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Pennsylvania Dutch Roots

April 2012
December 2009Construction begun in December 2009 -- I'm really not sure where I'm going with this!

Our Küster/Kester, Müller/Miller, Stutzman, Garber, Ulrich (Ullery/Ulery/Ulrey), and Greib (Gripe/Cripe) families immigrated from Germany between 1685 and the 1730s as Mennonites and members of the Schwarzenau Brethren, who in the New World became known as the German Baptist Brethren (GBB). This piece tells their story from the perspective of our ancestors.

Germany: Conflict between Protestants and Catholics

When Martin Luther (1483-1546) called for reopening debate on the Church's sale of "indulgences" by nailing his "Ninety-Five Theses" to the door of the All-Saints' Church in Saxony in 1517, he set in motion a movement across Europe. As the movement caught hold of German princes they came into conflict with Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (who was also King of Spain under the House of Habsburg ) (1500-1558). In 1531, Lutheran princes of Saxony and Hessen formed the Schmalkaldic League in alliance against Charles V. War eventually broke out in 1546 and 1547. Charles V was victorious but his 1548 decree for Protestants to readopt Catholicism prompted another Protestant revolt that forced him to negotiate the Peace of Augsburg (1555) that recognized the Lutheran faith and established four principles for the 225 German states:

Although this somewhat settled the Catholic-Lutheran hostilities, subsequent Calvinism and other Protestant movements were not recognized under the terms of the Peace of Augsburg. This, desires for German lands by Catholic Habsburg Spain, and oddly enough, Catholic France's support to German Protestants in order to offset Habsburg powers on either side of France (the Holy Roman Empire and Spain), led to renewed hostilities, widespread devastation, and persecution during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). Most of the fighting occured in the Rhine River Valley, also known as the Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz [Lower Palatinate] and Oberpfalz [Upper Palatinate] of northeast Bavaria ).

Penn's Colony

William Penn (1644-1718), an English Quaker convert whose mother was was Dutch, was granted the colony of Pennsylvania by King Charles II of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1630-1685), in 1681. Charles II, whose succession from his father had been interrupted by the English Civil War (1641-1651) and subsequent Puritan rule by Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), favored a policy of religious freedom. After dissolving Parliament in 1681 and ruling in his own right, he granted Penn his charter and Penn set about with his "Holy Experiment." At first he envisioned a refuge for Quakers but came to include other persecuted minorities such as Huguenots (French Calvinists), Mennoites, Amish, Catholics, and Jews.

Germantown, Pennsylvania

In 1683, a group of Mennonites, Pietists, and Quakers approached Francis Daniel Pastorius (1651-1720) to act as their agent and purchase land from William Penn in Pennsylvania. That same year he led a group of 13 Mennonite families from Krefeld, in Rheinland-Pfalz (Lower Palatinate), across the Atlantic and founded Germantown (now part of Philadelphia). The following influx of German immigrants from the Lower Palatinate and Oberpfalz (Upper Palatinate) of northeast Bavaria began after 1710. These populations of Germans (Deutschlanders), through corruption of English, became known as the "Pennsylvania Dutch".

Küster (Kester)

The Küster (Kester) family, Mennonites from Kaldenkirchen/Krefeld in Rheinland-Pfalz (Lower Palatinate), near Düsseldorf, arrived in Germantown about 1685. They became associated with the following monthly meeting congregations:

German Baptist Brethren

Much of the background information on the German Baptist Brethren is derived from the Church of the Brethren Network.[COBNet]

Count Heinrich Albrecht (1658-1723) of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein declared Schwarzenau (now in North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen)) as a safe haven for religious refugees in 1700. Alexander Mack (1679-1735) and seven other Radical Pietists formed a Bible study and baptized each other in the frozen River Eder at Schwarzenau in 1708, thus forming the Schwarzenau Brethren. Their adult baptism by trine immersion led to terming them as "Dunkers."

Peter Becker (-1747), a Brethren minister, moved an expansion group of Brethren from Marienborn to the Mennonite haven of Krefeld in 1715. Later he and 40 familes from Krefeld crossed the Atlantic to Germantown in 1719. Some of these families moved west into Berks and Lancaster counties.

After the death of Count Heinrich Albrecht in 1723, the religious freedom of Schwarzenau ended and the Brethren moved en masse to Surhuisterveen in the Dutch province of Friesland. Alexander Mack later led a migration of 55 Brethren families from Friesland to Germantown in 1729.

The Atlantic Crossing

Müller (Miller)

Johann Michael Müller1 (~1655-1695) likely left his native Switzerland with his family following a peasant revolt in 1653. They probably followed the Rhine River into Germany and settled in Steinwenden, in modern-day Rheinland-Pfalz, probably in the early 1680s. There they became part of the Steinwenden and Konken German Reformed parish churches. After Michael's death, his widow remarried to Hans Jacob Stutzman (II) (~1660-?) and they and toddler son Johann Michael Müller2 (1692-1771) appear to have made their way east to Hardenburg by 1705.

Michael, his wife, seven children, and his younger stepbrother Hans Jacob Stutzman (III) (1705-1775) left Rheinland-Pfalz and set sail from Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and arrived at Germantown in October 1727.

Greib (Gripe/Cripe)

The Greib (Gripe/Cripe) family from Hessen or Baden to Pennsylvania in 1733.

Ulrich (Ullery/Ulery/Ulrey)

The Stephen Ulrich3 (~1710-1785) family arrived in the New World sometime between 1723 and 1742, when land was purchased in a portion of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, that soon after became part of York County, and presumably Adams County in 1800. There he probably became acquainted with Hans Jacob Stutzman (III) (1705-1775),

About this time, in 1742, Brethren from Pennsylvania began migrating south and westward along Monocacy Creek (Frederick County) and Conococheague Creek (modern Washington County). The following year, Christopher Sauer printed the first Bible in America--in the German language--in Germantown.

These families migrated across Pennsylvania, Maryland, Western Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska before leaping across to California after the Civil War.

Pennsylvania Dutch

Soon after their arrival in Germantown, German immigrants began fanning out into neighboring Chester and Bucks Counties. In 1728, Lancaster County was carved off from Chester County and formed the frontier as bounded on the west by the Susquehanna River. Here the Millers settled in Coventry Township as early as 1732.

"Cresap's War" (1730-1738)
German migration across the Susquehanna River into modern-day York County put the Pennsylvania Germans at odds with English-speaking pioneers like Thomas Cresap (~1702-~1790) who sought to exercise Maryland's claim north to the 40th parallel and into modern-day York County. Clashes between settlers eventually led to Maryland and Pennsylvania military deployments that became know as "Cresap's War" (1730-1738). It was called to a cease fire by King George II, but the modern border between Maryland and Pennsylvania was not finally established until 1767 with recognition of the Mason-Dixon Line.

In 1728, Quakers and Brethren began crossing the Susquehanna into what would become York County (1749) and Adams County (1800). The Brethren established the Little Conewago congregation in York County in 1738. Stephen Ulrich3 and Hans Jacob Stutzman (III) followed the migration by 1742 and resettled in York County, as did Johann Michael Müller2 in 1744, when he resettled northeast of Hanover.

Maryland, 1745

Pennsylvania Dutch migrations continued south and westward into Maryland, following two principle routes: the Monocacy Road into Frederick County (roughly the route that modern-day Route 194 runs) and down the Conococheague Creek into present Washington County.

Johann Michael Miller (Müller)2 resettled in modern-day Washington County, Maryland, in 1745 at "Ash Swamp," modern-day Maugansville northeast of Hagerstown, and expanded his land holdings through various parts of the Conococheague Creek valley. Stephen Ulrich3 resettled in Washington County north of Clear Spring, likely in Blair's Valley.

Western Pennsylvania, 1780s

After the American Revolutionary War and the deaths of family patriarchs like Johann Michael Miller2 (1692-1771) and Stephen Ulrich3 (~1710-1785), westward migration continued. Stephen had already moved north of the Maryland line to Peters Township, Franklin County, Pennsylvania, prior to his death in 1785.

Morrison's Cove/Woodberry Township

Stephen Ulrich's son, Samuel Ulery (1754-1822) crossed the Allegany Mountains westward to Bedford County in 1780 and organized the Brethren congregation in Woodberry Township in Morrison's Cove, a long, narrow valley, that stretches north to south. The Cove was originally part of Cumberland County until Bedford County was formed in 1771. The northern half of the cove went to Huntingdon County when it was formed in 1787, and included in Frankstown Township to the west of the Cove. In 1790, the Bedford-Huntingdon county line was shifted south and modern-day Roaring Spring and North Woodbury township ceded to Huntingdon County. Finally, and well after many of our ancestors left Morrison's Cove, the northern two-thirds of the Cove in Huntingdon County was chopped to the newly formed Blair County in 1846. In the end, parts of Morrison's Cove and Woodberry Township shifted between four counties and was ultimately split into seven townships.

The Greib family, Stephen Ulrich's3 in-laws settled in Bedford County by 1780 and Samuel Ulery's nephews Daniel and David Miller resettled by 1784. His niece Susannah (Miller) Ulery, who married his likely cousin Daniel Ulery, also settled for a time in Woodbury Township before continuing westward into neighboring Somerset and Cambria Counties.

Ohio River Valley, 1790s

After America gained independence, the British vacated the Ohio River Valley, leaving their allies among the Iroquois Confederation at odds with encroaching Americans. A series of battles ran for nearly ten years (1785-1794), now known as the Northwest Indian War, as American settlers crossed the Ohio River from Pennsylvania and Kentucky into Ohio. It was during the late 1790s that members of the Brethren congregation at Morrison's Cove (Ulerys, Cripes, Millers, and Maugans) followed the Ohio River down into northern Kentucky. The defeat of the Iroquois in Ohio resulted in the Iroquois' yielding all but the northwest third of Ohio to the Americans in 1795. Not long afterward the Brethren crossed north into Ohio and by 1802 established the first German Baptist Brethren congregation in Ohio, O'Bannon (Stonelick) Church, in Clermont County.

The Kesters also followed this same general migration into Ohio during the same time period.

In the 1820s the migration resumed as they moved west into Indiana.