Friday, April 8, 2016

One of Pennsylvania's "Original 13"

     The first settlers of Germantown, PA are called the “Original 13.”  They were commemorated by  a special stamp on their 300th anniversary. 

 Notice the dwelling in the drawing above.

All three Op Den Graeff brothers' names are on this monument.

     These first settlers were mostly Quakers, and they were from a region on the lower Rhine where German and Dutch cultures blended.   William Penn had visited them in his effort to colonize Pennsylvania.  Pastorius, a German, was Penn’s land agent and said that the place was named Germantown, which means “Brother City of the Germans.”  
     We are related to three of the Original 13: Derick, Herman, and Abraham Op Den Graeff.  They were brothers who sailed together on the ship “Concorde,”, with their mother, Greitijen to the new colony, arriving in Philadelphia in October, 1683 after a 75-day journey.  Greitijen died shortly after arriving.  We are directly related to Abraham, the youngest of the three brothers.  Abraham’s daughter, Anneken, married Herman DeHaven (parents of the rabble-rouser, Abraham DeHaven).

     The first winter in Germantown was very difficult.  The Original 13 had hoped to arrive earlier in the year, but had met many delays with their passage.  They did not have time to erect cabins before winter set in, so they dug holes in the sides of hills to live in.  In the spring, they built log cabins, then later, stone houses. 

     Abraham Op Den Graeff and his brothers were weavers by trade, and helped establish the linen trade in Germantown, which became known as the best in the world.  Abraham won a prize given by the Governor for the finest linen woven in the state of Pennsylvania.  He was very active in the affairs of the settlement, serving as town burgess (delegate).  He was also a member of the Provincial Assembly of Pennsylvania for several years. 

     One of the most interesting pieces of legislation that Abraham and three other Germantown Quakers signed was the first formal protest against slavery.  The document was “tabled” because it was so controversial, but, almost 100 years later, Pennsylvania became the first state to pass a law to gradually abolish slavery. 
The Original Anti Slavery Document

The table on which the Anti Slavery Petition was signed, available to view at the
Old Mennonite Meeting House in Germantown
  In 1892, there was a parting of ways in the Quaker community, with some reverting back to Mennonite or Dutch Reformed teaching.  Abraham reverted back to the Mennonite roots of his family.  His grandfather, Herman Op Den Graeff, was a well-known Mennonite preacher and bishop in Krefeld, Germany.  Herman was a very prosperous linen weaver, as evidenced by the beautiful stained glass windows that were in his home.  Two of the windows have been preserved in the Kaiser-Wilhelm Museum in Berlin.
     Unfortunately, the Op Den Graeff family was also known for strong emotions, and Abraham had many court appearances.  In 1701, a man was fined 25 shillings for calling Abraham a name so indecent the clerk left a blank space in the court record.  In 1704, Abraham sued a neighbor for slander when a neighbor declared that "no honest man would be in Abraham's company" and lost the case (so the court agreed with the neighbor!)  After that, Abraham and his wife, Trintje, left Germantown and moved to a Mennonite settlement in the Skippack Region.  They were both buried in the Evansburg Mennonite Cemetery at Skippack. 

No comments:

Post a Comment