Quaker Roots

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.


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