There were fines and imprisonments. There were beheadings and drownings and burnings at the stake. There were exiles. Some Anabaptists in Switzerland were sold into slavery to work on galley ships. Principally used in the Mediterranean Sea, these galleys were flat-built vessels with one deck and navigated with sails and oars in shallow harbors to load and unload bigger vessels. According to one history, “Here they were associated with a low class of people, perhaps the most hardened of criminals, with no hope of ever seeing their families and friends.”
Driven out of Bern, the Emmental Valley, and Zurich by this persecution, my ancestors migrated to more tolerant climes. Some moved to the sparsely inhabited Jura mountains. Quite a few moved to eastern France, especially near Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines. But most moved north, especially to Hesse. The small villages in this central German state were the next sites on our pilgrimage from Rome to Rotterdam.
In Mengeringhausen, we followed the line of the Schwarzentrubers from Trub. After marrying Anna Zimmerman in 1719, Vinczenz Schwarzentruber moved to Waldeck, where he became the manager of a dairy farm. Then in 1759, he managed the farm of the Schaaken Convent, founded in 1189 near Korbach. Today, just ruins remain. But they made for a great place to play Sardines in 2022.
Vinczenz’s descendants, Christian and Jakob (born in 1798 and 1800), lived in nearby Mengeringhausen. The town is famous for its crooked steeple, which bends and rotates, on the downtown St. Georgkirche Lutheran church. As an Amishman, Jakob almost certainly did not worship at this church, which was built in 1393 and rebuilt in 1423. (The Renaissance pulpit was made in 1598 and presents Martin Luther as one of the highlights of Christian history.) But as he built his life in Mengeringhausen, Jakob did walk by it—and through the rest of this cute town of 3,800 full of half-timbered buildings. He got married, suffered the death of his wife, remarried, took charge of two stepsons, and was ordained as an Amish minister.
He also worked at the nearby GalgenMuhle (Gallows Mill), which we visited. The name did not mean that anyone was hanged on gallows. It simply refers to the type of rope and pulley system used for raising and lowering and moving the millstones. The old mill is now a classy hotel and restaurant named Hotel Luisen Muhle. Interestingly, Lisa also can trace her roots to GalgenMuhle. In fact, her ancestors lived at the mill—and may have employed my ancestor Jakob.
For reasons that were probably economic, Jakob and his family decided to migrate to the United States. As one of the stepsons wrote in his diary, “On the 9th of May 1833 we started on the great journey. We wanted to start in the morning at 8 o’clock, but on account of bidding so many goodbye [sic] . . . our departure was delayed until 2 o’clock in the afternoon. . . . The wagon . . . drove off and went through Mengeringhausen, where the curious crowd which stood and looked out of the windows, wished them an obliging farewell and a happy journey.”
In America Jakob became Jacob. He served as a minister in Grantsville, Maryland, and then moved to Kalona, Iowa, where he became the first Amish bishop there.