Mennonite Beginnings

In 1940, long before the world of GEDCOM and web search, Charles Fahs Kauffman (1884–1978), Sharon (née Weaver) Vitter's 8th cousin 2x removed, put together an amazingly detailed compilation entitled A Genealogy and History of the Kauffman-Coffman Families, annotated on the web by Jeff Vitter. The preface focuses upon Sharon's 10th great grandparents Jacob Nicklaus Kauffman (1554–1599) and Anni (née Bürcki) Kauffman (1562–1620) of 16th century Switzerland and their Anabaptist/Mennonite/Amish descendants. Sharon's Swiss Kauffman ancestry can be traced back even further four generations to her 14th great grandparents Jakobi and Augusta (née Sophia) Kauffman in the mid 1400s.

Charles Fahs Kauffman Genealogist Charles Fahs Kauffman.

The term "Ana­baptist" refers to the practice of baptism (or re-baptism) as an adult — when the person with full cognizance declares faith in Christ. It often involves dunking the person being baptised in a pond or large basin. Though no longer Mennonites, several in the current generations of Sharon's family were baptized in that manner at the local Elm Grove Baptist Church in Chiles, Kansas, located next to the same railroad tracks that go through the Weaver Farm three miles to the southwest.

Anabaptists, which are comprised primarily of Mennonites, Amish, German Baptists, and Hutterites, were persecuted incessantly starting in the 16th century because of their literal interpretation of scripture. For example, most Anabaptists regarded the Sermon on the Mount as requiring a ban on taking oaths, military action, and participating in civil government. (Perhaps government beaureaucracy was as bad then as it is now!) As you can see in the history entitled "The Hochstetler Attack: Life on the Frontier," many Mennonites were nonviolent and did not use firearms against others, even in self-defense, and therefore refused to serve in the military. Government authorities reacted harshly against this rejection of their authority.

Sharon's 6th great grandfather Isaac Kauffman (1685–1798) emigrated with his family from Switzerland via Rotterdam to Pennsylvania on the ship Virtuous Grace in 1737, ultimately settling in Berks County in eastern Pennsylvania. He was the son of a famous Mennonite religious leader and teacher by the same name, Täufer (Baptiser) Isaac Kauffman (1653–1741), who sponsored countless baptisms of friends and family.

Given his high profile, Täufer Isaac Kauffman was the target of much displeasure from government and Church authorities. In his book, Charles Kauffman devotes several pages to the trials (literally!) and tribulations of Täufer Isaac. He was constantly on the run or under arrest. The authorities tried to enlist friends and even his wife to catch him. At one time, the Swiss authorities convicted him of heresy and sentenced him to be sent to the East Indies so that he would no longer bother them with his teachings. Their plans to put him on a boat in Rotterdam backfired when the Dutch, who were much more tolerant and accommodating, scuttled the idea and allowed Täufer Isaac to continue preaching on the run.

His son Isaac was no doubt happy to take the opportunity to emigrate to America and get away from all the persecution!

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