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.