Francis Daniel Pastorius Homestead — Building a Haven for Religious Freedom in Germantown
On October 24, 1683, thirteen families from Krefeld, Germany, met Daniel Francis Pastorius in a cave near Germantown, Philadelphia. Pastorius, as a representative of the Frankfort Land Company, had bought land for these settlers from new friend and fellow Quaker William Penn. The Settlers met in Pastorius’ temporary cave dwelling to choose the plots of land for their new homes. They used a lottery system and, shortly after, began building houses and preparing for the winter. Within the year, many more German settlers were coming to Germantown.
Daniel Francis Pastorius was born in Sommerhausen, Germany in 1651. Pastorius went to University of Altorf and eventually received his doctorate degree of law at Numerberg. Instead of practicing law, Pastorius joined the religious group of Pietists who believed in treating everyone with kindness and respect. The Pietists also strived to maintain their own good behavior. Through their agent Pastorius, the Pietists purchased from William Penn fifteen thousand acres to build a religious haven in Pennsylvania.
During this time, Pastorius often thought about returning home to Germany. However, Pastorius so believed in Penn’s vision of a haven for religious freedom that he remained in Pennsylvania. Pastorius soon began to write about the freedom he was experiencing in Penn’s Woods. These writings may have been one of the reasons why so many Germans decided to immigrate to the new colony.
After arriving in Philadelphia on August 16, 1683, Pastorius made his first home, like many early Philadelphia residents, in a cave which was thirty feet by fifteen feet wide. Shortly after the arrival of the Krefeld settlers, Pastorius built a little house close to the Delaware River. The motto, Parva domes sed amica Bones procul este Prophani, which Pastorius wrote above the door of his first colonial house amused his friend, William Penn. The English translation of the motto reads as “small house, but good friends at the outside Temple.” Pastorius later moved with the Krefeld settlers to the new township of Germantown. To promote industry, Pastorius organized the first country fair in Philadelphia on November 16, 1684. Many weavers living in Germantown began to experience financial success. The clothing which these Germantown merchants produced was often sold in the colonies of New York and Boston. The merchants later began manufacturing of wool stockings, which were famous for their use of Germantown wool.
Pastorius, himself, was involved in many different professions in the young community. He performed the duties of lawyer, teacher, poet, and mayor. He was responsible for marrying individuals, keeping court records, and maintaining order in the court during trials. Pastorius was also a prolific writer. He wrote the first original school book printed in Pennsylvania and a remarkable book called the “Beehive.” The “Beehive” contained a thousand pages of history, philosophy, poetry and laws written in seven different languages. In addition, he wrote seven published books and forty three manuscripts.
Despite being successful in many different professions, Daniel Francis Pastorius faced some challenges in his life. In November 1685, Pastorius wanted to step down as the representative of the Germantown landowners. The members of the Frankfurt Company refused his request. The Company did not replace Pastorius until 1700 when the Company appointed three new managers. Some of these managers proved to be less than trustworthy. In 1707, Johann Henrich Sprogel claimed that he had bought out the land interests of the Frankfurt Company, including the township of Germantown. One of the managers of the Frankfurt Company, Daniel Faulkner, was bribed by Sprogel to support his claim of ownership of the Frankfurt Company. Pastorius was a skilled lawyer and prevented Sproegel from evicting the citizens of Germantown from their land.
Pastorius helped to organize the construction of a kirchlein or “little church” in Germantown and was a member of an organization known as the Society of Friends or Quakers. On February 16, 1688, Pastorius and three other men composed a protest against slavery, the first in the colonies, and read it the Quaker meeting. Pastorius’ efforts lead to the outlawing of slavery in all German religious colonies in the New World. The slave trade was outlawed in the Pennsylvania colony in 1781.
Pastorius built his Germantown home at 25 East High Street sometime before 1696. The house was still standing when Pastorius great grandson, Daniel, built his own mansion just south of it around 1796 Daniel, like his great grandfather, also became a community leader in the Germantown neighborhood. He was among a group of concerned Germantown citizens in 1759 who established the first public school for their children, which later became the Germantown Academy. In addition, he also provided land and support for the building of the first Methodist church in Germantown. Both of these institutions are an active part of the Philadelphia community today.
Francis Pastorius moved back to Philadelphia in 1698 to accept the position of headmaster of the Friends School in Philadelphia. Pastorius taught at the school until 1700. He continued to work as teacher and wrote until the end of his life. Pastorius died in Germantown on February 27, 1719 at the age of 67. The thriving community of Germantown would never have been possible without the vision of Daniel Francis Pastorius. Pastorius ancestors have remained a part of the Germantown comm
- Beatrice Clayton. A History of Old Germantown. Germantown, PA: Horace F. McCann, Publisher. 1907. pp. 443-446.
- Beatrice Pastorius Turner. “William Penn and Pastorius : An Address Delivered Before the Pennsylvania Society of the Colonial Dames of America. January 28, 1932”. Philadelphia: Pennslyvania Magazine of History and Biography. Vol. 57, No. 1. 1933. Pp 66 – 90.
- Charles F. Jenkins. Guide Book of Historic Germantown prepared for the Site and Relic Society by Charles F. Jenkins.n ( Philadelphia: Innes and Sons Publishing. 1902.)
- Chrissy Bellizzi, Librarian, German Society of Pennsylvania, 2013
- Hildegard Binder Johnson. “The Germantown Protest of 1688 Against Negro Slavery.” Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press. Monatshefte. Vol. 80, No. 3 (Fall 1988). pp. 268-277.
- Sarah Newhouse. Francis Daniel Pastorius Records: Grund Und Lager Buch. Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Marion Dexter learned Collection. 1910.
25 E. High Street Philadelphia PA 19144