Gottschalk, Jacob (ca. 1666-1763)

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Jacob Gottschalk (Gaetschalck): an outstanding leader and first bishop of the Mennonite Church in America; born at Goch in the Duchy of Cleves, Lower Rhine, Germany and immigrant to Germantown, Pennsylvania, in 1701. Recent research has demonstrated that Gottschalk was born at Goch about 1666, was baptized there on 7 April 1686, that he married Aeltien Hermans there on 20 February 1689, and that he secured his church letter on 12 June 1701. Since his father's name was Gottschalk Theunissen (or Thonis) it is apparent that the name Gottschalk is merely a patronymic, which in America became a family name. The paternal ancestors of Jacob Gottschalk came from München-Gladbach which belonged to the Jülich domain; they apparently migrated from Gladbach when the Elector Palatine ordered all Mennonites to leave in 1654. Besides being a farmer Jacob was also a turner. He had five children: Godschalk, John, Herman, Ann (m. Peter Küster), and Magdalene (m. Peter Nash).

From a brief sketch of the early history of the Mennonites in America (to 1712) written by Jacob Gottschalk, it is clear that he was ordained preacher at Germantown 8 October 1702, and after the death of William Rittenhouse in 1707 served as the sole minister until 22 March 1708 when others were ordained, and from 1708 on as the first bishop of the Germantown Mennonite congregation. In the absence of a bishop to ordain him, Gottschalk assumed the function of bishop at the request of the congregation and conducted the first baptismal and communion services in America at Germantown in May 1708.

When the new settlement was established at Skippack in 1712 Gottschalk joined it, locating in 1713 on a farm in what is now Towamencin Township, Montgomery County, where he spent the remainder of his long life. On this land the first Towamencin Mennonite meetinghouse was erected in 1728. Gottschalk remained active in his ministerial work at least until 1753, since his signature appears on the Skippack Alms Book annually until that date. He died in May 1763.


Bender, Harold S. "The Founding of the Mennonite Church in America at Germantown 1683-1708." Mennonite Quarterly Review 7 (1933): 227-250.

Halteman, Arvin S. "Jacob Godshall (1666-1763)." The Historical Journal 26, no. 2 (October 2020): 4.

Niepoth, W. "Jacob Gottschalk and His Ancestry." Mennonite Quarterly Review 23 (January 1949): 35-47.

Author(s) John C Wenger
Date Published 1956

Cite This Article

MLA style

Wenger, John C. "Gottschalk, Jacob (ca. 1666-1763)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 5 Feb 2023.,_Jacob_(ca._1666-1763)&oldid=169417.

APA style

Wenger, John C. (1956). Gottschalk, Jacob (ca. 1666-1763). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 5 February 2023, from,_Jacob_(ca._1666-1763)&oldid=169417.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 554. All rights reserved.

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