Early Colonial Living in Tulpehocken Valley

New Colonial Settlement

Early colonial living (1723-1729) next to the Tulpehocken Creek area was extremely grueling and labor-intensive. Many tasks to be conducted by almost all members of each family with help from relatives and neighbors. Most early settlers were farmers. They needed to find land for their future home, clear land to grow grain crops for the animals and cultivate vegetables and fruit for the family. Crude housing was constructed at first and improved as construction methods advanced.

The model for the early German farms in the Tulpehocken Valley of colonial Pennsylvania was one of the family unit working the land with help from relatives and neighbors. In contrast, Palatine Germany and later William Penn’s proposed model was a central village with surrounding plots of land owned by the individual farmers. Penn’s proposal went against the German farmer strong independent determination to control their future. In mass, they rejected William Penn’s proposed community farming arrangement.

Plumpton Manor, Heidelberg Township
New Home for Peter Feg and Family

After my Palatine German ancestor’s and their neighbor’s arrival in the Tulpehocken Valley area (1723-1729), they were greeted by the original settlers of the area -the Lenni-Lenape Indian tribe. Their arrival in the area is not known. Archaeologists have discovered the remains of their crude stone tools in the Tulpehocken Valley.  The early relationship between the Indians and white German settlers could best be described as accommodating. The Lenape Tribe introduced their farming practices for maize, beans, squash, and tobacco to the early German farmers.

Farming in the Valley

The early settlers first job was to find a choice tract of land and stake out their claim. My Ancestry family selected a plot of land next to the Tulpehocken Creek consisting of about 190 acres.  Later the land was surveyed and legally became a plot in Plumpton Manor, Heidelburg Township. ( The legal and ownership aspects of this land is discussed  in a previous post.)

Let’s bring this settlement picture into focus.  The Johann Peter Feg (Feak Feck) family of  Tulpehocken includes father Johann, age 52, wife Anna Marie age 43, daughter Anna Catharine age 26, daughter Eva Elisabeth age 24, daughter Elisabeth age 11, daughter Anna Margaretha age 9, son Johann Leonhardt age 7 and son Johann Peter age 4. Unfortunately, my 6th great-grandfather’s family was a little light on manpower to take on the enormous task of settling on a virgin plot of land.

Daughter Anna Eve married Conrad Weiser, Jr in 1722. Likewise, they staked out land along the Tulpehocken Creek close to her fathers land claim. In a future post, we will discuss the Conrad Weiser Jr family and his role as Indian peace negotiator, local official, farmer, and businessman.

Next, we bring the picture into sharper focus with numerous tasks that need to be completed to sustain the family initially and develop their farm to generate income from the sale of surplus farm products.

Let’s start with the very essentials: food, water, clothing, and shelter.

  • There is plenty of fresh and clean water available from the Tulpehocken Creek. Also plenty of freshwater fish for meals.
  • Plant types of food like wild berries, squash and others should be available during the growing season.
  • Plenty of deer, bear and wild turkey was hunted and processed for the winter months.
  • Most likely they traveled very light bringing no extra clothing. Best guess is they initially went back to Indian style dress- animal skins.
  • They remove thousands of trees to make arable land to plant wheat, oats, and corn. Clearing land with grub hoes and burning took years.
  • Pasture land was selected with a stream for cattle and horses. Crude wooden fences were erected to contain animals.
  • Crude housing was an immediate concern for shelter from the elements. Next section discusses housing and barns.

Housing and Farm Buildings

In the early 1700s buildings were crudely constructed due to the lack of tools and nails. Plenty of virgin forest with many varies of trees for building materials. Historians suggest that the first houses were made of rough planks or logs stacked between poles sunk into the ground. Roofs were made of thatched straw or tree branches tied together by saplings.

Early Colonial Housing
Early Style Log House

As better tools became available the homes and barns were upgraded to log homes. Barns had stone foundations with logs completing the structure where they used wooden pegs to hold the logs in place.  Around 1796 a nail cutting and heading machine was invented which helped to advance construction practices.

Church and Community

One of the main reasons the Palatine German came to America was to gain freedom from religious persecution. William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania put the message out to potential immigrants in writing (Charter of Privileges) that Penn envisioned a Colony that permitted religious freedom. Indeed the Colony of Pennsylvania and since 1776 America has made freedom of religion a strong cornerstone of our Democracy.

In Palatine German areas of Europe, the community was built around the activities of their local church. Many were members of the Lutheran or Reformed churches.

In the early settlement period, the families most likely had layman lead services where families congregated in a larger space such as a barn, weather permitting. Historians mention Reverand Henckel as one of several traveling ministers holding service with small groups of worshipers. Next step was conservations to form the first church in the Tulpehocken Valley.  In 1727 the Reiths (Reeds) and others donated land for the First Church-Zion Tulpehocken Lutheran. The church was constructed using logs located 1 mile east of Stouchsberg located within Plumpton Manor.

Reed’s Church as it was known by the community is where my ancestry family and other families attended services, baptisms and marriages were performed and the departed were laid to rest. My sixth-great-grandfather, Johann Peter Schneider Feg 1672-1744 that arrived in America in 1710 now lies in peace in the first church cemetery in the Tulpehocken Valley.

Pennsylvania German Farm Family

My Ancestry family that first settled in the Tulpehocken Valley, Colony of Pennsylvania  in 1723-1724:

  • Johann Peter Schneider Feg (Feak Feck)1672-1744 (6th great-grandfather) age 52
  • His wife Anna Maria Risch 1681-unknown age 43
  • Anna Catharine, daughter 1698-1747 age 26
  • Eva Elisabeth, daughter 1702-1781 age 24
  • Elisabetha, daughter 1713-1777  age 11
  • Anna Margaretha, daughter 1715-1758  age 9
  • Johann Peter, son 1720-1790   age 4
  • Johann Leonhardt, son 1717-1758 age 7
  • ( 5th great-grandfather)

Next Post: Conrad Weiser Jr

The Conrad Weiser Jr family and his role as Indian peace negotiator, local official, farmer, and businessman will be examined in the next post.

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Ronald L. Fake

Pennsylvania native from York County. After graduating from Wrightsville High School enlisted in U.S. Navy. While in the Navy working in the field of Aviation Electronics decided to enroll in college. Selected San Diego State University with a focus on urban geography and environmental studies. After graduation in 1968 worked with county and state governments, and private industry on the environmental impacts of transportation projects. After retirement started my ancestry research and today I am writing that history as a blog at https://ancestryeuropetoamerica.com.