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Posts Tagged ‘baker’s cemetery’

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According to the website Today in History, on this date in 1683, the very first German immigrants to what would be the United States arrived in Philadelphia. I don’t have any way to verify that this is true right now, nor confirm the assertion that it was 13 families and they were specifically invited by William Penn, but it gives me an opening to talk about a part of me that is important.

You see, I am the product of those families – I don’t know if I am a literal descendant of anyone who stepped off of the boat on that precise day to blink in the bright sunlight at life in a strange land, but at some point some of my ancestors in Germany made that same choice. They left behind a land they knew for the possibilities that lay across the sea in a place known as Penn’s Woods, or Pennsylvania, and established new communities. Some estimates say that half the residents of Pennsylvania were of German origin or ancestry at the time of the American Revolution, and as of the last census, it was still the mostly commonly noted ethnic origin in the commonwealth.

My paternal grandmother’s family proudly declared their Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, although I can’t say we knew much about it other than the food. No one that I’m aware of speaks the dialect, other than a few phrases that made their way into our consciousness, and even though I don’t know how to convey it here, what I’m reading about how the accent sounds is how my grandmother and her generation spoke. It’s less distinct other than some words and phrases that my parents and I use. I remember very clearly my grandmother saying she would “red up the room” rather than clean it, and I think one of my great aunts informed us at least once that she was going to “outen the lights.” While I’ve been researching this, Mike has informed me that he’s pretty sure “slippy” is not a word in the dictionary that can be used interchangeably with slippery, but in this case I can chalk it up to dialect.

In checking lists of supposedly Pennsylvania Dutch foods, I find there was even more than I was aware of. We sipped not just root beer, but birch beer, while we enjoyed chicken pot pie, chicken corn soup (I have not had a bowl of this since my grandmother died and would love so much to taste it again), pork and sauerkraut, potato cakes, and Lebanon bologna (at least I can get that at the grocery story here). They may not have been my taste, but my grandmother served scrapple, pickled beet eggs with their distinctive purple tint, German potato salad, and apple butter at her table. And for dessert – so many high-fat and often deep-fried options – funnel cakes, fasnachts, apple fritters, shoofly pie, or whoopie pies. No, fastnachts are not just doughnuts.

I just passed a lovely hour writing this blog post, confirming things from my childhood are in many cases part of a wider Pennsylvania Dutch culture and not ONLY my family’s eccentricities.  I have these things in common with a community – 19th century tombstones near my childhood home carry German surnames and are sometimes inscribed in German rather than English.

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When I visited my family in Pennsylvania in 2009, I stopped at Bakers’ Cemetery, a little graveyard carved out of one side of a farmer’s field. This little cemetery was less than 2 miles from my childhood home, but I had never set foot inside the gate. The cemetery is tiny but well-taken care of, and there is even a relatively new cremation garden. A stroll through the cemetery shows the German ancestry of the settlers in the area, descendants of whom still live nearby. I saw Leibs, Brindles, Shumbergers. Some of the older tombstones are inscribed in German. One of these, paired with its neighbor, caught my attention. Brindle is a surname that you still find in the local area, and there is at least one Brindle Road. The older of the tombstones lamented in German the death of Georg Brentel, German immigrant.

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Georg Brentel

All around that tombstone were the ones for his relatives and descendants, with the Anglicized surname Brindle. I suspect this tombstone might have been for his wife, but it is hard to be sure, because the name George was used in multiple generations.

Elizabeth Brindle

And here are some other Brentels turned Brindles that stand on either side of Georg Brentel’s tombstone.

Our Mother Ann Brindle

George Brindle

Sarah Brindle

There are also other Brindle tombstones scattered throughout the cemetery.

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