Smissen, Jacob Gysbert van der (1746-1829)

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Jacob Gysbert van der Smissen, an outstanding member of the van der Smissen family during the 18th century when there was a turn in the family from successful economic enterprise to a pietistic emphasis. He was born on 1 January 1746, the son of Gysbert III van der Smissen. For five years he was an apprentice in Rotterdam, after which he worked in his father's business in Altona, becoming a shareholder in 1781. He was married to Helena Linnich in 1770, who was a niece of his mother. Their children were Gilbert (Gysbert IV), Hinrich II, and Jacob II. Jacob II later became the Mennonite minister at Friedrichstadt. His wife died in 1790. In 1796 he married Hillegonda Jacoba Deknatel, the daughter of Johannes Deknatel of Amsterdam.

Van der Smissen was deeply influenced by Pietism and the Moravian Brethren. His correspondence with a large circle of friends far beyond the Mennonite fold, which has been preserved, is an unusual source of information on not only the religious development and views of the writer, but also those of his day in general. Many of his letters as well as those written to him were preserved in the original form or copied. Among his friends were the Moravian minister Briant, Jung-Stilling, Lavater, Matthias Claudius, Perthes, Gossner, and other leaders of the pietistic movement. He was a member of the organization "Deutsche Gesellschaft zur Beförderung reiner Lehre und Gottseligkeit," of Basel, and cofounder of the paper Basler Sammlungen. He wrote for this paper and promoted it. He was active in promoting other religious organizations. He was particularly interested in promoting Pietism in opposition to the Rationalism of his day, not stressing denominational lines. Purely cultural questions and organizations did not interest him.

In 1810 he suffered a stroke from which he never recovered fully. In 1824 the large van der Smissen business enterprise suffered a collapse, partly because of the post-Napoleonic developments. On 3 March 1829, he died, a relatively poor man, although he had some income from the Deknatel estate. His wife had died in 1817. His children received a very good education. Johann Wilhelm Mannhardt was their private tutor. Later some attended the Moravian educational institute at Christiansfeld. As a deacon of the Altona Mennonite Church Jacob Gysbert was active in upholding the Mennonite traditions and rights within the environment in which they lived.


Correspondence with his daughter Helena Elisabeth, Pieter Beets, Cornelis Ris, George Gottlieb Bärenbruck, etc.

Dollinger, Robert. Geschichte der Mennoniten in Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg und Lübeck. Neumünster, 1930: 172-82.

Hoffman, Paul Th. Neues Altona. Gena, 1929: 226 f.

Münte, Heinz. Das Altonaer Handlungshaus van der Smissen 1682-1824. Altona, 1932.

Smissen, Jacob Gysbert van der. Journal and Letters, or Dies Buch Welches lauter geistliche Sachen enthaelt . . . 23 October 1824. Mennonite Library and Archives (North Newton, KS).


Jacob Gysbert van der Smissen was the grandfather of Carl Justus van der Smissen who came to America and through whom a part of the family collection was brought along and consequently became part of the Bethel College Historical Library.

Author(s) Cornelius Krahn
Date Published 1959

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MLA style

Krahn, Cornelius. "Smissen, Jacob Gysbert van der (1746-1829)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 24 Sep 2023.,_Jacob_Gysbert_van_der_(1746-1829)&oldid=110212.

APA style

Krahn, Cornelius. (1959). Smissen, Jacob Gysbert van der (1746-1829). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 September 2023, from,_Jacob_Gysbert_van_der_(1746-1829)&oldid=110212.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vo. 4, p. 551. All rights reserved.

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