Page 12 - History of UB Church by A. Funkhouser Ver 1
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CHAPTER III

MARTIN BOEHM AND THE MENNONITES

The Mennonite Church was founded in Switzerland in 1522, and very soon it spread into
Germany, Holland, and France. Persecution was prompt to appear, and it is claimed that in nearly
every instance the Mennonite can trace his ancestry to some forbear who was burned at the state
or tortured. Protestantism was represented in Switzerland by the Reformed Church, and the
churchly pride which this denomination had inherited from the mother church, the Roman Catholic,
led it to look upon the Mennonites as contemptible. It persecuted the new sect as cheerfully as did
the Lutherans or the Catholics. One of the ways of contending with what was deemed a heresy was
to drown the Mennonite offender. This was looked upon as baptizing him in his own way.

Menno Simon, a Catholic priest, espoused the cause of the harassed people, gave them his
name, and added the principle of non-resistance to their creed. Between 1670 and 1710 large
numbers were driven to Austria and Russia by the Protestants of their home-lands because they
refused to have their children baptized. The first to appear in America were a little party who came
in the fall of 1683 at the solicitation of William Penn. Their first meeting-house was built at
Germantown in his colony in 1708. When the war for American independence rose, the American
Mennonites had 13 congregations and 15 bishops. There are now about 60,000 members in the
United States.

The Mennonite Church came into existence as an effort to bring back to life the primitive
Christian Church, according to Menno's conception of it. There are points of resemblance between
the German Mennonites and the English Quakers, and this is why William Penn showed them so
much hospitality. Both sects practice simplicity in personal attire, have no paid ministers, and

refuse to make formal oaths or to perform military service. It was their opposition to war that
made them particularly obnoxious to the Swiss. The government of Switzerland ruled that those of
its people who were unwilling to bear arms in the defense of the state were undeserving of its
protection. They had no theology. "Believe and let believe," was their motto. The Mennonites go so
far in the direction of pacifism as to forbid their members from engaging in personal combat. They
are much opposed to the baptism of infants. They do not countenance secret societies, neither do
they accept civil office or exercise the right of suffrage. Among their religious practices are the
anointing with oil, the kiss of charity, and the washing of feet. Whatever may be thought of their
views on non-resistance and on non-participation in civic life, the Mennonites have always been
noted for temperance, pure living, strict honesty, and conscientious devotion to the observances of
their creed. But the Mennonites of colonial America allowed the spiritual side of religion to fall into
very great neglect, They drifted into a hidebound formalism, which made them extremely exact in
matters of costume, and to insist on a precise morality in the affairs of everyday conduct.

Mennonites were among the very earliest settlers in the Valley of Virginia, yet it was almost a
century before they built any special house of worship. The first was Frissel's, near Baker's mill,
three miles west of Broadway. It is now called the Brush church and was built in 1822. Meyer's
meeting house, on the Valley Pike, was built about three years later.

From the settlement north of Woodstock the younger generation pushed up the Valley and
occupied the region about Timberville, Broadway, and Turleytown. From the thirty families around
Coote's store, numbers moved south and west from Harrisonburg. Here was a district of woodland
so late as 1780. The previous sparse population of English and Scotch-Irish cabin-dwellers, each
controlling from 600 to 1,000 acres, lived mainly by hunting and fishing.

About 1825 there was a schism among the Mennonites of Rockingham county. It came about
through the association of Frederick Rhodes, one of their preachers, with the United Brethren of
the congregation at Whitesel's. About one-half the Mennonite body took offense at the loud and
earnest preaching of Rhodes, and not because of the doctrines he set forth or of taking an active
part in the meetings of the Brethren. Peter Eby and three other ministers came from Pennsylvania
and restored harmony. They ruled that Rhodes had not transgressed the gospel.

Martin Boehm, son of a Swiss immigrant, was born in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania,
November 30, 1725. His father, reared as a member of the Reformed Church, fell under the

12 Martin Boehm and the Mennonites
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