Quaker Roots

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Abraham and Dirck op den Graeff

In this posting I will focus on the lives and works of two of the petitions signers: the op den Graeff brothers, Abraham and Derick (or Dirck).

The grandfather of Abraham and Dirck was Herman op den Graeff, a member of the Mennonite Church in Krefeld as of 1632, and their father was Isaac, who died in 1679 (Pennypacker, 205). In Krefeld, the op den Graeff brothers worked as Linen Weavers, a profession they would carry on in Germantown. In 1679, Dirck and Herman were exiled from Krefeld because of their Quaker beliefs. They were allowed to return by 1681, when Dirck marries Nolecken Vitjen. The op den Graeffs purchased 2 thousand acres of land from Jacob Telner in 1683, and sailed to Pennsylvania with their mother (Greitjen), sister Margaret, third brother Herman, and their wives Nolecken, Liesbet and Trijntje.

In Germantown:
1684: Herman op den Graef writes letter home, describing cordial relations with the Indians and the continuation of their linen weaving.
1686: Abraham wins the first prize for the "the finest piece of linen cloath" woven in Pennsylvania, given by William Penn. (prize: 1500 Lire)
1688: Petition against slavery signed. On Authorship, Pennypacker writes, "It is probably, from the learning and abilitiy of Pastorius, that he was the author of this protest, though there is no positive ecidence of the fact; but it is reasonably certain that Dirck op den Graeff bore it to the quarterly meeting at Richard Worrall's, and his is the only name mentioned in connection with its presentation to the yearly meeting, to which it was referred as a topic of too much importance to be considered elsewhere" (Historical and Biographical Sketches, 210).
1689: William Penn incorporates Germantown as a borough, and the op den Graeff brothers (Abraham, Dirck and Herman) are 3 of the 11 associates. Dirck (the oldest) serves as burghess. Abraham serves in the colonial assembly (also in 1690 and 1692)
1692: Keithian controversy among the Quakers. Dirck sides with conservative Friends and signs the certificate of disownment with cast George Keith out of the Burlington Friends meeting (Keith called him an "impudent rascal"). Herman and Abraham side with Keith. Herman signed petition with 68 others defending him. Abraham joined with Keith and issued an appeal against Quaker meeting and government.
1693-4: Dirck serves as town president and bailiff
1696: The fences of Abraham, Herman, and others are condemned by fence-overseers as insufficient.
1697: Dirck dies with no heirs (he had one daughter, Margaret, who married Peter Shoemaker). His estate passes to his two brothers.
1701: Herman dies with no heirs, having moves to Kent country (now Delaware). His estate passes to Abraham. Abraham's son "borrows" a horse and without permission and is fined a half-crown; Abraham paid all legal costs.
1703: He argued about the 1701 fine, and "did mightily abuse the Bailiff in open court." He is fined 2 pounds 10 s. Also, Krefelder and Germantowner Viet (David) Scherkes declares that "no honest man would be in Abraham's company." Abraham sued him for slander, but he was acquitted.
1704: Abraham and his wife Trijntje sell their land in Germantown and move to Perkiomen. He may have joined the Mennonite Church. He is buried in the Mennonite burying ground at Skippackville.
1731: Abraham dies. Children: Isaac, Jacob, Margaret, Anne

References: Pennypacker, "Historical and Biographical Sketches;" Friends of Germantown, Spring 1983, p 5-6; Jordan, "Colonial Families of Philadelphia"

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Suitable Answers to Problematic Questions

Over the past weeks, I have read several conflicting sources regarding the religious and ethnic identities of the four authors of the 1688 Anti-Slavery petition. I initially assumed that Pastorius, Abraham and Derick op den Graeff and Garret Hendericks were, as the commemorative sign in Germantown reads, “German Quakers.” This assumption was first challenged when I read H. Frank Eschelman’s 1917 text, Swiss and German Settlers of Pennsylvania that credits German Mennonites with the 1688 Petition. Samuel Pennypacker also calls the settlers “German Mennonites,” as does Marion Dexter Learned. Other sources (Ruth) call the settlers ex-Mennonite Quakers.

William Hull’s 1935 text, William Penn and the Dutch Quaker Migration to Pennsylvania, makes the persuasive argument that the settlers were primarily Dutch—not German—and Quaker, rather than Mennonite. This line of reasoning is reiterated in Harry and Margaret Tinkcom’s 1995 text, Historic Germantown and Stephanie Wolf’s 1985 study, Urban Village and it is by far the most convincing argument about the ethnic and religious identities of the early settlers.

Hull notes that Krefeld, where the majority of 1983 settlers came from, was under the rule of William of Orange until 1702. Today, it is located just on the German side of the German-Netherlands border (see left).

The Krefelders were also Dutch-speakers. Hull spends a great deal of time analyzing the 1681 marriage certificate of Derick Isacks op den Graeff and Nöleken Vijten written in Dutch. This certificate was issued by the Krefeld Monthly Meeting, and the marriage was conducted as a Quaker ceremony, following the marriage guidelines presented at the London Yearly Meeting of 1675. The marriage certificate is signed by (among others) Derick Isacks op den Graeff, Herman Isacks op den Graeff, Abraham Isacks op den Graeff and Tunnes Keûnen. Derick and Abraham, as we know, were co-authors of the anti-slavery petition that was signed in the house of Tunnes Keûnen. Thus we begin to get a clearer picture of who these Krefelders were: a tight knit Dutch-speaking Quaker community in the Rhineland who followed, at least in part, the developing rules and rites of the larger Quaker population.

But what about the other settlers? How do Pastorius and Garret Hendericks fit into this picture?

Pastorius, as has been noted before, was the first of the future Germantowners to arrive in Pennsylvania. He was, unlike the Krefelders, a German, and it is largely due to his influence (and the pending arrival of the Frankfurters, who never appeared) that “Germantown,” or “Germanopolis” was so named. His religious affiliation is harder to define than the Krefelders, but Wolf argues that he was a convinced Friend. Regardless, he played a major role in the development of Quaker institutions and schools in Germantown.

Gerrit Hendricks, on the other hand, was most definitely a Quaker, as was his father. Hull notes that two of his family’s cows were confiscated in 1663 because his father “persisted in attending Quaker meetings” (294). Hendricks himself was part of the Krisheim (or Kriegsheim) group that did not immigrate until 1685 and arrived in Pennsylvania on October 12th.

Hull gives Hendricks much of the credit for the creation of the anti-slavery petition. He notes, “It is probable that the protest was adopted by all the members of the Germantown meeting, and that “gerret hendericks” signed his name as clerk to the copy to be sent to the monthly meeting, while the other three Friends signed theirs as members of the committee who were appointed to present the petition to the monthly meeting” (295). In a footnote he adds, “When the petition came to the Philadelphia Quarterly Meeting, it was forwarded to the Yearly Metting to be presented by “the above-said Derick and the other two mentioned therein” (295). Hull admits that the handwriting of the petition has been identified as Pastorius’s, but contends that its’ focus on Holland and its sub-par English suggests otherwise (296).

These questions of authorship and responsibility are important to note as I begin to focus my research more on the four signers of the anti-slavery petition. Having gained a general background in the settlement of Germantown, the next postings will look more closely at the lives and writings of Pastorius, the op den Graeffs and Hendericks.