The Low Dutch Company: A Brief Introduction and Notes

Announcement!

A gathering of Low Dutch descendants was held from Friday September 20 to Sunday September 22, 2013 at Clifty Falls State Park, Madison, Jefferson County, Indiana. This is about 30 miles northeast of Louisville. This group, called Dutch Cousins meets every two years at a site of historical significance, so look for a reunion in early fall 2015.

Preface

A comprehensive history of the Low Dutch Company of Kentucky has never been published, either in print or on the web. The only information that exists about this fascinating group of courageous pioneers is piecemeal in the form of a couple articles in an obscure journal, some pages in a few family genealogy books, a few paragraphs from local history books and some early source documents, all of which are long out of print, very rare and/or not accessible to the general researcher. The few isolated, cryptic blurbs found on websites help a little, but not much.

The following are some notes, in very abbreviated and unfinished form, along with a few short excerpts that represents piecemeal the information that I have collected so far. This should serve as at least a brief introduction. Time does not currently allow for research and preparation of a more extensive narrative. Hopefully later.

Synopsis

The "Low Dutch Company" of Kentucky was a group of pioneers of predominantly Dutch ancestry originally from New Jersey and Pennsylvania who joined together in the early 1780's to acquire a large tract of land in Shelby and Henry Counties in Kentucky to divide and farm. The group has also been called the "Low Dutch Colony" or "Low Dutch Settlement" or "Low Dutch Tract", but I am reserving the term "Colony" for those earlier Dutch settlements in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and "Company" for this organized, collective group that went to Kentucky. The purpose of the migration was preservation of the Dutch language, religion and culture; to obtain more farmland to support their large multi-generational families; and to escape the increasing influence and domination of the "English" in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The Low Dutch "Company" was an organized project with specific objectives and plans, and was not an informal settlement as was the case of others of the time. They had a formal charter accompanied by articles of operation (bylaws) and did, in fact, operate as a company, keeping books of account. Farm plots of about 200 acres were assigned to individuals and their families, but actual legal title was held by the Company, which had combined elements of a modern business corporation, cooperative, religious congregation and collective. Periodic meetings were held, minutes were recorded and account books were kept, both of which survive. These books had been in private hands, but have since been donated to the Filson Historical Society At Louisville, 1310 South Third Street. Formerly called the "Filson Club."

It should be noted here that during the 15th and 16th centuries the English would refer to all persons of Germanic heritage as "Dutch" or "Dutch-men." The term "Low" Dutch refers to descendants of the Netherlands while "High" Dutch refers to Germans and Swiss. It was not until the latter part of the 17th century that the current distinction between Dutch and German came into common usage. Many of the families of the Low Dutch Company and, previously Low Dutch Colonies in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, did, in fact, originate in the Netherlands. However, populations of those areas were mixed, so actual German or other origins for untraced families who were referred to as "Dutch," especially in Pennsylvania, cannot be dismissed. Note also that what is now "Germany" was, at the time of these migrations in the 1700's, consisted of a series of independent states. See "Pennsylvania Dutch Are of German Heritage, Not Dutch"

The Company had its origins in pioneers who lived in communities also known as Low Dutch Colonies in other parts of the country prior to the move to Kentucky. These colonies included Conewago, York Co. (Adams Co. after 1800), Pennsylvania (near Gettysburg); Somerset Co., New Jersey; Bergen Co., New Jersey; possibly New Brunswick, Middlesex Co., New Jersey; possibly Monmouth Co., New Jersey; and beginning 1769 near Mecklenburg, Frederick Co. (Berkeley Co. after 1772) (present-day Shepherdstown, Jefferson Co., West Virginia). Some of the prominent families were Banta, Demaree, Voorhees (Voris) and VanArsdale. Hendrick and Abraham Banta (father and son, respectively) were the leaders of the group and came from the Conewago and Somerset/Bergen Co. settlements.

About 1769 members of some of these families migrated from New Jersey and Conewago to then Frederick County, Virginia and remained until the 1780 out migration. Those surnames included Duree, Cosart (Cassart), Bullock, Bogart, Banta and Voris. Banta, Cosart (Cassart) and Voorhees (i.e. Voris) are found in at least some records at Conewago. The others are presumed from New Jersey or elsewhere (Pennsylvania?).

The Conewago Low Dutch Colony was itself the result of migration of the Dutch from New Jersey and is a subject of historical treatise of its own. More following.

The Low Dutch migration to Kentucky began with the first scouting expedition in March of 1779 led by 56 year old Samuel Duree out of Mecklenburg, Berkeley County, Virginia, (now known as Shepherdstown, Jefferson County, West Virginia). The party included: William Morgan, Ralph Morgan, Thomas Swearingen, Benoni Swearingen, John Taylor, John Strode, George M. Bedinger and John Constant. On May 5, 1779 Samuel Duree claimed the place he wanted as a mill seat on upper Muddy Creek and another further up the creek which he called DeBan's (DeBaun) Run after his son-in-law. Duree told Thomas Swearingen that he planned to take the Muddy Creek lands for the Low Dutch Company. They spent the spring and summer there raising corn. Duree returned to Mecklenburg (now Shepherdstown) in the fall.

Soon after the initial scouting excursion, the migration of families to Kentucky began in two groups. One group of 30 persons including families and single men was led by Samuel Duree out of Berkeley County, Virginia (now West Virginia). The journey took them over the Wilderness Road - Cumberland Gap route, arriving at White Oak Springs Station in Kentucky in March of 1780. Samuel's wife, Wyntie (Weintje) Banta, was the sister of Hendrick "Father Henry" Banta. A second group was led by Henry Banta Sr. "Father Henry Banta" out of the Conewago, (was York County, now Adams after 1800), Pennsylvania Low Dutch Colony. Their journey began in 1779 over the Appalachian Mountains to Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh), arriving late in 1779. In the spring they traveled the Ohio River route arriving at the Falls in March or April 1780. This group of families and single men included at least 75 persons, half or whom were children age 12 or under.

Names in the Duree group from Berkeley County included: Peter Duree, Henry Duree, Peter Cosart, Frederick Ripperdan, John Bullock, Cornelius Bogart, and David Banta (killed by Indians at Powell Valley, VA) ; Single Men: Daniel Duree, Albert Duree, Albert Voris, John Voris, Daniel Banta, and Peter Banta.

Names in the Banta group from Conewago included: Abraham Banta, Albert Banta, Simon Van Arsdale, Samuel Demaree, Sr., Peter Demaree, John Demaree, Gerardus Riker, John Westerfield, Christopher Westerfield, Sophia Voris, and Catharine Dorland. Single Men: Henry Banta, John Banta, Cornelius Banta [(1751/1758-abt1835), s/o Henry, m. est 1781 Mary Magdalena "Helena" Shuck d/o Andrew] , Jacob Banta, John Demaree, Samuel Demaree, Samuel Demaree, Jacob Demaree, John Riker, Samuel Westerfield, James Voris, John Voris, Francis Voris, Cornelius Voris, Luke Voris, John Dorland, Lambert Dorland, and Abraham Brewer.

Other families migrated later. From Conewago: Brinkerhoff, Cosine/Cosyn, Montfort, Smock.

The families initially migrated to the area that became Mercer County in the Harrodsburg area and subsequently moved on to the tract which was in (now) Shelby and Henry Counties in Kentucky in the mid-1780's. The transition was not a smooth one, though, as frequent Indian attacks drove them back to the safety of the forts. A number of the Low Dutch settlers stayed in Mercer County.

While the settlers were predominantly Dutch, the Company did include some of other origins who were "of good character." My ancestry is through Andrew Shuck (est1733-1803) whom I believe was more likely German, but possibly from a part of Germany that was influenced by Dutch language and culture.

In about 1783, the Low Dutch Company submitted a petition to the Continental Congress asking for a grant of a tract of land in Kentucky. (Recall that the Revolutionary War effectively ended in April of 1782 with the vote of the British House of Commons and formally with the Treaty of Paris signed on September 3, 1783.) The petition was not dated, but it was reported by a committee of the Continental Congress (1781-1789) on September 27, 1783 where it was denied. The petition included names of inhabitants and "intended friends" and are listed in the T.M. Banta book , transcriptions linked to below.

In 1784 the company purchased approximately 3,000 acres from Richard Beard in what is now Henry and Shelby counties. Indian attacks forced the members to abandon the first settlement in 1785. In the spring of 1786 the company purchased 6,000 acres adjacent to their original holdings from Squire Boone, brother to the famous Daniel Boone, selling off approximately 1,350 acres to help finance the investment. On March 4, (14?) 1786 the members formally signed the articles of agreement. All land was held in common, with all profits or losses to be shared equally. The tract, which straddled the border of Shelby and Henry Counties and totalled more than 7,600 acres, was divided into 34 lots of varying sizes, mostly of about 200 acres and upward and allocated to members. The details of the division are listed in the T.M. Banta book, below.

Indian attacks were a major hazard. After the initial tract division, the group had to retreat to the safety of Mercer County and actual first settlement of the tract did not begin until the early 1790's. In about 1790 the first permanent settlement of Bantatown, later Pleasureville, was established and other Dutch and non-Dutch families moved in, purchasing land adjacent to the colony, but did not join the Company.

However, the effort was not successful and was plagued by problems including conflicting land claims over the tract purchased from Squire Boone which resulted in numerous law suits and financial loss to the Company. In 1813 a claim for more than a thousand acres was decided against the Company which required them to repurchased the land. In 1820 the Company lost more land, including that upon which Bantatown was located. Other suits were filed by the Company to reclaim land from the heirs of original members who were holding tracts in private ownership. Further, one of the primary objectives of the Company, which was to establish a Dutch Reformed church and obtain a Dutch Reformed minister, failed, and members defected to other churches, primarily the Presbyterians who were in harmony with their Calvinistic beliefs, but also the Baptists, Methodists and even the celebate Shakers at Pleasant Hill.

In 1805, several families left to join the Shaker community at Pleasant Hill. Beginning in 1817, other families started moving away, many went first to Switzerland County, Indiana and then Johnson County, Indiana where farmland was $1.25 an acre. This period was referred to as "the exodus." Other families and individuals went to other states.

At a final meeting on 9 March 1831, the Company was formally dissolved and trustees were instructed to close out the business. Title to the land formally transfered by deed to individual owners during the period from about 1831 to 1839.

Histories

A comprehensive narrative of the Low Dutch Company history, migration and settlement has not been published. Some publications have incorporated certain historical information, but these represent piecemeal histories at best. These are listed in the bibliography section, below. Some of the information contained therein has been transcribed and links to online versions, where known, are included. One book that seems to contain the most well-organized, contiguous history of the Low Dutch Company and the founders early origins in Pennsylvania and New Jersey is Our Low Dutch Heritage by Larry Voreis from 2003. Unfortunately, it is rare, now out of print and with no current expectation of a reprint. (I contacted the author in 2008 and asked to be notified if there is ever a reprint.) I only had a very short time to examine it and, at this point, appears to be the most comprehensive single published source.

Due to lack of time, I have not been able to further study the subject in more depth or prepare a more extensive narrative for this page.

The following are transcriptions from those histories and sources that are out of copyright. I have included The Winning of the West by Theodore Roosevelt as a source. It is noteworthy because this well-known series of volumes specifically mentions the Low Dutch group that migrated to Kentucky (Volume Two, page 101). However, Roosevelt's statement regarding of the number of families is disputed. Although the information about the Dutch is limited to a single sentence, the overall context of the work provides very interesting and informative insight into the struggles, challenges and conditions - both physical and political - faced by the pioneers who migrated westward during the period. Unlike many histories of the period, it is particularly unique in that it describes the "real people" who courageously embarked on the pioneering journey, while attempting to avoid catering to mass appeal and remain faithful to historical accuracy. It is very important background reading to understand the overall conditions and background under which the specific descriptions of the Low Dutch Company existed. I have transcribed the paragraph that mentions the Low Dutch.

The history of the Low Dutch Company is intertwined with the overall history of the settlement of the Kentucky frontier. Prominent in that history was Squire Boone, brother to the more famous Daniel Boone. It was, in fact, Squire Boone who sold the tract to the Low Dutch settlers. It should be noted that title to parts of the tract were clouded and subject to many, extended law suits for many years, some of which forced the Dutch settlers to surrender parts of the tract. A careful research into this history and law suits might provide a very revealing portrait of the dealings of the day and character of this Squire Boone.

A few links to further information about the Boone involvement:

More about the Boones later.

The original Articles of Agreement and account and minute books of the Low Dutch Company have been donated to the Filson Historical Society At Louisville, 1310 South Third Street. Formerly called the "Filson Club."

Origins

Low Dutch Colonies were present in Conewago, York Co. (Adams Co. after 1800), Pennsylvania (near present-day Gettysburg); Somerset Co., New Jersey; Bergen Co., New Jersey; possibly New Brunswick, Middlesex Co., New Jersey. possibly Monmouth Co., New Jersey. Discussion of the history of New Jersey Colonies and prior migration will have to wait for another time.

Beginning about 1769 and continuing through the early 1770's, several families moved from Conewago to the area near present-day Shepherdstown, then Pack Horse Ford/Mecklenburg, Berkeley County, Virginia with various intervening name and jurisdiction changes. The distance was about 40 miles.

See J. K. Demarest History of the Low Dutch Colony of Conowago and Conewago bibliography, listed later.

More TBA/TBR.

Perils

Settlers of the Kentucky wilderness faced many perils, not the least of which came in the form of Indian attacks. These Indian attacks were often launched with the encouragement, instigation and materiel support of the British during the Revolutionary War (1776-1782/3).

Long Run Massacre and Floyd's Defeat

One of the most infamous and frightening of the Indian attacks was the two-day battle of Long Run Massacre and Floyd's Defeat.

Moving Away (On to Johnson)

Many of the members and descendants of the Low Dutch Pioneers began moving away in the early 1800's, starting around 1817 even before the formal dissolution of the Company in 1831, although many did remain and their descendants still live in Henry and Shelby Counties as well as surrounding counties, espeically Jefferson. Most did not go far; they migrated mostly to counties across the Ohio River from Kentucky, initially to Switzerland County, Indiana and some then farther away to Johnson County, Indiana where farm land was very cheap at $1.25 an acre. Groups of families moved together, just as they had in the initial migrations from New Jersey to Pennsylvania and from there and West Virginia to Kentucky, so one finds the same surnames re-appearing in the counties they migrated to including Jefferson, Switzerland, Ripley, Putnam, Johnson and others. Only the latter is a significant distance away from Henry County, towards the middle of the state.

Secondary destinations appeared to be limited to a few families or a single branch each and were scattered across western Kentucky, Missouri and Illinois. These families followed the typical patterns of westward migration and settlement of the country, and descendants' subsequent migrations ranged from Iowa, to Texas on the south, Minnesota on the North and California on the west.

My Shuck's went to Hickman/Fulton Counties in Kentucky, Dent/Shannon Counties in Missouri, Pike/Lincoln Counties in Missouri. In tracing the Shuck families, I subsequently discovered that between about 1830 and 1860 over 50 families (separate surnames) migrated from Shelby/Henry Counties to Pike/Lincoln Counties in Missouri which are on the mid-east side of the state about 60 miles north of St. Louis. Levi Shuck was found in the 1830 census in Pike County and was probably one of the first to the area from Henry County. Of these families, so far the evidence shows that only the Shuck's and Kitson's were officially associated with the Low Dutch Company; Shuck as original signers of the petition and Articles of Agreement, Kitson's came some unknown time later. Pike County adjoins Lincoln County to the north and Lincoln County adjoins St. Charles County to the north. I do not believe that it was just a coincidence that all these families chose this particular area as Daniel Boone (1734-1820) migrated to St. Charles County in 1799 after he was screwed out of promised land in Kentucky. Settling near Marthasville nearby in adjoining Warren County where he and his wife Rebecca were initially buried, he then later spent the last weeks of his life near Defiance (St. Charles County) where his youngest son Nathan had built a house. Daniel and Rebecca were buried at the Old Bryan Farm Cemetery also Old Bryan Farm Cemetery @ Findagrave.com in Marthasville, Warren County Missouri. He may still be there (or parts of him remaining), depending on whose legend one believes.

Beginning in 1805, some other members and descendants (Banta, Montfort) left to join the Shakers and were founding members of the Shaker Community at Pleasant Hill, The following is from the Shaker records (Murray, pg. 47):

Francis Montfort joined the Shakers in 1806 and moved to Pleasant Hill in December 1807 or 1808. His brother Jacob Montfort joined in 1809 (do not know when Jacob moved to Pleasant Hill).

The following represent a few preliminary links for further information.

Families

Most of the families associated with the Low Dutch are able to trace their ancestral histories back into Europe and the Netherlands. Mine is not. Andrew Shuck (est1733-1804) and his family are first found in 1762 in the records in the vicinity of what is now Shepherdstown, Jefferson County, West Virginia. Back then it was known as Pack Horse Ford, Frederick County, Virginia. The "Ford" was a crossing over the Potomac River at a low spot and the nearby town was called Mecklenburg (before 1734, until 1798) as a result of its German population, later renamed Shepherdstown (1798, "Shepherd's Town") for a local landowner and politician. (In 1772 Berkeley County was created from the northern third of Frederick County, which included Mecklenburg.) The European origins of the Shuck family is unproven. Family legend and speculation is that the may have come from areas in what is now Germany of the Rhine Valley, the Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz), Alsace (now part of Alsace-Lorraine) or Wuerttemberg. That the Shuck's were even of Dutch origin is actually doubtful though they may have lived in an area that was mixed between Dutch and Germanic cultures. Nonetheless, they were somehow accepted by the Dutch and probably connected with them at Pack Horse Ford in Virginia where other Low Dutch families were known living at the time: Duree, et. al. (TBA.

More ... TBA .

The Boones

The history of the Low Dutch Company and descendants is closely intertwined with the adventures of the famous Boone family. I do not have time to research and narrate this in depth. So far, I have come across a number of very interesting things that deserve further research and expansion. For now, a few cryptic notes will have to suffice:

Current Organizations

More TBA

Misc. Historical Notes

Heritageand Ethnicity

"Dutch" was a term sometimes mis-used when referring to Germans, "Low Dutch" referring to the low country of Europe which is now Holland and "High" referring to the areas that are now Germany. Possible mis-understanding of the word "deutsch". This is described in a paper: So far, no one has been able to trace ancestor Andrew Shuck back to either Germany or Holland. I think it more likely that they were German. However, many of the other members of the Low Dutch Company do, in fact, clearly trace back to Holland. They were, in particular, members and proponents of the Dutch Reformed Church. These include Banta, Van Arsdale, Voris (Van Voorhees, et. al.), etc.

Other Information and Links

Low Dutch Bibliography - Kentucky

Low Dutch Bibliography - Indiana

Johnson County, Indiana:

Low Dutch Bibliography - Shakers

Low Dutch Bibliography - Colonies in PA, NJ, VA (now) WV

Links: Histories and Family Pages of Low Dutch Pioneers - Kentucky

Many families were associated with with the Low Dutch Colonies in Mercer County, Kentucky and the Low Dutch Company in Shelby County, Kentucky. A few links found:

Links: Histories and Family Pages of Low Dutch Pioneers - PA, NJ, WV, VA


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Last revised 20 January 2015.

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