Early on this study, tried to determine conclusively whether Jacob Brumbaugh was a true German Baptist Brethren. Throughout the narrative sifted through evidence of status and motivation of eighteenth-century men. It has described Jacob’s whole life, and learned a great deal about the Brethren. What can it now conclude?
One should first review the verifiable evidence: On the one hand, there are pieces of evidence that might lead one to believe that he was not a Brethren at all. His name appears on no lists of Brethren congregation members from the colonial period. There are lists for churches in his neighborhood, but either his name was never on them or lists that contained his name no longer exist. Very little that Jacob ever wrote survived, except for a few business letters to Henry Drinker, and certainly no writings that would indicate a positive answer to this question. Others in the revolutionary period never recorded his Brethren status, although some inferred it. Since records indicate that he was over age 50, he was not subject to the militia law anyway. His name does appear on a muster roll for Captain Clapsadle’s company of Maryland militia. This would be an indication that he was not a Brethren because it may have meant he actually had served in the company of soldiers. Evidence, however, is indeterminate.
Now, one must analyze the many pieces of evidence that point to Jacob being a Brethren. He “affirmed” in 1775 the facts set forth in an application for a warrant on land in Pennsylvania. Brethren affirmed these documents. The Brethren would never ‘swear on oath’ as most other people would. In 1776, Jacob was also listed among the “Menonists and Dunkers” in the minutes of the Committee of Observation, and his young sons even paid fines that Brethren forfeited during the Revolution. Evidence also exists indicating his son John became a Brethren minister in Bedford County, while his daughter Mary married Samuel Ulery, a Brethren minister. His son Jacob Jr. married a Brethren sister, Catharine Rentch. Jacob Sr. spent the last fifteen years of his life (1785-1799) acquiring land in Morrison’s Cove among many Brethren and Mennonites, which illustrates his association with this community.
After his death, Jacob’s inventory listed a “table and 16 benches upstairs,” which is the most convincing piece of evidence supporting his religious affiliation. While these utilitarian kinds of furniture could be used for numerous kinds of occasions, it was also consistent with Brethren who held ‘home church’ in that era. Again, the lack of guns and slaves on the inventory also points to him being a Brethren.
Jacob’s name also does not appear on any lists of men who took the test or loyalty oath following passage of the 1777 Security Act in Maryland. This act of omission was Jacob’s sole positive act of conscience. Secondary sources state that his wife, Mary Elizabeth Angle, converted as a young woman to the Brethren church. Although Mary’s membership cannot be positively confirmed, her alleged father, or brother, Heinrich Angle (or Engel) lived nearby in Washington County. He may have been the same man who owned a tract of land in Bedford County, who purportedly left a cash bequest to the local Conococheague district Brethren congregation. If this man was her father or brother, Mary came from a dedicated Brethren family. Finally, Henry Drinker’s correspondence reveals a convincing detail about Jacob’s Brethren status. Henry gave the only known eye-witness description of Jacob in a letter to a lawyer in Frederick town. Henry wrote that Jacob was “a bearded German,” code words for a physical trait of Brethren men.
One often quickly discerns an individual’s religion by finding out where they chose to be buried. Jacob, however, decided to be buried on his own property. He may, however, have left a clue for historians to trace that shows his true religious stance: he did not wish to be buried with others outside his immediate family. Most Germans in his time had traveled in groups, but Jacob never did that. Likewise, he did not associate closely with any of the men identified as probable Brethren from the May 7, 1776 minutes. These aforementioned facts indicate that Jacob Brumbaugh was a Brethren, but still an independent individual, a separatist of a sort. He likely kept his own counsel. This ultimate description finds a parallel in the life of Christopher Saur I. He has been described as “fiercely independent,” in both religious and political views. In order to understand him, it was said that one must grasp his religious views. Although Brumbaugh was similarly independent, the key to understanding him was his family.