Saturday, July 05, 2014

Family History 6: A German Baptist Heritage 1 (Millers)

I don't know if they had one yesterday, but my Grandma Schenck's family, the Millers, have often held a reunion on July 4, so I dedicate this Family History post to them.
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In 1944, as my father was getting ready to cross the Atlantic for the war in Europe, a little less than a month before D-Day, my great grandfather, Amsey Miller, died at the age of 65. He was my father's mother's father. He was buried in Wise Cemetery, the cemetery of his wife's family, just west of Camden, Indiana. Interestingly, Amsey's father, Christian, had only died four months earlier in January at the age of 86, just outside of Frankfort.

My Dad had fond memories of running around his grandfather Amsey's house in Camden. I seem to remember him saying it had a wrap around porch and lots of nooks and crannies where young kids could hide and play. I got the impression (and have had the impression from reunions) that the Millers always had a good sense of humor. I always smile when I think of a story about cousins throwing jars of molasses with no more warning than a quick, "Think fast." I guess one time a jar shattered.

1. My grandmother Esther (and father, for that matter) were book keepers by disposition. My grandmother "kept the books" for the Bible Covenant church my grandfather had pastored, just as my father was treasurer for the Florida District of the Wesleyan Church for thirty years. The Sunday night before my grandmother died, she gave the books to a man in the church saying that she couldn't keep them any longer. That night she died in her sleep.

All that is to say that I am not surprised that the most extensive records I have been able to find on any family line are those associated with my grandmother and her Dunkard family (more on that below). She died when I was still 10, so I don't have extensive memories of her. She used to call me "Boy," which prompted me asking my Mom if she knew my name. She did. I have a faint memory of her in the kitchen of her house on DeQuincy Street in Indianapolis.
From left to right, Eugene, Dad, Maurice,
Frances, Grandpa, Grandma, then Vernon and Linda
at bottom, 1943-44

The house of course seemed big to me at the time. I drove by a few years ago and it now seemed surprisingly small. Let me check my memories against the more accurate ones of others. I remember a large room (to me) as you entered the house, with stairs on the right. I remember a hall that went more or less straight back. I remember a long kitchen (to me) going straight back in the back.

I remember Grandpa having an office with his coin collection in the back too, perhaps just left to the hall going out the back. It was emphatically off limits. I remember the dining room being to the left of the front room. I remember a separate garage in the back and Grandpa having a garden between it and the house. He had problems with squirrels and so had bought a b-b gun to fend them off.

He died when I was still 7, but perhaps in 1973 he let me shoot his b-b gun at a target on the side of the garage. I shot out a light bulb several feet away.

I think there may have been a swing on the porch out front. I remember feeling guilty for giggling with my youngest cousins, sitting on a bench or swing out on the front porch while we were there for Grandpa's funeral.

The Millers
2. So Esther (Miller) was my father's mother. Her family were "Dunkards." Her father was Amsey Miller and her mother was Salome Wise. The Dunkards are such a tightly nit community that they have kept extensive records and often have distinct cemeteries. The records are so extensive that I have to restrict myself to the Millers. The Wises, Eyemans, and others will have to wait another day.

As I said in an earlier post, my grandmother left the Dunkard Brethren church when she married my grandfather. She would tell you she was not walking with God at the time, although they would be saved at a revival in Delphi later the year they were married, an event she believed saved her marriage.

The Dunkard Brethren are one of six branches of German Baptists going back to an original group in Schwarzenau, Germany in 1708. They are thus in the same family as the Amish and the Mennonites, a close knit society that generally marry other Dunkards.

According to the site linked above, when this Anabaptist group started, they wanted to call themselves "new Baptists" to distinguish themselves from the Amish and the Mennonites. But as often happens, the moniker they became stuck with was a term of derision they were given from the outside, "Dunkers." They immersed adults three complete times in baptism and are often known for the river where they are located (the Mennonites pour).

The website above indicates seven distinct denominations that descend from this group in 1708: Church of the Brethren, Brethren Church, Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, Conservative Grace Brethren International, Old German Baptist Brethren, Old Order German Baptist Brethren, and, last but not least, the Dunkard Brethren. My grandmothers family were and are Dunkards.

3a. Amsey himself was born in Elkhart, Indiana in 1878. His future wife Salome Wise was born the same year near Camden, Indiana. They were married in the year 1900. Both of them were about 22 when they married.

Amsey was fairly new to the area when he and Salome married, but her family had been in the area for well over sixty years by then. The Wise branch will have to wait for another day, but you can find their cemetery just west of Camden, Indiana.

b. Amsey's father, Christian Miller, was born in 1857 and raised in Elkhart. He moved to the Rossville, Indiana area, I suspect in 1899, just after his father died. As I mentioned above, he actually died the same year as his son, in 1944.

c. Christian's father, David Y. Miller, appears to have been a right lively character.  He had 13 sibings, almost all of whom lived at least into their 70s. He himself died at the age of 89 in 1898. In the 1880 census, when he was 71, he had his occupation put down as a "preacher of the gospel." At that point, the son had become the father, and Christian was the man of the house. Amsey is listed in that census as 1 year old.

David was married to the same wife, Eva Bainter, for 47 years and they seem to have had 14 children. But he remarried four years after she died at the ripe age of 71.

So David Y. begat Christian S. in 1857. Christian begat Amsey in 1878. Amsey begat Esther in 1902. And Esther begat my father in 1924.

4a. Next, I want to jump back next to David's great-great grandfather, (Johann) Michael Mueller. From what I can tell, he was born in Steinwenden, Germany in the Rhineland area in 1692. This is not far from Kaiserslautern. I wish I had done this research when my Dad was alive because he was in this area just after World War 2 ended. He was stationed in nearby Mannheim at least in 46.

I'm not sure why he would have been a little further north in Westphalia, but he always used to comment when we came out of Gainesville, Florida headed south that the descent onto the plain reminded him of driving down into the plains of Westphalia in Germany.

Michael was the one in the Miller line who came to America from Germany, and he was the one alive when the line of the Schwarzenau Brethren started in 1708. The Brethren records indicate that he migrated because the family was opposed to military conscription, but his Pietist sympathies are overwhelmingly indicated by the name of his son, Philip Jacob Miller, also born in the Rheinland in 1726.

This great grandfather of David Y. was clearly named after Philip Jacob Spener, the father of Pietism in Germany. Spener did not advocate forming separate communities but aimed at reform within the Lutheran church. His main emphasis, though, was on personal transformation, "heart over head," as we might say today.

Although there is some conflict in the records, it would seem that Michael immigrated to the United States in 1727 on a ship called The Adventure with his wife of 17 years, Susanna (Berchtol) Mueller. They seem to have arrived in Philadelphia on October 2 of that year with two of her brothers.

One record says that his mother started the journey but died during the journey. One record says this, "In 1727 the Miller-Stutzmans headed for American aboard the Adventure arriving on Oct 2, 1727 in Philadelphia, PA. The ship first sailed from Rotterdam, and then stopped off at Plymouth before heading to America. The ship sailed with 53 Palatine male heads of household, who with their families, made about one hundred and forty persons. The families included the Millers, Ullrichs, Stutzmans, Lehmans, Franz, Meyer and Fisher families, who created communities and marriages together over many generations."

This record calls the Millers, "Brethren," and the name sake of the record, a Stutzman, called them "fellow Amish."

For 8 years they lived in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Then in 1744 they moved northeast of Hanover, Pennsylvania in York County. Finally, they settled just northwest of what would become Hagerstown, Maryland in an area known as Ash Swamp.

b. So Philip Jacob Miller was just barely born in Germany, from what I can tell. At one year of age, his family immigrated to Pennsylvania, ending up in what would become Washington County, Maryland, just over the Pennsylvania border. Philip's son Daniel was born there in 1755. It was still called Frederick County at that time.

Philip took an oath of allegiance to the county and state of his residence and was a member of his local Observance Committee. This indicates his loyalty to the newly formed United States of America over and against the British.

c. Philip's son, Daniel, was a minister. In fact, it is overwhelmingly clear that the center of the Miller's identity throughout all of their history was their religious identity. Daniel lived near Hagerstown, Maryland until about 1785, when he and his brother David moved to Morrison Cove, Pennsylvania for a spell.

In 1799 they traveled by raft down the Ohio River to join their father, who had since moved to Campbell County, Kentucky. Philip Jacob Miller would die there in Kentucky, less than a year after they arrived.

Philip's estate was settled in 1802, after which Daniel Miller headed north to Clermont County, where he established a German Baptist Church. He had only dipped his feet in the water of Kentucky for three years. Then in 1805 he headed north to Montgomery County, Ohio, which would be his final resting place in 1822.

d. John B. Miller is the link that connects the two threads above. John was born in 1787 to Daniel when he was still in Morrison Cove in Bedford County, Pennsylvania. He moved south with him to Kentucky at the age of 12, and then north again to Ohio when he was 15. He would move to Elkhart, Indiana in the 1830s with his son, David Y., who was my Grandma Schenck's great grandfather.

So Johann Michael Mueller begat Philip Jacob Miller while still in Germany in 1726. Philip Jacob begat Daniel Miller near Hagerstown, Maryland in 1755. The Rev. Daniel Miller begat John B. Miller while still in Morrison Cove, Pennsylvania in 1787. John begat David Y. in Montgomery County, Ohio in 1809.

David Y. begat Christian in 1857 in Elkhart, Indiana. Christian begat Amsey in 1878 while still in Elkhart. Amsey begat Esther in 1902 in Carroll County, Indiana. And Esther began Lee in 1926.

5. It's hard to believe that this post could have more to say, but there appear to be records that trace Johann Michael Mueller's family back into the 1500s in Switzerland. Although all I pretty much have are names and dates, here they are:

a. Johann Michael Mueller was named after his father, Johann Michael Mueller Sr. While Jr. was born in 1692 in Steinwenden, Germany. His father died there in 1695. His mother would remarry and start the journey to America with her son, who was already married and had Philip Jacob as son. But she apparently died on the ship on the way.

The Mueller family originated in Zollikofen, Switzerland, in the area of Bern. J. M. Muller Sr. was born there in 1655. His father was born there in 1632 (Johannes Jacob). His father was born in Spiez, not far from Bern, in 1585 (Jakob). And his father, perhaps named Unk, was born in nearby Faulensee in 1550.

Again, it's too bad I didn't know this information while my father was living. We actually visited Bern together in 1995, and he reminisced about going to Bern on leave from Mannheim, probably in early 1946.

b. Switzerland was of course the birthplace of the Anabaptists, persecuted to death by that right foul Huldrych Zwingli (no offense, Jim West). The Swiss Mennonites, as they were called, left Switzerland for the Rhineland area around 1671 because of persecution by the Swiss state. Unsurprisingly, this is about the time that the Millers left Switzerland for the Steinwenden area.

You can see the religious lineage, generally. It would seem that the Müller family were part of the original Swiss Mennonites in the early 1500s in the Thun area of Switzerland. They seem to have then followed the Amish split in around 1693. When the Dunkers originated in Schwarzenau in 1708, they seem to have been there in the mix.

So they were Brethren in America. Daniel Miller started an Old German Baptist church in Ohio in the early 1800s. By the time Amsey marries in the late 1800s, he was a Dunkard.
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Earlier posts:

2. The Revivalin' Twenties
In the Year 1920 (Dorsey Schenck)
From Quaker to Pilgrim (Harry Shepherd)
The Great Generation (my parents)

3. The Depression Thirties
North Carolina Flashback (Eli Shepherd)

4. Passing Generations
A Dunker Heritage 1 (Amsy Miller)

7. The Divisive Sixties
Flashback to Jamestown (Champion Shelburn)

1 comment:

Alethinon61 said...

I may be misremembering, but I seem to recall mention of the Dunkards in a book I read a while back, i.e. either "Amusing Ourselves to Death" or "The Disuniting of America".

As I recall, the author mentioned how one member of the Dunkard brethren was asked why they hadn't written down their creeds, to which the brother replied, showing humility uncharasteric of most humans, that they were not sure that they fully apprehended accurately certain matters of faith, and so they refrained from writing them down to avoid having the written word take precedent over the revelations or apprehensions that may be experienced in the future.

Does this ring a bell, or do I have the wrong group in mind?