The Brumbaughs Likely Inherited Early in their History an Intensity in their Religious Passions

Recently, I commissioned research on what circumstances Johann Jacob Brumbach/Brumbaugh (1726-99) left behind when he emigrated in 1750 from his village of origin in Osthelden, district Krumbach, Ferndorff Lutheran parish, Nassau-Siegen in the principality of Westphalia, German lands of the Holy Roman Empire. For this task, I selected LegacyTree Genealogists of Salt Lake City, an excellent firm which has both remote and on-site services and personnel. They had already done well other research projects for me, and an experienced German genealogist completed the Brumbach research. The result was a “Research Report [Norman Donoghue by LegacyTree, Brumbach2109-2012875 – 22 April 2022]” complete with sources in footnotes and I am drawing heavily upon that report for this my own report on the family heritage.

                                    Religious Activity 

The most prominent conclusion of the above report is that while Johann Jacob Brumbaugh was baptized in 1726 in the Lutheran parish of Ferndorff, of which his village of Osthelden was part, the village of Schwarzenau, the site of historic origin of a Pietist movement, was close by and had adherents present in his native village of Osthelden (literally “East slope”), a village of less than 175 persons. It was all in a rural, heavily forested area. It was less that 20 miles away where Alexander Mack and the other leaders of the German Baptist Brethren sect gathered in 1708 before they emigrated through Amsterdam to Philadelphia in 1719 to rural Pennsylvania and Maryland where at the time of the American Revolution, about 1,000 Brethren worshipped in rural “house churches” in barns equipped with several benches (Jacob died owning 15 benches found in the barn as part of his inventory). This later led to modest sized plain buildings being erected near brooks and streams for their three times forward, full body immersion in flowing water for their baptismal practices. Many local, reform-minded worshipers had gathered in home-based conventicles in Siegerland to avoid being discovered and persecuted by the majority. They sought to return to the simplicity and purity of early Christianity but were treated harshly by local Protestant church authorities. 

The first evidence of Pietist conventicles in the Krumbach area dates to 1739 when a “follower of the Pietist movement wrote a polemical letter [unsigned] to the Krombach pastor Achenbach.” (p. 14). Those opposing this trend called the Pietist sectarians “enthusiasts” or “separatists.” In March 1740, the church elders “discussed how the Separatists should be kept ‘in check’” and worried about “suspicious gatherings” (p. 15). If caught, such persons would be lectured about “spreading erroneous opinions.” The Ferndorf pastor Denhardt also “reported a strong Schwarmerei [bee hive?]” in his parish (p. 15). Alexander Mack (1679-1735) had organized and founded in 1708 his Brethren group of seven radical Pietists in Schwarzenau. They “believed Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed churches were taking extreme liberties with the true, pure message of Christianity as revealed in the New Testament” (pp. 15-16). Also among the neighbors of the Brumbachs in Germany were Mennonites who had emigrated north from Switzerland. These people had a very similar devotion to building a life around the model of early Christianity and practiced agricultural methods at the time which were advanced. They, too, would emigrate to Pennsylvania in search of religious freedom and a place to pursue successfully and in peace an agricultural life.  

Jacob emigrated with a significant sum of money, 50 pounds Sterling (the equivalent of two years’ pay to a British soldier at the time), so this leads one to believe that he had not emigrated primarily for economic reasons, but perhaps for reasons of greater religious liberty, while greater economic opportunity was likely only a secondary prospect. 

It seems likely therefore that Brumbach when he arrived at Philadelphia might have consulted local Brethren who had emigrated in previous decades and settled in Germantown, and even printer Christopher Saur’s ubiquitous German language newspapers, in a quest to find cheap but good agricultural land, which he did find in western Maryland. It had never occurred to the author that Brumbach had arrived with a predisposition or leaning toward the Brethren worship model, when through research here we knew that he had been baptized in a Lutheran church in Germany and had married here the first convert in western Maryland to Brethren sectarianism, his wife, Mary Elizabeth Angle (Engle). It was our belief that she was the agent of his acceptance of the Brethren tenets, but now we see him in a different light.

                                    Occupational Activity

Jacob’s birth home of Osthelden was found in the district of Krumbach (Crumbach) in Nassau-Siegen. The village had been founded as early as 1344 as explained by the 650thanniversary celebrated there in 1994. In 1643 they only had twelve houses and in 1818 there were twenty and 137 inhabitants (an average of 7 to a house). 

While the main industry in his area was forging iron, a secondary occupation was weaving, and Jacob represented himself early in his settlement in Elizabeth town (later to become Hagerstown) as a weaver (so described in his first land tract purchase in 1753) and he later became both a very successful wheat and grain farmer as well as a fairly major distiller of whiskey. 

In the 18th century German landscape the nearby noble manor house of Lohe managed a steel and iron works with iron and steel hammers constantly in operation, but with an outlying agricultural estate. It seems likely that this manorial estate may have been where Jacob learned his outstanding agricultural skills before emigrating to America at the age of 24. (Today, Kreutzal has been created as the center of what were formerly several small villages, including Osthelden) (p. 8). Otherwise, the main products of Siegerland were cast iron balls and guns, stoves, and stove plates (p. 11). 

In the Krumbach area, there was a strictly regulated guild of hammersmiths and the shares in the hammers were “generally inherited in the family.” (p. 10). So, if that was not something that Jacob had in his family or if he had an older brother who inherited that trade, then Jacob had reason to look elsewhere for his main livelihood. Likely, he found a spot (probably by age 10-12) at the manorial agricultural operations—which focused mainly on forestry (producing charcoal for the iron and steel operations), but also grew rye and buckwheat, crops he later grew in Maryland– and he learned to do weaving on the side. This would have given him a dozen years to hone his skills before emigrating to the British North American colonies where other local people had gone earlier seeking a place to earn their livelihood by farming and practice their religious beliefs freely. 

The iron and steel operations suffered in this area during the Thirty Years War, 1618-1648, and thus this phase had ended more than a hundred years before Jacob left. By that time the local economy could have been back to a greater prosperity, but still had a shortage of agricultural land. 

                  Brumbaugh Family in America & Germany

This report also enabled me to add several generations on to my Brumbaugh family tree back to my 9th great-grandfather who lived and died in the same village in the 16th century. 

My mother was Margaret Elizabeth Grayson Brumbaugh (1912-92), eldest daughter of 

My grandfather, Rev. Roy Talmage Brumbaugh (1890-1957), younger son of 

My great-grandfather, Dr. Simon Schmucker Brumbaugh (1852-1935), son of 

My great-great-grandfather, Simeon Keesaker Brumbaugh (1806-1892), eldest son of 

My 3Xgreat-grandfather, David Angle Brumbaugh (1776-1842), fifth son of 

My 4Xgreat-grandfather, Johann Jacob Brumbaugh (1726-99), son of 

Jacob’s father, my 5Xgreat-grandfather, Johann Jacob Brumbach (1690-1738), baptized 13 April 1690, and Catharina Siebel; Johann Jacob Sr. was the son of 

Jacob’s grandfather, my 6Xgreat-grandfather, Johann and Maria (Kolbe) Brumbach (m. 23 Feb. 1681), son of 

Jacob’s great-grandfather, my 7Xgreat-grandfather, Stephan Brumbach (d. 20 Oct. 1686) and Catharina/Cathrin Löw; Stephan was son of

Jacob’s great-great-grandfather, my 8Xgreat-grandfather, Johann/Hans Brumbach who m. Cathrein/Threin Knipen 16 July 1609, in North-Rhein/Westphalia; Johann son of 

Jacob’s 3Xgreat- grandfathermy 9Xgreat-grandfather, Jost in der Brumbach (d. 15 March 1587 in North-Rhein, Westphalia) who lived in the 16th century, more than 430 years ago. 

They were “conscientiously scrupulous” of bearing arms. What does that mean?

The German Baptist Brethren or Dunkers were pacifists. If you “scrupled” about something you hesitated to do it for fear that it might be morally wrong. Well, they scrupled about bearing arms. And they did not just do it because this or that armed conflict was a bad one, they did it consistently for every such conflict. They were conscientious in their scruples. Therefore, another way of phrasing it back then is that they were “conscientiously scrupulous of bearing arms.”

They thought differently than their neighbors about war. They believed very strongly that Jesus had taught them to turn the other cheek and they should pray for their enemies as much as their friends. They believed that all wars are wrong. They believed that their members should have nothing to do with preparations for war. They supported one another at barn-raising time and they supported one another when they were asked to bear arms for the future of their country. When they were asked to attend the muster of the local militia once a week on the town green, in maybe 1774 after the Boston Tea Party the December before, they refused to go. They continued refusing in 1775 and 1776. There had been exemptions from military service now for decades for those people who were conscientiously scrupulous of bearing arms– the Quakers were the most prominent because of the large part they played in founding and administering early Pennsylvania.The Moravians too had negotiated an exemption as early as 1749. The Mennonites too had been early pacifist leaders. The Mennonites had petitioned against military service in 1755. During the Revolution, the Dunkers of Maryland allied themselves with the Mennonites. They were much like the Mennonites in their plain dress and simple humility, men sporting long, untrimmed beards. DUNKERS AT EPHRATA, 1880. - German Baptists on their way to the meeting at Ephrata, Pennsylvania. Wood engraving after Howard Pyle, c1880.

In the run-up to the Revolution your neighbors wanted to know which side you were on? Are you with us or against us? How would these people answer those questions? The narrative of this personal and denominational struggle is the gist of the book.

What’s a “Dunker”?

People called these German Baptist Brethren “Dunkers” because of their distinct form of believer’s (adult) baptism. They believed that the only proper way to baptize a Christian was kneeling in flowing water (a creek or stream), full body immersion, three times forward, each time after answering a question about their personal experience of the acceptance of Jesus Christ as their lord and savior. Usually there were other congregants watching and the few illustrations done of the scene show a small crowd of people gathered on the river bank as the elder immerses the applicant.

The Dunkers were originally known as Neue Teufer (“new baptists” in German) in the town of Schwarzenau, Germany, where they began in 1708. In America they became known as German Baptist Brethren and in 1908 they adopted the name Church of the Brethren, although since 1870 there are eight different splinter sects. Today there are over 150,000 people who trace their spiritual heritage to the eight persons who first baptized each other in 1708 in the Eder River. Brethren baptism