Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Swamp – At Home in SEPA

You will see me refer to this place that I live as The Swamp. Here is why:

I live in an area of PA that was settled relatively recently. Remember dear reader I was born and raised in New Mexico where history pre-dates the European arrival in the America's by many hundreds of years. So, these Pennsylvanians have only a relative notion of history and it starts in the late 1600's.

The original European settlers were mainly of Germanic decent (called Goschenhoppen's, yeah, don't ask cause I don't know, but that is what they were called). They arrived in this immediate area in the very early 1700's which had been parceled out by William Penn himself and established as the Frankfort Trust. You see these early German immigrants were persecuted back home for their religious beliefs. Bill Penn was sympathetic and carved out a sizable tract for these new arrivals, he just did not want it to close what was to become his beloved city, Philadelphia. Geographically speaking, we are some 50 miles north and west of the city proper.

Upon arrival the Germans found good arable land with plenty of watered meadows. One of the first things they did was build a large church, they were Lutherans you know. They built this lovely church not even a mile from my abode using brick brought here from Hanover Germany. Lots of bricks by the way as the church is big. It is the first Lutheran church built in America. The site for this church was up on a small hill up off the bottom ground or the meadows. This is because the meadows you see were the true appeal the German farmers for this area. The arable ground with good meadows or schwamm in the Germanic dialect spoken in the day, proved too good to pass up and the Germans stayed.

First Lutheran Church in America built with bricks brought here from Hannover Germany. Circa. 1707.

You see these meadows were important to the German new comers because of the kind of hay that was grown in these meadows. Especially over the winter months. The hay grew thick and plentiful and allowed farmers to feed their cattle the hay over the winter. They would simply go out and cut a swath and bring that back to their barn, usually built up on high and dry ground. The cow was very important for the milk they produced mainly because they used it for producing Butter. Butter it seems was a very important commodity back then you know, before the introduction of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and such. Butter was second only to Wheat as a cash crop in these parts. I am sure it was sold to the many people living in Philadelphia. They weren't good enough to live with them but they would eat their butter, thank you very much.

So, the meadow was important to the settling of the local area. Within maybe a mile of my house is the confluence of many creeks and small rivers; the Minister Creek, the Swamp Creek (both of which are small rivers actually) and there is the Shublish and the Scioto creeks that pass and of course the Reifsnyder as well. These all converge near here and all told make for a lot of meadow ground. There were lots of German farms in this area long ago.

Not that many now as we have had so much residential development. We still do have one family farm run by a German descendant and he still heard cattle. In fact maybe a quarter mile from my front door as the crow fly's is the Suloman Dairy farm and milk store. They don't make butter there today, as I guess that has been taken over by mass production from the great big dairy cooperatives.

No, they turn hay into Ice Cream over at the Suloman's place. Oh we are blessed with its rich, sweet goodness a short walk away. And we absolutely love Ice Cream here in my house. It was one of the reasons we choose to buy in this development.

There are cows here, they must have been inside getting milked when Icame by with my camera.

So the area around here is called the Swamp. The main road through my township is called Swamp Pike. You cross bridges over all these creeks and rivers on every road you travel. Water is everywhere, there are Meadows everywhere. It's a lovely place; they just need a good Taco stand and I would be in heaven. Can anyone say Bob's Burger?

Ye Ole Homestead. My home on Pheasant Lane. That is the flag I call "The Big One" which is only flown on special occasions.

BT: Jimmy T sends.


Buck said...

Nice house, Jimmy... and a nice account about the part o' the world ya live in. You are blessed.

JimmyT said...

Buck, thanks. I have lived here way longer than I ever thought. I was even an elected township supervisor here for 7 years. Funny how things turn out.

BT: Jimmy T sends.

Bag Blog said...

Very nice house! We are about to build on to our very small house. I am hoping for beams and slatted ceilings - vigas and latias would be better, but not common in OK. I will settle for stucco rather than adobe, but the NM architecture has influenced me greatly.

JimmyT said...

Lou, I love the NM architecture. I built the deck on the back of our house and I built it with a beam and viga overhead to give us shade. Peoople always comment on it when they see it because it is just not done in these parts. I'll have to find an excuse to get a picture put up so you can see it. I also want to put one of those adobe ovens out back. Can't get the Wife to go along with that yet.

BT: Jimmy T sends.

virgil xenophon said...

Jimmy, great historical tour!

Most people think of French & Spanish influence when they think of New Orleans and South Louisiana, but New Orleans and adjacent rural areas up to Baton Rouge have a HUGE German immigrant population and influence. And the bricks used to build the Church? Same thing in New Orleans--brought over as ballast in the keels of the ships, then used them for construction--pretty damn smart and efficient.

We spent much of the summer and Fall thru Jan in Philly in '99-2000 where my wife was on contract as a Nurse at Univ. of Penn teaching Hosp in Philly. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there--so much to see and do. Made the obligatory trek to King of Prussia Mall several times....HAD to do that! :)
If I'd have known you were around up there then I'd have shot up your way and terrorized you some...realistically though, probably not--there was just SO much to see & do in the short time we had in Philly. Took the train into NYC for Christmas. Radio City Music Hall had just re-opened after multi-million dollar refurbishment--the traditional Christmas show and the art deco structure were fabulous! If you're ever in NYC and want a relatively cheap but classy and convenient place to stay try the Best Western Manhattan, of all places. Right around corner from Empire State Bldg. Lobby was brand new back then and looked great. BTW. the old Art Deco Central Terminal train station in Philly is ANOTHER really GREAT piece of Art Deco Architecture--especially the interior--worth going to see even if you're NOT going on a train trip.

Keep up the good work--I'm a history and geography nut.