Land of Opportunity: Pennsylvania Dutch Ancestry Helps Grocer

Woman’s family spoke low German; grocer’s customers delighted to meet others of Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry.

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When my ancestors came to America, the land of opportunity, Grandpa Finkenbinder said to his children, "We are in America now, we shall speak English!" However, they must have spoken some German; a few of the words were passed on to me by my father. As I grew up, my father told me that I was speaking Dutch. When I became an adult we had a lesson in Home Demonstration Club – now known as FCE (Family, Community Education Club ) – about the Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry. I learned there were many Pennsylvania Dutch who had German ancestry. My German was called the low German; my husband spoke high German.

My grandfather and great-uncle ran a store in Friend, Kansas, in the early 1900s. A group of immigrants settled north of Scott City, Kansas. They could speak very little English.

There were two grocery stores in Friend. The mother and daughter of one of the immigrant families came to my grandfather's store and wanted to purchase a thinner hoop. Grandpa went and got them a thimble. The woman jumped with glee! She had found a merchant who could speak and understand her language. It seems she was able to purchase items at the other store and she was going to take them back. Grandpa convinced her to keep the items, but she could come to his store from now on. This proved America was the Land of Opportunity for this immigrant family.

I am proud I was able to glean a small part of my ancestry from my forefathers who came to the Land of Opportunity. Because of what I learned, I was able to help in a church contest. A Sunday School teacher had a scavenger hunt for her class. One of the items to find was someone who could sing a German song. One of the students came to the class I was attending and asked if anyone could sing a German song. I said I could. Everyone was so surprised, as no one in the church realized I was of German descent. I had to sing the song for them. Later, the minister had me sing it for him.

Yes, my folks found opportunity in America when Pennsylvania was being settled.

Pauline Fecht
Syracuse, Kansas


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.