Historic Valley Forge

What kind of people lived in the northern colonies during this time period?

Q.What kind of people lived in the northern colonies during this time period, as in groups of people and what they did?
James Elledge, Age 14, California

A.Jobs were varied and specialized in the northern colonies. At the time, a much greater proportion of the population was involved in farming than are needed today with our many improvements in agriculture, so chances were pretty good that any indivdual was employed in food production or distribution in some capacity.

In addition to food, everyone needs clothing and shelter. These industries were also considerably less efficient than they are today, so a much larger proportion of the populace was devoted to these essentials. Tailors, cobblers and milliners stitched together pants, shoes and hats. Carpenters and masons built and maintained houses. Colonists could afford some luxuries in addition to these bare necessities. Alcohol was popular throughout the northern colonies, and many people were involved in the production and sale of wine, liquor and especially beer.

Most of the colonists were of English extraction, but immigrants from many nations arrived in the ports throughout the thirteen colonies. The encampment at Valley Forge was a multi-cultural event. English, Scottish, French, Polish, German and Native American were all represented at Valley Forge, and two of the top officers were a Frenchman and a Prussian.

Pennsylvania was founded in the 17th Century by William Penn, a Quaker. Quakers were persecuted back in England at the time, and Penn wished to create a haven for religious harmony. The Quakers were a large contingent of people in and around Philadelphia at the time of the Revolution. A number of active Quaker Meeting Houses are still in use today, some of them founded a century before the revolution.

While the primary language spoken throughout all 13 colonies was English, Pennsylvanaia had a significant minority population from Germany. Some of their decendents are today called the "Pennsylvania Dutch" or Amish. This is an insular group that continues to speak a specialized dialect of German and maintains a distinct rurual culture, but othr groups of German immigrants existed in colonial America. Pennslyvania was attractive to European Quakers seeking respite from discrimination, and Germany had a large popualtion of Quakers who emmigrated to the new colony shortly after Penn founded it.