Letter to the Editor: Lament for the Zimmerman House

Submitted by Dr. Don Yoder A picture of Lambsheim where the Zimmerman's originated in Germany.

Dear Editor: The tragic news of the destruction of Maxatawny Township's historic 1816 Zimmerman house has saddened me, as I am sure it has saddened all who share the belief that the Kutztown-East Penn Valley area is important culturally, not only in the Pennsylvania Dutch world, but in the larger American context as well. To protect the remaining structures and rural landscapes in the area, let's work for the creation of an Historic District, such as Oley Township to our South has achieved.

It is disappointing that the interior of the Zimmerman house was evidently not photographed before its destruction. The Preservation Trust of Berks County, the Kutztown Area Historical Society, and the Cultural Center at Kutztown University could and should work together to catalog and survey all historic sites in the area, document them completely by photography and measurements, and prepare reports on 'endangered species.' This would bring the survey made in the 1980s up to date.

Kutztown is special. In 1950, when I joined Drs. Shoemaker and Frey to found what we called the Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Festival, we chose Kutztown because it was then (and still is) an iconic Pennsylvania Dutch town. Surrounded by working farms, it was still Pennsylvania Dutch in speech – many of the Kutztowners and most of the farmer folk of the neighborhood and adjoining townships still spoke our very special Pennsylvania Dutch dialect.

The Festival, which we founded to put on display one regional culture – the Pennsylvania Dutch – in ways that were not possible in museums and other venues, is still going strong after more than 60 years. The Festival put Kutztown on the national map and today, through the creative programs of the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center, Kutztown University has become the central research institution dealing with Pennsylvania Dutch history and culture.

The Maxatawny Zimmerman family were Palatines from the village of Lambsheim near Frankenthal in the Electoral Palatinate. The emigrant was Abraham Zimmerman, a member of the Reformed Church, who served as town constable and is mentioned in Lambsheim records from 1704 to 1719, when he sold his village and farm properties and came to Pennsylvania. Abraham was married to Veronica Kühlwein, daughter of Hans Theobald Kühlwein and his wife Dorothea. Hans Theobald Kühlwein was received into citizenship at Lambsheim in 1663 and died before 1697.

Philip Kühlewein, a son of Hans Theobald, came to Pennsylvania in 1709, settling in the Oley Valley. Matthias Bauman, emigrant in 1714, radical Pietist and founder of the 'New Born' sect that caused such a flurry in early Pennsylvania religion, married another daughter of Hans Theobald Kühlwein, and was thus, like Philip Kühlwein, a brother-in-law of Abraham Zimmerman. And I can add that Abraham's mother-in-law, the widow Dorothea Kühlwein, requested permission to leave for the 'Island of Pennsylvania' in 1719, and evidently accompanied the Zimmermans across the Atlantic to Pennsylvania.

For all this, and many more details, see 'Emigration Materials from Lambsheim in the Palatinate,' by Heinrich Rembe, translated and edited by me in Rhineland Emigrants: Lists of German Settlers in Colonial America (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1981), pages 97-105.

Dr. Don Yoder, Professor Emeritus,

University of Pennsylvania Devon, PA

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