The Families of Adam Keith

The “New Country”, the New Home

 I am sure the family received guidance from the German community about where to look for land, what the costs would be, and how to get there.  Chances are very good they traveled with other families who had the same objective.  Although I have been unable to link any of Adam’s neighbors in Brecknock Township with Höchst area family names, I suspect the traveling companions were friends made in Philadelphia.  We know the destination was Lancaster Co. and that the further from Philadelphia the immigrants went the cheaper the land, especially uncultivated land.  Adam was looking for uncultivated land with ready access to water, a land characteristic this family and their descendents provably adhered to well into the 19th century in Kentucky, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois and Canada. Whether the location in Brecknock Township was pre-orchestrated or discovered by the “seek and ye shall find” method is unknown. The fact is the family settled at the known spot in Brecknock Township late in 1757 or early 1758.

The map above shows the likely route the family took to Lancaster County in late 1757 or early 1758. The exact homestead spot was located approximately 3/4 of a mile south of Adamstown PA, Lancaster Co. PA on the Bowmansville Rd., a few hundred yards from the Berks Co. PA county line. Early PA tax records indicated Adam and his family owned 120 acres of land.

From the Humphrey article;

“After building temporary shelter, work commenced on erecting a more permanent cabin and clearing the land of trees.  In general, Germans approached the task of clearing the land in a manner different than the British.  Germans did not girdle or strip the trees of bark and leave them to die in place, which was the custom of the English and Irish.  Germans tended to cut the trees down, burn what they could not use, and then dig out the roots.  By destroying the tree and by grubbing the roots, the field was fit for cultivation.  The farmer could plow and harrow the field; he did not have to spend years working around dead trees and stumps …

One of the most difficult adjustments many immigrants made was learning to deal with isolation. Most came from small farming villages. In the case of the Germans whose origins were in the Palatinate; they did not live out on the land.  In those villages they had contact with friends, relatives, and neighbors on a daily basis. ...The situation in Germany stood in marked contrast to life in some sections of rural Pennsylvania, where only a few tiny villages existed.  Most early settlers were lucky if they had a single neighbor living two miles away—let alone a whole village.  ...

A certain amount of sadness and discord accompanied the decision to leave home and family in England or Germany. They risked a dangerous voyage on an open, sometimes tumultuous sea; but they chose that route because they wanted the opportunity to take control of their own lives.  They wanted the chance to succeed ... and they wanted the opportunity to pass something on to their children.  The evidence suggests most Pennsylvania families succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.”