The Heritage of Daniel Haston


Village of Ibersheim of the Palatinate in Germany

In Search of Our Roots

Richterswil, Switzerland Rise & Persecution of Anabaptists Ibersheim, Germany Emigration to America

The Palatinate in Germany

The forced emigration of Anabaptists from Switzerland began in the earliest months of the Anabaptist movement and did not cease for nearly 300 years.  For various political and religious reasons, there was a irregular ebb and flow to the intensity of persecution and forced exiles.  At peak times from the mid 1600s to 1700, the flow of Anabaptists out of Switzerland was more like a flood than a flow.  By the end of that period, Switzerland had finally solved its Anabaptist "problem," by forcing almost all of them to leave their homeland to seek refuge elsewhere. 

The area known as the Palatinate in southwest Germany was devastated and almost completely depopulated by the Thirty Years War (1618-1648).  Its central location between the major warring countries turned it into a crossing point and battlefield for three decades.  At the end of the war when Karl I Ludwig became the Elector of Palatine of the Rhine (1648-1680), he faced an enormous task of rebuilding the Palatinate.

Due largely to the war that ravaged the Palatinate and other parts of central Europe, several European countries were glad to receive the industrious Anabaptists after the war.  They were known to be excellent farmers who could make the most of whatever farmland they were allowed to work.  As the Anabaptists were forced out of Switzerland, they spread to various places in Europe but the down-the-Rhine location of the Palatinate was a relatively convenient destination for some of them.

Elector Karl I Ludwig was generous not only to Lutherans and Catholics, but also to Mennonites (Anabaptists or Mennists).  He granted Mennonites limited religious and civil freedoms, including permission to worship in groups of 20 or less, but they were not allowed to admit non-Mennonites to their meetings and they were taxed an annual fee for "Mennist Recognition Money."

More information:  Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany)
Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online

Village of Ibersheim in the Palatinate of Germany
For years the Rhine provinces of Germany permitted Swiss Mennonites its use as an asylum from the severe tribulations which had been their lot in Switzerland. While freedom of worship was permitted, the economic struggle was such that constant aid was supplied from the Mennonite congregations in Holland. Hardships multiplied with increasing numbers coming from Switzerland, especially in 1671 and 1711, when thousands were exiled. Friedelheim, Friesheim, Brachweilerhof, Erpolzheim, Ober Sultzheim, Tribbach, Ibersheim, Manheim and other communities in the Palatinate had quotas of Swiss Mennonite families.

Page xxiii of A Genealogy and History of the Kauffman-Coffman Families of North America, 1584 to 1937 compiled by Charles Fahs Kauffman (printed on demand by Family Tree Books in Waxhaw, NC and available through idea of where the Swiss (who came from the Rhine Valley earlier) lived in that Valley at this time [1731].

Of the congregation of Ibersheim near Worms, the minister was Hans Jacob Heistand and the deacon Abram Burkholder. In the Tribbach congregation, John Neff was minister and Hands Longanecker deacon. Altogether says Muller, there were in the Palatinate (or Rhine Valley) 458 families of Swiss below Manheim and 160 families above Manheim--in all 618 families.

Page 237 of Swiss and German Pioneer Settlers of Southeastern Pennsylvania by H. Frank Eshleman (originally published in 1917 and reprinted in 2000 by the Genealogical Publishing Company of Baltimore, MD).

We the ministers and elders of the Palatinate, assembled acknowledge the foregoing to be proper and advisable, and bear testimony to the same by subscribing to it with our hands. Ubersheimerhoff [another name for Ibersheim], March 13, 1709.

Note: A "Heinrich Hiestant" was one of the signers of this letter. Was he the father of our emigrant ancestor by the same name and, thus, the grandfather of our Daniel Haston. Possibly, but we do not know that for sure.

Page 246 of Swiss and German Pioneer Settlers of Southeastern Pennsylvania by H. Frank Eshleman (originally published in 1917 and reprinted in 2000 by the Genealogical Publishing Company of Baltimore, MD).

Ibersheimerhoff - Other spellings are Ubersheimer, and Ybersheimer.  Ibersheim, a village eight miles north of Worms in Rheinessen, is the location of an old Mennonite congregation established soon after the Thirty Years' War.  ME III, 1-2.

Page 665 of Documents of Brotherly Love: Dutch Mennonite Aid to Swiss Anabaptists, Volume I, 1635-1709. Millersburg, OH: Ohio Amish Library, 2007.


Ibersheim -
once a small farming village is now incorporated as part of the city of Worms.  The village was located about eight miles (13 km) north of Worms, near the Rhine River. 

On Del'Isle's 1704 map of the central Rhine.... At least one small village, namely Ubersheim (today Ibersheim) is distinguished as "Cense de Anabapuits," that is, regarded as Anabaptist, being decidedly contrary to the dominant French Catholic philosophy of the time.
Source: Page 86 of Across the Atlantic and Beyond: The Migration of German and Swiss Immigrants to America by Charles R. Haller (Heritage Books, 2008).

Elector Karl I Ludwig and Palatinate Restoration Following the Thirty Years War

In 1656, eight years after the 1648 Peace of Westphalia treaty that brought an end to the Thirty Years War, Swiss Anabaptist refugees began settling in the village that was later known as Ibersheim.  As early as October 8, 1661, it was evident that the Elector Prince of the Palatinate had an interest in assisting the Swiss refugees living under his domain.  On that date he sent a letter to the government of Zurich on behalf of two of the Anabaptist tenants living on his land, petitioning for the release of their maternal inheritance.

In 1664, Elector Karl I Ludwig decreed that Mennonites ("Mennonists") could settle in his domain if they paid a yearly poll tax of six guilders per family and observed some religious restrictions not required of Catholic, Reformed, and Lutheran groups.  The 1664 decree made the permission for Mennonite occupancy in the Palatinate official.  And the poll tax necessitated census records for these Mennonite families.  In return, the Elector Prince received much needed and very capable help in restoring the Palatine farm lands that had been depopulated and devastated by the war.

The entire Ibersheim estate was leased to Mennonite families and was divided among them in six parts originally (later into 12, and later into 24 parts).  On a 1752 map, the village is designated as "Wiedertaufhof" (Anabaptist Estate) because it was wholly populated by Mennonites since 1661.  The Ibersheim Mennonites were given 12-year leases from the elector, which was a different status than that given to other Mennonite congregations in the Palatinate.  And as early as 1685, it appears that the Mennonites of Ibersheim had the right of ownership of property--a right unknown to other Mennonites in the Palatinate.

The Mennonite Concession of 1664 granted Mennonites freedom of worship but not in public meeting houses.  And no more than 20 people could meet at any one time in a given place.  No revolutionary or "heretical" doctrines were allowed and religious propaganda among members of the state church was not permitted.  But their freedom was not totally "free."  They were required to pay an annual toleration or protection tax. But in spite of these promised freedoms, there were occasional hardships they suffered in Ibersheim for their faith.  Compared to what these Mennonites endured in Switzerland, life in Ibersheim was blessed.  And as time passed, some of the earlier restrictions were relaxed.

In 1671, 430 destitute Anabaptists (or related) refugees from the Bern territory of Switzerland arrived in the Palatinate.  Mennonite families within a circle of about 12 miles of Kriegsheim took them in and provided food and shelter for them, even though most of these Palatine families were poor themselves.  Ibersheimer Hof families played a major role in this sacrificial response to needs of their Swiss brethren.  Source: Page 407 of Documents of Brotherly Love by James W. Lowry.

When the 1683 contract of lease was created, ten names were included in the lease: Heinrich Neff; Konrad Hiestand; Hans Jakob Forrer; Heinrich Gochnauer; Hans Jakob Brubacher; Jakob Dentlinger; Hans Leitweller; Peter Opmann; Heinrich Reif, and Ulrich Hagmann's widow.  Several of these family names have been variously interrelated with the Hiestand family down through the years.

In 1685, the special privileges and rights of the Ibersheim Mennonites were challenged but their right to ownership - not just rental rights - of their land was upheld by the Elector:

"Everyone must give them the testimonial that they live quietly and peaceably, live in harmony with their neighbors, and have proven themselves more industrious than others, obedient to the government, true and constant in all things."

But invading armies again devastated Ibersheim and the Palatinate in the "War of the Grand Alliance" or "Nine Years War" (1689-1697) when France's King Louis XIV vowed to "burn up the Palatinate." Much of the land restored by the Mennonite farmers was again laid waste and many of the Mennonite families were forced to flee their homes.

1693-1698 in Friedrichstadt - Escaping the War of the Grand Alliance

King Louis XIV of France waged the "War of the Grand Alliance" (also called the "Nine Years War") (1688-1697) against a coalition of European nations.  France conquered the Rhineland area of Germany, including Manheim, Worms, Heidelberg, and Mainz, but torched the cities and farmlands when the king realized his army was not going to be able to hold the land he had conquered.  The Mennonites of the Palatinate again found themselves in a devastating war zone.  A September 28, 1689 letter from several "ministers of the Word in the Palatinate" to Mennonites in the Netherlands described the pillaging that was being done by the French army: 

The French again have so horribly burned, and have forced many poor people into poverty.  [Several villages mentioned] ...all burnt and reduced to ashes.  It seems that everything will be burned or destroyed by the French.  Heidelberg...around there they are roaming and plundering everything from the people.  Both sides of the Rhein are completely decayed, especially through fire.  Now all the seed corn, horses, oxen, and cows - everything is gone, so that there can be no ploughing.  People do not dare live in the villages - threaten further to burn everything.  Source: Page 339 of Letters of Toleration by Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs.

Many of them fled the area and some became refugees in the Netherlands.

In 1621, Duke Frederick III had established Friedrichstadt in marshy land of Schleswig-Holstein near the North Sea, 700 km north of Ibersheim.  In order to attract industrious people to Friedrichstadt, the duke offered religious toleration as an incentive.  Dutch Remonstrants (who had rejected Calvinistic theology in favor or Arminianism) were being persecuted in the Netherlands, so the offer of toleration attracted some of them to leave their homeland and become city-builders for Frederick III.  Some Dutch Mennonites were also early citizens of Friedrichstadt. 

In the fall of 1693, two groups of Palatinate Mennonite refugees left Amsterdam for Friedrichstadt in what is now the German Federal State of Schleswig-Holstein near the North Sea.  The October 13 group included some Hiestand families.  And Hanss Henrik Heystand followed a year later.  On April 9, 1698 twenty Mennonite families left Friedrichstadt to return to their homes in the Palatinate. 

Click to download this very interesting and informative article by Sem C. Sutter.

In 1711, Palatinate officials drafted Mennonites as guards and soldiers, but in response to their petition, a decision was made on January 27, 1712 to confirm their rights of exemption for military service.  They were required to continue to pay the Mennonite exemption tax until 1742

The Mennonite Congregation in Ibersheim

Ibersheim was probably the oldest of the Mennonite churches established in the Palatinate after the Thirty Years War. 

In spite of wars, extreme weather, crop failures and heavy emigration to America, the population of Swiss Mennonites grew in the Palatinate during the early 1700s.  The Ibersheim Mennonite congregation has persisted into the twenty-first century.

Initially, their church services were held in private homes, but later a special room was used for their meetings. 

In earlier years, the bottom floor of the church building was used for a school and the school master lived on the second floor.  The meeting room was also located on the second floor. 

The current church building was constructed in 1836 on the site of the first building used for the Ibersheim congregation.  It is the only Mennonite church building in southern Germany to have a tower and a bell.

Hiestand families were known to live in Ibersheim and nearby villages from early in the Anabaptist emigration from Switzerland to the Palatinate.  And some Hiestands were leaders in the Mennonite congregations.  In Ibersheimerhoff on March 13, 1709 Heinrich Hiestant was one of the ministers who signed a letter to Mennonite leaders in the Netherlands.  Page 665 of Documents of Brotherly Love, Volume I by James W. Lowry.

Other Hiestand men, down through the years, have served the congregation as ministers and deacons.

Major source and for more information:  Ibersheim (Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany) - Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online

Hiestands on the Palatine Mennonite Census Lists, 1664-1793

The Edict of Tolerance signed by Karl Ludwig, Elector of the Palatinate, on August 4, 1664 provided some generous liberties for the Mennonites.  But there was an annual "protection fee" required of them.  In order to monitor payments of this protection fee, Mennonites were required to register at irregular intervals with the government, which created Mennonite census lists. 

Source: Palatine Mennonite Census Lists, 1664-1793, edited by Guth and Mast. Morgantown, PA: Mastof Press, 1987.

Date Folio* Name Location Notes
1685 71 Conrad Hiestand Ibersheimer Hof** "hereditary tenant" - Heinrich Nef also on this list
  84 Conrad Hiestandt Ibersheimer Hof 5 children & 2 stepchildren
  84 Hennrich Hiestandt Ibersheimer Hof 10 children - Hennrich Nef with 4 children on list - 12 tenants in this village
1717 18 Hans Jakob Hiestand Friesenheim Friesenheim, east of Rhine River, 195 km south of Ibersheim (nearer Switzerland)
1724 - Jakob Hiestand Friesenheim temporary tenant of gracious count von Sicklingen - "very well-to-do"
1738 150-153 Johannes Hiestand Ibersheimerhof  
  150-153 Jakob Hiestand Ibersheimerhof  
  150-153 Hansel Hiestand Ibersheimerhof  
  150-153 Jakob Hiestand Ibersheimerhof Name entered on same line as and after Hansel Hiestand
1743 31-44 Johannes Hiestand Ibersheimerhof 1 "men" - 1 "women" - 1 "sons" - 1 "daughters" - 0 "farmhands" - 1 "maids"
  31-44 Jacob Hiestand Ibersheimerhof "at gate" 1-1-1-0-1-0
  31-44 Jacob Hiestand Ibersheimerhof "in castle" 1-1-1-1-1-0
  31-44 Johannes Hiestand's widow Ibersheimerhof 0-1-2-1-0-0
  31-44 Isaak Hiestand Heppenheim auf der Wiese village southwest of Worms - son-in-law of Johannes Becker, weaver
1753 45 Christian Hiestand Ibersheimerhof in a list indicating he was a tenant
  45 Jakob Hiestand Ibersheimerhof 3 person - "inherited his farm from his father"
  92 Isaak Hiestand Heppenheim auf der Wiese wife, no children - "here since 1740"
1759 229 Isaak Hiestand Heppenheim auf der Wiese wife, linen weaver, assessed on capital of 242 florins, 2 persons
  233 Jakob Hiestand Ibersheimerhof a tenant - wife, 1 child, 1 farmhand, and 1 maid, 5 persons
  233 Jakob Hiestand's widow Ibersheimerhof a tenant - 1 person
1768 - Johannes Hiestand Ibersheim "listing of Mennonites favored with protection"
  - Jakob Hiestand, Sr. Ibersheim "listing of Mennonites favored with protection"
  - Isaak Hiestand Heppenheim auf der Wiese "listing of Mennonites favored with protection"
*Census folio number: In some cases, there were multiple census folios in the same year - representing separate censuses. 
** Heim = German for "home," the "s" is possessive: "Iber's home" - Hof = German for "house"