Scholla: Brunnekill April 10, 1941

Scholla: Brunnekill April 10, 1941

In letters to Der Ewich Yaeger Raymond Kiebach and William Keller, both of Reading, raise an interesting question for students of the origin of the names of places. They point out that Schuykill is a Niederlandisch Dutch word meaning “hidden stream,” but how did the term “Kill” happen to be attached to such German words as Brunne and Nord, forming Brunnekill and Nordkill, names of Berks County streams? The question is a puzzler.

A Dutch sea captain applied the name “Schuykill” to the river which flows through Berks County when he discovered that its mouth was formed in such manner that mariners on the Delaware were not aware of its presence. Hence the term “hidden stream”. The Delaware Indians called the river “Ganshawwe-haune,” meaning rushing river. In this case the Indian name did not survive as it did in such familiar waterways names as Tulphehocken, Maxatawny, Monocacy, Cacoosing and others.

The Brunnekill is a small stream which flows into the Tulpehocken near Mt. Pleasant, along the route 83 and the Nordkill flows into the same creek after skirting the foothills of the Blue Mountains near Strausstown and Bernville. Brunne in the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect would mean a natural spring and Nord would mean north. The suffix of the word “kill” is not German and reflects a Dutch influence.

Webster informs us that the word “kill” is of Dutch or Middle Dutch origin. He tells us further that the word has come into colloquial American usage, meaning a small stream. Without being able to furnish a concise answer to the gentlemen who have raised this interesting point the writer suggests that the early settlers in Berks must have learned the word “kill” while passing through the many water ways in Holland while they were traveling to America. Possible too, the term was borrowed from the word Schuykill which is pronounced Schulkill in the dialect, exactly as the English renders it School-kill. To these early settlers there may have been some association with the word school.

Can any readers offer an explanation?

Graeff, Arthur D. Scholla: Brunnekill. Reading Times. April 10, 1941

Archival Notes: The names of both of these creeks have been anglicized. The “Nordkill” has been anglicized to Northkill creek. The “Brunnekill” is now known as Spring Creek. At the time this article was written both creeks flowed into the Tulpehocken creek. Now both creeks flow into the Blue Marsh Impoundment.

Blue Marsh Lake.
Blue Marsh Lake.