Mennonites from eighty nations gathered in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, last week for Mennonite World Conference. The crowd of about 7,500 that assembled there were largely from more liberal branches of the church. If the local conservative branches of the church had attended, the crowd could easily have doubled.
Although this was seen as a historic event and in my back yard, I had no desire to attend. However, one of the benefits the event brought was that it drew some of the people we met when we toured the Netherlands (Holland) and Germany in 1997. One of these was the Daniel Bergholdt family who live in the ancestral Stauffer home in Ibersheim, Germany.
The Stauffer story begins in the village of Eggiwil in the Emmental, Switzerland.
Niclaus Stauffer owned Luchsmatt farm in 1547, and the property was passed down to several more generations of Stauffers.
The Stauffers were Mennonites who were persecuted for their faith. Near the end of 1671, a group of 450 Mennonites were rounded up and exiled from the country. They were put on boats on or near this spot on the Aare River and shipped north into Germany.
Ninety-year-old Christian Stauffer and 66 of his family members were part of this large group of refugees who fled to the Palatinate and were aided by the Mennonites already living there. In 1672, Christian Stauffer and his family were reported to be living in Ibersheim, Germany. (The country was not unified into a nation until much later, but we know it as Germany today.) The records show he had left large possessions behind in Switzerland and brought nothing with him.
This plaque, which hangs in the Stauffer ancestral home in Ibersheim, was carved by a descendant of Christian Stauffer. It depicts him leading his family into Ibersheim. The names carved above the people are the places his descendants have gone from there.
This old building in Ibersheim dates to the early 1700s and was used as an inn for poor travelers. It was probably not yet built when the Stauffers arrived in the village. They slept in barns or wherever they could find a place to lie down at night. Christian Stauffer's family were reported to all be living in one large house with 21 children among them.
Eventually, the Stauffers found a place to live in Ibersheim. This is the German ancestral home of the Stauffers as it appears today. The oldest section is the part with the red roof which was built in 1747. The newest section on the opposite end was added in 1902. The last surviving person in Ibersheim who bears the Stauffer name lives here. She is a 102-year-old widow of a Stauffer and the grandmother of Annette Bergholdt who also lives here with her husband and two children.
Some of the Stauffers emigrated to Pennsylvania in the early 1700s but others stayed. This home has been passed down through many generations of the descendants of Christian Stauffer. It stands next to the Mennonite church in Ibersheim. The Bergholdts are members of this church.
When we were there in 1997, they were expecting their first child. When we saw them this weekend, that baby is now almost eighteen years old. Time passes as rapidly on that side of the ocean as it does here! It was good to connect with them again and know they are doing what they can to preserve their Stauffer family history.