Permanent Colonists

Feature Story July 2005
Permanent Colonists
(As the folks in Blooming Grove, Pa. celebrate the 200th observance of the settlement called Blooming Grove this July ’05, we offer a salute to them with this story from the book “Blooming Grove” reprinted in 1971 by the Historical Society near Williamsport, Pa. It is a history of the German Dunkers who settled in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania in 1805.)
May 20, 1805 is a day to be ever kept in sacred remembrance by all Blooming Groves, wherever they may live, for on this day they first saw their haven of rest in the foreign land. The sight was inspiring and comforting, for the dogwood and rhododendron were in full bloom, and their white petals glistening beneath the dark green foliage of the forest trees, appealed to their natural love of flowers, and they exclaimed “blumenfrofe,” flowers on the woods,” which has been their talisman through three generations. In spite of this beautiful tradition, it is more than probable that the name grew upon them, and was not a sudden inspiration. There appears to be good reason for believing that it was first suggested by their English Quaker neighbors, whose curiosity would lead them on “First Day” to go over and “see how the Dutchmen were coming on.” They found that indefatigable toil had made the wilderness “blossom like the rose,” and in commenting on it, called it a “blooming grove.” The Germans caught the familiar “blumen” (flowers) and imitated the rest, and so accepted the term as the regular name. It is certainly a compound of German and English, genuine Pennsylvania Dutch. Its early acceptance is shown in an inscription on the fly leaf of a German Bible given to Isaac Kurtz, by his school teacher, Christopher Kiess, as follows: “Blumengrofe, Hepburn township, Lycoming County, Pa., 15th February, 1841, Seek ye first the kingdom, etc.”

In the early days letters to friends in Germany would tell of the flowers in the woods and the name Blumengrofe so glowingly, that the imagination in some cases was excited beyond what the actual facts warranted. At one time when a newly arrived party reached the top of the hill, which commanded a view of the valley, the outlook was so disappointing that one woman exclaimed, “Is that your Blumengrofe? I can see nothing but black stumps.” And no wonder, for what is more unattractive than a newly burnt clearing”.

It was not long before the blue token of civilization was curling up through the tree tops, from the fire place of each pioneer cabin, for they lost no time in getting an opening for future sustenance. But struggle as they might, they could not escape the clutches of the frost king; who came upon them as thought angry because of their intrusion. Before they could realize that the summer was ended, terrors encompassed them, such as they had never dreamed of, and before the grip of winter was loosened under the touch of the genial sun, the sturdiest hearts quailed for the sake of their loved ones. With a ready ax, and the overhanging trees, they could replenish the great fireplace, and keep their apartment cheerful and comfortable by the constant blaze on the hearthstone. But clothing was not provided for such hardship and exposure. The food supply became exhausted and starvation hovered over them for many tedious days. When suddenly the warm sun began to shed its rays through the treetops, melting the ice and snow as if by magic, and before had they forgotten the rigors of winter the flowers were in bloom again. As an illustration of the suddenness of the change from intense winter to the mildness of May, it has been recorded on April 11, 1818, rye was out in head.

After the season had settled in this, their first springtime, so that men could go about, some of the sturdiest of them, by way of the Indian trails, (for there were no roads for many after-years) took across the hills to Williamsport, in search of food for their famishing people. Although the settlers in the “big valley” were of a different religious faith and nationality, they were imbued with the spirit of hospitality that seemed to pervade the very atmosphere. The aborigines with whom it was considered a high virtue given them by the Great Spirit may have left it. The Dunker settlers did not return empty handed, but with the liberal response to their appeal, went also the knowledge of the fishing grounds at the foot of Hepburn’s lane and at Jaysburg. Here for many after-years with each recurring spring, came the “dippers from Blooming Grove: to lay in their annual supply of shad and other fish, which they salted down for future use. They were called “dippers” by the ignorant because they fished with dip-nets, but by the more intelligent, though, none the less sacrilegious, they were called “dippers” from their mode of baptism, which was observed by curious person who had followed them to their settlement.

This book of history may be purchased. Visit the “for sale” link on this site. It was originally complied and published by Joseph H. McMinn of Williamsport, Pennsylvania in 1901.