4. The Protestants

25 March 2019

This blog post was intended for later, but it became very relevant yesterday, so I’m going to write it now and move a post about the family German surnames that I had almost completed until after this one. Yesterday I attended a funeral for a very good and longtime family friend at Philadelphia Lutheran Church, and I found myself sitting side-by-side with my three sisters. That in itself would not appear that extraordinary, but I sat and contemplated that sixty years ago that sight would not have been that uncommon. Philadelphia Lutheran Church, a small country church that is about three miles north of Dallas (appropriately on Philadelphia Church Road), was my family’s church where I was baptized in April of 1953. I grew up never questioning why we attended a Lutheran church or why almost all my extended family relatives attend one of the many Lutheran churches in Gaston County; it was just a given. Philadelphia Lutheran was originally known as Kastner (Costner) Lutheran Church, and I believe it has been identified as the oldest established Lutheran church west of the Catawba River in old Tryon County, NC. The significance of this became apparent as I dug deeper into our family history; realizing that about 70% of our ancestors were German, and not only, were each and everyone one of them identified as Protestants, most of them were Lutheran. When you put the two together, German and Lutheran, you can correctly assume that the families of some of those Germans that eventually came to America were among the followers of the “protesting priest” Martin Luther and were the “original” Lutherans.

These early Protestants fought wars over their beliefs, endured periods of persecution and tolerance for over 150 years, and many ultimately found their way to an area in Europe that is known as the “Palatinates”. These were lands that lie on the border of current day Germany and France where the rulers and government over time were more accepting of the early Protestants. One often finds that many of the early German settlers described themselves as having been born in or originated from that region.

I am not aware of a single German pioneer in old Tryon County having come directly to the Carolinas, but instead most arrived here by way of Pennsylvania. There were few that had their ship dock in Maryland or Virginia, but most of the ships carrying them entered the harbor of Philadelphia. I think that most people have heard of the “Pennsylvania Dutch”, but this is actually a misnomer; it actually originated as the “Pennsylvania Deutsch” which means the “Pennsylvania Germans”. It had been promoted throughout Europe that the German Protestants would be welcomed in Pennsylvania and into a like minded community with a common language and heritage. Sometimes the original immigrant would find their way to the Carolinas, but Pennsylvania became the birthplace of many, and more often than not, it was the second or even third generation that would ultimately make the trip south. Some of the family members remained in Pennsylvania, and that is why most of the same surnames one might find here west of the Catawba can likewise still be found in Pennsylvania.

Our ancestors can be found among this group, and with this knowledge I still don’t question why my family attended Philadelphia Lutheran Church.