Thursday, December 30, 2010
Who Traveled South on the Wagon Road?
It took a different kind of settler, someone who had cut his ties altogether, someone who didn't really have all that much to lose, to look west at a wilderness and there see something more than raw materials ready for exploitation. It took folks like the Germans and the Scots Irish to put their backs to the ocean and see home in front of them. Escaping devastating wars, religious persecution, economic disasters, and all of those other things that still cause people to come to these shores, the Scots Irish and the Germans had no intention of returning to their native lands. They were here to stay. They didn't look east but to the south and west toward land. They didn't see wolves and Indians. They saw opportunities. And as different as the Germans and the Scots Irish were, they had what it took to flourish in the back country. Not possessions that could be lost in the fording of a river, not personal contacts and the sponsorship of powerful men, but rough and tumble ability and a heavy streak of stubbornness. They knew slash and agriculture, they knew pigs, they could hunt and forage, they knew hard work. They built their cabins the exact same way. And eventually, they traveled together in that same heavy stream southward along The Great Pennsylvania Wagon Road.
In 1749, 12,000 Germans reached Pennsylvania. By 1775, there were 110,000 people of German birth in that colony, one-third of the population. When Philadelphia was a cluster of Inns and Ordinaries: the Blue Anchor, Pewter Platter, Penny Pot, Seven Stars, Cross Keys, Hornet and Peacock. Benjamin Franklin, one of that era's most open-minded men asked, "Why should the Palatinate Boors be suffered to swan-n into our settlement and by herding together establish their language and manners to the exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a colony of aliens who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us, instead of our Anglicizing them and will never adopt our language or customs any more than they can acquire our complexion." But the Germans kept coming, thinking like their Scots Irish compatriots who are recorded as noting that!, "It was against the law of God and nature that so much land should be idle while so many Christians wanted it to labor on and raise their bread." In short, Pennsylvania was flooded.
Modified from the article: The Scots-Irish From Ulster and The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road
Information provided by Brenda E.McPherson Compton