Dunkers.This religious sect, also known as German Baptists, arose early in the eighteenth century in Germany, as a result of the great religious awakening. The original aim was not to protest against Catholicism, but rather against the barrenness of Protestantism itself. They had no intention of organizing a new sect and caused no great religious upheaval, but their work resulted in a healthy wave of spiritual action in the churches already established. The believers in the new movement organized under Alexander Mack in Westphalia in 1708, but he was not recognized as the founder of the church. Eight of the Pietists, as they were called, were baptised by Mack and were among the first to receive the trine immersion in the history of the Protestant church. This pioneer congregation became the basis of the Taufer, Tunkers or Dunkers, or German Brethren as a separate church.
The church in Westphalia grew, other congregations were organized in the Palatinate, but persecutions drove them across the ocean to America, and from 1719 to 1729 a number of Dunkers settled in the eastern part of the United States. One colony located near Germantown, Pa., where the first church in this country was established in 1723. From there they extended westward over the old Braddock road, and after the Revolution to western Pennsylvania, and from the Carolinas to Kentucky. They were among the first to enter the valleys of the Ohio and Mississippi, since which time they have become established in nearly every state in the Union, being most numerous in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas and South Dakota.
The Dunkers of colonial time were for the most part German or Dutch. They derived the common name from the mode of baptism by immersion, rejecting infant baptism and laying great stress upon simple clothes and language. As early as 1872 they prohibited slavery and preached against the system. They refuse to take oaths and carry arms, anoint the sick, and reject the use of medicine. Every male member is allowed to speak in the congregation and the best speaker is usually appointed to the position of minister, being ordained by the laying on of hands.
In polity the church corresponds more nearly to the Presbyterian than to any other special ecclesiastical form. The local congregation is governed by a council of all the members, which is presided over by the ruling elder or bishop and attends to all local affairs. The individual congregations elect delegates, lay and clerical, to a state district meeting and above this state or district meeting is an annual meeting of all the brotherhood. In the general sessions of the annual meeting there is free discussion and the delegates vote upon the final disposal of a matter. The decisions are binding upon the local congregations. Baptism is by forward trine immersion. Reception into the church is by the holy kiss or right hand of fellowship, according to the sex of the person received. The ceremony of foot-washing is observed and is followed by a love feast. Immediately after this the communion is celebrated. In 1881 the church became divided and now consists of the following bodies: The German Baptist Brethren church (Conservative), Old Order German Baptist Brethren, the Brethren Church (Progressive Dunkers), and according to the census the Seven Day Baptists are included, although they organized as a separate church in Pennsylvania in 1728.
The Dunkers came to Kansas with the tide of immigration that flowed into the state during the pioneer days of settlement. In 1890, there were 91 organizations in Kansas with a membership of 4,067. During the next fifteen years the number of organizations fell to 81, but the total membership increased to 4,821.Pages 552-553 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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