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Anabaptist Preacher Jacob Hochstetler at Ste.Marie-aux-Mines (Markirch) in 1720

By Erwin Hochstättler, Cologne, Germany

[Editor's note: This footnoted article by our distant European cousin indicates some of the tedious research he has done since the 1970s which helps connect our European and American families. It includes the variety in spellings of first and last names and names of cities in scattered primary French and German archival records. Markirch (German) and Ste. Marie-aux Mines (French) are the same city in Alsace which is now a part of France. The article was first sent to Contributing Editor Virgil Miller in Florida, who did some light editing in preparation for publication. See also Erwin's article in the Sept. 2005 issue. Our thanks to both Erwin and Virgil for their major contributions to our understanding of our common family history]


0n March 6, 1720 the "Täufercammer" in the region of Bern was informed that "Täuferlehrer" Jacob "Hofstetter", who was born at Winterkraut near Guggisberg and had been living in "Maria-Kirch" afterwards, was dismissed from prison after paying the costs (for his detention) and promising with handshake not to return to his country again, from which he was banished. He said he wanted to help some Anabaptist women to emigrate.'[1] The same day in 1720 these women were ordered to be sent to their banished husbands, and their children should be regarded as strangers, so that they would not be a financial burden to the local community.2[2] So one can suppose that in March 1720 Jacob Hochstettler, together with some Täufer women of Canton Oberhofen and their children, left Switzerland and went to Markirch.


The record of March 6, 1720 does not say where the Täufer women lived whom the Täuferlehrer wanted to help emigrate from Switzerland,[3] but they probably did not come from Schwarzenburg, for, among the numerous notes in Paul Hostettler's book Von den Täufern im Schwarzenburger Land of the Täuferlehrer's arrest in 1720 and the Täufer women's emigration, one can find nothing in the Schwarzenburg archives. This makes me think that he did not return to his birthplace in Winterkraut near Schwarzenburg, but to the region of Oberhofen. One reason he waited until 1720 was probably the order of the Bernese government in Sept. 11, 1719 to the "Vogt" of Oberhofen to take care that the women of the Anabaptists leave the country forever, and they could be tolerated in Switzerland only until the end of the winter.[4]


Another reason for this action can be found in Alsace in the Anabaptists' request to Pfalzgraf Christian, dated June 6, 1719.[5] This record says that the Anabaptists had not agreed to pay "Schutzgeld" (protection money) for the whole time since 1713, when they were ordered by a royal edict to leave Alsace, especially the Seigneurie Rappolstein. This was signed in Markirch in 1719 by Nigi [Nicholas] Blanck and Jacob Hostetler, who had probably not left Alsace since 1713. Only six families remained all the time in Markirch, though they had to flee sometimes into the territories of Montbeliard and Lorrain, where the Anabaptists were not persecuted during those years. Therefore they applied to the Pfalzgraf that the "Schutzgeld" should be reduced to the amount for three years instead of six. Meanwhile the number of Anabaptists in Markirch had already risen again and was raised to fourteen households.[6] This explains, too, why Jacob Hochstettler returned to Switzerland to help the women to emigrate to Markirch in 1720.


Among the six Anabaptist families who stayed in Markirch since 1713, in spite of the order to leave the region in 1712 were, besides Jacob Hostettler and Nigi Blanck, David Chertzer (Schertz), Christen Kropf and Michel Blanck.[7] Jacob Hostettler was the minister of this small community, according to the Bernese record of 1720.[8] He obviously returned to Markirch afterwards. On Feb 10, 1721 the notarial record bore his signature.[9] This is the last trace of the Anabaptist preacher Jacob Hochstettler. He was perhaps sick at that time and died shortly afterwards, for a document of Oct. 9, 1723 is signed by Nigi Blanck and David Schartz. These two Anabaptists were called "Vorsteher der Wiedertäufer Gemeinde" (Ministers of the Anabaptist Community) and attested that in 1723 there were not more than thirteen families in "Maria Kircher Thal."[10] This agrees with the above-cited number of fourteen Anabaptists in 1719. When Jacob Hochstetler died meanwhile, this explains the fact that no traces of him appear after 1721.[11]


On Feb. 10, 1721 Jacob Hochstetler transferred a debt of 600 Livres Tournois to Nicola Blanck,[12] which he had incurred in 1713 from the brothers Jean and Nicola Jaquin.


Jacob Hochstettler is first mentioned in a list of the inhabitants of Markirch already in 1697.[13] According to this document, Jacob had no property and was an Anabaptist just like the sixteen others on this list. Jacob Amman is not mentioned at all on this list. Another list of 1799, however, contains the names of both Jacob Amman and Jacob Hochstetler.[14]


On March 9, 1701, Jacob Amman, together with Jacob Hochstetler and Hans Zimmermann applied, as representatives of the Anabaptist community to Pfalzgraf Christian, because they did not agree to an order of the local official (Amtsschreiber) Kroeber concerning the property some children, whose mother, a widow, had just died.[15]


In 1702 Jacob Hochstetler protested, together with Jacob Amman in their names and those of their fellow-believers, because they were ordered to take military service as "Heimburgs," which was contrary to their religious principles, and the conditions for paying "Schutzgeld."[16]


In the notarial records of Markirch in 1697 the Anabaptist Jacob Hochstetler signed as a witness to a record of the Anabaptist Hans Roth, who came from Steffisburg[17] and who probably was acquainted with Jacob Hochstetler already in Switzerland. In the same year he is said to be a shoemaker, and he bought a meadow "Le Prince Prey" for 157.6 Livres in Echery.[18]  In 1699 the Anabaptist Jacob Hochstettler bought a shelter (fourrier) for 360 Livres, which was sold by him in 1712[19] when the Anabaptists were ordered to leave Markirch.


On the 7th of November 1699 Jacqui [Jacob] Ammann, Anabaptist, living in La Petite Liepvre, acted as witness, and signed only with the letters "IA" (he pretended that he couldn't write) in a record of the Anabaptist Michel Mourer, who lived at Haute Brogue near Markirch.[20]


In 1707 Jacob Hochstettler rented the property of Jean Antenas and Ottilie Meyer in Ste. Pierre Liepyre.[21] In 1711 he bought a barn for 900 L.T.[22] According to a list of 1712, the Anabaptist Jacob Hochstettler's property contained: 1 house, 8 cows, 4 young cows, 1 pig and 3 goats, while Jacob Ammann owned only 2 cows and 3 goats at that time in Markirch.[23] In October 1712 Jacob Ammann sold his house[24], like most of the Anabaptists of Markirch at that time, and left Markirch immediately afterwards, according to the order of the French king. Only six Anabaptists remained in Markirch from 1713 to 1718, as already said above.[25] It is difficult to say why it was just Jacob Hochstettler among 14 other Anabaptists who lived in Markirch in 1719, who went to Switzerland to help the Anabaptist women to emigrate.[26] The first reason might be the fact that he had lived in Markirch at least 22 years (since 1697).[27] The second reason was perhaps because his own wife and children remained in Switzerland in contrast to other Anabaptists. A third reason might be that he had some responsibility for the Anabaptist community in Ste. Marie as minister. If his family was in Switzerland in 1720, it was less problematic for him to leave Alsace for an indefinite period than for those whose families already living there. Besides he probably had more experience traveling to his former home. Nevertheless the task was a very stressful one, and the preparations for the emigration of the women and their children made it more difficult to hide the return and presence of a banished Anabaptist. So Jacob Hochstettler was arrested and imprisoned before he was able to return. He had left the responsibilities for the church to Nigi Blanck. As no traces of him have turned up after 1721[28] it can be assumed that he died before 1723. In that year David Schertz instead of Jacob Hochstettler signed the document telling the number of Anabaptists living in Markirch, showing Niki Blanck as "Vorsteher" (elder) of the Anabaptist community.[29] The relation between members of the Blanc or Blanck family in Markirch is remarkable in the same way as in America.[30] Niklaus Blanck is mentioned in Markirch from 1697 at least until 1723; he was probably the father of Michel Blanck, who married Vreni Hochstettler's sister. Vreni died in Michel Blanck's home in 1741 at the age of 25.[31] Michel Blanck is said to have been born in Schwarzeneck, which is not far from Steffisburg in Switzerland and died in Markirch.


On the whole, there are a lot of documents in Markirch which bear the signatures of Nigy or Niklaus Blanck and Jacob Hochstettler. It is a pity that Vreni Hochstettler's birthplace is not mentioned in the deathlist.[32] In this record there are listed 6o names of Anabaptists who died at Markirch between 1737 and 1761. Birthplaces of Anabaptists of Markirch in this list are Steffisburg, Oberhofen, Thun and Diessbach. Not one is said to have been born in Schwarzenburg.


The American immigrant Jacob Hochstetler's nephew is considered to be Isaac Hochstettler (DJH 9000), whose brother Christian's death record in Gumprechtshofen (Alsace) in 1811 says Christian was born in "Markircherthal." So it can be assumed that they were descendants of the Tauferlehrer, who was arrested in Switzerland in 1720. H


[The author is a sixth generation descendant of Isaac whose father was Johannes, and Johannes was a brother of the American immigrant Jacob. The broad research of the author points to the likely conclusion that Johannes and the immigrant Jacob were sons of the Swiss Täuferlehrer Jacob Hostettler/Hochstettler from Markirch in Alsace. Our immigrant ancestor was born in 1712, likely while the family was living in the Markirch area.]


[1] Staatsarchiv Bern, RM 83

[2] Staatsarchiv Bern, B III "Kirche und Schule" 194 b

[3] Staatsarchiv Bern, RM 83

[4] Staatsarchiv Bern, B III "Kirche und Schule" 194 b

[5] AHR Colmar E 2018

[6] AHR Colmar E 2018

[7] AHR Colmar E 2089, Communaute des Anabaptistes

[8] Staatsarchiv Bern, RM 83

[9] AHR Colmar, Not. Ste. Marie-aux-Mines, carton 83, Verschiedene Acten 1721

[10] AHR Colmar, (for copy, see H/H/H Newsletter, Sept. 2005)

[11] Letter of Robert Baecher, Pfastatt. May 20, 2003

[12] AHR Colmar, Not. Ste. Marie-aux-Mines, 1721

[13] AHR Colmar, E 2089

[14] AHR Colmar, 19 J 169

[15] AHR Colmar, E 2808

[16] AHR Colmar, E 2808

[17] AHR Colmar, Not. SMM 1697

[18] AHR Colmar, Not. SMM 1699

[19] AHR Colmar, Not. SMM 1707

[20] AHR Colmar, Not. SMM 1699

[21] AHR Colmar, Not. SMM 1707

[22] AHR Colmar, Not. SMM 1711

[23] AHR Colmar, E 2089

[24] AHR Colmar, Not. SMM 1712

[25] AHR Colmar, E 2018

[26] AHR Colmar, E 2018

[27] AHR Colmar,-E2089 and Not. SMM 1697

[28] Letter of Robert Baecher, Pfastatt. May 2003

[29] AHR Colmar, (for copy see H/H/H Newsletter, Sept. 2005)

[30] See H/H/H Newsletter, March 2006

[31] Colmar, de.p. 28. 201 J Affaires diverses. Anabaptistarum Liber morturius 1737 inceptus

[32] 32 Ibid.

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