Below are excerpts from the book The Stauffer Families of Switzerland, Germany, and America (including Stover and Stauffer) by Richard Warren Davis. I chose these excerpts in particular as they deal with my direct ancestors (to whom I link). Excerpts will be in italics. Parenthetical citations and my commentaries/summarizations and other content will not.
~ James "Jamie" Arthur Johnson
The 18th Century Stauffer immigrants were mostly Of the
Mennonite faith, otherwise known as Anabaptists. I am not going to
go into depth about their beliefs or practices, but suffice it to
say that they believed in adult baptism as opposed to infant
baptism and they would not take the oath of allegiance to the Swiss
government, nor would they bear arms in the army. Considering the
number of wars going on in Europe at that time, this was of great
concern to the Swiss government.
It was a law in the 16th Century in Switzerland that citizens
must partake of the Holy Communion and be members of the state
church. Any person who did not abide by these laws was considered
a heretic and was severely punished. The Anabaptists fell into
that category. There were several forms of punishment inflicted on
these so called heretics beginning with a simple monetary fine to
imprisonment, branding, working as slaves in the galleys of Italy,
banishment, beatings with rods and finally, death by fire, hanging,
drowning or guillotine.
In the 16th and 17th Century, the Stauffers of the Emmenthal
Valley were Anabaptists and were persecuted because of that. In
1596, Hans Stauffer of Rothenbach went into hiding because of his
Anabaptist activities. The authorities could not find him and so
they made his sons, Hans and Ulrich who were still living on the
farm, pay a fine for him. In 1644, Christian Stauffer of Eggiwil,
the youngest son of the above mentioned Hans Stauffer of Rothenbach
was a preacher of the Anabaptists and was tracked down and thrown
into prison at Thun.
The Stauffer family flourished in and around Eggiwil in the
17th century; The Anabaptists were having great success there
converting people to their faith. The authorities had had enough
of these heretics and arrested hundreds of Anabaptists, or Taufers
as they were also called, and sent them out of the country,
threatening them with death if they ever returned. In 1671, there
were over 30 Anabaptist Stauffers forced out of Switzerland. This
particular group of Stauffers took refuge in the Palatinate,
Germany. Their property was confiscated and sold by the
government, and they left Switzerland with nothing; This left many
of them destitute and at the mercy of strangers in a new land.
Many families were split up because of this. The wife and children
were sometimes left behind, or in some cases, the husband stayed in
Switzerland while the wife was banished" These Anabaptist zealots
would not deny their faith and instead faced hardships and wandered
the land looking for a home. In the 1700s, they finally found a
home in America where they could practice their religion as they
saw fit and where they could own land again. (p. 1).
Before coming to Amerlca, the Anabaptist took refuge in the
the Palatinate, Germany in the Jura Mountains of northern Bern and in Alsace, France.
The Anabaptist were welcomed into Germany and France because the land had been wasted and depopulated by the
Thirty-Years War which ended in 1648. These refugees were welcome to
come and build homes and plow the fields in order to bring the area back to life, but strict limitations were put on their
lifestyle. The Mennonites could not own land, and were mere short-term renters. They could not baptize others into their faith,
other than those already born into a Mennonite family, and finally, they could only meet in small groups. At Ibersheim, where most of the Stauffers eventually lived, the limit at Sunday meetings was not to exceed 20 persons. In 1698, Christian Stauffer and Johannes Heysi. both married young unmarried maids into their faith.
It was against the law for a person not of the Mennonite faith to meet with the Mennonites during their worship meetings.
Each Mennonite was required to pay a protection fee of six Gulden to the to the Electorate. By 1744, the total number of Mennonite families allowed to live in the Palatine was limited to 200 families. This meant that many young people were forced to leave Germany in search of a new home. This, as well as the hardships of failed crops and intolerance for their religious views, caused the emigration of
thousands of Mennonites in the 18th Century.
Christian Stauffer, b. ca. 1579-1581, (who was married to my ancestor Adelheid or Adelheit Oppliger) was married to his second wife Asmath Frederich (b .1601 Eggiwil) at the time of his being among the "Mennonite refugees living in the Palatinate, Alsace and the Jura in the 17th ... century" (p. 3). His great grandson Christian Stauffer (b. ca. 1680) would later emigrate to America in the 18th century.
Christian Stauffer (b. ca. 1579-1581, Eggiwil, Switzerland) was still living in Ibersheim, Germany, in January 1672 (p. 4).
January, 1672. Living at Oberflorsheim, Germany.
Margret Anthoni, b. 1621, Eggiwil. (Wife of Christian Stauffer b. 1615, Eggiwil). Her husband and seven children have returned
to Switzerland. She has one child still . living in this
country. The child is probably Ulrich, still living at
Source: Manuscript #1248, UMC, Amsterdam, Holland.
January, 1672. Living at Dirmstein, Germany.
Ulrich Stauffer, b. 1652, Eggiwil. (listed here because he is
probably still living' here, while his mother went to
Source: Manuscript #1248, UMC, Amsterdam, Holland.
Christian Stauffer, (born 1579[-1581]) the Anabaptist of Eggiwil,
Switzerland and Ibersheim, Germany was the ancestor of the vast
majority of immigrants. (p. 11).
Stauffer brothers Peter and Jacob (Stover) arrived in America with their father Christian (b. ca. 1680) in 1718 (p. 12). Peter was in Virginia by 1739 and Jacob before 1746 (p. 12).
1A3. Christian Stauffer, b. Luchsmatt, Eggiwil, chr. 19 Mar
1615, Rothenbach. He lived at Berg , Eggiwil. Christian and his
family went to Germany with his father in 1671 and was living at
Dirmstein, 17 Dec 1671. By 1 Jan 1672 he returned to Eggiwil with
most of his children. His wife Margret Anthoni was living at
Oberflorsheim when she said she had one child living in this
country in January 1672, she was age 50. They had eight children
at that time. She was probably the daughter of Hans and Anna
(Stauffer) Anthoni of Eggiwil. Christian and Margret were probably
married about 1644 at Eggiwil and probably had at least two
children born to them before the parish register commences in 1648.
1A31. Stauffer, b. abt 1645, Eggiwil.
1A32. Stauffer, b. abt 1647, Egngll.
1A33. Ulrich Stauffer, chr. 4 Aug 1650, Eggiwil. Died young.
1A34. Ulrich Stauffer, chr. 4 Aug 1652, Eggiwil. He was
with his family at Dirmstein in . December of 1671. He was
apparently the child mentioned by his mother who was still living
in Germany in 1672. In the general census of Alzey, 1698 he was
still living at Dirmstein. He was living in Mannheim in 1717. His wife's name is not known. Mennonite.
1A341. Christian Stauffer, b. abt. 1680, Dirmstein, Germany. Christian was living at Mannheim in 1706 and was still there in 1717. He was probably a distiller, as were most of the Mennonites who went to live in Mannheim. He was not next in the Mennonite census list at Mannheim in 1724. He was in Salford township, Montgomery Co., Pa. by 1719. He was a member of the Mennonite church there, and probably followed by his father's cousin Hans to the Skippach area of Montgomery Co. He probably left Mannheim shortly after 1717. He was taxed on 120 acres at Salford in 1730. On 27 Apr 1734 he warranted 150 acres at Goshenhoppen (now Balley, Berks Co.). He never patented the land as he died the next year in 1735. He may not have been able to write, as he signed his will with just his initials,C.S.. In his will written in 1734 are listed all his children, naming Matthias Stauffer as his oldest. His last child was Elizabeth and he says she is 4 1/2 years old. He was a witness to the will of Claus Obliger (Oppliger) of Philadelphia in 1730. His wife's name is unknown, as she was not named in the will.