Gateway to the Classics: Stephen of Philadelphia by James Otis
Stephen of Philadelphia by  James Otis

The Settlement of Germantown

It was near about this time that a company of German people bought from William Penn many thousand acres of land, and began to build a town beyond us a few miles, as if it was in their minds to rival our city of Philadelphia.

Germantown was the name of the settlement, and Jethro and I were fair wild with envy when straightway these people built a grist mill, for we had no such luxury, and, in my mind, I cast reproach upon our people for having thus allowed men who had but just come into the country to outstrip us.


What made the matter worse, from my point of view, was that our people were forced to carry their grain to the Germantown mill, unless they were minded to grind it by hand, and thus did it seem as if we of Philadelphia were already willing to confess that these Germans could force us to go to them, when it should have been in other way around, because of our having been longer in the country.

The name of the chief man in this settlement of Germantown, was Pastorius, and he was said to be very learned, speaking no fewer than seven languages, without counting the Indian tongue, which he may have picked up after coming to this country.

He, meaning this Francis Pastorius, was not a Friend, neither did he worship God according to the religion of Germany or England; but was, as father said, a seeker after strange gods, calling himself a Pietist, which, as nearly as I can make out, is the same as if he had said he was more inclined to piety, or religion, than were others.

However odd these settlers of Germantown may have been in their religion, father insists that they were good neighbors, and it was well we should have such as they come among us. There were thirteen families in this new village, and each had a house built in the middle of a three-acre lot of land, on which they straightway set about planting flax, for these people were said to be remarkably good weavers. If it had not been that they had a grist mill in their settlement, thereby outstripping us of Philadelphia, I should have been more kindly disposed toward them; but there was some little satisfaction in the fact that it was a Friend who had built the mill, and one who went regularly to our meeting; therefore these Pietists could not take to themselves so very much in the way of credit.

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