The Low Dutch Company
aka Low Dutch Colony

Announcement!

A gathering of Low Dutch descendants is being planned for 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. See "Next Dutch Cousins Gathering" Apparently, this group with a mailing list of over 1,000 has a gathering every two years at a location near a site of historical significance. They were involved in the restoration of the Old Mud Meeting House . Contact me at link at the end of the page and I can also provide additional contact information if needed. Plans are still evolving as of this date, June 2012, and I do not have further details.

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. 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 origin from Pennsylvania and New Jersey that joined together in the early 1780's to acquire a large tract of land in Kentucky to divide and farm. The group has also been called the "Low Dutch Colony" or "Low Dutch Settlement", but I am reserving the term "Colony" for those earlier Dutch settlements in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and "Company" for the 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 Low Dutch movement to Kentucky began with the first scouting expedition in March of 1779.
>>> More here about the first scouting expedition ... origin, people, story
The families apparently initially migrated in 1786 to the area that became Mercer County, KY and moved on to the tract which was in (now) Shelby and Henry Counties in Kentucky in the mid-1780's. 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 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, below.

A tract of land was purchased from Squire Boone, brother to the famous Daniel Boone, and was formally divided by lot March 14, 1786. The division is listed in the T.M. Banta book, below. However, the effort was not particularly successful and was plagued by problems including conflicting land claims which resulted in numerous law suits and financial loss to the Company. Indian attacks were a major hazard. After the tract division, the group had to retreat to the safety of Mercer County and actual first settlement of the tract did not begin until about 1794/5. Furthermore, 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 Shakers at Pleasant Hill.

Beginning in 1817, families started moving away, 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." The Company was officially dissolved and title to the land formally transfered to individual owners during the period from about 1831 to 1839.

The Company has 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; and beginning 1769 near 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.

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. They are listed in the bibliography section, below. Some of the information contained therein has been transcribed; see also the links following. One book that seems to have the most 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 and out of print with no current expectations of reprints. (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

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. 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. These families included Carnine, Duree, Demaree, DeBaun, VanArsdale and Voris (Voorhees). (>> need citation, more details)

See J. K. Demarest History of the Low Dutch Company and 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

Many of the members and descendants of the Low Dutch Pioneers began moving away in the early 1800's, starting around 1817, although many did remain and their descendants still live in Henry and Shelby Counties. They did not go far; they migrated mostly to counties across the Ohio River from Kentucky, initially to Switzerland County, Indiana and then 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. (Shuck's went to Hickman/Fulton Counties in Kentucky, Dent/Shannon Counties in Missouri, Pike/Lincoln Counties in Missouri.)

Beginning in 1805, some other members and descendants (Banta, Montfort) joined the Shakers and were founding members of the Shaker Community at Pleasant Hill, Mercer County, Kentucky. 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).

(Hopefully, will do more on this post-LDC migration later.)

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

Heritage

"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 - 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 28 March 2013.

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