Hershberger (Hersberg, Hersberger, Herschberger, Hirschberger, Harshberger, Harshbarger)

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Hershberger is a Swiss family name that is now widely spread in the United States and Canada among Mennonite and especially Old Order Amish congregations. The earliest mention of the name in Anabaptist history occurs in Basel in 1529, when many Anabaptists in the canton found themselves in prison. Among the staunchest adherents of the faith, says Paul Burkhardt in Die Basler Täufer, were the Hersbergers of Thürnen and Läufelfingen. One of them was Elsbeth Hersberger, a midwife, who influenced numerous parents not to have their children baptized.

On 29 December 1529, Hans Hersberger, a miller of Läufelfingen, appeared with 10 other Swiss Brethren preachers in a disputation with Oecolampadius and the Basel reformers. On one occasion Hans had taken part in a forbidden communion service at Aargau. On 12 January 1530, he was sentenced to death. Following a supposed recantation the sentence was commuted to a fine of 20 gulden and court costs, after which he and his wife Barbara were banished from the territory. They were soon back in Läufelfingen with their children, however, and in July 1531 were imprisoned in Basel. Hans remained in prison until 3 December 1533. Barbara was released at the end of seven months, but from September 1532 to December 1533 she was with her husband in prison again.

The records also mention a Heini Hersberger at Dornach in 1530. In the summer of 1531 Jackli Hersberger of Thürnen was apprehended for refusing to participate in the military campaign of his community. On 14 July 1535, Jacob Hersberger (who most likely is the same person) had his tongue and two fingers cut off by the authorities for his failure to remain out of the territory after having been banished. Apparently he now left the territory, but in April 1537 he was back again and was once more apprehended by the authorities.

In 1581 another of the Läufelfingen Hersbergers, also named Hans, was brought before the authorities for his faith. Four years later he spent eight weeks in prison and was then banished, leaving his wife and five children unable to keep themselves on their little place. In 1588 Heini Hersberger, apparently a son of Hans, was brought before the court. In 1616 Fridli, another son of Hans, and his wife were arrested, taken to the border, and banished. They were soon back again, however, and the authorities seem to have left them alone. In 1678 another Fridli Hersberger, perhaps a son or nephew of the former one, was arrested and brought to Basel for a hearing. The authorities found him well-instructed and steadfast in the Anabaptist faith. He was banished, with instructions never to return again. He went to Alsace where he made his home among the Anabaptist communities, which continued to have close connection with their brethren in Basel. It may have been a sister of the Fridli Hersberger of 1678 who won her husband Jacob Oberer to the faith in 1680. Oberer joined the brotherhood in Alsace.

For four or five generations the Basel Hersbergers are known to have persisted in the Anabaptist faith. Members of this and perhaps other Hershberger families evidently spread through Alsace and the Palatinate. In 1716 Martin Hirschberger is listed in the census records as residing at Böhl near Neustadt, Palatinate. In the middle of the 18th century the Hershbergers were part of the great Mennonite migration to Pennsylvania. On 9 September 1749, the ship St. Andrew landed at Philadelphia with a large contingent of Amish and Mennonites, including Casper and Jacob Herschberger. The ship Brothers, 30 September 1754, had a Johannes Herschberger on the passenger list. The Palatine state archives at Speyer record that in 1768 the Mennonite Henrich Hirschberger of Eppstein was permitted by the authorities, upon payment of a tax, to migrate to Pennsylvania, taking with him the fortune of his three brothers who had preceded him.

In 1754 the oldest Amish congregation in Pennsylvania along the Northkill in Berks County had a Christian Hershberger in its number, and by the close of the 18th century the name Harshbarger was found among the Mennonites of Virginia. Hershbergers were among the pioneer Amish settlements in practically all of the states west of Pennsylvania. Obituaries in Mennonite periodicals from 1867 to 1918 include 104 Hershbergers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Virginia, Michigan, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Oregon.


Hershberger, Eli P. Descendants of Peter Hershberger and Elizabeth Yoder 1810-1950. Elkhart, IN, ca. 1950.

Author(s) Guy F Hershberger
Date Published 1956

Cite This Article

MLA style

Hershberger, Guy F. "Hershberger (Hersberg, Hersberger, Herschberger, Hirschberger, Harshberger, Harshbarger)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 23 Feb 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hershberger_(Hersberg,_Hersberger,_Herschberger,_Hirschberger,_Harshberger,_Harshbarger)&oldid=113810.

APA style

Hershberger, Guy F. (1956). Hershberger (Hersberg, Hersberger, Herschberger, Hirschberger, Harshberger, Harshbarger). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 February 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hershberger_(Hersberg,_Hersberger,_Herschberger,_Hirschberger,_Harshberger,_Harshbarger)&oldid=113810.

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