Elten, von, family

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Von Elten is a prominent old Mennonite family in Krefeld, which is still flourishing there. Their progenitor, Gottschalk Dietrichs, was born in Cologne ca. 1580. In 1609 he purchased the estate “auf der Deusz” in München-Gladbach-Eicken, and was a wholesale dealer in yarn and linen. His son was Jan Gottschalks auf der Deusz. Jan’s son Gottschalk Jansen von Elten lived later on in Rheydt, was expelled in 1694, and in the same year acquired citizenship in Krefeld. The second son of Gottschalk Dietrichs, Dietrich Gottschalks, went to Haarlem when the Mennonites were expelled from Gladbach, but in 1664 he moved to the Merxhof in Rheydt-Bonnenbroich, and was therefore called Dietrich Gottschalks Merx, and at least after 1681, also von Elten. His son Gottschalk Dietrichs von Elten or Merx bought the Kütges estate in Rheydt-Geneicken in 1684. Expelled in 1694, he betook himself to Wesel, but acquired Krefeld citizenship in 1697. He died 18 April 1707, in Wesel. In Rheydt the family has also continued the linen business. In 1694 all the Mennonites in and around Rheydt were suddenly arrested by Palatine commissars of the duchy of Jülich, taken to Jüchen and Pfaffendorf, and all their goods confiscated. Among the 40 persons seized, the two von Eltens were especially threatened; but in spite of threats of imprisonment and execution they could not be moved to recant. After days of misery the “heretics” were released upon payment of 8,000 Reichstaler in addition to 800 Reichstaler to cover the cost, which was raised by brethren in Krefeld and Holland.

Most of the families then, like the von Eltens, moved to Krefeld, where a place of refuge had been opened under the house of Orange for the persecuted, and laid the foundation for the prosperity of the city. The Mennonite congregation now felt itself strong enough to build an adequate church (1695); on 19 January 1696 the first wedding was performed in it. William III of England, who belonged to the house of Orange, and the minister of the States-General furthermore induced the Palatine Elector to restore the confiscated and partly wasted Mennonite estates in 1697; the exiles were also permitted to offer their houses and other goods for sale. The proceeds made it possible for them to share in the extension (the first extension) of the city.

Concerning their expulsion, the Mennonites of Rheydt had a record made in Krefeld in 1696 by the notary Hermann Marthens in the presence of the mayors, Johannes Reiners and Johannes Bruckmann (as witnesses), which describes their sufferings. It was printed verbatim 107 years later in Krefeld with the title, Instrumentum Publicum wegen desjenigen, was bei denen Churfl. Pfaltzischen Herren Commissarien gegen die Protestante Menoniste zu Rheydt in Anno 1694 in facta vorgenohmen und sich zugetragen (24 pp.).

In the family chronicle, which has been carefully compiled by Friedrich von Elten (born 1835), with the family trees of most of the older Krefeld Mennonite families, to whom the von Eltens are related, as the op den Graaf, Scheuten, von der Leyen, Jentges, von Beckerath, Cornelius Floh, van Dulken families, the reason for the persecution in Rheydt is also stated (according to an oral tradition from the 18th century) : “The origin of this persecution I heard from a reliable source as follows: the flourishing linen business of the Mennonites there was coveted by the Reformed. The Mennonites gave money to the lord of Rheydt for protection and freedom from military service. The Reformed therefore had to render more guard and military service; therefore they sued their lord. The Mennonites would not contribute to the cost of the suit. All of this embittered the Reformed to such an extent that they besought the Palatine elector, their feudal lord, to persecute the Mennonites, as can be seen from their petition full of lies.”

The von Elten family has successfully shared in the thriving linen and silk industry in Krefeld. Most of the branches of the family still adhered to the faith of their fathers, and several members were always active in the consistory of the Krefeld Mennonite Church in the 1950s.

In Rotterdam there have also been members of this family. Antony Godtschalck was before 1632 a preacher of the High German Mennonites in Rotterdam. The minister of the Flemish congregation here in 1672-85, Adam van Reed (Rheydt?), was married to his daughter Marytje Antheunis Godtschalck. Her brother Wouter Antoni van Elten was preacher of the same congregation, 1680-83. In the year 1683 he moved to Amsterdam, where he died 11 November 1689.

Jan Godtschalcx, also called J. G. van Elten, a weaver who moved from Gladbach to the Dutch town of Nijmegen in 1655, and Dierick Godtschalck, also a weaver, who migrated from the territory of Jülich to Nijmegen in 1657, obviously belonged to a collateral branch of this von Elten family.

Jakob Gottschalk, elder of the Germantown congregation, whose Mennonite ancestors lived first in Gladbach and then in Goch, from where Jakob Gottschalk immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1701, though he and his family did not bear the name of von Elten, may have been members of the same family.


Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1874): 1 ff.; (1875): 68 ff.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 563.

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, No. 1427.

Keussen, H. Geschichte der Stadt und Herrlichkeit Crefeld. Krefeld, 1865: 179 f.

Niepoth, W. "Beiträge zur Forschung über menn. Familiennamen." Die Heimat. Krefeld, 1935: 117 ff.

Rembert, Karl. Die "Wiedertäufer" im Herzogtum Jülich. Berlin: R. Gaertners Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1899: 530 ff.

Schmitz, L. Geschichte der Herrlichkeit Rheydt. 1887: 142.

Vos, Karel. Gesch. der Doopsgez. Gemeente te Rotterdam. Rotterdam, 1907: 42.

Author(s) Karl Rembert
Wilhelm Niepoth
Date Published 1956

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MLA style

Rembert, Karl and Wilhelm Niepoth. "Elten, von, family." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 18 Sep 2021. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Elten,_von,_family&oldid=144994.

APA style

Rembert, Karl and Wilhelm Niepoth. (1956). Elten, von, family. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 September 2021, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Elten,_von,_family&oldid=144994.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 192-193. All rights reserved.

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