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“Compare the Ship that bore them hither with Noah’s Ark: Francis Daniel Pastorius Describes his impressions of Pennsylvania, 1683

by Francis Daniel Pastorius

Francis Daniel Pastorius arrived in Pennsylvania in 1683, commissioned by the Frankfort Land Company and a group of German merchants to obtain 15,000 acres of land for a settlement in the new colony of Pennsylvania. Pastorius, well educated in European universities, reported back to his friends in Germany. This report was later published as Positive Information From America, concerning the Country of Pennsylvania by a German who Traveled There (1684), a promotional tract to encourage other Germans to immigrate. Pastorius found the journey to be difficult but the prospects attractive. He remarked notably upon the ethnic and religious complexity of the colony. Pennsylvania attracted many colonists seeking religious freedom and communal prosperity. Pastorius went on to lead settlement of Mennonites and Quakers at Germantown.

To fulfill my duty as well as my promise made at my departure I will somewhat more fully state what I have found and noted of these lands; and since I am not unaware that by imperfect relations many of you have been misinformed, I give my assurance beforehand that I with impartial pen and without deceptive additions will set forth faithfully both the inconveniences of the journey and the defects of this province, as well as that plentifulness of the same which has been praised by others almost to excess. For I desire nothing more in my little corner of the earth than to walk in the footsteps of Him who is the way, and to follow His holy teachings, because He is the Truth, in order that I may forever enjoy with Him eternal life.

I. Accordingly I will begin with the voyage, which is certainly on the one hand dangerous on account of the terror of shipwreck, and on the other hand very unpleasant on account of the bad and hard fare; so that 1 now from my own experience understand in a measure what David says in the 107th Psalm, that on the sea one may observe and perceive not only the wonderful works of God, but also the spirit of the storm. As to my voyage hither, I sailed from Deal on the tenth of June with four menservants, two maidservants, two children, and one young boy. We had the whole way over, for the most part, contrary winds, and never favorable for twelve hours together; many tempests and thunderstorms. Also the foremast broke twice, so that it was ten weeks before we arrived here; yet sat citò, si sat bene, considering that it seldom happens that any persons arrive here much more quickly. The Crefelders, who arrived here on October 6, were also ten weeks upon the ocean, and the ship that set out with ours from Deal was fourteen days longer on the voyage, and several people died in it. The Crefelders lost a grown girl between Rotterdam and England, whose loss however was re¬placed between England and Pennsylvania by the birth of two children. On our ship, on the other hand, no one died and no one was born.

Almost all the passengers were seasick for some days, I however for not more than four hours. On the other hand I underwent other accidents, namely, that the two carved lugs over the ship’s bell fell right upon my back, and on the 9th of July during a storm in the night I fell so severely upon my left side that for some days I had to keep to my bed. These two falls reminded me forcibly of the first fall of our original parents in Paradise, which has come down upon all their posterity, and also of many of those falls which I have undergone in this vale of misery of my exile. Per varios casus, etc. But praised be the fatherly hand of the divine mercy which lifts us up again so many times and holds us back that we fall not entirely into the abyss of the evil one. George Wertmuller also fell down extremely hard, Thomas Gasper had an eruption of the body, the English maid had the erysipelas, and Isaac Dilbeck, who according to outward appearance was the strongest, succumbed for the greatest length of time. So I had a small ship hospital, although I alone of the Germans had taken my berth among the English. That one of the boatmen became insane and that our ship was shaken by the repeated assaults of a whale, I set forth at length in my last letter.

The rations upon the ship were very bad. We lived medice ac modice.Every ten persons received three pounds of butter a week, four cans of beer and two cans of water a day, two platters full of peas every noon, meat four dinners in the week and fish three, and these we were obliged to prepare with our own butter. Also we must every noon save up enough so that we might get our supper from it. The worst of all was that both the meat and the fish were salted to such an extent and had become so rancid that we could hardly eat half of them. And had I not by the advice of good friends in England provided myself with various kinds of refreshment, it might perhaps have gone very badly for me. Therefore all those who hereafter intend to make the voyage hither should take good heed that they either, if there are many of them, procure their own provisions, or else agree distinctly with the captain as to both quantity and quality, how much food and of what sort they are to receive each day; and to hold him down the more completely to this agreement, one should reserve some small part of the passage money, to be paid on this side. Also when possible one should arrange with a ship which sails up to this city of Philadelphia, since in the case of the others which end their voyage at Upland, one is subjected to many inconveniences.

My company on board consisted of many sorts of people. There was a doctor of medicine with his wife and eight children, a French captain, a Dutch cake baker, an apothecary, a glassblower, a mason, a smith, a wheelwright, a cabinetmaker, a cooper, a hatmaker, a cobbler, a tailor, a gardener, farmers, seamstresses, etc., in all about eighty persons besides the crew. They were not only different in respect to age (for our oldest woman was sixty years of age and the youngest child only twelve weeks) and in respect to their occupations, as I have mentioned, but were also of such different religions and behaviors that I might not unfittingly compare the ship that bore them hither with Noah’s Ark, but that there were more unclean than clean (rational) animals to be found therein. In my household I have those who hold to the Roman, to the Lutheran, to the Calvinist, to the Anabaptist, and to the Anglican church, and only one Quaker…..

IV. Philadelphia daily increases in houses and inhabitants, and presently a house of correction will be built in order that those who are not willing to live in a Philadelphian manner may be disciplined, for some such are to be found to whom fittingly applies what our dear friend mentions in his letter, that we have here more distress from the spoiled Christians than from the Indians. Furthermore, here and there other towns are laid out; for the [Free] Society [of Traders] is beginning to build about an hour and a half from here one [town] bearing the name of Frankfort, where they have erected a mill and a glass factory. Not far from there, namely two hours from here, lies our Germantown, where already forty-two people are living in twelve dwellings. They are mostly linen weavers and not any too skilled in agriculture. These good people laid out all their substance upon the journey, so that if William Penn had not advanced provisions to them, they must have be¬come servants to others. The way from here to Germantown they have now, by frequent going to and fro, trodden out into good shape. Of that town I can say no more at present than that it lies on black rich soil and is half surrounded with pleasant streams like a natural defence. The chief street therein is sixty feet wide and the cross street forty. Every family has a house lot of three acres.

V. As to the inhabitants, I cannot better classify them than into the native and the engrafted. For if I were to call the former savages and the latter Christians, I should do great injustice to many of both varieties. Of the latter sort, I have already mentioned above, that the incoming ships are not altogether to be compared with Noah’s Ark. The Lutheran preacher, who ought as a statua Mercuralis to show the Swedes the way to heaven, is, to say it in one word, a drunkard. Also there are coiners of false money and other vicious persons here, whom nevertheless, it may be hoped, the wind of God’s vengeance will in his own time drive away like chaff. . . .

The first [Indians] who came before my eyes were those two who at Upland came in a canoe to our ship. I presented them with a dram of brandy. They attempted to pay me for it with a sixpence, and when I refused the money they gave me their hands, and said, “Thank you, brother.” They are strong of limb, swarthy of body, and paint their faces red, blue, etc., in various ways. In the summer they go quite naked, except that they cover their private parts with a piece of cloth, and now in winter they hang duffels upon themselves. They have coal-black hair, while the Swedish children born here have hair snow-white.

I was once dining with William Penn where one of their kings sat at table with us. William Penn, who can speak their language fairly fluently, said to him that I was a German, etc. He came accordingly on the third of October, and on the twelfth of December another king and queen came to my house. Also many of the [Indian] common people over-run me very often, to whom however I almost always show my love with a piece of bread and a drink of beer, whereby an answering affection is awakened m them and they commonly call me “Teutschmann,” [German] also ”Carissimo" (that is, brother). N.B. Their language is manly and in my opinion is little inferior to the Italian in gravity, etc. As to their manners and nature, one must so to speak sub-distinguish between those who have associated for some time with the so-called Christians and those who are just beginning to come forth out of their burrows. For the former are crafty and deceitful, which they owe to the above-mentioned nominal Christians. Semper enim aliquid haeret. Such an one lately offered me his strap as security that he would bring me a turkey, but in its place he brought an eagle and wished to persuade me that it was a turkey. When however I assured him that I had seen many eagles he acknowledged to a Swede who stood by that he had done it out of deception, in the belief that because we had lately come into the land I should not know such birds so accurately. Another at my fireside tested the brandy thus: he stuck his finger into it and then put the latter into the fire to see whether water had been mingled with the liquor. Those of the second class, on the contrary, are of a reasonable spirit, injure nobody, and we have nothing whatever to fear from them. . . .

Of those persons who came hither with me, a half dozen are already dead. I and mine, however, have throughout the whole time found ourselves in good condition and good appetite, except that Isaac Dilbeck has for a week been somewhat indisposed, and Jacob Shoemaker on the first of October cut his foot severely with an ax and was for a week unable to labor. Of the Crefelders, no one has died thus far, except Herman op den Graef V’s decrepit mother, who, soon after her arrival, wearied of the vanities of the world, departed to enjoy the delights of heaven. The wife of Abraham Tunesen, our farm tenant, has now lain for more than two months in my cottage very weak, and was for some time quite unconscious but now bids fair to get well.

Now as to the purchased land. It is divided into three kinds. First, 15,000 acres lying together in one piece, on a navigable stream. Secondly, 300 acres within the city liberties, which is the stretch of land between the Delaware and the Schuylkill. Thirdly, three lots in the town, on which to build houses. When after my arrival I applied to William Penn for warrants, to measure off these three kinds, and to obtain possession of them, his first answer respecting this was:….

III. Concerning the fifteen thousand acres, two chief difficulties arose, namely, that William Penn did not wish to give them all together in one piece in order that so very large a space in the land might not lie uncultivated and empty, nor on the Delaware River, where indeed everything had already been taken up by others. But after I had repeatedly represented to him both orally and in writing that it would be very prejudicial to us and our German successors to be so completely wedged in among the English, and likewise that B. Furly had communicated to the [Frankfurthers] his William Penn’s letter in which he had promised otherwise to our nation, etc., he finally gave me a warrant to have our land in one tract, provided that we within a year would settle thirty families upon the fifteen thousand acres, namely, three townships, each of ten households, among which might be reckoned the three which are already here (but in case thirty families do not come he will not be bound to give the land in one piece). I for my small part could indeed wish that we might have a small separate province, and so might the better protect ourselves against all oppression….

As for my domestic household, I very much wished to arrange it in the good High German manner and Jacob Schuemacher and the old Swiss are very serviceable to me toward this purpose. But the Hollanders whom I have with me adapt themselves but ill to this, especially the maid, who cannot get on well with the English one, so that I, to preserve the peace, must send the latter away because the former with her two children cannot so easily remove or attach herself to another master. I greatly desire to obtain as soon as possible a High German maid….

But if the things I have mentioned do not come too hard for you, depart the sooner the better from the European Sodom, and remember Lot’s wife, who indeed went forth with her feet but left her heart and inclinations there….

I remain ever your true and devoted servant,
[Francis Daniel Pastorius]

Source: Francis Daniel Pastorius, Positive Information from America, concerning the Country of Pennsylvania, from a German who has migrated thither; dated Philadelphia, March 7, 1684, trans. J. Franklin Jameson, in Albert Cook Myers, ed., Narratives of Early Pennsylvania, West New Jersey, and Delaware, 1630–1707 (New York, 1912), 392–411.