Only after 2 years of research did I find that there was archived correspondence between Quaker merchant Henry Drinker and Jacob Brumbaugh and later his son Jacob, Jr. Henry had been one of twenty Philadelphia Quakers exiled to Virginia by Philadelphia authorities shortly before British Gen. William Howe arrived to occupy Philadelphia for the winter of 1777-78. Jacob first bought a land tract from Henry in 1785, then signed an agreement for another one in the early 1790s and one also in 1797, which was not completed until 1803 after Jacob Sr. had died in 1799. Jacob Jr. personally brought the last installment to Drinker’s home and breakfasted with the Drinkers in August 1803. Drinker’s wife Elizabeth Sandwith Drinker recorded that fact in her 50-year diary which is the most complete contemporary record of manners of eighteenth-century Philadelphia and is lodged at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
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.
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.
Henry Drinker, a Quaker merchant in Philadelphia, in 1797 in correspondence with his lawyer in Frederick County, described Jacob Brumbaugh as a “Bearded German.” This is the only eyewitness description we have of Jacob. Typically, once a member of the German Baptist Brethren congregation married, he no longer shaved or trimmed his beard. So “Bearded German” was also a code phrase for a member of the German sects (Mennonite, Amish, Dunker, etc.) A congregation which was part of a denomination which “reformed” by splitting off from the larger denomination was usually referred to as a “sect” and its members as “sectarians.”