Travels Through North America, during the years 1825 and 1826
By His Highness,
Bernhard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar Eisenach
On the 18th of October, I traveled in the stage to Bethlehem, a place settled in the year 1741, by the evangelical congregation of Moravians. It was impossible to me to leave the state of Pennsylvania without first visiting this society, which is highly esteemed here on account of their usefulness, morals, &c.
Mr. Vaux gave me a recommendatory letter.
Bethlehem is fifty-two miles from Philadelphia; as the intercourse between both places is not very great, the stage goes but twice a week from each place. Day had not dawned when I left Philadelphia; the stage was very full, and the weather was uncommonly cold. As stage companions, I became acquainted with two Messrs. Rice, members of the Moravian Society, and inhabitants of Bethlehem, and found them very amiable, sensible, and well-informed men. One of them had traveled in Germany, and both spoke very good German. We changed horses twice, and also the stage, which unfortunately was worse at each change, the first time at Whitemarsh, and the second at Quakertown; the road was mostly turnpike, and somewhat resembled our German roads, except that the stones thrown on the road were rather too large, and the path was not well filled up. After having changed horses the second time, we went on a lately made turnpike, the stones not having been traveled on. The latter part of the road was not yet turnpiked, and resembled a rocky bye-road, but, on account of the dry season, was the most comfortable. The agriculture of this region shows that the country has already been long under cultivation. The houses are mostly strong, built of blue limestone, and covered with shingles. There has been considerable expense bestowed on the barns, most of them have the appearance of churches. The fields and meadows were fenced, mostly with zigzag, commonly called worm-fences. Corn was still standing on the fields, but they had begun to gather it. The winter grain had already sprouted, and had a pleasing appearance. The trade in wheat flour is carried on very largely in Pennsylvania; this flour has very justly obtained a good reputation, and is much sought for in the West Indies; no where, not even excepting Europe, have I eaten as good bread as in this state. The original forests have been eradicated, and you see very few old and handsome trees as in the state of New York; the wood, how ever, has grown again, and consists mostly of large-leafed oaks, chestnut, walnut, and hickory trees; the soil is partly limestone, and partly clay. In the neighborhood of Bethlehem, the soil is mostly limestone; there are a great many rocks, and you observe here the earth often crumbled, as is the case in calcareous mountains. The inhabitants are mostly descendants of Germans, emigrants from Wirtemberg, who still retain their language, although in an imperfect state. They print here for the country people, newspapers and sheet almanacs, in American German. The difference is already perceptible in the state of Pennsylvania which exists between the southern and northern states in the education of the lower classes: it is said to be still more striking in the southern states. They particularly complain that the former German farmers did not send their children to school at all; lately, however, they have become more ambitious, and attend the schools, because the legislature of Pennsylvania has passed a law, that no citizen shall sit on a jury unless he can read and write the English language. The German farmers consider it an honor to be called upon a jury, but find themselves deprived of that honor on account of their ignorance. They now, therefore, have their sons instructed in English. I saw in the woods two small octagonal houses, and was informed that they were schools, which, however, were never frequented.
In many villages where you see handsome brick buildings, stables, and barns, the school is a simple log-house, much worse than the school-houses I have seen among the Indians. There is no want of churches, mostly Lutheran, some Calvinist, Quaker meeting-houses, Anabaptists, and Menonists. Between Quakertown and Bethlehem, the former called so on account of its having been originally settled by that sect, but now inhabited mostly by Germans, there is a parish of Swiss Menonists, which they call here Dunkards, because the men let their beards grow. As we passed through, there happened to be the funeral of a young girl, and almost the whole congregation followed the coffin. Between four and five o'clock, P. M. we reached Bethlehem, and stayed in Bishop's tavern, which was very cleanly, and well managed.