The Davis City Advance, Davis City, Iowa
Thursday, April 8, l897

Meyersdale, Pa., Oct. l9.

Dunkards, or "Tunkers," are a sect of American Baptists, originating in Germany. The name, as its second form indicates, is a nickname, meaning "dippers," from the German "tunken," to dip. The name they are constituted under, however, is German Baptist Brethren, and the founder of the organization was Alexander Mack, who was born in l679, in Schreisheim, in the electoral of Palatia, between Mannheim and Heidelberg, Germany. The beginning of the organization dates from l708, when he and his wife and six others were immersed in the river Aeder. The first church in the New World was founded by its originator, Alexander Mack, in l729, in the vicinity of Germantown, near Philadelphia. The illustrious Mack died in the year l735 and was buried in the Brethren's public burial ground, and the following brief inscription on an unpretentious slab marks the place:

"Here rest the remains of A.M., born l679; died l735, aged 56 years."

From the small beginning of four members in the United States, the membership has increased until it now numbers over 2,000 ministers and almost l00,000 lay-members, with congregations in almost every state in the union, and missions in Sweden, Denmark, Asia Minor and India.

The Dunkards believe in trine immersion as the Gospel mode of baptism. The candidate descends into the water and when in a kneeling posture is pushed forward, and entirely submerged three times. Their love feast, or feast of charity, is identical to that meal the Savior ate just before he brake and blessed the bread, and the communion follows the meal above referred to. The love feast usually begins shortly after the examination services, when those who deem themselves worthy to participate in this, to the orthodox Dunkard, solemn and impressive ceremony, file in and seat themselves around the tables provided for that purpose. The ceremony is to begin with feet-washing. The communicants remove their shoes and stockings, and with a vessel containing water, and girded with a towel, wash and dry each other's feet. At the conclusion of this ceremony the communicants greet each other with the kiss of charity. After the feet-washing comes the feast of charity, when each partakes of a quantity of lamb meat and a preparation made of the broth of the meat, with bread added. This is followed by the Communion, which, with possibly few exceptions, is similar to that administered in other churches.

These occasions usually pass off very quietly, though occasionally the services are disturbed by rowdies, doubtless seeking for notoriety, and they generally get what they are looking for from the hands of the civil authorities when information is made.

It has been asserted by some unscrupulous writers that the Dunkards are ignorant, hold their meetings in barns, etc. The statement lacks the essence of truth. In all organized congregations they have their houses of worship, and while they may not be classed as models of architecture, and lack fancy windows and sky-scraping spires, they are cozy, comfortable, and in every respect answer the purpose for which they were designed. The meeting house at this place is a two story building, has a seating capacity of five hundred, is heated by hot air and lighted by electricity. This "peculiar" people support seven first class colleges, located as follows: Huntingdon, Pa., North Manchester, Ind., Bridgewater, Va., Mt. Morris, Ill., McPherson, Kans., Lordsburg, Cal., and Fruitdale, Ala. Early in the church's history her publishing interests were carefully looked over and developed. The first publishing interests were carefully looked over and developed. The first publishing house of the Dunkards was located at Berleburg, Germany. A printing press was set up, for the Brethren believed in the liberal use of printers' ink. Here, in l726, the celebrated Berlesburg Bible, with notes, was published in three volumes, a copy of which may be seen in the Cassel Library at Mt. Morris, Ill. The printing press was afterwards sent to America, where, in l736, it came into possession of Elder Christopher Saur (Sower,) and he used to print the first religious paper and the first Bible printed in America. Elder Sauer, the printer, was a man of uncommon ability. He received a liberal education in the University of Marburg, Germany, and began work under great difficulties. A friend in Frankfort, Germany, sent him a part of the type. A few pages of the Bible were set up and printed and the type distributed to be set up again. After a great deal of labor and numerous reverses, he succeeded, in l843, in sending out the first edition of the first Bible published in a European language in America. The residence of this important personage in the history of the Dunkard Church is still standing, and occupies the premises now known as Nos. 4645 to 4653 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, and was erected in l73l. The only paper now published in the interest of the church and recognized by the church as official is the gospel Messenger, printed at Mt. Morris, Ill. It is an able and vigorous exponent of the doctrine of primitive Christianity, and circulates in almost every family of the Brotherhood.

Many of the great principles which underlie the foundation of our government, and help to make it the greatest, and grandest and best on earth, were first advocated and agitated by this religious denomination, of which apparently, there is so little known. As far back as l782, and at all intervening Annual Meetings up to l860, they were vigorous in their denunciation of slavery, though they did not countenance war as the proper means of its suppression. They wished the settlement amicably brought about by arbitration, and hence they were the first advocates of arbitration as a means of settling disputes -- national and international -- which, in the near future bids fair to do away with war. At their annual Meeting in l7(??) the following resolution was unanimously adopted:

"Concerning the un-Christian negro slave trade, it has been unanimously considered that it cannot be permitted in any wise by the church, that a member could, or should purchase negros, to keep them as slaves. But concerning brother John Van L., who bought, a considerable time since, a negro wench -- it is the united and cordial counsel of the church the said brother L. shall let the old negro wench go free from this time on, and tell her that she is free; but if she will not leave him after she is given her liberty then he may enter with her into a contract for wages."

On the question of abolition of the liquor traffic this church has been on record for more than a century. At a meeting of conference in l783 the following action was taken relative to the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors:

"At this great meeting a unanimous conclusion is laid down with regard to the very offensive evil which has endeavored to gain ground in the church, and by which already much mischief has been done, while the brotherly counsel has been repeatedly given that distilleries (of ardent spirits) in the church (among members) should be put away. And since there are still, from time to time, more erected, it has been unanimously concluded that those brethren who have distilleries, should be earnestly admonished to put them out of the way; and when they have been admonished in sincere love, once and again, and they would not obey the council of the church, and put away this loathsome idol, we could not break the bread of Communion with them, and have to withdraw, also the kiss and the church counsel from them until they are willing again to hear the church, as they have promised, also, at first, at their baptism before God and many witnesses."

In war the Dunkards are non-resistant, and will not take up arms against their brother, being sincere advocates of adjustment by arbitration. In the United States they are exempt from military duty. Several members of the church in Sweden are at present undergoing imprisonment for refusing to serve a required term in the army. During the civil war in this country hundreds were incarcerated in Southern prisons for refusing to take up arms at the call of the confederacy.

They believe that the anointing of the sick with oil is efficacious, and many will adopt no other means of recovery. Musical instruments are not countenanced in religious worship, and all their singing, which is a feature of their order of worship, is rendered without orchestral accompaniment. To them, also, belongs the honor of establishing the first Sunday School.

The Dunkards are a quiet, peaceable, industrious, pious people. They are generally wealthy, and kind to the poor of the community in which they reside. They are remarkably simple in their habits, plain in dress and spiritual in worship. They are intelligent, and as a general rule, can converse readily on the leading topics of the day, and while they exercise the right of franchise to a greater degree than they are credited, they take no active part in politics.

Copied by Nancee(McMurtrey)Seifert
September 23, 2003