The Landing of the Schwenckfelders from the St. Andrew

A PAINTING by artist Adolph Pannash, which hangs in the Schwenckfelder Library in Pennsburge, PA, was painted in 1934 for the bicentennial of the Schwenckfelders’ arrival.

The scene has been quaintly idealized by the artist. These newly arrived Schwenckfelders look tidy, cheerful, and well-costumed; the real people probably would have appeared less than neat and refreshed. The journey was frightening, and nine persons died during the trip (see The Hard Journey to America). The Quakers who are greeting them here all look like the smiling man on the oatmeal box.

Nevertheless, the scene contains much truth, and is intended justly to glorify the event. The persecuted Schwenckfelders, who brought their gaily decorated wooden chests filled with their belongings, and their beloved books, were welcomed in Pennsylvania by the Quakers—themselves well acquainted with intolerance and persecution.

Two days after their arrival, on September 24, Pastor George Weiss led them in a gathering to give thanks to God for their safe passage and for His deliverance and mercy in providing them with a new home. The meal they held on this day, their thanksgiving meal, is still observed and celebrated each year by Schwenckfelders on September 24th, their Day of Remembrance.

NOTE: Though George Washington declared November 26th as Thanksgiving Day, the national holiday was not regularly observed in America util 1863, when Abraham Lincoln made it a formal holiday to be observed on the last Thursday in November. In 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt changed it to the third Thursday in November.

Possibly the oldest continuously observed day of Thanksgiving in America is the Schwenkfelders’ Day of Remembrance.

The following is early American Schwenkfelder folk art

Translation of “My Heart” 

My heart meditates on the good Word 

Your work that King Christ give 

Like a feather my tongue will be 

for his Holy Ghost 

The most beautiful of all people 

are you, noble King Jesus Christ 

Grace proceeds from your mouth 

even as God has blessed you 

The sword of the spirit on your side 

gloriously triumphs in the battle 

Thus as it shows in the Word of Truth 

[it] gains eternal victory and honor* 

* translation by Hans Huijsing

By the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #21 in 1989]

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