30,000 German, and German-Swiss immigrants came to Pennsylvania in 50 years, from 1727 to 1776. Among them were a number of our ancestors, so many in fact, that my Father claimed to be a full-blooded Pennsylvania Dutchman. Why did they come?
The Holy Roman Empire, which never was holy or Roman, had ceased being an empire if that implies control. King Phillip of Spain was trying to impose Catholic Church rule, which was resisted politically by Holland and Sweden, and religiously by Dutch Reformed and Lutheran Protestants. Petty princes were battling one another for territory and prestige. Young men were forced into these conflicts, and religious leaders persecuted those of other faiths wherever they gained control.
There was no peace, no security. The whole Rhine valley was devasted and laid waste by these political and religious fanatics. William Penn visited the Rhine country, and with sympathy and sorrow noted these conditions. He had already gathered English Quakers, and other persecuted groups, and had them transported to his colony, but all of them thinly settled only a minute portion of his vast lands. He then sent emissaries to all parts of the Rhine valley, inviting people to come to Pennsylvania, promising them cheap, fertile land, and complete freedom of religion. All who had the courage, and necessary resources, boarded river boats to Holland, and sailed on English and Dutch ships for America.
The English at Philadelphia were aroused by this foreign influx, and quickly passed a law requiring all foreign males over 15 to take an oath of allegiance to England, and the colony of Pennsylvania. The signing of their names with these oaths furnished posterity with a valuable record of German pioneers.