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The following program was produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service for national educational radio under a grant from the National Home Library Foundation. These are the voices of true Mennonite singers. Who made this recording. My special request. With the understanding that this wouldn't be used for commercial purposes it would only be used for historical or scholarly reasons. What's the song that they're singing Here is the other words if not the tune to a hymn that the Amish sing in every one of their church services that these are Old Order Mennonites.
The history of a place is the sum of money my prayers the recollections differ sometimes conflict. But as people give voice to their memories history take shape the past comes alive. The rich heritage of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country dates back to colonial times. It was here in my Costa County that many religious groups came in the seventeen hundred the promise of religious freedom given by William Penn was accepted by Mennonites Amish and Dunkirk all known as the plain people as well as Lutherans German reformed Arabian supposed to pay us Presbyterians Methodists Quakers Catholics and many others. Today the city of Lancaster has more than 900 churches and not just a bit deposited area of some three hundred thousand people is a modern industrial community. Yet it numbers among its retail stores those which sell the plain clothing worn by the Amish
and Mennonites. The solid colors a lack of outer buttons and distinctive headwear are part of an historic tradition as well as a drawing card in the busy tourist trade. Thousands of visitors travel to this part of Southeastern Pennsylvania each year. They come to see the various historic sites and to taste such foods as schmear case lot Furyk and shoo fly pie. In this next hour the people of Lancaster County are heard in a soap portrayed of the Pennsylvania Dutch. This is a typical. Orchestration Norway. Pennsylvania Dutch village band such as you would have heard about a hundred a hundred and fifteen years ago when bands first fake and. No one in every little community. That had the population know
25 30 people would have a little bit of a band of their own. You. Are. Right. Thanks. To our great. Music that that is known here in appending the country and it's known wherever we go to play for a German organization in reading for example a plea for the leader constitutes a German society unready.
We've played for the. Manor core. Again which is the German society in our sound person says do it. There. We try to play a lot of the songs that are a. More or less of interest to the people around you. For example this is this is a classic as everybody knows. I mean if you learn from a small child write on a group. And a lot of the songs that we'll play are. Adaptations of either a German song. Her office deems this is one that everybody in the country knows and it's actually a German song. Due to liege man and Hanson is again comes from Germany and it's still a favorite here. Well of course a lot of the marches that we play. Are American marches and Berks County Morkie. Take a look
these are the ones that are written by. Nearly all house. Formulae. The Ringgold band in the writing. I don't have the dates that he was direct here but it's been I say at least 40 years ago 30 to 40 years ago that he was directing. He was a. First County. Boy Born and raised in Berks County just picked up a love of music and. Went through it tried to study as much as he could on his own and then. Came to the Ringle band he was Berks county's answer to John Philip Sousa. At. Least that's how well he's known here a lot of the old German beer drinking songs. There sold those bits all them. In teeth and tell us it's a nation state and hope Roy house. In Himmel gets kind dear.
I didn't want to name these all night long. Pennsylvania Dutch the German taken out of Switzerland streamlined in the fun. And season has some English words in America. It is that we still like that term Pennsylvania and such because the German has been doing such and it comes from the German do it sure rather than the Holland death. But we still like the name penciling in Dutch rather than considering the German. They. Are. Our forefathers were chased out of switch from the other cases. And settled down in the polis and they're up in bond and are in Aussies
Soarin which is sometimes in German and sometimes in France. But. We'd still like the name Pennsylvania Dutch Pennsylvania German. Well. I feel as a scholar I prefer Pennsylvania German because it is a German dialect. It's based on the it's primarily a Rhenish Franco nian dialect and the Palatine dialect spoken in the eastern part of the plot in the present day Poulet and that is that area of the planet closest to the Rhine. Those dialects German dialects most closely resemble Pennsylvania German. Sure there's been an influx of English but the English language has by no means drowned out the tense from German language. And the degree of English the amount of English varies from speaker to speaker and subject of the conversation stops and three cautions us. HELEN BROWN got knocked out. So you see him get Dr. Dollar
break on or follow the lead and about dear cult material. It's not there. Not so big Johnny Cash down again in a conversation it's not unusual to see someone or hear someone switch back and forth from English to the dialect. They may be speaking a dialect and may be courting someone in an English conversation so they would quote them in English and go right back into the dialect. It could happen the other way around they could be stupid people could be speaking English at the time both knowing the dialect and might want to quote someone who had said something the dialect they would switch into the dialect. This borrowing and interference takes place on all levels can be an isolated sound it can be an entire phrase. It's it can be an inflectional ending. This is quite an evolving list of phenomena.
I think. The majority of the people would prefer the Pennsylvania Dutch. There is share considerable controversy about that. There are some groups which. Say their parents are very and you're German so I can't agree with them. Because. The shuttlers here we're not all Germans. In fact Mennonites that settled here in Lancaster County they were the largest group of early settlers and. They were Swedish. We're sure. Ben and I'd sure settle down in on one drummer encounter. And we were both Swiss or with a scattering of Hollanders the Holland man which. The. The German settlement in Pennsylvania strictly German shuttle I'm sure came out a little later period and.
They mostly settled in in Berkshire and Lee Haru Lipman clannish. I think one of the most interesting. Activities that comes out of an environment that minority groups in the area is the. Barn raising custom that the Amish practice if any of their membership has been so unfortunate to have lost a barn due to a storm. They will clean up the property. And plan for a barn raising ceremony. That's a one day project. And all the. Men and women of their community come to that site. Early in the morning and the men equipped with their. Carpentry tools and the women with the food in the wherewithal for feeding the men. They'll start about. Seven o'clock maybe earlier and by sundown a barn is completely erected. And I think that the sounds of the hammers and
saws are really cool to a symphony it's something that everyone should have the privilege of hearing and seeing. It's really a case of looking after one's neighbor. Well I would point out first of all that they're primarily farmers they have a saying that. God made the country man made that we could Chile their first day away from the city. And so an Old Order Amish would pretty much leave the country. Their father buys a farm for his son. There's a saying that the farm shouldn't be farther away than you can see the smoke coming out from the farthest chimney. And this gives you the picture of cliquishness that you have in their community their farming. Who goes back to customs they're brought along from Europe including rotation of crops. You should branch law I'm. Sure you should have them in manure. As well as industry
has made and. Very fine farmers and as you know they have large families and. Therefore there's no labor problem. They always have plenty of the free labor on. Most of their farms are here in the Central Belt. Of blanks to call it which is a limestone area. Right in the center resettled in the southern part of the cod liver mostly Scotch Irish Presbyterians but that poor farming land and then another part of the college they were. Mennonites which is better than the Southern but not nearly as good is central. I'm still healthy and here's where they've taken up their farms. Typical Amish farm in this cottage only about 50 acres. Not many parts of the country people would say How kind of family continue to exist in 50 acres. Well it's fertile and they have these messages I referred to and they farm every inch of it. From my point of view were only yesterday. So it is a buy a farm they cut down all the trees and clear the French Revolution to power up to the blacktop on the highways. They use every single inch of
the farm and then the second principle of rotation of crops is very important. They have four crops a typical Amish farmer corn and grain barley or wheat and hay and back to back as their cash crop. And wheat as their cash crop. When they go to farm tobacco beyond the hay field of this year and they will no doubt be still a minnow or you know simply commercial fertilizer that's plowed under and then put that into back to back or robs the soil of a great deal of its food. So you can only put it down every four years. As farmers. They represent I guess a continuation of the 19th century picture of long days. They get up very early in the morning four o'clock in the
summertime work all day long till sunset. For this reason. If they can keep a dairy. Milk 15 20 cows fattened 20 steers seven acres of tobacco. And probably raise vegetables which they take in the market. This requires a lot of mad labor. But they can do it with their large families. The problem a broader. Farmer that. Goes into the business. Preferably prefers to buy a piece of land through which a stream flows where there's a meadow. And he constructed what is called a water wheel and this is an ingenious gadget I haven't seen any you or I haven't seen him anywhere else and I think the only place you can find him here next to Connor about seven miles from here there's one that has eight wires on it. A huge wheel that supplies a. Water power for for you from
farm to line joining each farm one to the house and one to the mark. If you aren't fortunate enough to buy a farm that has a metal in it then your rectal windmill and you've seen them in the county and that produces power to pump the water. The reason for the importance of this is that if you have a 10 horses and mules. You have 20 college 15 years you have a lot of chickens. You may have some sheep. Plus they're one of the two cards a house and he'd have to be constantly pumping water. So these two gadgets take care of that particular problem. When it comes to machinery as you know the. Tractors are for boat and he's very curious. Inconsistency here. You can have a tractor of designed wheels out in your shed and as long as you attach a belt to it to saw wood or to grind grain or do something else this is quite alright but you're not allowed to take a tractor out in the
field and put a plow through. Put implements and so on. Well ask could be sure about this. Their explanation is that. Our ultimate concern is to keep away the automobile. And if we allow them to use tractors in the field they can get treated their horses having the horses you have to buy a car in order to drive to church to the store and so on as long as we compel them to use his horses out in the fields they always have the horse take a truck to go to church to go to town and I think really this is what their concern is to keep the automobile. The second scene which you observe of course is no electricity when you drive through this part of the ecology. You can always identify an Old Order Amish farm by noting there are no wires running and no telephone wires and electric wires. Every other form has the wires. Here again a very curious inconsistency. You can have. A Delco plant you can generate your own electricity and have lights in the house and lights at the barn.
Electricity operated refrigerator but you're making your own electricity. The evil seems to be putting that wire up and allowing the worldly electrician to come into the form. This is for to fight U.S.. The problem of the telephone had been licked in several ways the men near here who operates a mill. And a. Bishop had no objection to him buying what was really an outhouse and he moved it across the street and somebody else's land in the area as he's telephone has a large bellied range over the mill he runs across the street and entered it but there's no telephone in his own property. Which is a very curious situation. The. Problem great education which I think is tremendously interesting. They get a great deal of publicity because they oppose the public school and insist upon their children stopping school at the end of sixth grade.
And in Pennsylvania and other states you should become quite a problem. I personally appreciate your problem. If. All you want to do for your life is farming for the girls want to do it be farmers wives. There's really very little contribution made by the typical consolidated rural public school to prepare them for this particular kind of vocation. So that I think they're right. The education they need they can get in there one of them public school. Second the moment you permit a child to get on a school bus the parent has lost control of the child because the rest of the day the child is as under the control of somebody else and is exposed to all of the world in this as they would put it of the public school and so they're opposed to consolidated school partly because of this problem losing control and therefore they bought
up one room. Public schools sell to the county and they're very close. They all are children walk pick up you know pay all you may have to walk a mile or so in many cases you can see the schoolhouse from your farm and the teacher is an Amish girl you see until the Amish have not lost control of the child and he picks up his dinner kettle and goes to school gets back at four o'clock in the afternoon. I think any student of sociology would have appreciated the moment you put a child especially a small child in that school books. Gone. See I mention this because. There are Desire. Sincere desire is that their children need to be brought up exactly as they were brought up. They want to perpetuate this little sociological island in the midst of modern progress civilisation and so on. If this is your objective and there are certain things follow. And seem to me this is one of it.
And that they have succeeded amazingly in doing this. The last two grades to stupid to come up Pennsylvania requires eighth grade but they worked out a compromise with education department Harrisburg so that most of the children quit school at the end of sixth grade and then their projects which they carry on at home under the supervision of the state city and they take examinations from time to time. In this way they fulfill the state requirement of having eighth grades of education the curriculum itself. Consists of the required subjects required by the state. Plus Germany they learn to read and write German too. Plus religious exercises there. Read. Martin Luther the German translation of the Bible. And they sing these German hymns which where they learn. So that. In a strict sense they are parochial schools schools run by the Amish group and in which the emphasis on religion as well as on the curriculum required by the state. I've visited their schools a number of times
because reminds me of the kind of school I attended as a boy I was alone in the school. I think it was just as good a job as we did then. Plus this addition of the German the other curious thing is that the first graders they have to learn English many of them for the first time in public school. In the typical farm home the conversation is all in the dialect. Pennsylvania German people call Pennsylvania Dutch but I prefer accurate term. And when the father gathers the children together in the evening around the table that he reads from the High German of live music Bible. And when they go to church on Sunday the singing is in High German. But the rest of the conversation is in. Pennsylvania German native Corsi. They read in a newspaper it's in English and if the neighbors come in speaking it but it's quite possible for a child to grow up five six years in the home and not read and learn to speak English. And so the one of the first things you have to do public school is to teach them English and
German. Dialect at home is Pennsylvania German U.S. So in a sense academically you have a trilingual situation here which is far superior to the typical American school where everything in English and will never sing in English. Here we have people who can at least handle some language or two languages in the dialect. I would say let them alone. Therefore to get lonely she would signal me and drive straight. I. Can relate Beisel. The effort of cloister was established.
1732 own Irish Rhodora. Dry shot a lead on. Their own to breed on. Do you hire a breeder and be sure and go start won't get us in here in the house before high order. And if debug arrive. There were. Three orders. Here. The Brotherhood and the sisterhood and the Marri. Brotherhood and sisterhood each lived in their. Own homes married folks lived on the surrounding farms.
The African Oyster was a rather unique experiment and communal living it was astonished in 1732 by Konrad Beisel a mystic and a hermit who had come to America in 17 20 and had settled. And joined himself with the drunkards of Germantown. In 1720 before he came to Lancaster County and became the minister of the drunkard congregation on the Conestoga. Four years later he split with the dumb guards of Lancaster County over the issues of celibacy and over the observance of the Sabbath. I said I was convinced that the Sabbath should be celebrated on Saturday. He also believed that he preferred the marital state of the Christian. It has to be done married so he separated himself he came to the banks of the calico creek nearby and established
himself as a hermit. Some of his former congregation soon followed him and he was forced to set up a community. Of Sabbatarians they adhered basically to the drunkard of the German Baptist belief. Except for the matter of the Sabbath and the matter of celibacy. And Beisel set up here in 1732 three orders of brotherhood. And a sisterhood both of which were celibate. Plus a group of married congregational members or householders. These folks lived in the neighboring area they farmed they contributed economically to the community and worship here. However they were not under the celibate rules and their life was less prescribed. The Brotherhood in the sisterhood. Far East here in the mid 18th century. They were self contained. They produced practically everything that they needed for a period of time and the
Brotherhood operated a series of mills on the creek nearby they were actively engaged in printing having one of the foremost print shops in the in colonial America. The Sisterhood engaged in spending leaving the domestic arts. They also are quite skilled in the. Art of Proctor shrift and are the art of beautiful writing as it would be described today. And some of their fine examples are still to be seen here in the cloister grounds. The brothers in addition of course engaged in fruit tree. Growing farming and the other agricultural pursuits around 17 50 and they're after the community went into a period of decline largely the result of the death of their founder Konrad bison. He was a bright magnetic man as far as his personality was concerned a good leader.
And after his death a some of the daughters particularly declined by 18:00 the brotherhood and sisterhood were well. On their way out they married congregational members however continued during the 19th century as a congregation using the buildings that had been vacated by the celibate orders. They used them for worship purposes and more or less as an old folks home for their older members. In 1929 the last minister of the seventh day German Baptist Church died they had no one to succeed him and so the congregation which consisted then of 11 members went out of business so to speak. And in 1941 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania acquired the property and it's been engaged ever since and very active program of restoration. We believe that we had here one of the unique examples of the
colonial living. It's certainly different from anything that you would find in Williamsburg or in Stourbridge. It represents a German culture and a German culture that was mass take on the nature of.
The American town: A self-portrait
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, part 1
Producing Organization
University of Michigan
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, the first of two parts, explores Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where the rich heritage of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country dates to colonial times.
Series Description
Historical documentary series drawn from the recollections of senior citizens in a variety of American towns.
Local Communities
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Host: Sears, Ralph
Producer: Johnson, Ralph
Producing Organization: University of Michigan
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-9-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:35
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Chicago: “The American town: A self-portrait; Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, part 1,” 1967-01-24, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 20, 2024,
MLA: “The American town: A self-portrait; Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, part 1.” 1967-01-24. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 20, 2024. <>.
APA: The American town: A self-portrait; Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, part 1. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from