A Look Back in History: The true spirit of 1776 among the PA Dutch

Gayl P. Hoskins painted this historical depiction of what an Oley Valley or southward Tavern would look like in 1776 while area farmers hauled their grain to the port city of Philadelphia. Named the “Rifle Frolik 1776 at the Red Lion Tavern,” depicts Conestogas converging at the Red Lion Tavern on old route 422.
Gayl P. Hoskins painted this historical depiction of what an Oley Valley or southward Tavern would look like in 1776 while area farmers hauled their grain to the port city of Philadelphia. Named the “Rifle Frolik 1776 at the Red Lion Tavern,” depicts Conestogas converging at the Red Lion Tavern on old route 422. Submitted photo

For modern Pennsylvania Dutch people, it is very easy for us to recall our nation’s celebrated history for in a large part of American civilization, our ethnicity has always been interwoven with the pride patriotic citizens have felt.

Take for instance the United States flag of this agrarian Republic, which was born in Philadelphia, the cradle of Liberty founded by William Penn, who personally invited German Palatines to help settle Pennsylvania. Hence, our PA Dutch starting in the 17th and 18th centuries not only flocked to America, but soon outnumbered the Quaker English settlers, who like them, embraced Penn’s idea of beginning a Holy experiment.

Just examine the Lancaster Plain today, with its peace loving Old Order Amish and Palatinate Mennonites, who we often call “the Horse and Buggy Dutch,” the essence of Freedom of Religion. The thousands of Pennsylvania Dutch who arrived during the American Revolution endorsed the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution that followed, and while the Continental Congress was meeting in Philadelphia every year during the harvest season, hundreds of Conestoga wagons invaded the port facility to ship grain to a starving world and to colonists living in the other twelve colonies.

These immense red and blue Conestoga wagons with white homespun canvas tops were always present on market days parked to provide the people of Philadelphia with the food necessities on a week to week basis at their markets. By 1776, all roads led to the port of Philadelphia, and hundreds upon hundreds of PA Dutch farmers from eastern Pennsylvania drove their red, white, and blue Conestoga wagons with six-horse teams adorned with shiny brass bells to announce their presence and prevent congestion with other horse-drawn vehicles on the King’s highway of the day and to stagecoaches that could hardly pass them.

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Some local waggoners who had a regular export / import business with sea captains that docked at Philadelphia had regular routes and taverns in which they did business, thereby, these impressive, monstrous Conestoga wagons built by the Lancaster PA Dutch had became an American way of life. Some of which were used to haul cargo and adventuresome souls out to Pittsburgh and the Ohio River opening up our Westward American expansion in the early 19th Century. So it was not surprising when Betsy Ross created our United States flag, she incorporated the colors of Conestoga wagons: red, white, and blue on the highways of early America by the hundreds. Pulled by powerful six or four horse teams with harmonious hoops of Conestoga bells over each horse’s back, they announced their presence to the world!

Besides several hinterland tavern junctions for six-horse teams of Conestoga wagons to stop at on their routes to sell their grain and foodstuffs at the port of Philadelphia in downtown Philadelphia on Market Street, there was a Tavern expressly called the “Conestoga Wagon Inn.” Named for these PA Dutch freight wagons and their Red, White and Blue wagon commerce symbolized our thriving agrarian Republic as well and just as much as the American Bald Eagle. These six and four horse draft horse teams with giant huffs marched along our National Road (U.S. 40), stretching to every American town, as our citizens prospered in the world’s economy.