One of the goals of the family members who gathered for the 1910 Clymer Family Reunion was to pass on to future generations an understanding and appreciation of the life and faith of their grandparents and great grand parents. Within the pages of reunion minutes are records of Births, Marriages, and Deaths as well as Tributes to loved ones who died during the year. I am convinced that our Mennonite ancestors, although not in support of the American Revolution, share Patrick Henry's legacy for family and posterity expressed in this seldom quoted statement in Henry's his Last Will and Testament
"I have now disposed of all my property to my family. There is one
thing more I wish I could give them, and that is faith in Jesus Christ. If they had that
and I had not given them one shilling, they would be rich. And if I had not given them
that, and I had given them all the world, they would be poor indeed."
By 1950 (thanks to the efforts of George Kratz, Herbert Kratz, and Katherine Kratz) we had records of the descendants of Henry Kulp Clymer and Maria Haldeman Benner, but we did not know who their grand parents and immigrant ancestors were. When Dr. John Swartley became president of the Clymer Reunion in 1954 he devoted much time researching the Clymers as well as the Swartleys but the answer to these questions eluded him. (Jacob Cressman Swartley 1881-1954 executed an impressive Swartley family tree in 1951. Dr. John Swartley made additions in 1969.)
We now know that we are descendants of immigrant Henrich Clemmer who married Maria and settled in Franconia Township before1738. They are buried in the cemetery of the Franconia Mennonite Church. When Henry's son Valentine moved into Bucks County at the end of the eighteenth century the name changed to Clymer! The move to Bucks County was actually a return to Bucks County for this branch of the Clymer family. Henry Clemmer is most likely the son of Mennonite Bishop Valentine Klemmer who imigrated in 1717 and settled in "Grooten Schwamb" (Great Swamp or Milford Township), Bucks County before 1720. The Bishop arrived with the second wave of Palatine Mennonites who landed in Philadelphia, including John Landis, Henrich Ruth, Dielman Kolb, Henry Funk, Hupert Cassel, John and Christian Fretz, and Hans and Christian Meyer.
Other Palatine Mennonites in this group were of predominantly Swiss-origin, such as Bishop Benedict Brechbill and Bishop Burghalter. They moved to what would become the largest Mennonite settlement in the New World, the Pequea and Conestoga settlements in Lancaster County and joined their friends who sailed to the New World in 1710: Hans Herr, Christian Herr, Martin Kendig, Juacob Muller, Martin Oberholtzer, Martin Mylin,
Documentation of the 1717 Community Wide Mennonite Migration is almost non existent because passenger lists and oaths of allegiance to the crown were not required by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania before 1727. Henrich was the youngest child of Bishop Valentine Klemmer, and Valentine (Klemmer) Hunsicker was the child of the bishop's oldest daughter. Valentine Hunsicker and Henrich Clemmer were both born in 1700!
There is a tradition in the Hunsicker family that Valentine Hunsicker, the Bishop's grandson, went from Great Swamp (Milford Township, Bucks County) to Skippack (Montgomery County) in 1720 to help his Uncle Henry, a stone mason, build the second Mennonite Meetinghouse in the new world, the Skippack Mennonite Meetinghouse. I believe this uncle was Henrich Clemmer of Franconia who married Maria. Valentine Hunsicker and Henry both eventually settled in the Salford area.
The desire to document a relationship between Bishop Valentine of Great Swamp, Bucks County and Henry Clemmer of Franconia, Philadelphia County (now Montgomery County) propelled Abraham Lapp Clemmer in his research in the 1920's. Although he never found documentation to prove a relationship, on the first page and introduction of the book HENRICH AND MARIA CLEMMER OF FRANCONIA (a compilation of his research), Abraham Lapp Clemmer writes "The writer believes a relationship existed (between Bishop Valentine Klemmer of Great Swamp and Henry Clemmer of Franconia) because of family tradition and the fact that male descendants of the Montgomery County Clemmers and those of Bucks County branches are almost identical." Abraham Lapp Clemmer then assumed that Henrich of Franconia was the Henrich Klemmer on the ship list of the ALEXANDER AND ANN and that John Clemmer (d. 1737) who married Ann Detweiler (and lived in Montgomery County) was the John Andreas Klemmer on the same ship list. Their arrival in 1730 on the ALEXANDER AND ANN is presented as fact in the book published in 1992 by the Clemmer Association. The Clemmer Association placed a marker on the graves of Henrich and Maria of Franconia in which is inscribed Henrich Clemmer landed in Philadelphia September 30, 1730 from ship Alexander and Ann.
I am now of the opinion that Henrich Clemmer of Franconia did not arrive in 1730, but in 1717 with the large group of Mennonites who came to Pennsylvania, including his father and nephew. The fact that the "Henrick Klemmer" on the passenger list of the ALEXANDER AND ANN is claimed by a differnent family as an Immigrant Ancestors supports my opinion and indirectly supports Abraham Lapp Clemmer's hypotheses of a relationship betweeen Bishop Valentine and Henrich of Franconia. I believe the names of Henrick Clemmer and John Andreas Clemmer on the Passenger List refer to a father and son who are mentioned in the records of St. Michaels and Zion Lutheran Church in Philadelphia and not our Mennonite ancestors. Their ancestors lived in Montbeliard France (on the Swiss border) but fled to Afoltern, Zurich, Switzerland in the St. Bartholemew's Day Massacre of August 24, 1572 . Catholic France tried to rid itself of French Protestants and the "Klymers" found refuge in Switzerland. One hundred years later they lived in the small village of Friedelshiem, Germany and baptized their children in the Protestant Church. It is possible, but not proven, that our Bishop Valentine Klemmer is related to this family. If so, our ancestors most likely lived near Montbeliard, France in the 1500's.
Thanks to the Mennonite Historians of Eastern Pennsylvania and the Mennonite Heritage Center in Harleysville, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, the descendants of Henry and Maria Benner Clymer can have a clear and fresh understanding of who our ancestors were and how they lived. It is my hope that the essays, historical fiction, and genealogical charts will lead to a greater appreciation of our heritage.
Many of the Quaker families who responded to William Penn's advertising pamphlet for the New World, "Some Account of the Province of Pennsylvania", had been Mennonites! Others who responded never converted to the "new" religion of George Fox and remained in the Mennonite fellowship. Our ancestors were primarily in the second group. Begun in 1525 in Zurich, Switzerland, the "Anabaptist fellowship" (re-baptizer) was later named for a leader from the Netherlands, Menno Simons. Menno Simons was born the year that Columbus discovered America and at 28 was ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood. His study of the Bible and the writings of Martin Luther eventually led him to an Anabaptist group, a group that could not accept infant baptism and was therefore persecuted by all of Europe, Catholic and Protestant. Once Menno began preaching against the errors of the Anabaptist revolutionaries it wasn't long before "decent Anabaptists from Northern Europe noted his common sense and turned to him for leadership. He kept the movement from degenerating into fanatical cults." He taught that only those who had reached the age to understand their action should be baptized and that faith was worthless unless demonstrated by works. For these "heresies" and the refusal to bear arms Mennon Simons and his followers were harried from refuge to refuge in Northwest Europe. Charles V placed a reward of 100 golden guilders on his head. Some of his followers were burned at the stake, drowned, or hanged. Many of our ancestors were tortured, arrested, or had property confiscated because of their beliefs. Mennonites offered such a powerful witness at their executions that the executions were ordered to be carried on in secret with the martyrs gagged. Many martyrs freed their tongues to continue to preach so a clamp was placed over the tongue and the tip burned so it could not slip back through the vise!
Many of these stories were collected in a very special book in the 17th century that was later translated from Dutch to German and printed at the Ephrata Cloisters between 1747 and 1750. The Mennonite leaders in Pennsylvania feared a change to their protected status as pacifists in Pennsylvania when England went to war with France. A better understanding of their history was needed! Many of our ancestors bought a copy of the MARTY'S MIRROR or BLOODY DRAMA OF THE HARMLESS CHRISTIANS for the modest price of twenty-one shillings! Its fifteen hundred pages printed on folio sized pages made it the largest book published in the American colonies.
MENNO SIMONS ON THE NEW BIRTH
Do you suppose, dear friends, that the new birth
consists of nothing but in that which the miser-
able world hitherto has thought that it consists in,
namely, to be plunged into the water; or in the
saying, "I baptize thee in the name of the Father
and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost"?
No, dear brother, no.
The new birth consists, verily, not in water
nor in words; but it is the heavenly, living, and
quickening power of God, and which by the
preaching of the divine Word, if we accept it by
faith, quickens, renews, pierces, and converts
our heart, so that we are changed and converted
from unbelief to faith, from unrighteousness to
righteousness, from evil to good, from carnality
to spirituality, from the earthly to the heavenly,
from the wicked nature of Adam to the good
nature of Jesus Christ.
Anabaptists are similar to the Baptists of today in that they reject infant baptism and emphasize the separation of church and state. Mennonites are distinct from Baptists in their practice of non-resistance. For the most radical of the Anabaptists, this meant the absolute refusal to bear arms, to hold political office, to swear an oath of loyalty to the state, or to sue in courts of law. By 1682, the year that Philadelphia was founded, most of our Mennonite ancestors had experienced tremendous persecution for their beliefs and had become refugees. William Penn's advertising pamphlet promising popular government, equal rights regardless of race or religion, and cheap land received a positive response from our ancestors!
Our ancestors finally found refuge in the New World as William Penn's advertising pamphlet promised, first in Germantown and then in a six-thousand acre tract called "Bebber's Township" or Skippack. The first settlers on Matthias Van Bebber's 6,000 plus acre tract were Dutch-speaking and they had arrived in Germantown before 1700. Many were the relatives of the original Germantown settlers but they had not left the Mennonite Fellowship to become Quakers. The Dutch-speaking names include Custer, Keyser, Tyson, Neus, Jansen or Johnson, Godshall, Rittenhouse, Op den Graeff, and Umstat. Fifteen years later German speaking Mennonites from the Palatinate arrived in Skippack. Some German Mennonites moved west from Germantown to Lancaster and kept in contact with family members in the Skippack area. They were soon joined by other Swiss-Palatine immigrants who "by-passed the Quaker-dominated city and pushed on, walked, to the fertile limestone-based farm land forming in a broad semi-Circle between Philadelphia and the Appalachian Mountains." Palatine names are Kolb or Kulp, Clemens, Cassel, Hackman, Ruth, Landis, Moyer or Meyer, and Clemmer or Clymer. Swiss Lutheran names that became Mennonite names in the eighteenth century (usually while single men worked for Mennonite families) are Altorfer, Swartley, and Ziegler. The Louxs' of Bucks County were once French Huguenots.
Most of my information comes from secondary sources; books written and researched by others, Internet Home Pages, and Clymer Reunion Minutes.