Our Stauffer Christian Heritage
and the Priceless Stauffer Booklet
Recently I have been browsing again in the thirty-two page booklet that gave us our first solid information about our Stauffer ancestors who migrated from Pennsylvania to Ontario, Canada (and some eventually to Michigan). I’ve been overwhelmed once again with appreciation for the fact that God dropped this booklet into our laps the way He did. Following that story is an account of some of the Christian heritage that has come to us through the
In retirement in Cherokee Village in the late 1980s, my mother became friends with a widow lady named Gladys Stouffer. At some point, when Mrs. Stouffer learned that our family had ancestors named Stauffer, she mentioned to Mother that she had a booklet with Stauffer family history. Because of the similarity of the names, she loaned the booklet to Mother, who got it to me. It was interesting stuff.
In my reviewing today, it took a little rustling into old memories to remember how, two and a half decades ago, I figured out that the Abraham Stauffer who was the anchor person in the booklet was indeed an ancestor of mine. I now know volumes about the generations between him and me, and I’ve searched for his grave around Waterloo, Ontario.
I got my start with Stauffer information from a Ruth Stauffer of Sparta, Michigan. She and her husband (a nephew of my great-great-grandfather) had year after year attended the Stauffer reunions in the Waterloo, Ontario, area. Starting with the information I had from Ruth, I was able to piece together the connections between that and what I found in the Stauffer booklet twenty-some years later.
As mentioned, when Mrs. Stouffer in Cherokee Village heard the book did indeed contain information about
my family, even though not her husband’s, she said I should have it. What a gift it has been and still is!
All this happened before my mother died in 1991. At that time I’d never even imagined anything like the Internet that was about to burst onto the scene in the next decade. How remarkable that I already had this foundation for the Stauffer branch of our family on which I could build what I learned from the Internet! Over the years much of the information gathered has made its way into
Esther’s Scrapbook (http://www.esthersscrapbook.com/Stauffer.html). Now I’d like to add some more.
The first two pages following the Introduction to the booklet are titled
Our Christian Heritage. Following are selected excerpts that will give you a better understanding of this part of our heritage.
In speaking of the Pennsylvania families who had moved to Canada in the early 1800s,
…All of them were adherents of the Mennonite Church which emerged from the Anabaptist movement during the Protestant Reformation.
The Anabaptist movement originated in Switzerland; it is often referred to as the Left Wing of the Reformation, largely because its leaders sought more radical expression of the Biblical commitment to follow Christ. In practice, they were not satisfied with the slow pace of reformation.
Anabaptists regarded the Scriptures as their sole authority in doctrine and religious practice…. These sixteenth–century believers called themselves simply by that name. Terms like “brother” and “sister” enhanced and reflected their solidarity and sense of brotherhood. But their enemies applied the derogatory nickname of Anabaptist (rebaptizer) to members of the group because they denied the validity of infant baptism as taught and practiced by the Sate Church. They insisted the New Testament called for baptism on confession of faith which led them to the practice of believer’s baptism or adult baptism.
This unequivocal position incurred the wrath of the State Church leaders. In an attempt to squelch the movement, they allied themselves with the civil authorities and instigated a course of action which resulted in a fateful decree: the rite of adult baptism was declared to be an act of civil disobedience punishable by imprisonment, torture, loss of citizenship, even by death. …
[The Stauffers] often died a martyr’s death, patiently and humbly enduring all persecution… [A noted historian said of them]: “By their suffering it may be said they contributed directly to the ultimate achievement of freedom of religion.”
Ironically, freedom of religion did not occur in Switzerland until several centuries later. Consequently, in an attempt to improve their lot, many … emigrated to the Palatinate in Germany, living wherever owners of large estates accepted them as tenants, [and some of them were
forcibly evicted and had to leave everything behind, sometimes even family members].
Their reputation as successful agricultural husbandmen made them desirable tenants, but the usual civil and religious rights such as owning property and having houses of worship were continuously denied them …
So when the opportunity to emigrate to America was publicized, our forefathers proceeded to Pennsylvania where they were granted at last the privileges which had been denied them for so long a time in Europe. Their settlements showed early the marks of industry and gratefulness. By their perseverance in clearing the land and their application of good agricultural methods, they were soon numbered among the prosperous of the land.
The accounts of what led up to their decision to move to Canada early in the next century are written up in “Portrait of Elizabeth” at
I find it appropriate and touching to realize that our ancestor who gave his life to save another a century later was a Stauffer.
That Samuel (1844-1899) was a great-grandson of Abraham Stauffer (1748-1843), the “anchor” of the information in the Stauffer booklet.
Further relevant reading may be found at