A Look Back in History: President John Adams’ favorable opinion of the PA Dutch People

Patriot John Adams stopped over at Kutztown and wrote that he was pleasantly impressed with the cooking and lodging among these local Pennsylvania Dutch at Kemp’s Tavern.
Patriot John Adams stopped over at Kutztown and wrote that he was pleasantly impressed with the cooking and lodging among these local Pennsylvania Dutch at Kemp’s Tavern.
Pennsylvania Dutchman turned Pennsylvania into America’s largest breadbasket.
Pennsylvania Dutchman turned Pennsylvania into America’s largest breadbasket.

When Patriot John Adams stopped over at Kutztown, Pa., he remarked in his diary he was pleasantly impressed with the cooking and lodging among these local Pennsylvania Dutch at Kemp’s Tavern on his return trip to Massachusetts.*

Whether the true Dutch of New York state were confused by this English colloquialism of PA Dutch with Pennsylvania being at one time under Dutch Colonial rule along the Schuylkill River, we cannot say. But English visitors who were given directions through the Pennsylvania Dutch Country easily latched on to this Americanism, and every huge barn they passed had noticeable Dutch stable doors on their pioneer homes! The fact that the English of Philadelphia knew both terms, Dutch and German, is verified in they used the term Germantown to designate the ethnic character of this early section of citizens in their city.

One PA Dutch historian in the last century referring to government in Europe that did not allow freedom of religion, stated, “All their decent, good people immigrated to America in its early American period. Only the stubborn or inhumane ones remained to start World War I and II.” However, it was PA Dutch immigrants who embraced the ideals of the U.S. Constitution and were the backbone of our Democracy, literally protecting Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell in 1777 from the British melting it down. We, as a nation, do not endorse any religion but instead believe in free choice of individuals to worship. The steadfast Deitsch work ethic of these diligent-working Pennsylvania Dutch people can be traced to their frontier experience as immigrants who fell in love with the American free private enterprise system.

When they lived in the Old World, they were part of a primitive Guild system that denied many of them the ability to develop skills and talents. Lucky were a number of those PA Dutch immigrants who were farmer redemptioners sold into the iron ore and iron furnace industry, whose plight may have been just as bad in the Old World, but these industrious souls had a better chance of skillfully paying their indentures and becoming enterprising skilled capitalists and buying their own farms. These true-grit Germanic immigrants did not take long in paying off their indentures and become free private businessmen who owned their own American farms or gristmills, as the young American Republic ratified the United States Constitution, and our agrarian Republic prospered in the American Industrial Revolution.

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No longer hindered by an antiquated European Guild System, skilled PA Dutchman invented Conestoga wagons and other agrarian achievements to become America’s largest breadbasket, where their hard-working productivity had no equal. It is difficult for modern American immigrants and citizens to realize the challenges facing those Colonial redemptioners, having signed contracts to work off their ocean passage to Pennsylvania and help timber these vast virgin forests to create a civilized nation. Furthermore, avoiding death defying Indian massacres and surviving the French and Indian Wars (1754-1763) during North American Colonialism. These Deitsch immigrants who had gone through so much in their lives were determined to join William Penn’s Holy experiment in creating a civilized American society and vowed to themselves to become his most productive citizens. Sold as indentured servants just to reach the shores of Pennsylvania, they were a humanitarian class of hard-working, agrarian citizens, dedicated to God and Country, as referenced by Presidents Adams.

* For a more detailed look at the location of Kemp’s Woods where the rest of John Adam’s traveling party bedded down in farm homes, see Dr. Arthur D. Graeff’s research in 1959 on the matter.