Eppstein, a village near Frankenthal in Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany, in which Anabaptism found entry in its earliest period. Anabaptists living here perhaps belonged to the congregation at Lambsheim, who signed the Concept of Cologne in May 1591 (Hege, 152). Their leader, Heinrich Gramm, belonged to a Mennonite family that lived in Eppstein through the upheavals of the Thirty Years’ War, until the end of the 19th century. It is assumed that Anabaptists from Eppstein also took part in the Frankenthal disputation in 1571. And when the Palatine church council at Heidelberg reported 4 July 1603, that the number of Mennonites in the vicinity of Ruchheim had increased to 300, those of Eppstein may have been included.
But it is not until after the Thirty Years’ War that there is definite information concerning the presence of Mennonites in Eppstein. The barons of Hundheim, to whom the village belonged, apparently received Mennonite refugees from Switzerland and protected them. In the register of Mennonites in the Palatinate (Karlsruher Generallandesarchiv-Akten) the place is mentioned first in 1685; a Peter Kintzi was living there. At the close of 1699 two families had settled there, and had to pay a protection fee. In the following years they were probably excused from the payment of this fee through the intervention of the von Hundheims, for they are not mentioned in the lists until 1752, when 14 families were recorded as having been accepted by the barons von Hundheim. Their names are as follows: Heinrich Pletscher with a family of 6; Christian Kaegy, 7; Heinrich Rohr(er), 6; Christian Jotter, 6; Johannes Hertzler, 4; Jakob Blickensdörfer, 5; Christian Stauffer, 5; Christian Neukumet, 7; Christian Hirschberger (Hirschler?), 7; Jost Krehbiel, 7; Christian Göbels, 6; Jakob Rohrer’s widow, 6; Neukumet’s widow, 3; and Christian Kaegy, 3. In the register of 1759 the following are listed: Christian Göbels, Christian Stauffer, Christian Kaegy, Jakob Heer, Jakob and Heinrich Rohr’s widow, Samuel Kaegy, Christian Jotter, Jakob Hirschberger, Jakob Jotter, Johannes Hertzler, Johannes Blum, Jost Krehbiel. In 1773, 12 families with 33 sons are briefly mentioned. In near-by Lambsheim the 1717 list mentions Bernhard Schowalter, Friedrich Steiner, Emanuel Balzel; in 1738, Christian Hirschberger, a weaver, and Jakob Eschelmann, widower and day laborer with many children. In Flomersheim, only a few minutes from Eppstein, the 1738 list mentions Johannes Steiner and Jakob Baer, and in 1752 Heinrich Becker. In Oggersheim there are in 1717 Hans Weber; in 1742, Jost Jotter, Michael Bechtel, and Valentin Schmutz, all of whom no doubt belonged to the Eppstein congregation.
Nearly all of these families came from the Emmental, Switzerland, as their names show. They formed a single congregation with the Mennonites in Friesenheim and Ruchheim . The preachers in 1732 were Christian Neukomm, Melchior Everlein, Hans Jakob Hiestand, deacon of Friesenheim, and Ludwig Gross of Ruchheim. Elders of the Friesenheim-Eppstein congregation were Ulrich Hirschler 1738-68, and Johannes Möllinger 1768-80. In 1779, when Eppstein built a church, it chose as its elder Johannes Stauffer, after which Möllinger was elder only of Friesenheim. The center of church activity was Eppstein; but services were held in all three villages. In 1734 the congregation began an alms book, which was continued until the middle of the 19th century. When this record was begun, Jakob Rohrer took over the alms fund in place of Benedikt Balzel (Mennonitische Blätter, 1879, 51).
In 1777 the Eppstein congregation purchased a plot of land for a cemetery from Johannes Blüm and Ludwig Strub. Services were at first held in various private homes, then regularly in the home of Elder Christian Stauffer. According to a notation in the alms book he was paid eight guilders in 1779 for the use of a room for two years for their meetings. In that year they built a small church with room for 120 persons, probably on the cemetery plot; it was dedicated on 5 September 1779 (Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de. Inventaris der Archiefstukken berustende bij de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam. 2 v. (Amsterdam: Uitgegeven en ten geschenke aangeboden door den Kerkeraad dier Gemeente, 1883-1884), I, 1545). On each side of the entry a vestibule was built, one to be used for meetings of the preachers, the other for funeral purposes. Both were later sacrificed for space in the auditorium. Instead of a pulpit there was a plain table; there were no seats for the preachers. In 1828 and again in 1914 the church was enlarged.
The Ibersheim resolutions of 1803 were signed by Heinrich Rohrer as preacher of the Eppstein church. He was followed by Heinrich Jotter, who died in 1824. Heinrich Ellenberger, a tailor from Gönnheim, took his place, and was the first preacher in Eppstein to receive remuneration. He also served the Friesenheim congregation until he emigrated to America in 1850. During the next four years Jakob Ellenberger looked after the church. In 1854 the congregations of Eppstein and Friesenheim chose the one-armed Christian Krehbiel of Wartenburg as their preacher. He had completed his theological studies at Erlangen, and was ordained in 1855. But he soon emigrated to America, too, where he died in 1878. Then Eppstein and Friesenheim were served by Heinrich Neufeld, the preacher of the Ibersheim church; since that time the three congregations have joined in supporting a preacher. When Neufeld took over the office of preaching in Friedrichstadt a.d.E., Jakob Ellenberger, nephew of the above Ellenberger, took his place for a short time. Hinrich van der Smissen preached for them in 1872-1882, Thomas Löwenberg 1883-1917, E. Händiges 1917-1923, Erich Göttner 1923-1927, Abraham Braun 1928- , Daniel Habegger, assistant pastor, 1953- .
According to Frey’s statistics there were in 1802, 68 Mennonites in Eppstein, 7 in Flomersheim; in 1834, 117 in Eppstein, 11 in Flomersheim, 4 in Heuchelheim, 2 in Lambsheim, and 2 in Hessheim. In 1953 the church numbered ca. 120 souls. The church is a member of the Vereinigung, the Palatine-Hessian Conference, and the Conference of the South German Mennonites. The Palatine-Hessian Conference has met repeatedly at Eppstein.
The Eppstein congregation was repeatedly assisted by the Dutch Mennonites (Committee for Foreign Needs). In 1714 some Swiss refugee settlers received aid. In 1781 they asked and obtained assistance because they had to pay a double poll tax to the “lord of Eppstein,” and had built a new church. In 1828-1843 they again received gifts from the Amsterdam congregation.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 597-99.
Hege, Christian. Die Täufer in der Kurpfalz. Frankfurt, 1908.
Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de. Inventaris der Archiefstukken berustende bij de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam, 2 vols. Amsterdam: Uitgegeven en ten geschenke aangeboden door den Kerkeraad dier Gemeente, 1883-1884: v. I, Nos. 1441, 1445, 1545 f., 1549; v. II, 2742-45.
Cite This Article
Neff, Christian. "Eppstein (Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 24 Apr 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Eppstein_(Rheinland-Pfalz,_Germany)&oldid=80540.
Neff, Christian. (1956). Eppstein (Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 April 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Eppstein_(Rheinland-Pfalz,_Germany)&oldid=80540.
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