The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heritage Of The German Pioneers In Franklin County, VA

By Dr. Frank B. Hurt © 1985

Issue:  February, 1985

Dr. Frank B. Hurt is a native of Franklin County, Virginia and a descendant of some of its earliest settlers. He has written two books, A HISTORY OF FERRUM COLLEGE, AN UNCOMMON CHALLENGE, 1914-1974, and THE HERITAGE OF THE GERMAN PIONEERS IN FRANKLIN COUNTY, VA.

Both of these books are available for purchase and by mail order at Ferrum College Bookstore, or The Ferrum Craft Shop, Route 1, Ferrum, Va. 24088. The cost of A HISTORY OF FERRUM COLLEGE, AN UNCOMMON CHALLANGE, 1914-1974, is $9.95 and THE HERITAGE OF THE GERMAN PIONEERS IN FRANKLIN CO- UNTY is $3.50. (This includes postage and handling.) The proceeds from the sale of these books go into a scholarship fund at Ferrum College in the name of Dr. Hurt's parents, John Kemper and Lelia Angle Hurt.

Dr. Hurt is gathering material and researching the Scotch-Irish heritage in the Blue Ridge, in hopes of publishing a book on this subject.

The HISTORY OF FERRUM COLLEGE covers the history of early education in Franklin County and its growth. THE HERITAGE OF THE GERMAN PIONEERS describes the immigration and early lifestyle of the German pioneers to our part of the country and the influence they had on molding the community they lived in.

The, following excerpt is taken from Dr. Hurt's book, THE HERITAGE OF THE GERMAN PIONEERS IN FRANKLIN COUNTY. I must admit, it wasn't an easy decision which part to print. There were so many interesting things in this book to choose from - The Carolina Road section (which was the main pathway of most settlers coming from Pennsylvania and points north to North Carolina). This section tells of the Moravian migration to Bethabra and Old Salem, North Carolina. Another section of the book describes the Brethren Churches and other religions in this area. There are several churches, such as The Brick Church in Franklin County, still standing on the sites of the original churches.

I finally made a decision. The following is from the chapter about "The Character of the German Communities."

There were few taverns until late into the eighteenth century. Travelers passing through the countryside, sought private housing. Hospitality was freely offered and generously accepted. Travel by horseback or on foot over roads that were poorly marked and subject to the vicissitudes of nature did not offer "rest to the weary" sojourner. All guests ate at the same table as did the members of the family, and often slept four in a room regardless of acquaintance, social position or sex. "Bundling was not unknown, and was sometimes practiced as a phase of the parsimony and paucity of accommodations.

The carriages of middle-eighteenth century vintage had no springs. Being placed merely on braces of wood or leather, jolting over rough roads proved necessarily back-breaking. The stream crossings were difficult, the fords were deep and often unmarked, necessitating now and then resort to canoes. At the stream crossing, it was not unusual to see a vehicle set onto two canoes, and ferried to the distant shore. It was customary for the horses to swim.

It was a tradition for the women to run the household. The solidarity of the home brought out those sterling qualities that characterized the Dutch (Duetsche derived from the German, "Deutsch" land meaning folk land) family. The winter season provided opportunities to manufacture not only utilities for the house, but implements for the farm. Necessities such as salt, sugar, coffee, and other potpourri had to come from outside. Almost every article that was consumed, worn, or used, was produced within the immediate community. Such articles as beef, bacon, flour, meal, and soap came from the immediate neighborhood. The women of that day "…[were] very civil and [showed] nothing of suggestiveness or immodesty in her carriage, and yet she [carried] a gun in the woods and [killed] a deer, turkeys, etc., and [shot down] wild cattle, [tied] hogs...and [performed] the most manful exercises." The proclivities of the male, however, occupied a position of prerogative as attested by a relevant saying "The plowman that raiseth Grain is more serviceable to Mankind, than the Painter who draws only to please the Eye." (From "A History Of American Life", Arthur Schlesinger and Dixon Ryan Fox, MacMillan Company, New York, 1933, pages 92 and 141.)

Throughout the years of migration, the Dutch family retained its sense of solidarity. This strongly ingrained trait was manifest in their homemaking instinct that has abided the years. Although the influence of the environment under conditions of frontier existence was not always favorable, the family was strengthened as a social, economic and religious unit. The lack of accumulated resources, scarcity of labor and requirements of social adaptation emphasized a demanding degree of inter-dependence and cooperation. The opportunity to acquire land, however, became an underlying ambition as reflected in the agricultural economy of the Dutch farmer along the river valleys.