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“Some Basic Misconceptions about Dutch Fork and the Role of Community in a Time of Change”

Excerpted from address presented by Dr. James E. Kibler and published in Digest Newsletter, VOL. IV, No. 4, Oct-Dec 1989
FIRST the Misconceptions…….

Number One – that the Fork was settled by Dutch from Holland……

As all of us assembled here know that DUTCH means DEUTSCH or GERMAN. The settlers were German and German speaking Swiss. In the 1800’s, O.B. Mayer was correct in stating that “no Hollander ever settled in the Dutch Fork”.

Ignorance of this fact, however, led the developers of Dutch Square Shopping Mall when it first opened, to decorate their signs and ads with “windmill” and “wooden shoes”. I cite this as an example of how lack of knowledge of a community’s background and heritage can erode areas of identity. Developers and the new population have a duty to make some effort to belong in a community by knowing both its history and (even more importantly) its values. If a community is to stay intact and remain a real community (not just a housing development built around another golf course), we must educate citizens to know our traditions and encourage their interest in them. A local public library is an excellent center for this, as well as the schools, and, of course, festivals such as this Chapin gathering here this weekend. These methods are important in creating a sense of identity and community.

Number Two – This concerns the western boundary of the Fork….. I have heard even native Dutch Forkers say that the Fork is only the area around White Rock and Ballantine. Again, we know this isn’t the case, but most of us probably have only a vague idea of its western-most boundaries. From my research into settlement patterns and what the people of the 19th century themselves said on the subject, I have drawn this western perimeter: Map of DUTCH FORK

The Western boundary starts on the Saluda River roughly at Kempson’s Bridge on SC Highway 395 and at Corinth Lutheran Church just south of it… goes northeast up to Colony Lutheran Church community 3 miles from Prosperity, then on past the Bachman Chapel Lutheran Church community; north to St. Phillip’s Lutheran Church community east of Newberry; north to Broad River a bit south of Maybinton, including Glymphville and the Jess Suber Bridge on SC Highway 34.

Therefore this boundary marks off the southeastern third of Newberry County with the boundary drawn diagonally so that the Dutch Fork between the Rivers is pie-shaped, with the pie’s outer crust striking a few miles below and east of the town of Newberry, but on its northern edge, north of Newberry almost to Union County. So---included in the Fork are Stoney Hill – St. Luke’s Lutheran community southwest of Prosperity, with its abundance of Boozers, Bedenbaughs, Kunkles, Stockmans, Enlows, and Presocks – and the Zion – O’Neall – Macedonia Lutheran communities south of Prosperity with its Bedenbaughs, Eptings, Hamms, Amicks, Derricks, Fulmers, Sons, Adamses, Countses, Kempsons, Dominicks, Wises, and others.

By the early 1800’s one Teutonic Island outside this pie-wedge was the Mollohom section 10 miles north of Newberry. O.B. Mayer was careful to include it as part of the Fork although not in the “wedge”. Mollohom is a four-mile area bounded by Indian and Duncan Creeks (a little south of the town of Whitmire). Among German settlers here were Cromers and Eisons.

I also include Dutch Fork Cedar Creek community of Richland County north along the Broad River and settled by Fausts, Kinslers, Cooglers and others.

So, now I believe that we are much closer to establishing the boundaries of the Fork, which is considerably larger than the White Rock vicinity.

Number Three – and a big important one – that Dutch Fork settlers came from Pennsylvania….

The origin of this myth is somewhat complicated. One reason it came into being is that the Scotch-Irish route down the Piedmont that settled much of the Upcountry, including Western Newberry County, is well chronicled, and it was implied that we German followed the same route.

In other words, because the Scotch-Irish did it, and the German of Virginia, then so did the Germans of Dutch Fork. Nothing can be further from the truth, however. Some German settlers did come down the Piedmont trail, but they were a distinct minority. The overwhelming majority came directly to the port of Charleston and took their overland journey from the docks of that port. Charleston, then, was our Ellis Island. After this majority, Dutch Forkers came from nearby Saxe Gotha, settled a decade earlier from Charleston itself, from the Purrysburg Swiss area in the 1730’s, and even from the Salzburger-Ebenezer settlement of 1734 in Georgia. The Reverend Boltzius, of Ebenezer, in fact, protested in the 1750’s that many indentured arrivals were escaping to Saxe Gotha and Dutch Fork where they were protected by the Carolina Colony from extradition. Boltzius was a rather tight- lipped and stern one, and I expect I would have fled to the Fork also where folks drank their dram in peace and danced for three days at a time at wedding celebrations. Many came from all these settlements and formed a heterogeneous group (with relation to how they came to be there). So the Pennsylvania Dutch Settlement myth should be laid to rest. Pennsylvania Germans made up one of the smaller percentages of the Dutch Fork total.

Number Four – that the first settlers came from the north……

Wrong again. Among historians, there is the common assumption that all things began in the North and spread south. After a century of being told this, even Southerners are likely to fall into the trap of believing so. Robert Meriwether’s Expansion of South Carolina is a volume which should lay this myth to rest – and to which I refer you. He makes this statement: “the Fork’s settlement was the good land in Saxe Gotha.” In other words, the German Protestants given the bounty simply looked north of the Saluda when the best lands south of the Saluda had been taken. There was also a malarial fever scare in the lowlands of Sax Gotha and some other legal problems which contributed to their looking further inland. This was the situation in the mid-1740s when Dutch Fork came into being.

Number Five – that German settlers on the bounty were poor and destitute…..

While this is true of some; many others were not lacking in means. Some had to indenture themselves in order to pay their passage to America; some other Germans among them, however, owned the indentures. The record of Johannes Kibler reveals that he has an indentured servant in his service when he arrived in Charleston on the ship “Anne” in 1753 to claim his bounty in Dutch Fork. As common sense should dictate, a wide economic range existed among settlers.

After the settlement was a few decades old, most thrifty Germans could usually show a bag surprisingly full of silver and gold coins tucked under the coverlets in their blanket chests. Both early nineteenth century historians O.B. Mayer and John Belton O’Neall attested to the old-time Germans’ trait of squirreling away very large sums of money and in precisely the same blanket chest location beneath the precisely same coverlets. One of my favorite quotations on the subject is from the Stockman family history to the effect that “Their frugality conceals their wealth”. We call this today “the Dutch Fork poor mouth”, believe.

Number Six – that the German settlers of the Dutch Fork were uneducated and could not read or write…

Meriwether in his Expansion of SC again contradicts this myth, for in looking at the settlers’ proved wills, he frequentlu finds among their belongings Bibles and other books. At Stephen Crell’s death in 1763, he left a Hebrew Bible, a Greek Testament, and some other books. Both Herman Geiger and William Strother died in 1751 and left Psalters, sermon books, Bibles, and other “valuable books”, and also items not fitting the frontier stereotypes, including decanters and sets of 20 dram glasses. (Dram glasses are little fragile tall stemmed crystal in which cordials were served. You can imagine that these probably were brought with the settlers from the Old Country in their trunks.)

Among the most frequent requests for aid from Switzerland and Germany from the 1740s onward were for prayer books, Bibles, sermon books, and psalters. This hardly suggests illiteracy.

I have just recently discovered in the Ulrich Mayer family of Pomaria, a colonial Dutch Fork library. It contains German-language books: a New Testament published in Nurnbert, Germany in 1726, a prayer book dated 1728, a Stuttgart prayer book dated 1788, and three other German language volumes. This library shows evidence of continued book collecting into the next generations. There are various English-language theological books printed in Pennsylvania from 1818 to 1837 and English language school texts from 1805 to 1836, including an 1834 Pilgrim’s Progress and arithmetic text from St. Paul’s Lutheran Parochial School (near Pomaria) with the signature of Christiana Wertz in 1822. This last provides us with new evidence that there was a parochial school at St. Paul’s in 1822, and that girls attended it.

There is also proof from handwritten German documents of Dutch Fork in the 18th century that there was good German schooling in the area. The grammar is somewhat deficient, but penmanship is of the best educated German style. From evidence converging from all sides then, it becomes clear that our Dutch Fork ancestors valued education highly.
This explains why when Corpus Evangelicorum (or Unio Ecclesiastica, as it was also called) was founded in 1788, one of the major items on its agenda was to provide for parochial schools to teach the young of the Dutch Fork and for the ministers themselves to keep up with their readings and self-education. What we see is striving to uphold standards. On the frontier it was very easy for standards to slide. I have a favorite quotation that applies: “It is easy to be white trash. All one has to do is let himself slide”. Dutch Forkers were consciously resisting this temptation to “slide”’

The Corpus Evangelicorum also prescribed that Dutch Fork ministers wear their clerical garb and maintain a strict sense of decorum. (This did not entail the kind of strictness of a Rev. Boltzius - - but allowed drinking in moderation and joyous celebrating). Here again we see the settlers striving to maintain standards and some of the amenities of the cultured Old Country. The Corpus made certain that old religious forms were followed. Standards were set such that there were to be no shoutings and charismatic, emotional camp meetings among them. The Dutch Fork backwoods was in many ways not very “backwoodsy” after all, and was more reminiscent of Catholic influenced Southern Germany than one has previously realized. The frontier stereotypes of Methodist and Baptist simply do not apply in things religious. As in most spheres, the Dutch Fork was a world apart from its non-German neighbors.

The Final Misconception – that there were no German crafts and arts among Dutch Fork settlers, or if there had been very early, these were dropped in favor of English ways – further, that Dutch Forkers quickly assimilated the English culture and retained few of their German traditions……

I could speak on this one, but will be brief, for I take up this topic at length in my Carolina Dutch Fork Calendar and plan to pursue it further with other volumes in the Dutch Fork series.

(1) IN LANGUAGE: Broken German-English was still current in the 1880’s along Saluda River south of Prosperity. In 1861, a company formed out of Pomaria fought the War-Between-the States with the nickname “The Dutch” because its members used thick, broken German-English. Even in the pulpits of Lutheran churches when English became the preferred language in the 1820’s and 30’s, ministers were likely to use phrases like “The Crace of Gott” in their prayers.

(2) IN FOODS: Even today, we have a distinctive Dutch Fork cookery. Some of the dishes served here at dinner will no doubt prove this. This is the subject of our next book from Dutch Fork Press, a history of Dutch Fork cookery tracing its roots to Southern Germany – in an attempt to preserve and reinforce these unique ethnic cooking traditions. I am really proud of this Dutch Fork Press effort. I think in putting it together we saved several dishes from being lost to time. When my mother was collecting recipes, for example, Mrs. Gladys Werts asked her if we had MALDASHERS, which triggered my memory of a comment by O.B. Mayer on “Maultoschen” which he describes in such a way that the dish can be identified as ONION DUMPLINGS, pouches of dough containing chopped spring onions and eggs, all of which are boiled in broth from boiled ham-bone….  MALDASHERS then. If we had not been investigating the topic, this link would never have been discovered. We were lucky finding the one lady who probably had this knowledge, and otherwise, it would have been lost to time. So we probably saved this one. There are flyers describing this volume at the Dutch Fork Press table. It’s expected from the bindery in the later summer (1989).

(3) IN DUTCH FORK FURNITURE: A good many examples of painted Dutch Fork chests and cupboards are showing up. The designs are uniquely German and these were still being made in the late 1800s. There are some really beautiful examples. One is the George Wessinger blanket chest in the Lexington County Museum, which I strongly recommend you visit if you’ve not already. Its director, Horace Harmon, is one of the most knowledgeable people on our traditions. Another example, by Mayes Presock, of Stoney Hill, used the Nelke or “Pink” design. I have also seen pie safes with heart, Sechtern, and Wendered patterns. The most famous Dutch Fork cupboard is the great painted piece with Laufender Hund and Herzen on its doors. This is pictured in the excellent McKissick Museum catalogue Carolina Folk, but the write up of the piece is in error saying that the Laufender Hund motif is English and shows the Dutch Fork’s assimilation into the English culture. Investigation into Swiss and German fp;1 art shows the Laufender Hund to be quite popular in these areas. So here again is our misconception at work stating that Dutch Fork bowed quickly to English culture. Dutch Fork Press is now planning a volume on the furniture of the Fork which will picture and describe our heritage furniture.

(4) IN DUTCH FORK CRAFTS: Quilts, coverlets, Fraktur illustrations, Scherrenschntte (which is the German name for cut paper book), wood carvings – Dutch Fork examples of these are uniquely German and quite good. They measure up well beside the works out of the Old Salem Moravian settlement in North Carolina and in the larger German settlements of Virginia and Pennsylvania.

What all of this goes to say is - - - - that in Dutch Fork we have a real culture, unique and distinctive. What we now need to do is explore, record, study and preserve its various facets. That is the role of the Dutch Fork Press. As its editor, my aim is to help identify, study, and preserve this heritage.