When I began writing a story about the 11 Pennsylvania historical markers in Queen Village, it seemed like a pretty simple assignment:
Go to the various sites, research the subjects and plot the spots on a map so our readers could find them.
But it didn’t turn out to be that easy. Why? The very first place I went to – 502 S. Front Street – the home of Francis Daniel Pastorius – was missing its historic plaque.
And I have no idea where it is.
The location, though, is important. It’s the home of the man who founded Germantown. He drafted the first anti-slavery document in America in 1688. And the first 13 German settlers he represented drew straws here for their lots on October 25, 1683.
His “home” was actually a cave, 15 feet wide and 30 feet long, “half under and half above ground.” It furnished shelter for some 20 people while their houses were being built in Germantown.
Over the door, Pastorius wrote an inscription that translates as: “A little house, but a friend to the good, keep away, ye profane!” When William Penn saw it, Pastorius says, he “burst into laughter, and encouraged me to keep on building.”
The now-missing 28-by-48-inch bronze plaque was placed on Pastorius’ house October 25, 1924. Like 25 others, it was designed by famous architect Paul Philippe Cret. Later, the Pennsylvania Museum and Historical Commission developed the blue and gold historical markers you see today.
William Penn agreed to let Pastorius purchase three lots in the city behind each other at Front, Second and Third Streets. The first two were “a hundred feet broad and four hundred long.” Lot #1 was carved out of William Penn Jr.’s land at the northwest corner of Front and Cedar Street (now South Street.) He was three years of age at the time.
5 INTERESTING ODDITIES
- Pastorius described early Philadelphia variously as “several small houses set in the midst of a howling wilderness,” and “consisting of 3 or 4 little Cottages, all the Residue being only Woods, Underwoods, Timber and Trees.” He also said, “it is nothing but forest, and very few cleared places are to be found.”
- William Penn hoped his new land would produce great wines – with good reason. His province imported sixty thousand gallons of wine a year. Penn set up a vineyard at Springettsbury (just north of Fairmount along the Schuylkill) with a French winemaker to tend it. But the experiment failed, and was abandoned before Penn’s second visit.
- The Germans diabolically dubbed a June 1942 coordinated sabotage attack against the U.S. “Operation Pastorius”, an unlikely reference to the leader of the first German settlement in America. Fortunately all eight spies who landed off Long Island and Florida were captured within days.
- Pastorius – an accomplished leader, lawyer and educator who wrote in seven languages – was the hero of “The Pennsylvania Pilgrim,” a 546-line narrative poem by John Greenleaf Whittier.
- While laying out Germantown in the fall of 1683, Pastorius said Penn’s Woods were “a very Eden of beauty, only cursed with a plethora of rattlesnakes.”
- Name: Francis Daniel Pastorius
- Address: 502 S. Front Street
- Former Location of Plaque: It appears to have been at the northwest corner of Naudain and Front Streets