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American Refuge
The Impact of European Religious Societies on Immigration and Settlement Patterns in America
© 2005 Rickie Lazzerini
Page 2

Historical Review 3.1   


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     The Mennonites are another religious group who developed out of the Anabaptist movement. They take their name from Menno Simons, a former Catholic priest who converted to Anabaptism in 1536. In that year he began to gather Anabaptists who had been scattered around Europe during the Munster Revolt. Simons brought the refugees to Holland where they were protected by Prince William of Orange who extended the Treaty of Utrecht to allow the Anabaptists religious freedom. These Dutch Anabaptists became known as the Mennonites. The Mennonites gathered many followers and dispersed around northern Europe. In the late 18th century, Catherine the Great of Russia invited thousands of Mennonites to settle on land recently won from the Turks. This led to a significant Mennonite presence in Ukraine.

     The Mennonite immigration to the United States took place over a long period of time. Unlike the Hutterites, the Mennonites widely dispersed themselves, immigrating at different times. Mennonites arrived in Pennsylvania throughout the 18th century. They gradually migrated to the west and to the south, settling in Maryland, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Canada. In 1870, the Mennonites who settled in Russia at the invitation of Catherine the Great were no longer welcome. They decided to immigrate to America where they settled on railroad land in Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas.





     The late 19th century saw a split in the Mennonite church. Some believed that too many new innovations were filtering into their lifestyle. They decided to limit the impact of technology on their lives by resisting certain innovations. These more traditional Mennonites became known as Old Order Mennonites. Other Mennonites assimilated into mainstream society, but the Old Order still exists today as a separate and visible group. The Old Order is further divided into those who use automobiles and those who do not. Those who do not use cars are called Team Mennonites. Today, the Old Order Mennonites are overwhelmingly outnumbered by other Mennonite groups. The estimated Old Order Mennonite adult population is 17,000, while the estimated population of non-Old Order Mennonite population is 224,000.(4) Despite this, the Old Order groups have kept a steady lifestyle by separating themselves from modern society. The Team Mennonites, who are the most traditional and separate from mainstream society, have a population, including children, of about 24,000.(5)

Location
Population
   Pennsylvania
9,650
   Ontario
6,900
   New York
1,800
   Virginia
1,550
   Missouri
1,000
   Ohio
800
   Wisconsin
800
   Indiana
700
   Kentucky
400
   Iowa
300
   Michigan
100
Table 2: Estimated Team Mennonite Population(6)

     The Amish share a similar history with the Mennonites. The Amish, who take their name from Jakob Ammann, broke with the Mennonites in 1693. Ammann introduced several new practices, such as shunning, that led to the separation of the Amish from the Mennonites. The Amish immigrated to the United States in two waves during the 18th and 19th centuries. The Amish first settled in Pennsylvania, but over time migrated to Ohio, Indiana, and further west. Like the Team Mennonites, the Old Order Amish groups in America are more traditional and separate themselves as much as possible from mainstream society and certain technologies. The 20th century saw huge growth within the Amish colonies. The population rose from approximately 5,000 in 1900, to over 180,000 today. Most of the Old Order Amish live in the mid-west, but there are congregations in the south and in Canada.

Location
Number of Congregations
   Ohio
328
   Pennsylvania
278
   Indiana
219
   Wisconsin
69
   Michigan
58
   Missouri
40
   New York
34
   Kentucky
33
   Iowa
32
   Illinois
29
   Ontario
22
   Minnesota
13
   Tennessee
11
   Delaware
8
   Kansas
8
   Maryland
6
   Oklahoma
5
   Montana
3
   Virginia
2
   Arkansas
1
   Florida
1
   Mississippi
1
   North Carolina
1
   Texas
1
   Washington
1
   West Virginia
1
   Total
1204
Table 3: Number of Amish Congregations in the U.S. and Canada (7)

     
The Brethren
, also known as the Old German Baptist Brethren or the Dunkers, is the last group that formed from the Anabaptist movement. The Brethren are somewhat different from other Anabaptist groups because they descend from a mixture of Anabaptism and German Pietism. The first group of Brethren was formed in Schwarzenau, Germany in 1708. They re-baptized each other, like Anabaptists, and were sometimes called Dunkers for that practice. Several congregations were formed in Germany, but persecution and bad economy stimulated their immigration to America in the early 18th century. Hardly any Brethren remained in Europe; almost all Brethren immigrated to Pennsylvania and New Jersey where they lived among Mennonites before they spread to the west. During the 19th century, the Brethren expanded westward into Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio. As more land opened for settlement, the Brethren spread further into Illinois, Kansas, and to the Pacific coast. Like the Mennonites and the Amish, some Brethren also made the decision to stick with the traditional practices, while others joined mainstream society. Today, there are approximately 6,000 adult members of the Old German Baptist Brethren, if children and non-member spouses are counted, the number increases to 20,000. The majority of Brethren congregations are in the mid-west, but there is also a significant population on the Pacific coast.

Location
Number of Congregations
   Ohio
16
   Indiana
9
   Virginia
5
   Kansas
5
   California
4
   Washington
2
   Florida
2
   Maryland
1
   West Virginia
1
   Georgia
1
   Mississippi
1
   Michigan
1
   Wisconsin
1
   Missouri
1
   Oregon
1
   Total
51
Table 4: Number of Brethren Congregations in the United States (8)

     All of the Anabaptists groups who came to America have flourished. They have successfully spread across the nation, but their stronghold is in the mid-west. The groups fit into a unique aspect of immigration, and make up a different group of pioneers. All of the Anabaptist groups started small in America, but through hard work, strategic community and social planning, and dedication to their religion, they have grown tremendously and spread into Canada. Their choice of rural settlement areas has allowed them to easily stay separated from the rest of society. These Old Order congregations are successful, living historical examples of group/chain immigration.

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By Rickie Lazzerini
Historian
Kindred Trails Worldwide Genealogy Resources

BA History
University of California, Santa Barbara

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2005 Rickie Lazzerini, All Rights Reserved
This page may be freely linked to but may not be reproduced
in any form without prior written consent from the author.


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