Rich family

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Rich (Riche, Richen, Reich, Ricken, Rijkens) is a widely spread Mennonite family name. The Rich(en) family stems from Frutigen in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland; it is also found in Hochstetten, west of Langnau in the Emmental. Persecution in the canton of Bern, lasting into the 18th century, compelled many Mennonites to emigrate. The "Amnesty Proclamation" issued by the Bernese government on 11 February 1711, permitting them to leave freely with all their possessions, had as a consequence a mass emigration, in which the Richen family was included.

Among the refugees settling in the Netherlands was Daniel Richen (Ricken) (circa 1681-circa 1755), an Amish Mennonite preacher, who had previously been banished to Neuchâtel and then at the age of thirty served as supervisor on the emigrant boat sailing for the Netherlands in 1711, settled first in Deventer and later became an elder and organizer in the congregations of the Nieuwe Zwitsers (see Swiss Mennonites in the Netherlands), in Groningen and Sappemeer. Peter Ricken (d. 1772), probably a brother of Daniel, was a preacher here in 1740-72. They were all farmers and lived near Groningen, where some descendants are still living (Rijkens). David Ricken (died 1779), a son of Daniel Ricken, was a preacher of the Old Flemish congregation in Norden, East Friesland, 1777-79.

A second place of refuge for the Swiss Mennonites was Montbéliard, now in the French department of Doubs. There were Richens here since 1715. A Hans Richen, a well-to-do farmer with eight children, was for many years an elder in the congregation of Swiss origin, a leading personality. The congregation met every second week in his home; in 1730 he began to keep a church record. In April 1787 he assisted in the ordination of an elder in the Schänzli congregation of Basel, and in June of that year he recommended two brethren of the Chaux de Fonds congregation in the Bernese Jura to the office of elder (see his note in the Bernese dialect, Mennonitisches Lexikon v. III, 498). He also traveled to the Netherlands as one of the elders from Alsace called to the New Swiss congregations in 1766 to arbitrate a dispute among them. A century later Isaac Rich (died 1878), who had grown up in the Seigne congregation and attended the Mennonite (General Conference Mennonite) school at Wadsworth, Ohio, established a school in Etupes, near Montbéliard, which was soon moved to Exincourt and continued there until 1876. Other members of the Rich family served as preachers or deacons in the Montbéliard congregation until the 20th century. Peter Rich was the elder of the Birkenhof congregation in Upper Alsace 1788-circa 1820. In Mennonite circles in Switzerland—Bernese Jura and Basel—and in France—Montbéliard, Altkirch, and Florimont—the name continues. It is also found in Ohio, Iowa, Kansas, and other states. Willis E. Rich and Ronald L. Rich are on the faculty of Bethel College. Olive G. Rich is on the faculty of Goshen College. Eldon S. Rich is a practicing physician in Newton, Kansas.


Almanack Mennonite du Cinquantenaire 1901-1951: Montbéliard. 1951:12.

Cate, Steven Blaupot ten. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Groningen, Overijssel en Oost-Friesland, 2 vols. Leeuwarden: W. Eekhoff en J. B. Wolters, 1842: 186, 207.

Dassel, H. Menno's Volk in Groningen. Groningen, no date of publication indicated 1950: 42.

Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1872): 109, 112 ff.; (1873): 113-18, 136, 138; (1885): 20 f.; (1895): 91-98.

Gratz, Delbert L Bernese Anabaptists. Scottdale: Herald Press, 1953: 49, 65, 92, 135, 199.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. III, 498 f.

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. 1317, 1319, 1325 f., 1329, 1348, 1351, 1360, 1366, 1889, 1908, 1911, 1920.

Huizinga, Jacob. Stamboek . . . van Samuel Peter en Barbara Fry. Groningen, 1890: 38, 39, 61, 62, 67, 69, 114, 115, 117.

Mathiot, Charles. Récherches historiques sur les Anabaptistes de l'ancienne principauté de Montbéliard, d'Alsace et des regions voisines. Belfort, 1922.

Mennonitische Blätter (1872): 17; (1870): 37, 38.

Mennonitischer Gemeinde-Kalender (1906): 160; (1936): 138.

Müller, Ernst. Geschichte der Bernischen Täufer. Frauenfeld: Huber, 1895. Reprinted Nieuwkoop : B. de Graaf, 1972: 309, 321, 323, 325.

Author(s) Samuel Geiser
Christian Neff
Date Published 1959

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Geiser, Samuel and Christian Neff. "Rich family." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 5 Aug 2021.

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Geiser, Samuel and Christian Neff. (1959). Rich family. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 5 August 2021, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 324. All rights reserved.

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