Over our 330-plus years in America, the PA Dutch people have been overwhelmingly known for peaceful co-existence. The first PA Deitsch to reach Pennsylvania were from Krefeld, Germany in 1683.
Among these Palatine individuals were a number of German Brethren Plain sect members which were sometimes called Dunkards, because they did not believe in infant Baptism like the Church Dutch. Instead they required their sect members to put off Christian baptism until the individual was of the age of reason to decide which religion they would decide to join in their lifetime. As the Amish and Old Order Mennonites Dunkards were pacifists not believing in going to war and taking someone’s life (breaking the Ten Commandments).
Rather they would participate in any Christian activity to avoid war and promote civilized humanity as opposed to ruthless killing and barbaric outcomes. However, for three-hundred years there have been a number of patriotic PA Dutch natives who were forced with war actions.
The massive PA Dutch culture has always been known for its Christian morals and humanitarian principles through non-violent means. Almost everyone knows that Patriotic PA Dutch farmers hid the famous Liberty Bell in a church in Allentown when the British invaded Philadelphia in 1777. But few people knew that when Abraham Lincoln was elected President and was ready to take office in Washington D.C. in 1861, troops of PA Dutch soldiers from Allentown and Reading, etc. known as the “First Defenders,” went to Washington to protect the new Union president from invasion by the then seceding Southern states of the Republic.
These brave PA Dutchmen were among the first to answer Lincoln’s call to preserve the Union.
Anyone who has ever studies the PA Deitsch people in America knows that they are a very religious group of rural people having come to the New World to escape the hatred and barbaric wars of the old one. The various Plain Dutch sects in Pennsylvania have, through Christian outreach programs, been one of several of the religious groups that have helped unfortunate war-ravaged people with food, and clothing, and shelter, to this very day.
Going to war is not part of the vocabulary of a PA Dutch Plain person. Since the Kutztown Folk Festival was founded by a Professor from Franklin and Marshall College, a Christian affiliate, Dr. Alfred L. Shoemaker, its founder, has never emphasized militarism since it is opposed by both Plain sects and Worldly Church groups. Even the fact that the PA Dutch were the inventors of the Pennsylvania long rifle was no reason to exhibit military rifles ever at the annual PA Dutch Folk Festival.
From the very first festivals when Lancaster Amish sold homemade potato chips to visitors, Alfred Shoemaker was happy to have tourists mingle with these Plain Christian people who were sharing their wholesome non-violent philosophy. Even though they would never sell food on a Sunday, the Holy Sabbath.
National folklorists were proud that tourists attending Kutztown’s Folk Festival actually could rub shoulders with our quaint three hundred plus year old Plain descendants whose Colonial roots and attitudes predated the United States of America. Shoemaker would rather have a church service, or display ancient religious broadsides then celebrate natives serving in wartime, especially since a large proportion of native Dutch people are opposed to war which seems to be on everyone’s mind as the United States government plays a role in maintaining world peace.
Perhaps the Christian principles of the Plain sects and their utopian communal life could be celebrated more at the Kutztown fairgrounds.