Why did Paul Jünger choose to head west across the Atlantic Ocean to Pennsylvania?


Once German speaking peasants decided to leave their homes in southwest Germany, Alsace or Switzerland, they had choices.  In earlier centuries of outward migration from these areas when hard times existed in their homelands, many went eastward into areas known to us today as countries like Poland, Russia, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.  Even in the late 17th and 18th centuries, emigration from the southern Rhineland continued to favor eastern European locations.  Professional researchers estimate that only 10% to 15% of the German speaking emigrants in the 17th and 18th century from southwest Germany, Alsace and Switzerland went to America instead of into the much more popular destinations in eastern regions of Europe.


While the majority of disillusioned German speaking emigrants continued to follow well known paths eastward in the late 1600’s and throughout the 1700’s a new option grew more possible and attractive to consider.   The discovery of the “New World” of North and South America launched a period of bold risk taking and attempts at colonization by the major European powers.  In 1607 Jamestown colony was established and became the first permanent English colony to survive in America.


Jamestown was intended to be a successful economic venture.  Toward that end, one of the earliest experiments by the fledgling colony was to start a glass making industry.  In 1608, one year after the initial colonists arrived, German glassmaking experts sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and joined the first settlers in Jamestown.  Their charge was to develop glassmaking as a profitable business.  Glassware manufactured by these German artisans was exported back to Europe.  Unfortunately, these German glassmaking experts did not last long in the fragile colony.  They perished along with many of their fellow settlers from starvation in 1609-1610 when about 80% of the colony was lost.  However, they established a precedent of Germanic immigration into North America.


In the 1670’s, William Penn traveled throughout the Rhineland preaching a doctrine of peace and good will based on his Quaker convictions.  Later, in the 1680’s William Penn sought settlers for his extensive recently acquired land holdings in his province of Pennsylvania. He and his agents appealed to the long-suffering peasants of the areas along the Rhine to come to his newly acquired province where they would have the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their labors for themselves and future generations


His appeals focused on the affordability of land and its fertility for producing a wide variety of crops.  Furthermore he and his agents stressed that while taxes were assessed on settlers, they were very modest and, given the fertility of the land, the value of what was produced would quickly pay off any indebtedness incurred in purchasing property in spite of the minimal taxes that were required.


Among the first respondents to William Penn’s appeal was a group of 13 Mennonite and Quaker families from Krefeld, Germany.    They arrived in Philadelphia on the ship “Concord” on October 6, 1683.  They were led by Francis Daniel Pastorius (1651-1720).  Pastorious was trained as a lawyer.  He had been raised in a wealthy Lutheran home.  However, he developed a close association with and appreciation for the Quaker religion which William Penn had passionately embraced. 


Pastorius negotiated a purchase on behalf of himself and his fellow Krefelders of 25,000 acres from Penn.  This land purchase became the borough of Germantown which is now a suburb of the city of Philadelphia.  Germantown is universally regarded as the first permanent “German” settlement in America.  However, this does not mean that other German immigrants had not previously come to America. 


Diffenderffer observes in his book cited above that:


“a letter has been found in Germany…written from Germantown itself by one of the Op den Graeff brothers, dated February 12, 1684, in which the presence of a German Reformed congregation in that locality is announced at the time when the Pastorius colony was established.  Who these were, whence they came, how long they had been there, and kindred questions may perhaps never be revealed, but the general subject is nevertheless a most interesting one.”


The study of history is a never ending endeavor.  Some questions beg for answers that likely will never be discovered.  Nevertheless, it is widely regarded that the arrival of the group led by Pastorius in 1683 that founded Germantown near Philadelphia is the watershed event of what became an ever increasing tide of Germanic immigration into America.


Inasmuch as this web site is dedicated to the family history of Johann Paul Jünger and his descendants, it should be observed at this point that Paul’s great great grandson George K. Yinger (1841-1916) married Hannah Updegraff (1839-1886).  Hannah was a descendant of Abraham Isaacks Op den Graeff one of the Op den Graeff brothers who accompanied Daniel Pastorius on the voyage from Europe to Philadelphia on the ship “Concord”.  In fact three Op den Graeff brothers headed three of the 13 families which founded Germantown.  They were Hermen Isaacks Op den Graeff, Dirck Isaacks Op den Graeff and Abraham Isaacks Op den Graeff.


A number of published works further assert that the Op den Graeff’s were cousins to the founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn through Penn’s mother who was the daughter of Jan Jansen of Rotterdam.  Therefore, those Yinger’s who descend from George Yinger and Hannah Updegraff can trace their lineage to the 1683 Germantown, Philadelphia origin of Pennsylvania Germans.  George and Hannah were my great great grandparents.


These early German speaking respondents to the appeals of William Penn and his agents generally accepted his offer to come to Pennsylvania for reasons of religious conviction; to flee persecution that they experienced in Europe for their beliefs.  They were members of relatively small religious groups like the Mennonites, Quakers, Huguenots, etc. rather than from the larger state “authorized” religions like the Lutheran and German Reformed churches. 


Those who followed the Germantown pioneers in the last two decades of the 1600’s and the first decade of the 1700’s also did so primarily for religious reasons.  Their numbers would be dwarfed by the Germanic masses which came to Pennsylvania in much larger numbers in succeeding decades of the 1700’s.  Nevertheless, they established an enduring legacy which still exists in the southeastern counties of Pennsylvania, particularly Lancaster County.


In 1708-1709 a devastatingly harsh winter struck the Rhineland with tremendous and terrible consequences for agriculture.  Crops froze and cattle perished.  In addition to all that had gone on before over the previous century, wars and their devastation, religious persecution, declining living standards, now the possibility of starvation presented itself.  This event served as a “last straw” catalyst and inducement to many longsuffering German speaking peasants to leave their homelands in increasing numbers.


From 1710 until 1717 German immigrants arrived in Philadelphia on British ships on a regular basis.  In 1717 the issue became a matter of concern to the Provincial Council and the new Governor, William Keith.  He observed with alarm that “Pennsylvania is filling up with Germans”.   He further expressed concerns that they do not speak the same language or have the same “constitutions” as the British subjects do.  They come without producing any appropriate certificates; we don’t know where they came from or where they settle.  They may be foes to the British King and his Government or to the province of Pennsylvania and its officials and government.


In short William Keith presented a strong fear of “uncontrolled immigration” by the German speaking immigrants arriving in increasing numbers into Pennsylvania.  The Provincial Council heeded his message and, at his urging, passed an act requiring that ship masters provide a list of all passengers on ships importing German immigrants which recently arrived in Philadelphia.  The act also required the immigrants to “give assurances of their being well affected to His Majesty and his Government”.


In short order three ship masters complied with the new requirements by providing lists of the passengers on ships they had recently sailed into the docks of Philadelphia on the Delaware River.  It is a mystery that for ten years no other lists appear in the Provincial records.  However, ships continued to arrive with German immigrants in growing numbers throughout the period from 1717 to 1727.


In 1727 the issue was revisited by the Provincial Council at the urging of the Governor.  According to the Pennsylvania Colonial Records; First series, volume III the act stated the following:


“That the masters of vessels importing Germans and others from the continent of Europe, shall be examined whether they have leave granted to them by the Court of Great Britain for the importation of these foreigners, and that a List be taken of all these people, their several occupations, and the place from whence they came, and shall be further examined touching their intentions in coming hither; and that a writing be drawn up for them to sign, declaring their allegiance and subjection to the King of Great Britain, and fidelity to themselves peaceably towards all his Majesty’s subjects, and observe and conform to the Laws of England and the Government of Pennsylvania.”


This time the act had the intended impact on recordkeeping for German speaking immigrants into Pennsylvania through the port of Philadelphia.  As a result from 1727 until 1776 hundreds of lists of German speaking immigrants arriving steadily throughout that period became a part of the Colonial records.  Today those lists are preserved in the State archives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 


Those lists have been published first by I. Daniel Rupp in 1898 (2nd rev. ed.) in a groundbreaking work titled A Collection of Upwards of Thirty Thousand Names of Germans, Swiss, Dutch, French and Other Immigrants in Pennsylvania from 1727 to 1776.  A later publication which is considered the definitive work on the subject was published by Ralph B. Strassburger and William J. Hinke in 1934.  It was titled Pennsylvania German Pioneers; A Publication of the Original Lists of Arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia from 1727-1808.


Johann Paul Jünger arrived in 1748 on the ship named “Two Brothers” according to these published sources.  In the twenty years from 1727 to 1747 prior to Paul Jünger’s arrival in Philadelphia about 120 ships had arrived.  In some of those years as few as 2 to 3 ships had arrived in a given year.  In other years as many as 16 ships arrived (1738).  Only in one year (1745) did no ships arrive at all.  The point to be made here is that Paul followed the immigration path to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that many other German speaking immigrants had followed steadily for several decades before his arrival in 1748.


To be sure, German speaking immigrants during this period of heavier immigration included members of the minority groups like the Mennonites, Quakers and Huguenots which had dominated the earlier phases of Germanic immigration in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s.  However, in much greater numbers the German speaking immigrants from the European continent represented during this later period (after 1710) were from the numerically much larger Lutheran and Reformed churches.  Their motives tended to be less religious persecution driven and more economic, quality of life driven.


Another contributing factor influencing some German speaking emigrants to head to America in general and Pennsylvania specifically was the increasing number of letters which were sent back to the homeland from Pennsylvania German immigrants.  Often the letters honestly described the high expense, difficulty and dangers of the voyage across the Atlantic.  However, those grim realities were followed by glowing reports of successes.  Land was plentiful and affordable to acquire, according to many of the letters from the “New Land.” 


Additional positives cited in letters back to the “old country” were the reasonableness of taxes and the liberties enjoyed from the government authorities in Pennsylvania.  These were all hot issues with the peasants who lived in southwest Germany, Alsace, and Switzerland where land was scarce and unattainable by the vast majority and where taxes were high and personal freedoms were squelched by local lords who owned and controlled the land.  Compared to the option of emigrating to the traditional eastern European locations, the risks to travel westward to the “New World” were certainly greater, but so were the potential rewards. 


The expenses of the journey were high; the perils of the journey were very real and significant (potentially fatal) as will be discussed later in this narrative; the threat of attacks by Native American Indians in the back county environs of Pennsylvania where most German immigrants settled were ever present; “Newcomers” were generally “on their own” to succeed or fail without much government assistance or “safety nets.”  Most assistance came from their own Germanic neighbors who themselves were facing the same challenges. 


It has been suggested by some students and researchers of this fascinating subject that the 10 to 15 percent minority that chose to go westward to America from their Germanic homelands in the 17th and 18th centuries instead of eastward on the “well worn” paths that the vast majority of emigrants followed were, by natural selection and personal temperament, the inherent “risk takers” and optimists among their peers. 


As this scientifically unproven hypothesis goes, this self-confident minority were, by their nature, naturally more attracted to the potential larger rewards that success in the vast new land of America offered.  Perhaps the rugged, individualistic, ever-optimistic blood that coursed through their veins contributed to their success as a group in America.  Furthermore, as the theory goes, generations of descendants were blessed materially and genetically by their inherent personal drive for success in spite of the obstacles to be overcome.  Perhaps America’s boundless confidence (arrogance some Europeans would say) is a natural inherited trait from the pioneer ancestors that passed their personality traits and DNA on to their offspring.


In summary Johann Paul Jünger elected to leave his homeland and come to America and Pennsylvania for several reasons:


1.     German speaking immigrants had established a precedent of coming to America for many generations before Paul was born.

2.     William Penn and his agents had invited Germans from the Rhineland to come to Pennsylvania where wonderful economic opportunities and personal freedoms existed.

3.     Letters from those who had made the journey previously gave glowing reports about the abundant land available and material success that was possible based on their own experiences.

4.     Perhaps Paul was a bold “risk taker” willing to look past the dangers and perils of the “path less traveled” focusing instead on the greater potential rewards of casting his lot with the minority group who went to America and Pennsylvania instead of eastern Europe.


Those of us who are descended from Paul Jünger are indebted to him for his courage, faith, optimism and perseverance.  He chose the road less taken and that has made all the difference for us. We are privileged to reap the rewards of his decision to come to America, the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”



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