Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Search for Religious Freedom

Church of the Brethren logo
Wilhelmus Knepper (1691-1767), born in Solingen, Westphalis, Germany, is the son of Hans Peter Knepper (1658-1737).  Hans is the 8th great grandfather of my daughter-in-law Melissa Murphy Oliver, and Wilhelmus is Melissa’s 7th great-granduncle.

During this time, Germany only recognized the Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches.  Other religions were banned, and people were imprisoned for not being a member of one of these two religions.   However, there were others who did not follow the beliefs of these two churches:  Today’s Church of the Brethren developed because of religious dissent.

The Church of the Brethren was founded in 1708.  Members of this church believed in adult baptism—separating them from the recognized state religions.  The followers of this church referred to themselves as the “brethren.”

Originally, Wilhelmus was a member of the Reformed Lutheran Church, being baptized on October 27, 1691.  However, in 1719, at the age of 23, he joined the Dunkard Church, also known as the German Baptist Church—today’s Church of the Brethren.  During the same year, Wilhelmus, and four other members of the Church of the Brethren, were arrested and taken to Dusseldorf to be tried for the religious crime of adult baptism. 

Wilhelmus, and the other, refused to recant their beliefs; thus, they were sentenced to hard labor in Solengen Prison, Julich, Germany.   A weaver by trade, Wilhelmus learned to make buttons, which he and the others sold for the goods they needed to survive; i.e., food and clothing.  Additionally, while in prison, Wilhelmus composed about 400 hymns. 

After one year, Wilhelmus, and the others, were released on November 20, 1720.  Because of the religious persecution the “brethren” were receiving, these religious dissenters had been resettling in the Netherlands where there was better tolerance.  Wilhelmus, and the other men who had been imprisoned with him, also went to the Netherlands.  While in the Netherlands, Wilhelmus met and married his wife Veronica Bloem (1702-1769).

Because of increasing religious persecution, the “brethren” emigrated to North America.  On July 7, 1729, a large group left the Netherlands with a large group Sailed on the Shill Allen, captained by James Craigie:  Wilhelmus and Veronica Knepper were part of the group.  The ship arrived on September 15, 1729, settling in Ephrata, Pennsylvania Colony.

Veronica and Wilhelmus had five children; the two listed below helped to advance the Church of the Brethren:

  • Mary (1725-died after 1807) married George Adam Martin (1712-1794), a controversial German Baptist Church minister, from which he was ex-communicated.  He then became a minister of the Seventh-Day German Baptists. In 1764, he conducted a successful revival in the Antietam settlement, which gave birth to the present Snow Hill Society of German Seventh-Day Baptists.  He also founded a church at Stony Creek, Somerset County, Pennsylvania, where he is buried. 
  • Elisabeth (1740-1807) never married.  In her will Elizabeth left land for use as a meeting-house and graveyard.  This gift is part of the present Mount Zion Cemetery in Quincy Township.  A small meeting-house was built on the donated in 1837 and was used in turn by the German Baptists and Seventh-Day German Baptists. In 1888 the building was replaced and used as a church by the German Baptists, Seventh-Day German Baptists, and Old Order German Baptists.  Like her father, Elizabeth she also wrote hymns.  She is among many family members buried in the Mount Zion Cemetery graveyard. 

Thomas Paine, one of our “found fathers” said the following:  “Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law. Wilhelmus Knepper’s story supports Paine's statement.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Mother's Anguish

Reeve Cemetery, Reeve, Barron County, WI

Charlotte Mae “Lottie” Huntsinger Newville and her husband, Asa Newville, had 18 children; only six survived.

My great-grandmother was a Huntsinger, and Charlotte is my second cousin two times removed:  a distant relationship.  However, the birth and death of her children made me curious about her.

Charlotte was born October 13, 1880, in Tenhassen, Martin County, Minnesota, to James and Catherine Huntsinger.  In 1885, she and her parents were living in Wadena, Minnesota.  Sometime between 1885 and 1900, the family moved to Estherville, Iowa.

She married Asa Newville on September 8, 1898, at her parents’ home in Estherville, Emmet County, Iowa.  Asa Newville was born August 10, 1872, in Steele County, Minnesota, to John and Myra Newville.  At the time of the marriage, Asa was from Martin County, Minnesota.  The couple settled in Estherville, Iowa.

Asa and Charlotte are listed in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census and the 1905 Iowa Census as living in Estherville, Iowa.  Before 1910, they moved to Barron County, Wisconsin.  In Wisconsin, Asa was a farmer; in Iowa he was a day laborer.  I have speculated with my husband as to why the move from northern Iowa to northwestern (almost northern) Wisconsin.  If there was to be a move, why not move to Minnesota where he already had family engaged in farming and where Charlotte had relatives in farm-rich areas.  Perhaps the land was cheaper in Barron County, Wisconsin, for someone wanting to become a farmer.  It certainly is not the flat and/or rolling farm land that one envisions in Iowa and Minnesota. 

While still in Estherville, Charlotte and Asa had the following children:

  • Clara Francis Newville (2/4/1899-4/21/1977) married Henry H. Clark and had 13 children. 
  • Hazel Newville (9/19/1902-6/5/1903) and Asa Charles Newville (9/19/1902-6/5/1903) are twins.  They only lived to be eight months old—both dying on the same day.  They are buried in Estherville, Iowa. 
  • Another set of twins, an unnamed boy and an unnamed girl, were born on January 26, 1904.  They only lived to be five months old—both dying on the same day:  June 29, 1904.  They, too, are buried in Estherville, Iowa. 
  • Archie James Newville (3/26/1905-10/8/1991) married Ellen J. Skar and had six children. 
  • Nellie Maria Newville (1908-before 2007) married Jack Johnson and had at least one child. 
  • Katherine Minerva Newville (1909-before 2008) married Edgar Rosen and had two children.
Of the eight children born in Iowa, only four survived.

Once in Wisconsin, Charlotte and Asa had the following children:

  • Gladys Marie Newville (6/21/1911-11/1/1934) lived to be 23 years old. 
  • Vernon Edwin Newville (6/2/1914-3/2/1915) lived to be only nine months old.  The time period during which Vernon lived was the time of the most devastating flu epidemic in the United States.  Vernon was probably one of those victims. 
  • Jenna Edna Newville, Vernon’s twin (6/2/1914-6/23/1914), only lived 21 days.  Again, I suspect Jenna was a victim of the flu epidemic. 
  • Doris Beatrice Newville (12/13/1915-12/19/1915) only lived six days.  Another flu victim? 
  • A baby girl was stillborn on June 6, 1917. 
  • Dorothy Ione Newville (6/19/1918-1996) married Donald Langton. 
  • A baby girl was stillborn on June 6, 1917. 
  • An unnamed baby girl lived only one day (1/29/1922-1/30/1922). 
  •  Marjory Lorraine Newville (10/21/1924-1/26/1926) lived to be only 15 months old. 
  •  Merle Maxine Newville is Marjory’s twin (10/21/1924-10/16/2008) married Emil W. Strenke and had ten children.
Of the ten children born in Wisconsin, seven died while a baby (two being stillborn), one died as a young adult, and two survived to be adults.

When I think of Charlotte, I can only imagine the despair and anguish she must have suffered as one child after another died.  It’s like the commercial on television for  We do not know how well off we are until we start looking (for our ancestors).

Charlotte and Asa  are both buried in the Reeve Cemetery.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Glove Box

While growing up, my paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Swarthout Newhouse, and I lived in the same town.  During the 1950s, we used to gather at her house every Sunday for the traditional noontime Sunday dinner.  During those Sundays, and on other days when I would visit, she would allow me to try on her jewelry.

To me, my grandmother’s jewelry box was a treasure trove.  The jewelry box was kept on her dressing table, and I was allowed to sit there and try on anything and everything.  However, there were two rules:  I had to stay at the dressing table and not traipse around the house adorned with the jewels I had found, and everything had to go back into the jewelry box.

Fast forward about 50 years.

My grandmother’s only daughter, Elizabeth Newhouse Harman, lived with her husband in Tampa, Florida.  They did not have any children.  I would travel to visit with them at least twice a year.  The first year I went for a visit, I discovered my grandmother’s jewelry box sitting on my aunt’s dresser.  I was thrilled to see it, and it brought back a rush of memories I forgot I had about sitting at fabric-skirted dressing table trying on jewelry from a unique jewelry box as only a little girl could do.

As my aunt aged, she would continually remark that I would get an inheritance from her; and, I would continually respond back by saying the only thing I wanted was the jewelry box—which I now knew to be a glove box.  A glove box is what ladies used to use to store their finest gloves when they were not being worn.

On one visit, when I stated that I wanted the glove box as my inheritance, my aunt decided to give it me.  As we were emptying out the box in which she, too, kept her jewelry, we discovered writing on the bottom of the box:  “Libby Swarthout, Pine Island, Minnesota, From, Fritz Newhouse.”  My aunt had not known the writing was on the bottom.  What a wonderful discovery!

This lovely, dark-green box was a gift from my grandfather to my grandmother before they were married in 1905.  The box is lined in silk, which no longer is in one piece as it has deteriorated;  the bronze clasp is no longer on the box (though the plates for the clasp are present); the sides are embossed with flowers which look like clover; and the top is exquisite:  a young lady sitting on the side of a boat.

 When I discovered the inscription on the bottom of the glove box, I understood the significance my grandmother placed on this treasure:  a gift from her husband, who died too young at 42 years of age.  When I look at this glove box, now on display in my home, it brings back wonderful memories of my grandmother and her jewelry and when I had such a marvelous time “dressing up” in beads, bangles, and baubles.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

In Honor of Father's Day: A Father and a Grandfather

He only lived long enough to know one grandchild; he died at age 65.  His father never lived long enough to see his children grow up:  he died at age 42.  They are my father and my grandfather.

Frank George Newhouse was born on October 3, 1906, in Pine Island, Minnesota, to Dr. Fritz and Elizabeth Newhouse, and died on April 10, 1972.  Fritz Valentine Newhouse was born on February 14, 1880, in Pine Island, Minnesota, to George and Miriam Newhouse, and died on February 13, 1923. 

They both went to college:  Frank was an attorney; Fritz was a dentist.  Neither lived long enough to see their children graduate from college and/or graduate school.

One registered for the WWI Draft; the other served during WWII. 

They both loved baseball.  Fritz played on the Pine Island baseball team.  Frank watched baseball on television and attended the Minnesota Twins baseball games as often as he could.  Frank’s passion was most likely instilled by his father as seen by the below photo, taken when Frank was barely a year old.

Though celebrated locally, Father’s Day did not become a national day of recognition until 1972 when President Richard Nixon signed a congressional resolution to honor fathers on the third day in June.  Neither my father nor my grandfather lived long enough to be honored on Father’s Day.

I can only assume that my grandfather had the same traits as my father:  kind, generous, a good sense of humor, one to turn to in times of trouble. So today, for Father’s Day weekend, I honor both my father and the grandfather.  

 Newhouse Family Portrait, 1909
Elizabeth holding Frederick, Frank, and Fritz

Newhouse Family Portrait, about 1952
Florence and Frank, Douglas and Linda