utensils, --how the brass ladles are made to shine! -- and in embroidered towels, one end of the towel showing a quantity of work in colored cottons. When steel or elliptic springs were introduced, so great a novelty was not at first patronized by members of the meeting; but an infirm brother, desiring to visit his friends, directed the blacksmith to put a spring inside his wagon, under the seat, and since that time steel springs have become common. I have even seen a youth with flowing hair (as is common among the Amish), and two trim-bodied damsels, riding in a very plain, uncovered buggy. A.Z. rode in a common buggy; but he became a great backslider, poor man!
It was an Amish man, not well versed in the English language, from whom I bought poultry, who sent me a bill for "chighans."
In mentioning some ludicrous circumstances, far be it from me to ignore the virtues of these primitive people.
History of a Sect.
The Mennonites are named from Menno Symons, a reformer, who died in 1561, though it is doubtful whether Menno founded the sect. "The prevailing opinion among church historians, especially those of Holland, is that the origin of the Dutch Baptists may be traced to the Waldenses, and that Menno merely organized the concealed and scattered congregations as a denomination."
Mosheim says, "The true origin of that sect, which acquired the denomination of Anabaptists, by their administering anew the rite of baptism to those who came over to their communion, and derived that of Mennonites from the famous man to whom they owe the greatest part of their present felicity, is hidden in the depths of antiquity, and is of consequence extremely difficult to be ascertained." The "Martyr-Book," or "Martyr's Mirror," in use among our Mennonites, endeavors to prove identity of doctrine between the Waldenses and these Baptists, as regards opposition to infant baptism, to war, and to oaths.
Although the Mennonites are very numerous in the county of Lancaster, yet in the whole State they were estimated, in 1850, to have but ninety-two churches, while the Lutherans and German Reformed together were estimated as having seven hundred.
The freedom of religious opinion which was allowed in Pennsylvania had the effect of drawing hither the continental Europeans, who established themselves in the fertile lands of the western part of the county of Chester, now Lancaster. It was not until the revolution of 1848 that the different German states granted full civil rights to the Mennonites; and in some cases this freedom has since been withdrawn; Hanover, in 1858, annulled the election of a representative to the second chamber, because he was a Mennonite. Much of this opposition probably is because the sect refuse to take oaths. With such opposing circumstances in the Old World, it is not remarkable that the number of Mennonites in the United States has been reported to exceed that in all the rest of the world together.§ The Amish are named from Jacob Amen, a Swiss Mennonite preacher of the seventeenth century.
As I understand the Mennonites, they endeavor in church government literally to carry out the injunction of Jesus, "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen men and a publican."
Besides these sectaries, we have among us Dunkers (German tunken, to dip), from whom sprang the Seventh-Day Baptists of Ephratah, with their brother- and sister-houses of celibates.
Also at Litiz we have the Moravian church and Gottesacker (or churchyard), and a Moravian church at Lancaster. Here, according to custom, a love-feast was held recently, when a cup of coffee and a rusk (sweet biscuit) were handed to each person present.
We have, too, a number of "Dutch Methodists," or Albrechtsleute (followers of Albrecht), to whom is given the name Evangelical Association. These are full of zeal or activity in church, like the early Methodists; and I saw a young man fall apparently into a trance at a camp-meeting, lying upon the ground, to the satisfaction of his wife, who probably thought he was "happy."
As our country was represented in Congress by Thadeus Stevens, you have some idea of what our politics are. We have returned about five or six thousand majority for the Whig, Anti-Masonic, and Republican ticket, and the adjoining very "Dutch" county of Berks invariably as great a majority for the Democratic. So striking a difference has furnished much ground for speculation. The Hon. John Strohm says that Berks is Democratic because so many Hessians settled there after the Revolution. "No," says the Hon. Mr. B., "I attribute it to the fact that the people are not taught by unpaid ministers, as with us, but are Lutherans and German Reformed, and can be led by their preachers." "Why is Berks Democratic?" I once asked our Democratic postmaster. "I do not know," said he; "but the people here are ignorant; they do not read a paper on the other side." A former postmaster tells me that he has heard that the people of Berks were greatly in favor of liberty in the time of the elder Adams; that they put up liberty-poles, and Adams sent soldiers among them and had the liberty-poles cut down; and "ever since they have been opposed to that political party, under its different names."
A gentleman of Reading has told me that he heard James Buchanan express, in the latter part of his life, a similar opinion to one given before. Mr. Buchanan said, in effect, that while peace sects prevailed in Lancaster County, in Berks were found many Lutherans and German Reformed, who were more liberal (according, of course, to Mr. Buchanan's interpretation of the word).
The troubles alluded to in Berks seem to have been principally on account of a direct tax, called "the house-tax," imposed during the administration of John Adams.
The people of Berks and Lancaster gave another striking proof of the difference of their political sentiments, on the question of holding the Constitutional Convention of 1874. The vote of Berks was 5269 for a convention, and 10,905 against a convention; the vote of Lancaster was, for a convention 16,862, against the same 116.
A gentleman of Easton, Northampton County, tells me of a German farmer, who lived near that town, who said he did not see any need of so many parties, -- the Democrats and Lutherans were enough. On his death-bed he is reported to have said to his son, "I never voted anything but the Democratic ticket, and I want you to stick to the party."
The greatest festive occasion, or the one which calls the greatest number of persons to eat and drink together, is the funeral.
My friends Jacob and Susanna E. have that active benevolence and correct principle which prompt to a care for the sick and dying, and kind offices toward the mourner. Nor are they alone in this. When a death occurs, our "Dutch" neighbors enter the house, and, taking possession, relieve the family as far as possible from the labors and cares of a funeral. Some "redd up" the house, making that which was neglected during the sad presence of a fatal disease again in order for the reception of company. Others visit the kitchen, and help to bake great store of bread, pies, and rusks for the expected gathering. Two young men and two young women generally sit up together overnight to watch in a room adjoining that of the dead.
At funerals occurring on Sunday three hundred carriages have been seen in attendance; and so great at all times is the concourse of people of all stations and all shades of belief, and so many partake of the entertainment liberally provided, that I may be excused for calling funerals the great festivals of the "Dutch." (Weddings are also highly festive occasions, but they are confined to the "freundschaft," and to much smaller numbers.)
The services at funerals are generally conducted in the German language.
An invitation is extended to the persons present to return to eat after the funeral, or the meal is partaken of before leaving for the graveyard: hospitality, in all rural districts, where the guests come from afar, seems to require this. The tablets are sometimes set in a barn, or large wagon-house, and relays of guests succeed one another, until all are done. The neighbors wait upon the table. The entertainment generally consists of meat, frequently cold; bread and butter; pickles or sauces, such as apple-butter; pies and rusks; sometimes stewed chickens, mashed potatoes, cheese, etc.; and coffee invariably. All depart after the dish-washing, and the family is left in quiet again.
I have said that persons of all shades of belief attend funerals; but our New Mennists are not permitted to listen to the sermons of other denominations. Memorial stones over the dead are more conspicuous than among Friends; but they are still quite plain, with simple inscriptions. Occasionally family graveyards are seen. One on a farm adjoining ours seems cut out of the side of a field; it stands back from the high-road, and access to it is on foot. To those who are anxious to preserve the remains of their relatives, these graveyards are objectionable, as they will probably not be regarded after the property has passed into another family.
A Lutheran gentleman, living in Berks County, in speaking of the great funerals among the "Dutch," says, "Our Germans look forward all their lives to their funerals, hoping to be able to entertain their friends on that great occasion with the hospitality due to them, and the honor due to the memory of the departed." No spirituous liquors, he added, are now used at funerals, the clergy having discouraged their use on these religious occasions. In a mountain valley in Carbon County, about thirty years ago, a bottle of whiskey was handed to a Lutheran minister, and he was asked to take some. "Yes, I'll have some," he answered; and taking the bottle, he broke it against a tree.
Our farmer had a daughter married lately, and I was invited to see the bride leave home. The groom, in accordance with the early habits of the "Dutch" folks, reached the bride's house about six in the morning, having previously breakfasted and ridden four miles. As he probably fed and harnessed his horse, besides attiring himself for the grand occasion, he must have been up betimes on an October morning.
The bride wore purple mousseline-de-laine and a blue bonnet. As some of the "wedding-folks" were dilatory, the bride and groom did not get off before seven. The bridegroom was a mechanic. The whole party was composed of four couples, who rode to Lancaster in buggies, where two pairs were married by a minister. In the afternoon the newly-married couples went down to Philadelphia for a few days; and on the evening that they were expected at home we had a reception, or homecoming. Supper consisted of roast turkeys, beef, and stewed chickens, cakes, pies, and coffee of course. We had raisin-pie, which is a great treat in "Dutchland" on festive or solumn occasions. "Nine couples" of the party sat down to supper, and then the remaining spare seats were occupied by the landlord's wife, the bride's uncle, etc. We had a fiddler in the evening. He and the dancing would not have been there had the household "belonged to meeting;" and, as it was, some young Methodist girls did not dance.
One of my "English" acquaintances was sitting alone on a Sunday evening, when she heard a rap at the door, and a young "Dutchman," a stranger, walked in and sat down, "and there he sot, and sot, and sot." Mrs. G. waited to hear his errand, politely making conversation; and finally he asked whether her daughter was at home. "Which one?" He did not know. But that did not make much difference, as neither was at home. Mrs. G. afterwards mentioned this circumstance to a worthy "Dutch" neighbor, expressing surprise that a young man should call who had not been introduced. "How then would they get acquainted?" said he. She suggested that she did not think that her daughter knew the young man. "She would not tell you, perhaps, if she did." The daughter, however, when asked, seemed entirely ignorant, and did not know that she had ever seen the young man. He had probably seen her at the railroad station, and had found out her name and residence. It would seem to indicate much confidence on the part of parents, if, when acquaintances are formed in such a manner, the father and mother retire at nine o'clock, and leave their young daughter thus to "keep company" until midnight or later. It is no wonder that one of our German sects has declared against the popular manner of "courting."
I recently attended a New Mennist wedding, which took place in the frame meeting-house. We entered through an adjoining brick dwelling, one room of which served as an ante-room, where the "sisters" left their bonnets and shawls. I was late, for the services had begun about nine on a bitter Sunday morning in December. The meeting-house was crowded, and in front on the left was a plain of book-muslin caps on the heads of the sisters. On shelves and pegs, along the other side, were placed the hats and overcoats of the brethren. The building was extremely simple, -- whitewashed without, entirely unpainted within, with whitewashed walls. The preacher stood at a small, unpainted desk, and before it was a table, convenient for the old men "to sit at and lay their books on." Two stoves, a half-dozen hanging tin candlesticks, and the benches completed the furniture. The preacher was speaking extemporaneously in English, for in this meeting-house the services are often performed in this tongue; and he spoke readily and well, though his speech was not free from such expressions as, "It would be wishful for men to do their duty;" "Man cannot separate them together;" and "This, Christ done for us."
He spoke at length upon divorce, which, he said, could not take place between Christians. The preacher spoke especially upon the duty of the wife to submit to the husband whenever differences of sentiment arose; of the duty of the husband to love the wife, and to show his love by his readiness to assist her. He alluded to Paul's saying that it is better to be unmarried than married, and he did not scruple to use plain language touching adultery. His discourse ended, he called upon the pair proposing marriage to come forward; whereupon the man and woman rose from the body of the congregation on either side, and, coming out to the middle aisle, stood together before the minister. They had both passed their early youth, but had very good faces. The bride wore a mode-colored alpaca, and a black apron; also a clear-starched cap without a border, after the fashion of the sect. The groom wore a dark-green coat, cut "shad-bellied," after the fashion of the brethren.
This was probably the manner of their acquaintance: If, in spite of Paul's encouragement to a single life, a brother sees a sister whom he wishes to marry, he mentions the fact to a minister, who tells it to the sister. If she agrees in sentiment, the acquaintance continues for a year, during which private interviews can be had if desired; but this sect entirely discourages courting as usually practised among the "Dutch."
The year having in this case elapsed, and the pair having now met before the preacher, he propounded to them three questions:
1. I ask of this brother, as the bridegroom, do you believe that this sister in the faith is allotted to you by God as your helpmeet and spouse? And I ask of you, as the bride, do you believe that this your brother is allotted to you by God as your husband and head?
2. Are you free in your affections from all others, and have you them centred alone upon this your brother or sister?
3. Do you receive this person as your lawfully wedded husband [wife], do you promise to be faithful to him [her], to reverence him [to love her], and that nothing but death shall separate you; that, by the help of God, you will, to the best of your ability, fulfill all the duties which God has enjoined on believing husbands and wives?
In answering this last question, I observed the bride to lift her eyes to the preacher's face, as if in fearless trust. Then the preacher, directing them to join hands, pronounced them man and wife, and invoked a blessing upon them. This was followed by a short prayer, after which the wedded pair separated, each again taking a place among the congregation. The occasion was solemn. On resuming his place in the desk, the preacher's eyes were seen to be suffused, and pocket-handkerchiefs were visible on either side (the sisters' white, those of the brethren of colored silk). The audience then knelt, while the preacher prayed, and I heard responses like those of the Methodists, but more subdued. The preacher made a few remarks, to the effect that, although it would be grievous to break the bond now uniting these two, it would be infinitely more grievous to break the tie which unites us to Christ; and then a quaint hymn was sung to a familiar tune. This "church" does not allow wedding-parties, but a few friends may gather at the house after meeting.
At Amish weddings the meeting is not in a church, like the one just spoken of, for their meetings are held in private houses. I hear that none go to this meeting but invited guests, except that the preachers are always present; and after the ceremony the wedded pair with the preachers retire into a private apartment, perhaps for exhortation upon their new duties.
A neighbor tells me that the Amish have great fun at weddings; that they have a table set all night, and that when the weather is pleasant they play in the barn. "Our Pete went once," she continued, "with a lot of the public-school scholars. They let them go in and look on. They twisted a towel for the bloom-sock, and they did hit each other." (Bloom-sock, plump-sack, a twisted kerchief, --a clumsy fellow.)
"The bloom-sock" (oo short), I hear, "is a handkerchief twisted long, from the two opposite corners. When it is twisted, you double it, and tie the ends with a knot. One in front hunts the handkerchief, and those on the bench are passing it behind them. If they get a chance, they'll hit him with it, and if he sees it he tears it away. Then he goes into the row, and the other goes out to hunt it."
It has also been said that at Amish wedding-parties they have what they call Glücktrinke, of wine, etc. Some wedding-parties are called infares. Thus, a neighbor spoke of "Siegfried's wedding, where they had such an infare." The original meaning I suppose to be home-coming.
It must not be inferred from these descriptions that we have no "fashionable" persons among us, of the old German stock. When they have become fashionable, however, they do not desire to be called "Dutch."
There lives in our neighborhood a pleasant, industrious "Aunt Sally," a yellow woman; and one day she had a quilting, for she had long wished to re-cover two quilts. The first who arrived at Aunt Sally's was our neighbor from over the "creek," or mill-stream, Polly M., in her black silk Mennist bonnet, formed like a sun-bonnet; and at ten came my dear friend Susanna E., who is tall and fat, and very pleasant; who has Huguenot blood in her veins, and --
"Whose heart has a look southward, and is open
To the great noon of nature."
Aunt Sally had her quilt up in her landlord's east room, for her own house was too small. However, at about eleven she called us over to dinner; for people who have breakfasted at five or six have an appetite at eleven.
We found on the table beefsteaks, boiled pork, sweet potatoes, kohl-slaw,** pickled tomatoes, cucumbers, and red beets (thus the "Dutch" accent lies), apple-butter and preserved peaches, pumpkin- and apple-pie, with sponge-cake and coffee.
After dinner came our next neighbors, "the maids," Susy and Katy Groff, who live in single blessedness and great neatness. They wore pretty, clear-starched Mennist caps, very plain. Katy is a sweet-looking woman; and, although she is more than sixty years old, her forehead is almost unwrinkled, and her fine fair hair is still brown. It was late when the farm's wife cam, --three o'clock; for she had been to Lancaster. She wore hoops, and was of the "world's people." These women all spoke "Dutch;" for "the maids," whose ancestor came here probably one hundred and fifty years ago, do not yet speak English with fluency.
The first subject of conversation was the fall house-cleaning; and I heard mention of "die carpet hinaus an der fence," and "die fenshter und die porch;" and the exclamation, "My goodness, es war schlimm" (it was bad). I quilted faster than Katy Groff, who showed me her hands, and said, "You have not been corn-husking, as I have."
So we quilted and rolled, talked and laughed, got one quilt done, and put in another. The work was not fine; we laid it out by chalking around a small plate. Aunt Sally's desire was rather to get her quilting finished upon this great occasion, than for us to put in a quantity of needlework.
About five o'clock we were called to supper. I need not tell you all the particulars of this plentiful meal. But the stewed chicken was tender, and we had coffee again.
Polly M.'s husband now came over the creek in the boat, to take her home, and he warned her against the evening dampness. The rest of us quilted a while by candle and lamp, and got the second quilt done at about seven.
At this quilting I heard but little gossip, and less scandal. I displayed my new alpaca, and my dyed merino, and the Philadelphia bonnet which exposes the back of my head to the wintry blast. Polly, for her part, preferred her black silk sun-bonnet; and so we parted, with mutual invitations to visit.
Mary ----- tells me that she once attended a "singing" among the Amish. About nightfall, on a Sunday evening in summer, a half-dozen "girls" and a few more "boys" met at the house of one of the members. They talked a while first on common subjects, and then sang hymns from the Amish hymn-book in the German tongue. They chanted in the slow manner common in their religious meetings; but Mary says that some are now learning to sing by note, and are improving their manner. They thus intoned until about ten o'clock, and then laid aside their hymn-books, and the old folks went to bed. Then the young people went out into the wash-house, or outside kitchen, so as not to wake the sleepers, and played, "Come, Philander, let's be marching," and
"The needle's eye we do supply
With thread that runs so true;
And many a lass have I let pass
Because I wanted you."
Which game seems to be the same as
"Open the gates as high as the sky
And let King George and his troops go by."
In these kissing plays, and in some little romping among the young men, the time was spent until about two or three in the morning, when they separated, two girls from a distance staying all night. Mary was able to sleep until daylight only, for no allowance is made for those who partake in these gay vigils to make up in the morning for loss of sleep.
There were no refreshments upon this occasion, but once at a singing at Christ. Yoder's, it is said that the party took nearly all the pies out of the cellar, and the empty plates were found in the wash-house next morning.
Dancing-parties are not unknown among us, but they are not popular among the plain people whom I especially describe.
In this fertile limestone district farming is vary laborious, being entirely by tillage. Our regular routine is once in five years to plough the sod ground for corn. In the next ensuring year the same ground is sowed with oats; and when the oats come off in August, the industrious "Dutchmen" immediately manure the stubble-land for wheat. I have seen them laying the dark-brown heaps upon the yellow stubble, when, in August, I have ridden some twelve or fourteen miles down to the hill-country for blackberries.
After the ground is carefully prepared, wheat and timothy (grass) seed are put in with a drill, and in the ensuing spring clover is sowed upon the same ground. By July, when the wheat is taken off the ground, the clover and timothy are growing, and will be ready to mow in the next or fourth summer. In the fifth the same grass constitutes a grazing-ground, and then the sod is ready to be broken up again for Indian corn. Potatoes are seldom planted here in great quantities; a part of one of the oat-fields or corn-fields can be put into potatoes, and the ground will be ready by fall to be put into wheat, if it is desired. A successful farmer put more than half of his forty acres into wheat; this being considered the best crop. The average crop of wheat is about twenty bushels, of Indian corn about forty. I have heard of one hundred bushels of corn in the Pequea valley, but this is very rare.
When the wheat and oats are in the barn or stack, enormous eight-horse threshers, whose owners go about the neighborhood from farm to farm, thresh the crop in two or three days; and thus what was once a great job for winter may all be finished by the first of October.
Jacob E. is a model farmer. His building and fences are in good order, and his cattle well kept. He is a little past the prime of life; his beautiful head of black hair being touched with silver. His wife is dimpled and smiling, and her weight nearly two hundred does not prevent her being active, energetic, forehanded, and "thorough-going." During the winter months the two sons go to the public school, --the older one with reluctance; there they learn to read and write and cipher, and possibly they study geography; they speak English at school, and "Dutch" at home. Much education the "Dutch" farmer fears, as productive of laziness; and laziness is a mortal sin here. The E.'s rarely buy a book. I suggested to one of our neighbors that he might advantageously have given a certain son a chance with books. "Don't want no books," was the answer. "There's enough goes to books! Get so lazy after a while they won't farm." The winter is employed partly in preparing material to fertilize the wheat-land during the coming summer. Great droves of cattle and sheep come down our road from the West, and our farmers buy from these, and fatten stock during the winter months for the Philadelphia market. A proper care of his stock will occupy some portion of the farmer's time. A farmer's son told me also of cutting wood and quarrying stone in the winter, adding, "If a person wouldn't work in the winter, they'd be behindhand in the spring."
Besides these, the farmer has generally a great "freundschaft," or family connection, both his and his wife's; and the paying visits within a range of twenty or thirty miles, and receiving visits in return, help to pass away the time. Then Jacob and Susanna are actively benevolent; they are liable to be called upon, summer and winter, to wait on the sick and to help bury the dead. Susanna was formerly renowned as a baker at funerals, where her services were freely given.
This rich level land of ours is highly prized by the "Dutch" for farming purposes, and the great demand has enhanced the price. The farms, too, are small, seventy acres being a fair size. When Seth R., the rich preacher, bought his last farm from an "English-man," William G. said to him, "Well, Seth, it seems as if you Dutch folks had determined to root us English out; but thee had to pay pretty dear for thy root this time."
There are some superstitious ideas that still hold sway here, regarding the growth of plants. A young girl coining to us for cabbage-plants said that it was a good time to set them out, for "it was in the Wirgin." It is very doubtful whether she knew what was in Virgo, but I suppose that it was the moon. So our farmer's wife tells me that the Virgin will do very well for cabbages, but not for any plant like beans, for, though they will flower well, they will not mature the fruit. Fence should be set in the upgoing of the moon; meat butchered in the downgoing will shrink in the pot.
One of my "Dutch" neighbors, who, from a shoemaker, became the owner of two farms, said to me, "The women is more than half;" and his own very laborious wife (with her portion) had indeed been so.
The woman (in common speech, "the old woman") milks, raises the poultry, and charge of the garden, --sometimes digging the ground herself, and planting and hoeing, with the assistance of her daughters and the "mail," when she has one. (German, magd.) To be sure, she does not go extensively into vegetable-raising, nor has she a large quantity of strawberries and other small fruits; neither does she plant a great many peas and beans, that are laborious to "stick." She has a quantity of cabbages and of "red beets," of onions and of early potatoes, in her garden, a plenty of cucumbers for winter pickles, and store of string-beans and tomatoes, with some sweet potatoes.
Peter R. told me that in one year, off their small farm, they sold "two hundred dollars' worth of wedgable things, not counting the butter." As in that year the clothing for each member of the family probably cost no more than fifteen dollars, the two hundred dollars' worth of vegetable things was of great importance.
Our "Dutch" never make store-cheese. At a county fair, only one cheese was exhibited, and that was from Chester County. The farmer's wife boards all the farm-hands, and the mechanics --the carpenter, mason, etc. --who put up the new buildings, and the fence-makers. At times she allows the daughters to go out and husk corn. It was a pretty sight which I saw one fall day, --an Amish man with four sons and daughters, husking in the field. "We do it all ourselves," said he.
(Said a neighbor, "A man told me once that he was at an Amish husking --a husking-match in the kichen. He said he never saw as much sport in all his life. There they had the bloom-sock. There was one old man, quite gray-headed, and gray-bearded; he laughed till he shook." Said another, "There's not many huskings going on now. The most play now goes on at the infares.")
In winter mornings perhaps the farmer's wife goes out to milk in the stable with a lantern, while her daughters get breakfast; has her house "red up" about eight o'clock, and is prepared for several hours' sewing before dinner, laying by great piles of shirts for summer. We no longer make linen; but I have heard of one "Dutch" girl who had a good supply of domestic linen made into shirts and trousers for the future spouse whose fair proportions she had not yet seen.
There are, of course, many garments to make in a large family, but there is not much work put upon them. We do not yet patronize the sewing machine very extensively, but a seamstress or tailoress is sometimes called in. At the spring cleaning the labors of the women folk are increased by whitewashing the picket-fences.
In March we make soap, before the labors of the garden are great. The forests are being obliterated from this fertile tract, and many use what some call consecrated lye; formerly, the ash-hopper was filled, and a good log of egg-bearing lye run off to begin the soap with, while the weaker filled the soft-soap kettle, after the soap had "come." The chemical operation of soap-making often proved difficult, and, of course, much was said about luck. "We had bad luck making soap." A sassafras stick was preferred for stirring, and the soap was stirred always in one direction. In regard to this, and that other chemical operation, making and keeping vinegar, there are certain ideas about the temporary incapacity of some persons, --ideas only to be alluded to here. If the farmer's wife never "has luck" in making soap, she employs some skilful woman to come in and help her. It is not a long operation, for the "Dutch" rush this work speedily. If the lye is well run off, two tubs of hard soap and a barrel of soft can be made in a day. A smart housekeeper can make a barrel of soap in the morning, and go visiting in the afternoon.
Great are the household labors in harvest; but the cooking and baking in the hot weather are cheerfully done for the men, who are toiling in hot suns and stifling barns. Four meals are common at this season, for "a piece" is sent out a nine o'clock. I heard of one "Dutch" girl's making some fifty pies a week in harvest; for if you have four meals a day, and pie at each, many are required, We have great faith in pie.
I have been told of an inexperienced Quaker house-wife in the neighboring county of York, who was left in charge of the farm, and during harvest these important labors were performed by John Stein, John Stump, and John Stinger. She also had guests, welcome perhaps as "rain in harvest." To conciliate the Johns was very important, and she waited on them first. "What will thee have, John Stein?" "What shall I give thee, John Stump?" "And thee, John Stinger?" On one memorable occasion there was mutiny in the field, for John Stein declared that he never worked where there were not "kickelin" cakes in harvest, nor would he now. Küchlein proved to be cakes fried in fat; and the house-wife was ready to appease "Achilles' wrath," as soon as she made this discovery.
We made in one season six barrels of cider into apple-butter, three at a time. Two large copper kettles were hung under the beech-trees, down between the spring-house and smoke-house, and the cider was boiled down the evening before, great stumps of trees being in demand. One hand watched the cider, and the rest of the family gathered in the kitchen and labored diligently in preparing the cut apples, so that in the morning the "schnits" might be ready to go in. (Schneiden, to cut, geschnitten.)
One bushel and a half of cut apples are said to be enough for a barrel of cider. In a few hours the apples will all be in, and then you will stir, and stir, and stir, for you do not want to have the apple-button burn at the bottom, and be obliged to dip it out into tubs and scour the kettle. Some time in the afternoon, you will take out a little on a dish, and when you find that the cider no longer "weeps out" round the edges, but all forms a simple heap, you will dip it up into earthen vessels, and when cold take it "on" to the garret to keep company with the hard soap and the bags of dried apples and cherries, perhaps, with the hams and shoulders. Soap and apple-butter are usually made in an open fireplace, where hangs the kettle. At one time (about the year 1828) I have heard that there was apple-butter in the Lancaster Museum which dated from Revolutionary times; for we do not expect it to ferment in the summer. It dries away; but water is stirred in to prepare it for the table. Sometimes peach-butter is made, with cider, molasses, or sugar, and, in the present scarcity of apples, cut pumpkin is often put into the apple-butter.
Soon after apple-butter-making comes butchering, for we like an early pig in the fall, when the store of smoked meat has run out. Pork is the staple, and we smoke the flitches, not preserving them in brine like the Yankees. We ourselves use much beef, and do not like smoked flitch, but I speak for the majority. Sausage is a great dish with us, as in Germany.
Butchering is one of the many occasions for the display of friendly feeling, when brother or father steps in to help hang the hogs, or a sister to assist in rendering lard, or in preparing a plentiful meal. An active farmer will have two or three porkers killed, scalded, and hung up by sunrise, and by night the whole operation of sausage and "pudding" making, and lard rendering, will be finished, and the house set in order. The friends who have assisted receive a portion of the sausage, etc., which portion is called the "metzel-sup" (or soop). The metzel-sup is very often sent to poor widows and others.
We make scrapple from the skin, a part of the livers, and heads, with the addition of corn-meal; but, instead, our "Dutch" neighbors make liverwurst ("woorsht"), or meat pudding, omitting the meal, and this compound, stuffed into the larger entrails, is very popular in Lancaster market. Some make pawn-haus from the liquor in which the pudding-meat was boiled, adding thereto corn-meal. The name is properly pan-haas, and signifies, perhaps, panned-rabbit. It is sometimes made of richer material.
These three dishes, just before mentioned, are fried before eating. I have never seen hog's-head cheese in "Dutch" houses. If the boiling-pieces of beef are kept over summer, they are smoked, instead of being preserved in brine. Much smear-case (schmier-käse), or cottage cheese, is eaten in these regions. Children, and some grown people too, fancy it upon bread with molasses; which may be considered as an offset to the Yankee pork and molasses.
In some Pennsylvania families smear-case and apple-butter are eaten to save butter, which is a salable article. The true "Dutch" housewife's ambition is to supply the store-goods for the family as far as possible from the sale of the butter and eggs.
We have also Dutch cheese, which may be made by crumbling the dry smear-case, working in butter, salt, and chopped sage, forming it into pats, and setting them away to ripen. The sieger-käse is made from sweet milk boiled, with sour milk added and beaten eggs, and then set to drain off the whey. (Ziegen-käse is German for goat's milk cheese.)
"Schnits and knep" is said to be made of dried apples, fat pork, and dough-dumplings cooked together.
"Tell them they're good," says one of my "Dutch" acquaintances.
Knep is from the German, knöpfe, buttons or knobs. In common speech the word has fallen to nep. The "nep" are sometimes made from pie-crust, or sometimes from a batter of eggs and milk, and may be boiled without the meat; but one of my acquaintance says that the smoke give a peculiar and appetizing flavor.
Apple-dumplings in "Dutch" are aepel-dumplins; whence I infer that like pye-kroosht they are not of German origin.
In the fall our "Dutch" make sauer-kraut. I happened to visit the house of my friend Susanna when her husband and son were going to take an hour at noon to help her with the kraut. Two white tubs stood upon the back porch, one with the fair round heads, and the other to receive the cabbage when cut by a knife set in a board (a very convenient thing for cutting kohl-slaw and cucumbers). When cut, the cabbage is packed into a "stand" with a sauer-kraut staff, resembling the pounder with which New Englanders beat clothes in a barrel. Salt is added during the packing. When the cabbage ferments it becomes acid. The kraut-stand remains in the cellar; the contents not being unpalatable when boiled with potatoes and the chines or ribs of pork. But the smell of the boiling kraut is very strong, and that stomach is probably strong which readily digests the meal.
Sometimes "nep" or dumplings are boiled with the salt meat and sour-krout. A young teacher, who was speaking of sour-krout and nep, was asked how he spelt this word. He did not know, and said he did not care, so he got the nep.
"As Dutch as sour-krout," has become a familiar saying here. In Lehigh County, if I mistake not, I heard the common dialect called "sour-krout Dutch."
Our "Dutch" make soup in variety, and pronounce the word short, between soup and sup. Thus there is Dutch soup, potato soup, etc.; scalded milk and bread is "bread and milk soup," bread crumbed into coffee "coffee up."
Noodel soup (nudeln) is a treat. Noodels may be called domestic macaroni. I have seen a dish in which bits of fried bread were laid upon the piled-up noodels, to me unpalatable from the quantity of eggs in the latter.
Dampf-noodles, or gedampfte nudeln, are boiled, and melted butter is poured over them.
The extremely popular cakes, twisted, sprinkled with salt, and baked crisp and brown, called pretzels (brezeln), were known in Pennsylvania long before the cry for "ein lager, zwei brezeln" (a glass of lager and two pretzels), was heard in the land.
One of my "Dutch" neighbors, who visited Western New York, was detained several hours at Elmira. "They hadn't no water-crackers out there," he complained. "Didn't know what you meant when you said water-crackers; and they hain't got pretzels. You can't get no pretzels."
Perhaps not at the railroad stations.
We generally find excellent home-made wheat bread in this limestone region. We made the pot of "sots" (or rising) overnight, with boiled mashed potatoes, scalded flour, and sometimes hops. Friday is baking-day. The "Dutch" housewife is very fond of baking in the brick oven, but the scarcity of wood must gradually accustom us to the great cooking-stove.
One of the heavy labors of the fall is the fruit-drying. Afterward your hostess invites you to partake, thus: "Mary, will you have pie? This is snits, and this is elder" (or dried apples, and dried elderberries). Dried peaches are peach snits.
A laboring woman once, speaking to me of a neighbor, said, "She hain't got many dried apples. If her girl would snits in the evening, as I did! --but she'd rather keep company and run around than to snits."
The majority keep one fire in winter. This is in the kitchen, which with nice housekeepers is the abode of neatness, with its rag carpet and brightly polished stove. An adjoining room or building is the wash-house, where butchering, soap-making, etc., are done by the help of a great kettle hung in the fireplace, not set in brick-work.
Adjoining the kitchen, on another side, is a state apartment, also rag-carpeted, and called "the room." The stove-pipe from the kitchen sometimes passes through the ceiling, and tempers the sleeping-room of the parents. These arrangements are not very favorable to bathing in cold weather; indeed, to wash the whole person is not very common, in summer or in winter.
Will you go up-stairs in a neat Dutch farm-house? Here are rag carpets again. Gay quilts are on the best beds, where green and red calico, perhaps in the form of a basket, are displayed on a white ground; or the beds bear brilliant coverlets of red, white, and blue, as if to "make the rash gazer wipe his eye." The common pillow-cases are sometimes of blue check, or of calico. In winter, people often sleep under feather-covers, not so heavy as a feather-bed. In the spring there is a great washing of bedclothes, and then the blankets are washed, which during winter supplied the place of sheets.
I was sitting alone, one Christmas time, when the door opened and there entered some half-dozen youths or men, who frightened me so that I slipped out at the door. They, being thus alone, and not intending any harm, at once left. These, I suppose, were Christmas mummers, though I heard them called "bell-schnickel."
At another time, as I was sitting with my little boy, Aunt Sally came in smiling and mysterious, and took her place by the stove. Immediately after, there entered a man in disguise, who very much alarmed my little Dan.
The stranger threw down nuts and cakes, and, when some one offered to pick them up, struck at him with a rod. This was the real bell-schnickel, personated by the farmer.
On Christmas morning the cry is, "Christmas-gift!" and not, as elsewhere, "A merry Christmas!" Christmas is a day when people do not work, but go to meeting, when roast turkey and mince-pie are in order, and when the "Dutch" housewife has store of cakes on hand to give to the little folks.
We will hear of barring-out at Christmas. The pupils fasten themselves in the school-house, and keep the teacher out to obtain presents from him.
The first of April (which our neighbors generally call Aprile) is a great occasion. This is the opening of the farming year. The tenant farmers and other "renters" move to their new homes, and interest-money and other debts are due; and so much money changes hands in Lancaster, on the first, that pickpockets are attracted thither, and the unsuspicious "Dutch" farmer sometimes finds himself a loser.
The movings, on or about the first, are made festive occasions; neighbors, young and old, are gathered; some bring wagons to transport farm utensils and furniture, others assist in driving cattle, put furniture in its place, and set up bedsteads; while the women are ready to help prepare the bountiful meal. At this feast I have heard a worthy tenant farmer say, "Now help yourselves, as you did out there" (with the goods).
Whitsuntide Monday is a great holiday with the young "Dutch" folks. It occurs when there is a lull in farm-work, between corn-planting and hay-making. Now the new summer bonnets are all in demand, and the taverns are found full of youths and girls, who sometimes walk the street hand-in-hand, eat cakes and drink beer, or visit the "flying horses." A number of seats are arranged around a central pole, and, a pair taking each seat, the whole revolves by the work of a horse, and you can have a circular ride for six cents.
On the Fourth of July we are generally at work in the harvest-field. Several of the festivals of the church are held here as days of rest, if not of recreation. Such are Good Friday, Ascension-day, etc. On Easter, eggs colored and otherwise ornamented were formerly much in vogue.
Thanksgiving is beginning to be observed here, but the New Englander would miss the family gatherings, the roast turkeys, the pumpkin-pies. Possibly we go to church in the morning, and sit quiet for the rest of the day; and as for pumpkin-pies, we do not greatly fancy them. Raisin-pie, or mince-pie, we can enjoy.
The last night of October is "Hallow-eve." I was in Lancaster one Hallow-eve, and boys were ringing door-bells, carrying away door-steps, throwing corn at the windows, or running off with an unguarded wagon. I heard of one or two youngsters who had requested an afternoon holiday to go to church, but who had spent their time in going out of town to steal corn for this occasion. In the country, farm-gates are taken from their hinges and removed; and it was formerly a favorite amusement to take a wagon to pieces, and, after carrying the parts up to the barn-roof, to put it together again, thus obliging the owner to take it apart and bring it down. Such "tricks" as are described by Burns in the poem of "Hallow-e'en" may be heard of occasionally, continued perhaps by the Scotch-Irish element in our population.
Over twenty years ago I was circulating an anti-slavery petition among women. I carried it to the house of a neighboring farmer, who was a miller also, and well to do. His wife signed the petition (all women did not in those days), but she signed it with her mark. I have understood that it is about twenty years since the school law was made universal here, and that our township of Upper Leacock wanted to resist by litigation the establishment of public schools.§§ It is the school-tax that is onerous. Within about twenty years a great impetus has been given to education by the establishment of the county superintendency, of normal schools, and of teachers' institutes. I think it is within this time, however, that the board of directors met, in an adjoining township, and, being called upon to vote by ballot, there were afterward found in the box several different ways of spelling the word "no."
At the last institute, a worthy young man at the black-board was telling the teachers how to make their pupils pronounce the word "did," which they included to call dit; and a young woman told me that she found it necessary, when teaching in Berks County, to practise speaking "Dutch," in order to make the pupils understand their lessons. It must be rather hard to hear and talk "Dutch" almost constantly, and then to go to a school where the text-books are English.
There is still an effort made to have German taught in our public schools. The reading of German is considered a great accomplishment, and is one required for a candidate for the ministry among some of our plainer sects. But the teacher is generally overburdened in the winter with the necessary branches in a crowded, ungraded school. Our township generally has school for seven months in the year; some townships have only five; and in Berks County I have heard of one having only four months. About thirty-five dollars a month is paid to teachers, male and female.
My little boy of seven began to go to public school this fall. For a while I could hear him repeating such expressions as, "Che, double o, t, coot" (meaning good). "P-i-g, pick." "Kreat A, little A, pouncing P." "I don't like chincherpread." Even among our "Dutch" people of more culture, etch is heard for aitch (h), and chay for jay (j), and these are relics of early training.
The standard of our county superintendent is high (1868), and his examinations are severe. His salary is about seventeen hundred dollars. Where there is so much wealth as here, it seems almost impossible that learning should not follow, as soon as the minds of the people are turned toward it; but the great fear of making their children "lazy" operates against sending them to school. Industrious habits will certainly tend more to the pecuniary success of a farmer than the "art of writing and speaking the English language correctly."
Manners and Customs.
My dear old "English" friend, Samuel G., had often been asked to stay and eat with David B., and on one occasion he concluded to accept the invitation. They went to the table, and had a silent pause; then David cut up the meat, and each workman or member of the family put in a fork and helped himself. The guest was discomfited, and, finding that he was likely to lose his dinner otherwise, followed their example. The invitation to eat had covered the whole. When guests are present, many say, "Now help yourselves;" but they do not use vain repetitions, as the city people do.
Coffee is still drunk three times a day in some families, but frequently without sugar. The sugar-bowl stands on the table, with spoons therein for those who want sugar; but at a late "home-coming" party I believe that I was the only one at the table who took sugar. The dishes of smear-case, molasses, apple-butter, etc., are not always supplied with spoons. We dip in our knives, and with the same useful implements convey the food to our mouths. Does the opposite extreme prevail among the farmers of Massachusetts? Do they always eat with their forks, and use napkins?
On many busy farm-occasions, the woman of the house will find it more convenient to let the men eat first, --to get the burden of the harvest-dinner off her mind and her hands, and then sit down with her daughters, her "maid" and little children, to their own repast. But the allowing to the men the constant privilege of eating first has passed away, if indeed it ever prevailed. At funeral feasts the old men and women sit down first, with the mourning family. Then succeed the second, third, and fourth tables.
Among the children of well-to-do parents, the unmarried daughter will sometimes go into the service of the married one, receiving wages regularly, or allowing them to accumulate. An acquaintance of mine in Lancaster had a hired girl living in his family who was worth twelve thousand dollars in cash means, her father having been a rich farmer. Among our plain farmers, such persons are considered more praiseworthy than the reverse.
I lately asked a lawyer in Northampton County why certain persons had allowed the Lutheran and Reformed farmers, men of very little school learning, to outstrip them in the pursuit of wealth. He answered that all the tendency of the education of these last was saving. "In old times," he continued, "when we had no ranges nor cooking-stoves, but a fire on the hearth, I used to hear my mother say to her daughters that they must not let the dish-water boil, or they would not be married for seven years." On the same principle, when a young "English" girl whom I knew told a young "Dutchman" that she was going to make bread, he said, "I'm coming for a handful of your dough-trough scrapings;" the idea being that there should be no scrapings left.
Mr. S., of Lehigh County, says, "We make money in Pennsylvania by saving; in New York, they make money by paying out."
Mrs. R., of the same county, says, "We Pennsylvanians are brought up to work in the house and to family affairs, but the Eastern girls are brought up more in the factories, and they don't know anything about housework. Many have been married, and lived here in this town (Allentown), of whom I have heard speak, who have not lived happily, because they were not used to keep house in the way that their husbands had been accustomed to. They were very intelligent, but not accustomed to work, and their families would get poor, and stay poor." Mrs. R's daughter added, that "the New England men, the Eastern men, milk and do all the outside work."
The writer thinks, nevertheless, that New England women will not be willing to admit that they do not understand housework, and are not eminently "faculized."
We Lancaster "Dutch" are always striving to seize Time's forelock. We rise, even in the winter, about four, feed the stock while the women get breakfast, eat breakfast in the short days by coal-oil lamps, and by daylight are ready for the operations of the day. The English folks and the backsliding "Dutch" are sometimes startled when they hear their neighbors blow the horn or ring the bell for dinner. On a recent pleasant October day the farmer's wife was churning out-of-doors, and cried, "Why, there's the dinner-bells a'ready. Mercy days!" I went into the clock, and found it at twenty minutes of eleven. The "Dutch" farmers almost invariably keep their time half an hour or more ahead, like that village in Cornwall where it was twelve o'clock when it was but half-past eleven to the rest of the world. Our "Dutch" are never seen running to catch a railroad train.
We are not a total-abstinence people. Before these times of high prices, liquor was often furnished to hands in the harvest-field.
A few years ago a meeting was held in a neighboring school-house to discuss a prohibitory liquor law. After various speeches the question was put to the vote, thus: "All those who want leave to drink whiskey will please to rise." "Now all those who don't want to drink whiskey will rise." The affirmative had a decided majority.
Work is a cardinal virtue with the "Dutchman." "He is lazy," is a very opprobrious remark. At the quilting, when I was trying to take out one of the screws, Katy Groff, who is sixty-five, exclaimed, "How lazy I am, not to be helping you!" ("Wie ich bin faul.")
Marriages sometimes take place between the two nationalities; but I do not think the "Dutch" farmers desire English wives for their sons, unless the wives are decidedly rich. On the other hand, I heard of an English farmer's counseling his son to seek a "Dutch" wife. When the son had wooed and won his substantial bride, "Now he will see what good cooking is," said a "Dutch" girl to me. I was surprised at the remark, for his mother was an excellent housekeeper.
The circus is the favorite amusement of our people. Lancaster papers have often complained of the slender attendance which is bestowed upon lectures and the like; even theatrical performances are found "slow," compared with the feats of the ring.
Our "Dutch" use a freedom of language that is not known to the English, and which to them savors of coarseness. "But they mean no harm by it," says one of my English friends. It is difficult to practise reserve where the whole family sit in one heated room. This rich limestone land in which the "Dutch" delight is nearly level to an eye trained among the hills. Do hills make a people more poetical or imaginative?
Perhaps so; but there is vulgarity too among the hills.
The foregoing article was written about fourteen years ago, and appeared (with perhaps some small changes) in the Atlantic Monthly for October, 1869. It was published in the first edition of this work in 1872, and in the second edition in 1874. Many of the alterations which were made in one or both of these editions are now removed to the Appendix, where will also be found additional matter on similar subjects.
The passage of over twelve years has considerably changed the neighborhood in which I live. The greatest differences are the rise in the value of land; the division into smaller farms; the general introduction of the culture of tobacco; and the change in that population by the coming in of a larger number of that plainest sect of Mennonites, called Amish.
As regards the rise in the value of land, it is doubtless in part apparent only, from the greater amount of money at this time. I have spoken of one who said, "Well, Seth, it seems as if you Dutch folks had determined to root us English out; but thee had to pay pretty dear for thy root this time." The farm alluded to was sold about 1855, and brought less than one hundred and sixty-three dollars per acre, --there being one hundred and ten acres. It has since been divided, and eighty acres, now a very large farm here, with the newer farm buildings, it is supposed would now bring over two hundred and fifty dollars. Small properties sell much higher in proportion. I hear of twenty acres, with fair farm buildings, having sold last fall for nine thousand dollars.
The division into smaller farms is caused in a great measure by the Amish increasing and dividing properties among their children, so that farms are running as low, in many cases, as from twenty-five down to ten acres. It is rare for the Amish to remain unmarried. The owners of such small properties cannot afford to hire help; the Amish help one another, and are willing to help others also. Many acts of neighborly kindness are exchanged here, even to giving a sick neighbor several days' work in the harvest-field.
Tobacco was cultivated to profit long ago on farms and islands lying on the Susquehanna; but one of the consequences of the civil war was to make the cultivation of the weed more general here, and the immense sums obtained for fine crops have also kept up the value of this land.
The routine of farming described in the foregoing article is now abandoned. The following are the crops raised lately on a farm visible from where I write, --a farm that has been for years under excellent cultivation. It contains sixty-eight acres, of which (in round numbers) twenty-six are in wheat, eighteen in Indian corn, eleven in grass, six in tobacco, three-quarters of an acre in potatoes, and the remainder is occupied by garden, orchard, and buildings. Oats has not been grown on this farm for six years. The ground is so rich that oats lodge or fall, and will not mature the grain. For the last four years wheat has averaged thirty bushels to the acre. During the same time Indian corn has averaged about fifty-five bushels. To speak slang, it is not one of our brag crops. One year the cut-worms took two-thirds of it on the farm mentioned; and this had to be replanted. The greatest crop of corn of which I hear mention on this farm was grown some years ago, and was nine hundred bushels on ten acres.
As regards grass, the owner estimates that for the last four years they have made on an average nearly three tons of hay to the acres; last year they had thirty-six tons on ten acres.
Of the six acres in tobacco this year, they prepare the whole for planting, but only plant two themselves, giving out four to others. The men who take this land plant and cultivate it, and receive one-half of the produce, not being charged for the preparation of the ground, nor for taking the crop to market. One of the advantages of the cultivation of tobacco (I am sensible of its disadvantages, and do not recommend its use) is that it gives the poor man and woman more independence. He or she takes an acre or more, plants, waters, destroys the large tobacco-worm, strips off the suckers, tops it, breaks down the flowering stem, gathers, dries, sorts, and packs, and receives perhaps one hundred dollars per acre in lump, which is very acceptable. They estimate that they make about double wages.
The eight-horse threshers before mentioned are getting out of date; steam threshes now almost entirely, and completes the work on such a farm as just described in two days. The threshing is frequently finished as early as the first of September, so that the farmer can hang tobacco in the barn. Large tobacco-houses have also been erected, in the cellar of which this crop is prepared for sale.
It will be observed that very little attention was paid to potatoes. Last year they brought at the rate of two hundred bushels to the acre. We had a pretty severe drought in 1881, and potatoes have sold this winter at one dollar per bushel, which would make the potato crop superior in value to the tobacco.
The great amount of manure required to keep the land up to such a standard is thus supplied on this farm, which is a model one in the neighborhood. For several months last winter the owner had sixteen horses, five of his own and the rest boarding; he also had twelve head of horned cattle, and fattened nine swine. All the corn, hay, and fodder raised on the farm were fed upon it. (Straw is rarely fed here.) Besides, the farmer bought five tons of Western mill-feed (the bran and other refuse from wheat flour) and about three hundred bushels of corn. This spring he has bought two tons of a certain fertilizer for his corn, and applied his own barn-yard manure to the tobacco and wheat. He has been indemnified in part for the great amount fed, by the money received for boarding horses at twelve dollars apiece by the month. Horses from Canada and the West are often fattened here for the Eastern market. This farmer bought two last year, worked them himself on the farm, fattened and groomed them, and sold them so as to make one hundred dollars apiece on them; but this was exceptional.
Besides the fertilizers before mentioned, lime is used in this region, although some have doubted the necessity of applying it to our rich limestone land. On the farm which I have been describing it is put on about every sixth year, at the rate of six hundred bushels on eleven acres. It costs ten cents a bushel.
Another change here is that many now buy bread, and several bakers regularly supply the neighborhood. This has caused a great lightening of the labor at funerals. The bread and rusks (or buns) are bought and the pies dispensed with, which were once considered so necessary. A jocose youth in a near village used to say, "There will be raisin-pie there," when he wished to express that there was fatal illness; but raisin-pies are no longer so fashionable at funerals. There is no diminution, however, in the great gatherings. A wealthy farmer died lately who was also a Mennonite preacher. The funeral was on Sunday; the guests heard preaching at the house, then dined, and the funeral went to the church, where was preaching again. Four hundred carriages, it is said, were on the ground.
Our school-term in this district is not increased beyond seven months; but the salary has risen, and is from thirty-five to forty dollars per month, according to merit.
The Amish in this immediate neighborhood still cling to the plain customs I have described, except that it has become quite common for young people to drive in simple buggies. Now the yellow-covered wagons are not so universal; other colors are also used, and more elegant harness. (They generally keep very good harness.) Neither do the young men wear their hair to their shoulders. Many of the Amish now wear suspenders. One of my friends, who is Amish, says that you cannot speak of any such rule as regards the church in general, for every congregation has its own rules in these minor affairs.
The family graveyard, especially mentioned, has been removed, and all the bodies that were recovered interred at the Mennonite church in the neighborhood.
Two or three small changes in this neighborhood are the following: Sewing-machines are now found here in great numbers; many houses have large stoves, which heat at least one room up-stairs; and it is not common in this immediate neighborhood to sit up with the dead, in the manner before described.
It was on a Sunday morning in March, when the air was bleak and the roads were execrable, that I obtained a driver to escort me to the farm-house where an Amish meeting was to be held.
It was a little after nine o'clock when I entered, and, although the hour was so early, I found the congregation nearly all gathered, and the preaching begun.
There were forty men present, as many women, and one infant. Had the weather been less inclement, we should probably have had more little ones, for such plain people do not think it necessary to leave the babies at home.
The rooms in which we sat seemed to have been constructed for these great occasions. They were the kitchen and "the room," --as our people call the sitting-room, or best room, --and were so arranged as to be made into one by means of two doors.
Our neighbors wore the usual costume of the sect, which is a branch of the Mennonite Society, or nearly allied to it, the men having laid off their round-crowned and remarkably wide-brimmed hats. Their hair is usually cut square across the forehead, and hangs long behind; their coats are plainer than those of the plainest Quaker, and are fastened, except the overcoat, with hooks and eyes in place of buttons; whence they are sometimes called Hooker and Hook-and-Eye Mennists. The pantaloons are worn without suspenders. Formerly the Amish were often called "beardy men," but since beards have become fashionable theirs are not so conspicuous.
The women, whom I have sometimes seen with a bright purple apron, an orange neckerchief, or some other striking bit of color, were now more soberly arrayed in plain white caps without ruffle or border, and white neckerchiefs, though occasionally a cap or kerchief was black. They wear closely fitting waists, with a little basquine behind, which is probably a relic from the times of the short gown and petticoat. Their gowns were of sober woollen stuff, frequently of flannel; and all wore aprons.
But the most surprising figures among the Amish are the little children, dressed in garments like those of old persons. It has been my lot to see at the house of her parents a tender little dark-eyed Amish maiden of three years, old enough to begin to speak "Dutch," and as yet ignorant of English. Seated upon her father's lap, sick and suffering, with that sweet little face encircled by the plain muslin cap, the little figure dressed in that plain gown, she was one not to be soon forgotten. But the little girl that was at meeting to-day was either no Amish child or a great backslider, for she was hardly to be distinguished in dress from the "world's people."
The floors were bare, but on one of the open doors hung a long white towel, worked at one end with colored figures, such as our mothers or grandmothers put upon samplers. These perhaps were meant for flowers. The congregation sat principally on benches. On the men's side a small shelf of books ran around one corner of the room.
The preacher, who was speaking when I entered, continued for about fifteen minutes. His remarks and the rest of the services were in "Dutch." I have been criticised for applying the epithet to my neighbors, or to their language, but "Dutch" is the title which they generally apply to themselves, speaking of "us Dutch folks and you English folks," and sometimes with a pretty plain hint that some of the "Dutch" ways are discreeter and better, if not more virtuous, than the English. But, though I call them "Dutch," I am fully aware that they are not Hollanders. Most of them are Swiss, of ancient and honorable descent, exiles on account of religious persecution.
I am sorry that I do not understand the language well enough to give a sketch of some of the discourses on this occasion. At times I understood an expression of the first speaker, such as "Let us well reflect and observe," or "Let us well consider," expressions that were often repeated. As he was doubtless a farmer, and was speaking extemporaneously, it is not remarkable that they were so. When the preacher had taken his seat, the congregation knelt for five minutes in silence. A brother then read aloud from the German Bible, concerning Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night, etc. After this another brother rose and spoke in a ton like that which is so common among Friends, namely, a kind of singing or chanting tone, which he accompanied by a little gesture.
While he was speaking, one or two women went out, and, as I wished to take note of the proceedings, I followed them into the wash-house or outside kitchen, which was quite comfortable. As I passed along, I saw in the yard the wagons which had brought the people to meeting. Most of them were covered with plain yellow oil-cloth. I have been told that there are sometimes a hundred wagons gathered at one farm-house, and that in summer the meetings are often held in barns.
I sat down by the stove in the wash-house, and a very kindly old woman, the host's mother, came and renewed the fire. As she did not talk English, I spoke to her a little in German, and she seemed to understand me. When I wrote, she wondered and laughed at my rapid movements, for writing is slower work with these people than some other kinds of labor. I suppose, indeed, that there are still some of the older women who scarcely know how to write.
I asked her whether after meeting I might look at the German books on the corner shelf, -- ancient books with dark leather covers and metallic clasps. She said in reply, "Bleibsht esse?" ("Shall you stay and eat?") Yes, I would. "Ya wohl," said she, "kannst." ("Very well, you can.")
A neat young Amish woman, the "maid" or housekeeper, came and put upon the stove a great tin wash-boiler, shining bright, into which she put water for making coffee and for washing dishes.
I soon returned to the meeting, and found the same preacher still speaking. I suppose that he had continued during my absence, and, if so, his discourse was an hour and ten minutes in length. This was quite too long to be entertaining to one who only caught the sense of an occasional passage, or of a few texts of Scripture. It was while the monotonous tones continued that I heard a rocking upon the floor overheard. It proceeded, I believe, from the young mother, -- the mother of the little one before spoken of. When the child had become restless before this, or when she was tired, a young man upon the brethren's side of the room had taken it for a while, and now it was doubtless being put to sleep in a room overhead, into which a stove-pipe passed from the apartment where we sat.
My attention was also attracted by an old lady who sat near me, and facing the stove, with her hands crossed in her lap, and a gold or brass ring on each middle finger. She wore a black flannel dress and a brown woollen apron, leather shoes and knit woollen stockings. Her head was bent forward toward her broad bosom, upon which was crossed a white kerchief. With her gray hair, round face, and plain linen cap, her whole figure reminded me of the peasant women of continental Europe or of a Flemish picture.
I have spoken of her wearing rings. Says one of my neighbors of a different Mennist sect, "Were they not brass? She wears them for some sickness, I reckon. She would not wear them for show. One of our preachers wears steel rings on his little fingers for cramps."
When the long sermon was ended, different brethren were called upon, and during a half-hour we had from them several short discourses, one or two of them nearly inaudible. The speakers were, I think, giving their views on what had been said, or perhaps they were by these little efforts preparing themselves to become preachers, or showing their gifts to the congregation.
It is stated in Herzog's Cyclopaedia that among the Mennonites in Holland the number of liebesprediger has greatly declined, so that some congregations had no preacher. (The word liebesprediger I am inclined to translate as voluntary, unpaid preachers, like those among Friends.) I am in doubt, indeed, whether any such are now found in Holland. There seems to be no scarcity in this country of preachers, who are, however, in some, if not all three of the divisions of Mennonites, chosen by lot.
When these smaller efforts were over, the former preacher spoke again for twenty minutes, and several of the women were moved to tears. After this the congregation knelt in vocal prayer. When they rose, the preacher said that the next meeting would be at the house of John Lapp, in two weeks. He pronounced a benediction, ending with the name of Jesus, and the whole congregation, brethren and sisters, curtsied, or made a reverence, as the French express it. This was doubtless in allusion to the text, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow. Finally, a hymn, or a portion of one, was sung, drawn out in a peculiar manner by dwelling on the words. I obtained a hymn-book, and copied a portion. It seems obscure:
"Der Schopfer auch der Vater heisst,
Durch Christum, seinen Sohne;
Da wirket mit der Heilig Geist,
Einiger Gott drey Namen,
Von welchem kommt ein Gotteskind
Gewaschen ganz rein von der Sund,
Wird geistlich gespeisst und trancket,
Mit Christi Blut, sein Willen thut
Irdisch verschmacht aus ganzen Muth,
Der Vater sich ihm schenket."
The book from which I copied these lines was in large German print, and bore the date 1785. In front was this inscription in the German tongue and hand-writing: "The song book belongs to me, Josh B----. Written in the year of Christ 1791; and I received it from my father." Both father and son have been gathered to their fathers; the book, if I mistake not, was in the house of the grandson, and it may yet outlast several generations of these primitive people.
The services closed at a little after noon. From their having been conducted entirely in German, or in German and the dialect, some persons might suppose that these were recent immigrants to our country. But the B. family just alluded to was one of the first Amish families that came here, having arrived in 1737.
It seems that the language is cherished with care, as a means of preserving their religious and other peculiarities. The public schools, however, which are almost entirely English, must be a powerful means of assimilation.
The services being ended, the women quietly busied themselves (while I wrote) in preparing dinner. In a very short time two tables were spread in the apartment where the meeting had been held. Two tables, I have said, -- and there was one for the men to sit at, -- but on the women's side the table was formed of benches placed together, and of course was quite low. I should have supposed that this was a casual occurrence, had not an acquaintance told me that many years ago, when she attended and Amish meeting, she sat up to two benches.
Before eating there was a silent pause, during which those men who had not yet a place at the table stood uncovered reverentially, holding their hats before their faces. In about fifteen minutes the "first table" had finished eating, and another silent paused was observed in the same manner before they rose.
I was invited to the second table, where I found beautiful white bread, butter, pies, pickles, apple-butter, and refined molasses. I observed that there were no spoons in the molasses and apple-butter. A cup of coffee was also handed to each person who wished it. We were not invited to take more than one.
This meal marks the progress of wealth and luxury, or the decline of asceticism, since the day when bean soup was the principal, if not the only, dish furnished on these occasions. The same neighbor who told me of sitting up to two benches, many years ago, told me that at that time they were served with bean soup in bright dishes, doubtless of pewter or tin. Three or four persons ate out of one dish. It was very unhandy, she said.
But while thus sketching the manners of my simple, plain neighbors, let me not forget to acknowledge that ready hospitality which thus provides a comfortable meal even to strangers visiting the meeting. Besides myself, there were at least two others present who were not members, -- two German Catholic women, such as hire out to work.
The silent pause before and after eating was also observed by the second table; and after we rose a third company sat down.
When all had done, I gave a little assistance in clearing the tables, in carrying the butter into the cellar and the other food to the wash-house. The dishes were taken to the roofed porch between the latter and the house, where some of the women-folk washed them. A neat table stood at the foot of the cellar-stairs, and received the valued product of the dairy, the fragments being put away in an orderly manner.
I now had a time of leisure, for my driver had gone to see a friend, and I must await his coming. This gave me an opportunity to talk with several sisters. I inquired of a fine-looking woman when the feet-washing would be held, and when they took the Lord's Supper. When I asked whether they liked those who were not members to attend the feet-washing, I understood her to say that they did not.††† (I attended, not a great while after, a great Whitsuntide feet-washing and bread-baking in the meeting-house of the New Mennonites.)
I had now an opportunity to examine the books. Standing upon a bench, I took down a great volume, well printed in the German language, and entitled "The Bloody Theatre; or, The Marty's Mirror of the Baptists, or Defenceless Christians, who, on Account of the Testimony of Jesus, their Saviour, Suffered and were Put to Death, from the Time of Christ to the Year 1660. Lancaster, 1814." This book was a version from the Dutch (Holländsich) of Thielem J. van Bracht, and it has also been rendered from German into English. I was not aware, at the time, that I had before me one of the principal sources when the history of the Mennonites is to be drawn, -- a history which is still unwritten.
The books were few in number, and I noticed no other so remarkable as this. Another German one, more modern in appearance, was entitled "Universal Cattle-Doctor Book; or, The Cures of the old Shepherd Thomas, of Bunzen, in Silesia, for Horses, Cattle, Sheep, Swine, and Goats."
While I was looking over the volumes, a little circumstance occurred, which, although not flattering to myself, is perhaps too characteristic to be omitted. My "Dutch" neighbors are not great readers, and to read German is considered an accomplishment even among those who speak the dialect. To speak "Dutch" is very common, of course, but to read German is a considerable attainment. I have, therefore, sometimes surprised a neighbor by being able to read the language. I am naturally not unwilling to be admired, and, as two or three sisters were standing near while I examined the books, I endeavored in haste to give them a specimen of my attainments. I therefore took a passage quickly from the great "Martyr-Book," and read aloud a sentence like this: "Grace, peace, and joy through God our Heavenly Father; wisdom, righteousness, and truth, through Jesus Christ his Son, together with the illumining of the Holy Spirit, be with you." Glancing up to see the surprise which my proficiency must produce, I beheld a different expression of countenance, for the attention of some of the thoughtful sisters was attracted by the subject-matter, instead of the reader, and that aroused a sentiment of devotion beautifully expressed.
I asked our host, "Have you no history of your society?"
"No," he answered; "we just hand it down."
I have since heard, however, that there are papers or written records in charge of a person who lives at some distance from me. From certain printed records I have been able to trace a streamlet of history from its source in Switzerland, where the Anabaptists suffered persecution in Berne, Zurich, etc. I have read of their exile into Alsace and the Palatinate; of the aid afforded to them by their fellow-believers, the Mennonites of Holland; and of their final colonization in Pennsylvania, where they also are called Mennonites. The Amish, however, seem to have been a body of a more rigid rule, with a preacher named Amen, from whom they are called. It has been stated that they took their rise in Alsace in 1693.
Nearly all the congregation had departed when my driver at last arrived. I shook hands with those that were left, and kissed the pleasant mother of our host.
* An acquaintance, who lives in Bucks County, tells me that his father, a Mennonite preacher, voted "pretty much always."
** Kohl-slaw (i.e., kohl-salat or cabbage-salad) is shredded cabbage, dressed with vinegar, etc. A rich dressing is sometimes made of milk or cream, vinegar, etc. It may be eaten either as warm slaw or cold slaw.
This is a reproduction of Pennsylvania Dutch and Other Essays, originally written by Phebe Earle Gibbons in the late 1800s. This text is from the 2001 edition that was republished by Stackpole Books.
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