First Germantown Seal

The Early German Settlers

WILLIAM PENN, in the spring of 1683, conveyed to a half dozen residents of Crefeld, German - about eighteen thousand acres of land in Pennsylvania, situated in the neighborhood of Germantown. Shortly afterwards the enterprise was started which resulted in the formation of the Frankfort Company in 1686. Altogether the Frankfort Company secured twenty-five thousand acres of land from William Penn. The evident purpose in view in the grant of these large tracts of land was colonization from Germany.

On July 24, 1683, the first little band of German emigrants set sail in the good ship "Concord," for Pennsylvania. There were thirteen men with their families, comprising thirty-three persons, nearly all of whom were relatives, all hailing from Crefeld, a city of the lower Rhine in Germany, a few miles from the borders of Holland. Crefeld was chiefly noted for its manufacture of silk, linen and other woven goods, and these manufactories were first established by persons fleeing from religious intolerance. Among the number on the ship "Concord" was Thones Kunders, a man, at that time, presumably of twenty-five or thirty years of age, and his wife Elin, supposed to have been a sister of William Streypers, the latter being also one of the emigrants.

At that time Thones Kunders had three children and they were brought with him on the ship. Daniel Francis Postorius, the most conspicuous of the German emigrants of those days, by reason of his great learning and familiarity with many languages together with his high social position at home, had previously consulted with these Crefeld people and arranged the details of their enterprise. "He had sailed for America some six weeks previous and landed at Philadelphia, August 20, 1683. His manuscript says, "I talked with Tunes Kunders and his wife, also Dirck, Hermann and Abraham Op den Graeff, and many others, who six weeks later followed me."

These emigrants were largely Mennonites and Friends in religion. Both of these sects believed in inward piety and a godly humble life, considered all strife and warfare as unchristian, abstained from taking oaths, opposed a paid ministry, favored silent prayer and exercised a strict discipline over their members. The voyage was pleasant and uneventful, and on the 6th day of October, 1683, the pioneers landed at Philadelphia, having been seventy-four days in making the passage. On the 12th of the same month a warrant was issued to Pastorius for six thousand acres of land "on behalf of the German and Dutch purchasers." On the 24th Thomas Fairman measured off fourteen divisions of land, and a few days afterwards, meeting together in the cave of Pastorius, they drew lots for the choice of location, as shown by the following agreement made twenty- six years afterwards.

We whose names are to these presents subscribed, do hereby certify unto all whom it may concern, that soon after our arrival in this province of Pennsylvania, in October, 1683, to our certain knowledge, Herman Op den Graeff, Dirk Op den Graeff, and Abraham Op den Graeff, as well as ourselves, in the cave of Francis Daniel Pastorius at Philadelphia, did cast lots for the respective lots which they and we then began to settle in Germantown, and the said Graeffs (three brothers) have sold their several lots, each by himself, no less than if a division in writing had been made by them.

Witness our hands this 29th Nov. A. D. 1709. Lenart Arets, Jan Lensen, Thones Kunders, Willem Streypers, Abraham Tunes, Jan Lucken, Reiner Tysen.

On these lots they proceeded at once to build their houses, rude and primitive though the structures were, described by some of the writers of that day as caves, being built probably against the sides of the hills with rough coverings to serve as roofs. Charles S. Keyser, Esq., in his paper read at the Keyser re-union in 1888, says, " that day our ancestor arrived, what is now an avenue of the city of Philadelphia, paved and lighted for a distance of nine miles, was not then even the Germantown road, but only an Indian pathway, lined with laurel bushes ; caves here and there, cellars with some shelter over them, houses as they were called, fifty altogether ; one with two stories, and one mill to supply the town with flour. In these houses were high-backed chairs, round tables, pewter dishes and spinning wheels. One man's cellar, it might be, with its shelter of branches was one of their meeting houses. * * * *

"Various languages were spoken here; some French much German and much Dutch, and continued to be spoken for nearly a century after. Farther from man and nearer to God, seems to have been upon their lips and in their lives, coming to this wilderness.

"With these peculiar people were the simple workers, toiling in the gardens, weaving in their caves and houses, working from daylight to darkness; these had also their peculiarities, the women went about in their short skirts and petticoats; we yet remember some of us, the old grandmothers or great-grandmothers, with kerchiefs snowy white, folded across their breasts, who survived down to the beginning of our passing generation. White linen was worn here and woven here, pure and spot- less as the snow, making the town notable; all of these men and women worshipped together, striving to do the will of the Saviour as it is written in the scriptures, without magistrates and without laws, and without ceremonies, without poverty, and without crime; with an earnest endeavor to conform their lives as far as it was possible to them to the image of the Saviour on this earth."

The winter following must have been one of hardship and privation to these "strangers in a strange land," as they doubtless had only enough of the necessaries of life to keep soul and body together. Pastorius writing afterwards, said, "it could not be described nor would it be believed by coming generations, in what want and need, and with what Christian contentment and persistent industry this Germantownship started."

Keep Us Updated! Fill out the Genealogy Information Form:
CR Genealogy Form

Kunders, an humble wool dyer from the banks of the Rhine, who, settling in the untrodden wilds of America, and pursuing the even tenor of a modest and uneventful life, “builded better than he knew.”

Robert Proud, in his history of Pennsylvania says, “Among the first Germantown settlers was Dennis Conrad. The first religious meeting of the Quakers, in that place, was held at his house in 1683. He was a hospitable, well-disposed man, of an inoffensive life and good character.”