Farmers Were Kept Poor: The Pennsylvania German farmers were good farmers by practically all standards. They were descended through thirty generations of tillers of the soil. All things being equal in their Old World haunts they would have been on the average well-to-do. But the wars kept them poor, or, if they were on the wrong side of the political or religious "fence" they again were likely to be mulct of what they had. Travel, being what it was in those days, was expensive, and the more so because unscrupulous ship owners found they could get the price, either from the pioneer or some one who would pay for this passage. Those who undertook to pay off their passage under a bond which sometimes took twenty years to redeem, would be termed "redemptioners." This took on a form of "white servitude" in the early days, and much of interest may be read about the subject. Fine Soil Ready in Pennsylvania.--It has been pointed out that the situation greeting the newcomers was pretty nearly made to order. There was little barrenness; fertilization was not necessary in the same degree that it was in Germany, where tilling for many years required more attention. The farmers were smart enough to rotate their crops; they grazed cattle for fattening and got back fertilizer quite precious. They fed their horses well, so that they could do twice as much work in a day as horses underfed; they were kept warm in winter, and were excused from doing extra work, such as dragging logs, or pleasure driving. "Swiss Barns" Erected.--The early pioneers first cleared sufficient land to get a start on farming; then came an immense barn, well built, of the "Swiss" type. The first barns were built of logs. Later there were some of stone, then frame or brick. Interesting features of some of the barns included the stars on the sides and ends; also the ventilator designs obtained by omissions of bricks which formed the designs, or cut-outs in the odd shapes of hearts, diamonds, quarter-moons, clubs, etc. Most barns were double-deckers, and allowed for threshing-floors, mows and lofts for storing hay. The complete barns had a granary on the upper floor, a cellar under the drive-way, in addition to the usual stalls for horses and cattle. They ranged from 50 to 60 feet wide, and 60 to 120 feet long, with an overhang of 8 to 10 feet beyond the stable doors. Originally barns and houses had thatched roofs; in later years they were shingled, slated, or tinned. If painted, it generally was of deep red, for lasting qualities. Lumber could be obtained on the spot; likewise good building stone might be found nearby, needing but the blows of the stone mason to dress them for use. But it might be a decade or two until they got around to the building of a substantial house . Houses built by the pioneers were generally of logs, if the builder was pioneering some miles away from centers of population. These could be built in a few days after a clearing was made. Two-story houses were the general rule at the outset, with the familiar two-and-a-half-story to follow. The first with pitched roof, and with cornices run across the gables and around the first story.
Types of Construction: The English and Scotch fashion was to build the chimney at the gable-end, but the German style was to bring it right up through the center of the house. Most of them seemed to be spacious, with open fire-places in most rooms, and with deep-set window and door frames. Window weights were used quite early. Travelers usually note on these older houses the odd inscriptions, verses, dates or initials found well up on the gable wall. This is a hangover from customs in Germany and Switzerland. There are many variations held by people today as to the meanings of the decorations on barns, certain markings found here and there on houses and necessary outbuildings; even on cooking utensils, etc. Gaudy Colors and Designs.--It will hardly suffice to say that the farmer liked to have his barn look attractive, and to be in good state of repair, as a sign of his progress and success; nor that his wife was odd, in that she had a lot of dishes with gaudy decorations of birds, flowers, alphabets, scenes and verses painted thereon; nor that the good housewife had these same decorations on her bed linens, and her furniture as well. Most of the decorative schemes came from the Old World, a throw-off, or hand-me-down from ancient Persian and Chinese ideas. We are informed that German houses today have on their walls counterparts of many of the ideas expressed by our own native artists with a slight touch or blend of native instinct which do not in the least detract from the value or interest of the items in question. The farmers were not alone the great builders. We had the well-known preachers and teachers; scientists and astronomers; inventors and many others. A catalog of German firsts in Pennsylvania is an imposing array of talent and accomplishment.
A Knowledge of Family Names is not only of passing interest but may be of great value to students and researchers. Names, as we know, undertake to make many changes, even in the same family, even today. "Pennsylvania German family names may be divided into three classes: first, those derived from personal names; second, those derived from occupation; and third, those derived from the place where the individual lived (including house signs) or whence he came," says Kuhns, and "in this last class may likewise be properly included nicknames, or those due to personal peculiarities, physical or mental. " The smaller type following is an excerpt from Kuhns' book:
These personal names exist today in Pennsylvania, some of them but little changed; such are Albrecht: of distinguished race (P.G. [Pennsylvania Germans] Albright); Arnwald: one who rules as the eagle; Bernhard: strong as a bear; Conrad: bold in council; Dietrich: ruler of people; Eberhart: strong as a boar; Eckert: strong sword; Garman: spearman; Gebhard: generous giver (P.G. Kephart); Gerhard: stong spear; Gottschalk: servant of God; Hartman: strong man; Heidrich: of noble rank; Hildebrandt: battle-sword; Hubert: bright of intellect; Irmintraut: friend of the Walkyrie Thrudr (P.G. Ermentrout); Lühr: war-people; Reinhard: strong in counsel; Reinhold: ruler of council; Trautman: follower of the Walkyrie Thrudr.
In most cases, however, these double-stem names were shortened by dropping the second stem, whence such names as Kuhn (from Kunrat), Hein (from Heinrich), Ott (from Ottman), Traut (from Trautmann), Bär, Barr (from Berhard). To these stems diminutive suffixes were added; thus from "i" we have the forms Bürki (from Burkhard), Ebi (from Ebarhard), Egli (from Agilbrecht), Hägi (from Haginbert), Lichti (from Ludger: P.G. Light), Stäheli (from Stahal), Welti (from Walther), Geissle (from Gisalhart: P.G. Yeissley); from "izo" we get Boss and Butz (from Bodomar), Dietz (from Dietrich), Fritz and Fritschi (from Friedrich: cf. Barbara Frietchie), Heintz (from Heinrich), Kuntz (from Kunrat: P.G. Koons and Kuhns), Landis, Lentz, and Lantz (from Landfrid), Lutz (from Ludwig), Seitz (from Siegfrid: P.G. Sides), Tietz (from Dietrich), Waltz (from Walther), from "iko" we get Frick (from Friedrich), Illig and the genitive Hilleges (from Hildebrand), Kündig (from Gundobert), Leidig (from Luithart); from "ilo" we get Ebli and Eberli (from Ebarhard), Bechtel (from Berchtold), Bickel (from Botger), Diehl (from Dietrich), Hirzel (from Hieruzleip: P.G. Hartzell), Hubeli (from Hugubert), Markel and Märgli (from Markwald), Meili (from Maganhard), Nägeli (from Nagalrich), Rubli (from Hrodebert: Robert), Schnäbeli (from root Sneo--snow: P.G. Snavely); from "z" plus "l" we get Künzel (from Kunrat), Reitzel (from Ricohard: Richard), and Tietzel (from Dietrich).
From all the above forms patronymics in "mann," "inger," and "ler" are formed: Bausman, Beidleman, Denlinger, Dietzinger, Gehringer, Grissinger, Heintzelman, Hirtzler, Hollinger. In addition to the purely German personal names we have also many names taken from Biblical characters and from the lives of saints: Bartel (from Bartholomaeus), Klause (Nicholas), Martin, Theiss, and Theissen (Matthias), Peters, Hensel (Johannes), Jäggi and Jäckli (Jacobus: P.G. Yeagy and Yackley), Jörg, Jorges (George: P.G. Yerrick and Yerkes), Brosius (Ambrosius), Bastian (Sebastisn), Flory (Florus), Johst (Justus: P.G. Yost).
The second class of Pennsylvania-German family names are derived from the occupation of the individual; among the best known are Becker (baker), Baumgartner (orchard-grower), Brenneisen (blacksmith), Brunner (well-digger), Dreher, Trachsel, Trechsler (turner), Fischer, Gerber (tanner, currier: P.G. Garver), Glöckner (bell-ringer: P.G. Klackner, Kleckner), Heilman (doctor), Huber (one who owns a "hube"--a small farm), Jäger (hunter), Kärcher (carter), Kohler, Koehler (coal-burner): P.G, Kaler, Cayler), Kaufman (merchant), Küfer and Küfner (cooper), Küster (sexton), Maurer (mason), Metzger (butcher), Lehmann (one under feudal tenure), Leineweber (linen-weaver), Müller, Probst (provost), Reifschneider, Riemenschneider (harness-maker), Sauter, Suter (shoemaker), Schaffner (steward), Schenck (cup-bearer), Scherer (barber), Schlegel (one who hammers), Schmidt (smith), Schneider (tailor), Schreiber (writer), Schreiner (joiner), Schütz (shooter, or archer: P.G. Sheets), Schultz (mayor), Siegrist (sexton), Spengler (tin-smith), Steinmetz (stone-cutter), Tschudi (judge: Swiss), Vogt (bailiff), Wagner (wagoner), Wannemaker (basket-maker), Weber (weaver), Wirtz (landlord), Widmeyer, Widmer (one who has land from church or monastery), Ziegler (brick-maker), Zimmerman (carpenter).
The first subdivision of names in the third class comprises those which denote the place where one lives or whence one comes; such are Algäuer (from the Allgau in Switzerland), Altendörfer (from village in St. Gall, Switz.), Amweg (beside the road), Amend (at end of village), Bach, Bacher, Bachman (who live near a brook), Berner (from Berne, Switz.), Basler (from Basel), Berger (lives on mountain), Beyer (a Bavarian), Biemensdörfer, Blickensdorfer (from village in Canton Zürich), Boehm (a Bohemian), Brechbühl (unploughed hill: P.G. Brightbill and Brackbill), Breitenbach (village in Solothurn, Switz.), Brubacher (village in Zürich), Büttigkoffer (from village Büttikofen, Berne), Detweiler (village in Canton Zurich), Diefenbach (Tiefenbach, in Canton Uri, Switz.), Dieffendörfer (from Tiefendorf), Flückiger (village in Canton Berne), Fahrni (village in Berne), Frick (in Aargau, Switz.), Haldi, Haldeman (from Halden, common name for village in Switzerland), Hofstetter (name of several villages in Zürich, St. Gall, and Berne), Eschelman (from Aeschi, village in Canton Berne), Imgrund (in hollow land), Imboden (in bottom-lands), Imhof (in farm-yard), Köllicker (village in Aargau), Longenecker (village in Berne), Mellinger (village in Aargau), Neuenschwander (village in Berne), Oberholtzer (several villages in Berne), Ruegsegger (Berne: P.G. Ricksecker), Schollenberger (castle and village, Zürich), Schwab (a Swabian: P.G. Swope), Urner (from Canton Uri), Zug (Canton Zug), Zürcher (from Zürich).
During the Middle Ages the houses were not numbered as now, but had signs painted on them, something after the manner of hotels at the present time. From these many names were derived: Bär (bear), Baum (tree), Bieber (beaver), Bischof (bishop), Engel (angel), Fasnacht (Shrove Tuesday), Faust (fist), Fuchs (fox), Fünfrock (five-coats), Haas (hare), Hahn (rooster), Helm (helmet), Hertzog (duke: P.G. Hartsook), Holtzapfel (wild-apple), Kalb (calf: P.G. Kulp, Culp), Kaiser (emperor), König (king), Krebs (crab), Münch (monk), Oechsli (little ox: P.G. Exley), Pfaff (priest), Ritter (knight), Vogel (bird), Voegli (little bird: P.G. Feagley), Würfel (die, cube), Wolf.
Finally we have names given from personal peculiarities. Such are: Braun, Dürr (dry, thin), Fröhlich (cheerful: P.G. Frailey), Frei (free), Freytag (Friday), Gut (good), Hübschmann (handsome), Hoch (tall), Jüng (young), Kahl (bald), Klein (small), Kleindienst (small sevice), Krause (curly), Krumbein (crooked legs), Kurtz (short), Lang (long), Lebengut (good-liver: P.G. Livingood), Rau, Rauch (rough), Reich (rich), Roth (red), Rothrock (red-coat), Rothaermel (red-sleeve), Schwartz (black), Seltenreich (seldom rich), Weiss (white).
These German names almost all came from the Palatinate and Switzerland. Even today we can trace the Swiss origin of many--for instance, Urner (from Uri), Johns (Tschantz), Neagley (Naegeli), Bossler (Baseler). Some are of French Huguenot origin, which by combined German and English influence have often received a not very elegant or euphonious form: examples are Lemon (Le Mon), Bushong (Beauchamp), and Shunk (Jean); the original Fierre was changed to German Faehre, and later became anglicised into Ferree. The number of different of spelling even the simplest names is often surprisingly large: thus, for the original Graf we find today Graaf, Graff, Groff, Groft, Graft, and Grove. So Baer gives us Bear, Bare, Bair. Of course the vagaries of English orthography are largely responsible for this. There were three ways in which the change of names took place: first, by translation; second, by spelling German sounds according to English methods; and third, by analogy.