Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Mennonites

The Mennonites were part of a group of Anabaptist denominations that were founded by Menno Simons of Friesland. Through his writings, Simons articulated and formalized the teachings of earlier Swiss founders. The early teachings of the Mennonites were founded on the belief in both the mission and ministry of Jesus, which the original Anabaptist followers held to with great conviction despite persecution by the various Roman Catholic and Protestant states. Rather than fight, the majority of these followers survived by fleeing to neighboring states where ruling families were tolerant of their radical belief in believer's baptism. [Wikipedia] The Mennonites settled in Switzerland and The Netherlands before persecution and unemployment led them to Germany.

When Penn's Colony was founded in 1682, Quaker and Mennonite families located near Philadelphia. Among the early settlers was German-born Wilhelm Rittenhouse, a lay minister and papermaker. Rittenhouse had previously resided in The Netherlands, before arriving in Pennsylvania in 1688 to establish the first paper mill in the colonies. He was elected Germantown's first Mennonite minister around 1690. Son Claus inherited the mill and became a Mennonite minister.

Wilhelm's other son Gerhard/Garret was a farmer and miller near Germantown. Garret's son, William relocated to Hunterdon Co., New Jersey and was a farmer and tavern keeper. It is not known if William opted for another faith, but his granddaughter, Elizabeth married into a Presbyterian family.

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