Exerpted from J. Virgil Miller’s book “Both Sides of the Ocean”

 

The first group of Swiss Anabaptists who could be called Amish on French territory are on

a list of refugees from Canton Bern, Switzerland, at Ste. Marie-aux-Mines, Upper Alsace,

in 1697. Alsace was a largely German- speaking area which France acquired during the

course of the seventeenth century. So they were under French laws and the king was

Louis XIV, who was known as a strong Catholic. The defeat of the Huguenots (French

Protestants) caused them to be expelled by a law called the Edict of Nantes in 1685.

For the time being, this did not apply to Alsace where the Protestants were protected

by other treaties. Yet it did not look like a permanent sanctuary. The followers of

Ammann knew that they were not tolerated in Canton Bern, and Alsace was still one

of the safe havens. Jacob Ammann was there as the leader.

 

The earliest record of Anabaptists in Alsace was at Ste. Marie-aux-Mines, where twelve

families met at a farm in the Val de Liepvre (French for Leberau), the farm being called

La Tuillerie. In the latter part of the seventeenth century, large numbers of Swiss

Anabaptists and others came to Alsace, especially to Markirch (German for Ste. Marie),

but also along the Rhine River in the vicinity of Breisach. They were not all Amish or

Anabaptists, their common feeling being that Zwingli's Switzerland was far from the

state of toleration, especially in matters of religion. In contrast, the Anabaptists of

Holland, after undergoing severe persecution in the 1500s, had entered a period of

tolerance. They were also deeply divided into conservative and liberal factions, but

at least the authorities allowed them to worship freely.

 

                                                                           In 1632 a group of ministers, led by the Dutch but including some from parts of Germany, drew up                                                                              the Dortrecht Confession of Faith, signing it in Dortrecht, Holland. In 1660, before the Amish                                                                                      division, a group of ministers from Alsace (not Amish) met at Ohnenheim in Alsace near the Rhine                                                                              and also signed the Dortrecht Confession. They were of the Mennonite group rather than Amish,                                                                                but when the Amish came to Alsace later in the century, some of them settled in the same region                                                                              and it later became their confession as well. In fact, the Amish have kept the Dortrecht Confession                                                                            to this day, and it, as well as the Dutch Martyrs Mirror, remain their two most valued books after                                                                                the Bible. This did not lead to union or even talks with the Mennonites of either Holland or                                                                                        Germany, and the Amish and Mennonites have remained separate until our times.[1]

 

                                                                           These communities figured in the Amish division after 1690, especially when Jacob Ammann met                                                                              with leaders of the Mennonite party in 1695 at the mill of Ohnenheim. The communities near the                                                                              Rhine continued, although the larger center became Markirch, farther inland in the Vosges area. The                                                                            Ohnenheim region became an important stage for migrations from Alsace to Baden on the other                                                                              side of the Rhine after 1712.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Dortrecht Confession of Faith, 1660, signatures from Alsace (Scottdale, Pa.: Mennonite Publishing Co.).

Where is Ste. Marie-aux-Mines, Alsace?

The preceding information has been excerpted from J. Virgil Miller’s exceptional book entitled, “Both Sides of the Ocean”. It is a must for any emigration enthusiast of this era regardless of surname. 

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