The Mennonites Publish the Martyrs Mirror. The year was 1745 and war raged in Europe between France and Britain. In Pennsylvania the governor was pushing the Quaker-controlled assembly for money and men to ward off a feared French attack.
Six ministers from the Skippack Mennonite Church read the signs of the times. Sensing an urgent need to strengthen the nonresistant convictions of their young people, they sent a letter to the Dutch Mennonites. Could their Dutch brethren possibly help translate the Dutch Martyrs Mirror into German "so that our posterity might have before their eyes the traces of those loyal witnesses of the truth, who walked in the way of truth and gave their life for it." Two years passed before the Dutch Mennonites replied to the Skippack brethren's letter. Their answer was disappointing. It would be too hard, they said, to find a reliable translator. Besides, the project would cost too much. Perhaps the American Mennonites themselves could translate some of the chief stories. Then their young people could copy those out by hand. Undaunted, two of the Skippack ministers, Dielman Kolb and Henry Funk, decided to tackle the project on their own. They had learned that the German Baptist Brethren at the Ephrata Cloister had just built a new paper mill and print shop. Also, it was rumored that Prior Peter Miller knew 14 languages and could translate the book. Kolb and Funk approached the Ephrata Dunkards about the task and they agreed to do it.
The first page was printed in 1748. As the new sheets came off the press, Kolb and Funk carefully proofread all 1512 pages and found in the translation "not one false note". It took three years to finish the Martyrs Mirror. The large volume was 15 inches high, 10 inches wide, and 5 inches thick, making it the largest book ever printed in colonial America.
The Mennonites now had the martyr stories in the language their young people could understand. It was none too soon. War clouds broke along the frontier in 1754. But the inspiring stories of their forebears encouraged them as they too faced troublesome times.
Wagons but Not Arms. What is the duty of the nonresistant Christian toward the government in time of war? This was a question facing the Quakers, Mennonites, German Baptists, Schwenkfelders, and Moravians at the beginning of the French and Indian War.
They first faced this question in 1755 when Braddock arrived in America. He wanted the colonies to supply men, weapons, and food. He also needed wagons and teams with their drivers to haul his supplies. The stingy colonial governments would not give him the supplies, so Benjamin Franklin asked the prosperous German farmers for wagons and teams. Surprisingly, a number of Mennonite farmers agreed to help. But they steadfastly refused to haul the army's guns. The Quakers even refused to haul food and hay for the army. Why did the Mennonites and Quakers respond differently? The Mennonites loaned wagons because they believed this was not directly participating in killing. The Quakers, however, thought that even hauling food for the soldiers was helping someone else to kill. Therefore, they refused to help.
A Quaker Dilemma. The Quakers, however, faced an even thornier problem. How can a nonresistant Christian wield the sword of government? Quaker delegates controlled the Pennsylvania assembly. They made the laws in the assembly, and Quaker magistrates enforced them. The German-speaking nonresistant Christians supported the Quakers by voting them into office. In June 1755 the governor asked the assembly to raise a militia to protect the frontier from Indian attack. The Quaker politicians compromised their convictions and passed a militia bill. Still they exempted any person religiously opposed to war from serving.
When Indian raids struck the frontier, frontiersmen demanded that the assembly defend them. The assembly at first balked but eventually voted money to build forts and raise troops to defend the frontier. This troubled Quaker ministers such as John Woolman and John Churchman. They warned the Quakers in the assembly that they were being inconsistent.
Meanwhile refugees from the Indian attacks flooded in from the outlying settlements. Destitute, they needed help. The Mennonites, Schwenkfelders, and Quakers quickly collected food and clothing to aid the refugees. They were willing to do anything that helped their fellowman. In April 1756 the governor declared war on the Lenape Indians. This was the last straw for the Quaker assemblymen. They resigned. Presbyterians took over the assembly. They voted for everything the governor wanted for fighting the war.
The Friendly Association. The Quakers continued to work for a peaceful solution to the conflict with the Indians. Israel Pemberton, one of the former assemblymen, formed the "Friendly Association for Regaining and Preserving Peace with the Indians by Pacific Measures." Pemberton believed that cheating the Indians out of their land had caused the war. He suggested meeting with the Indians and working out a fair price for their land. To pay for the land, he asked the nonresistant Christians for donations. Two bishops, Andrew Ziegler of Skippack and Benjamin Hershey from Lancaster County, organized the collection of the Mennonite contribution.
The Friendly Association sent Christian Post, a Moravian missionary, to persuade the Indians to meet with the English in a peace conference. In October of 1758, the Lenape met with the British authorities at Easton. There they agreed to lay down their weapons. The peace-loving efforts of the Quakers had worked.
The Hochstetler Raid. When Mennonites donated money to the Friendly Association, they wanted some of it to go toward buying white captives from the Indians. Among the redeemed captives were two boys from the Amish Hochstetler family.
Jacob Hochstetler had settled among his Amish brethren in the Northkill settlement in Berks County. In the 1750s this land was still frontier.
One night in September 1757, an Indian raiding party swooped down on the Hochstetler homestead. One of Hochstetler's sons opened the cabin door to see why the dogs were barking so loudly. He was shot in the leg. His two other brothers rushed to their guns. But Jacob would not allow his boys to shoot. He had not come across the wide ocean to surrender his nonresistant principles. The family barred the door and fled to the cellar. The Indians set fire to the cabin. Smoke forced out the family. The Indians killed the wife, daughter, and wounded son of Jacob. Jacob and two of his sons, Joseph and Christian, were captured and carried off.
The next spring Jacob managed to escape his captors. His sons spent four more years in captivity before they were released.