Serious Nonsense: Groundhog Lodges, Versammlinge, and Pennsylvania German Heritage

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John B. Frantz


The heritage that the Versammlinge (gatherings) and groundhog lodges celebrate was developed by descendants of eighteenth-century German and Swiss immigrants during their over three hundred years in this colony and state. Their normal port of entry was Philadelphia, where a significant number remained; however, most settled in the rural interior. The vast majority were Protestant, mostly Lutheran and Reformed. A small minority was Mennonite, Amish, and Pietistic German Baptists. Even fewer were Catholic. They spoke Pennsifawnisch Deitsch, which Donner considers a language, not a dialect. It resembles what is spoken in the Rhenish Palatinate. Donner explains that most academicians call them Pennsylvania Germans, though many of the “farmers and working-class people” (10) call themselves Pennsylvania Dutch. Whatever they are called or call themselves, they are different from nineteenth-century German immigrants, and they have preserved their culture longer.

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