The Schneebelungenlied has progressed and now I’m reading books that I didn’t even know existed. I found them on Masthof Books (your one stop shop for Mennonite and Amish sources, cookbooks and fiction, including The Brothers Path).
The books were available as a massive download that never downloaded, but I was lucky and found them other places, Archive.org, Google, Kindle. Now I’m reading books that interest me very much and that’s put to rest my quiet fear that I just don’t like to read any more. I do have a very hard time making it through most books these days.
And, it looks like, after all, the Schneebeli family is going to enter the land that is America. They will become “Snavely.”
All this reading has made me think about history class in school. When I imagined the Schneebeli’s arriving and settling in America, so boring. Everyone says so. SAD!
I imagined they’d arrive and instantly become Johnnycake eating clichés. “Oh god no, not more Colonial History.” But what I’m learning might make Colonial American History great again, really, truly great. Believe me.
Among the bits of history I’ve since learned is the story of a colony in Delaware, in what is now Lewes, (where I have been). In the mid 1600s small group of Dutch Mennonites banded together in Holland. They were led by a guy with the amazing name of Cornelius Plockhoy. They were forty one people comprising married couples and young men aged 22 (why 22 I have no idea). Unique to the colonies at the time, in Plockhoy’s settlement, slavery was prohibited. There was a public school. Church was the singing of a psalm, a scripture reading, discussion if anyone wanted, another psalm and everyone adjourned for that week’s court. There are other things, too, that we, today would object to, but since they were building their very small Utopia in a faraway land, it seems that with so many enemies on the outside (Indians, British, etc.) they didn’t want dissension on the inside. So they came, they set up a village, began to work and to prosper and it seems life was working out pretty well.
Meanwhile, in a galaxy far, far away there was a war between the British and Dutch. Some British sailors? Soldiers? Settlers? got a ship to America. Many couldn’t pay their way and expected to work off their transport in the colonies. They landed near Lewes, raided Plockhoy’s Utopia, sold the people to the captain of the ship to pay for their own passage, sold others to plantations in Virginia. Because the Lewes settlers had brought their best tools and supplies, the British got those, too. It was fair because, after all, the Dutch were their enemies. And, at that time, slaves were as likely to be white as they were to be African. Imagine that.
Horrible (I guess) but a lot more interesting than Mother making Johnnycake for little, uh, Johnny, or finding out how Abigail learned her alphabet by sewing a cross-stitch sampler.
It’s been an eye-opener to me. I majored in American literature. Much of what I read was from colonial America. I never thought (duh) that all I was reading was written by British immigrants. It was also pretty limited to that bizarre and surreal nest of Puritanism in New England (“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”), or the journals of landed, wealthy, British planter in Virginia — William Byrd — who got up every morning, “danced his dance,” studied his Greek, studied his Latin, “rogered my wife,” and rode out to see how the tobacco plants were doing.
There were those two poles.
I understand that what I’m doing is looking at American history from a different point of view; my lens this time (as opposed to school) is the German/Swiss/Dutch settlement, not the British. But even when it comes to a Brit-centric perspective, we’re not that honest. AND, maybe I’m the only person in the US who didn’t know the story of Plockhoy’s Utopia (and other stories I’m discovering), but if that’s not the case, and this has generally been slurred over, I think maybe we need White History Month.