German families moved into the region between 1750 and 1760: Henry Dove (Heinrich Taub), Martin Whetzel and the Kaplinger (also Caplinger) family. Three of Henry Doves sons also settled in the area. According to the late Bergton historian, Lewis Yankey, Henry’s son, George, became fluent in the English language and taught others how to speak it. Jacob, another son, also spoke acceptable English. Frederick Dove, however, refused to learn English and spoke only German for the rest of his life.
According to Yankey, most people in the Bergton/Criders area spoke German many years after they had made their homes in this area. Folks were quite reluctant to give up their native tongue. In fact, my own great grandparents spoke “Pennsylvania Dutch” (a German dialect called Deitsch) at home – especially when they didn’t want their children to know what they were saying! It wasn’t until the first public school opened in 1870 that people in the area were formally taught English.
Organized religion was slow coming to Bergton, possibly because of the language barrier. In 1740, Rev. Henry Muhlenberg was especially concerned that the German settles did not seem to be interested in religion – particularly those folks who lived in the most remote part of the area. Bishop Francis Asbury of the Methodist Episcopal Church recorded in his diary August 12, 1790:
“We had about 40 miles to ride to Brocks Gap, over a severe mt. I viewed and pitied the case of the people. They are Germans hand have no preaching in their own language, and English preaching is taken from them. I am of the opinion that if a preacher would come and continue amongst them for 1 year, riding up and down the river, preaching from house to house, it would answer a very good purpose.”(A History of Rockingham County, John Wayland)
Many years later, camp meetings were held before churches were formally established. Lewis Yankey said that a visiting minister would set up “camp,” and preach there for several days. When babies were born, parents would often take them to Radar Lutheran Church in Timberville to be baptized. According to Yankey, many Bergton family names are registered in Radar Church records.