They came in droves–Swedes, Welsh,
Germans, English, French–bringing with them their own unique
belief in God. Together they forged a new life and eventually
a state that has become a microcosm of America. Pennsylvania
has been a mecca for nonconformists and social experimenters
ever since the days of its founding by William Penn.
The keystone of the thirteen original
colonies, hence it's nickname "The Keystone State,"
it typifies the America that was a magnet for immigrants. From
1643, when Swedish-Finnish colonists settled on Tinicum Island
in the Delaware River, Pennyslvania has always attracted the
To collect a large claim he had against the
English crown, William Penn, a Quaker, asked Charles II for a
grant of land in the New World where Quakers and other
non-conformists could live with freedom of religion. Penn set
up his colony near what is now Chester in 1682. Penn purchased
land from the Indians with such fairness that all lived in
peace and harmony until 1755, the start of the French and
Indian War. For the name of his new city, Penn chose
Philadelphia, meaning "City of Brotherly Love," the
same as that of an early Christian city in Asia Minor.
Penn’s English Quakers were soon followed
by a large number of Welsh who gave names to places like
Radnor, Gwynedd, and Bryn Athyn. The established Swedish
colony merged with them. Next came the Germans who settled in
Germantown, north of Philadelphia, establishing the first
manufacturing center in the New World.
The Scotch-Irish, the descendants of Scots
who settled in Northern Ireland, followed the Pennsylvania
Dutch–from their description of themselves as deutsch.
Coupled with Penn's ideas and the laws he devised to make them
a reality, the Pennsylvania colony quickly became successful.
It became a formidable commercial center, using the ports on
the Ohio river, Lake Erie and the Delaware river to trade with
Europe and the colonies.
The early settlers chose names for their
towns that reminded them of their homelands or took the names
Indians had already given them–Punxutawney, Hollsopple,
Wilmerding, Hop Bottom, Wapwallopenwaht. What other state can
boast post offices in places named Shicksshinny or Loyalsock,
Normalville or Neshaming? Puzzletown, Applevold, and Forty
Fort are all part of the 15,000 towns and villages crammed
into Pennyslvania’s 45,000 square miles.
The highest concentration of immigrants
settled in the Delaware Valley, with Philadelphia as its hub.
Spread over the southeast corner of the state like spokes of a
wheel, taking in four counties–Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and
Montgomery–it became a mercantile and agricultural center.
Though its communities have lost their pastoral character to
shopping malls and tract housing, these villages have retained
their charm in their old churches, meeting houses, fieldstone
mills and mansions, and public buildings.
These communities have not only preserved
historic buildings but open spaces. The rolling landscape of
Valley Forge National Park has been frozen in time much as it
was during that heroic winter encampment of Washington's
patriot army in December of 1777. But the bulging limits of
Philadelphia now press this historic campground. Around its
northern perimeter flows the big, fast-moving Schuyllkill
(pronounced Skook'l) River, now paralleled by the four-lane,
sometimes faster-moving Schuylkill Expressway into
Other reminders of the Revolution crowd this
corner of Pennsylvania. Brandywine Battlefield Park lies 30
miles southwest of Philadelphia. Here, the Battle of
Brandywine took place on September 11, 1777, when Washington
and his outnumbered army tried unsuccessfully to prevent the
British from taking Philadelphia. This is also the home of the
Brandywine School of artists, led by Howard Pyle, N.C. and
Andrew Wyeth, who have painstakenly recorded life in the
countryside around them.