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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Anabaptist Tories

My most recent subject of historical study is the position of the Anabaptists in the Revolutionary War. We have long known that many of the Anabaptists were branded as Tories because they felt duty-bound to be loyal to the king to whom they had promised allegiance when they immigrated. This week I came across something that shows just how strongly they felt about this issue.
In 1780 several Mennonite and Dunker leaders drew up a secret "Address and Petition" to the king stating their loyalty and support even to being willing to "part with Goods" to help restore control to the king. Christian Musselman was sent on the dangerous mission to deliver the petition to the British commander-in-chief in New York City. The petition was never delivered for Musselman destroyed it when he saw he was about to be arrested by American soldiers. If the petition would have been found in his possession he would most certainly have been hung for treason by the Americans. Christopher Sauer III, son of the Dunker printer in Germantown, wrote a letter on September 1, 1780 to Maj. Oliver DeLancy Jr. telling the story.
Several years ago a note was found among the old papers of the Groffdale Mennonite Church which indicates Musselman had the support of the Mennonites in being the courier for this petition. I saw the original note yesterday at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society and made a copy of it. The note, written in German, says, "Herewith I, Benz Hirschi, acknowledge that I have received from Christian Burkholder the sum of 3 pounds, 1 shilling, money for Christian Musselman for travel fare, and if he is able to repay it, it belongs to the congregation. Further, received from Henner Martin for the said Musselman, 4 pounds, 1 shilling."
At this time, Benjamin Hershey was the bishop in the Pequea district and senior bishop of the Mennonite churches in Lancaster County. Christian Burkholder was the bishop of the Mennonite churches in Groffdale, Weaverland, and Brecknock Townships.  Henry Martin was a minister at Weaverland and later became Christian's successor as bishop.
Although this note is in Hershey's handwriting, it is significant to me personally because Christian Burkholder was my direct ancestor. It confirms that he was indeed a "Tory"  and how strongly he felt about his promise to be loyal to the king. I think I would have taken the same position if I had been living at that time in their circumstances.

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