Ammann, Jakob (17th/18th century)
The Mennonite elder, Jakob Ammann, was a native of Erlenbach in the Simme Valley south of Thun, canton of Bern, Switzerland. He founded the Amish branch of the Mennonites through a schism which he occasioned in 1693 in the Emmental, canton of Bern. It is possible that he was the Jakob Ammann who was born at Erlenbach on 12 February 1644, as the son of Michael and Anna Rupp Ammann. It is not certain whether he was the brother of Ulrich Ammann who was born in 1661 at Oberhofen near Thun and fled to the region of Neuchâtel in 1709, where he was still living in 1733. Jakob Ammann was resident in the region of Ste. Marie-aux-Mines (Markirch), Upper Alsace, on 27 February 1696, for on that date he signed a petition in the name of his brethren, who had settled there two years previously, against compulsory militia service. In 1704 he, together with an associate, signed a list of 40 familiar Mennonite names, apparently all the heads of families resident in that location, and a similar list of some 60 names in 1708, both lists being required by the authorities. Evidently he was the leader (elder) of the congregation at this place, possibly from 1694 on. No further record of Ammann himself is known, except that Erlenbach records report a daughter baptized as an adult in the Reformed Church in 1730 and mention her father as having died prior to that time outside the territory. A psalm book which belonged to a son, Baltz Ammann, in 1741 is now in the library of the Swiss Mennonite Church at Jeangisboden near Tramelan in the Bernese Jura.
Jakob Ammann's own account of the tragic "Amish" division of 1693, together with other letters which deal with the same matter, makes it clear that he was directly responsible and personally responsible for causing the schism; he excommunicated all the elders and ministers in Switzerland who would not agree with him to introduce and practice the Meidung or shunning of excommunicated members. He made a tour of the Swiss congregations, calling several meetings of elders and ministers and acting in an ill-considered and harsh manner, as he himself later confessed. Ammann must have visited the Markirch (Alsace) congregation about the same time, where he excommunicated some members and almost immediately got into a controversy with the ministers of the Palatinate who tried to effect a reconciliation. He found almost united support from the ministers of Alsace, but proceeded to place most of the Palatine ministers under the ban. In a few years Ammann and his associates decided they had been too rash and tried to effect a reconciliation, failing largely because they confessed only to an error in method and spirit while refusing to surrender their demand for the Meidung. Thus the division was made permanent because of the intransigence of Ammann.
Ammann also held strict views on other points, such as the wearing of the untrimmed beard, uniformity in dress, including style of hats, garments, shoes and stockings, and prohibition of attendance at services of the state church. He seems to have held that the Treuherzigen (those friends of the Anabaptists who shared many of their views and helped them in times of persecution but for some reason would not join the group openly, perhaps out of fear) would not be saved, meaning that no one would be saved outside the Anabaptist fold. He also introduced feetwashing as an ordinance, which had hitherto not been practiced by the Swiss Anabaptists, but was practiced in Holland.
Biographical information on Ammann continues to be incomplete and speculative. In 2005 it remained uncertain he was the son of Michael and Anna Rupp Ammann (this person was born 12 February 1644). One of several alternate theories suggests he was born 19 February 1656 to Jacob and Katharina Leuenberger Ammann in the Madiswil area of the canton of Bern, Switzerland. This Jakob Ammann, baptized as an infant, supposedly vanished from the community. John A. Hostetler suggested this disappearance from local records would be appropriate if Ammann had been a convert from the Reformed Church to Anabaptism. As a new convert Ammann might have become more committed to traditional forms. His authoritarian approach to church polity and discipline could also reflect a Reformed background. The search for confirmed historical linkages continues.
See also Amish Division
Mast, John B., translator and ed. The Letters of the Amish Division of 1693-1711. Oregon City: Christian J. Schlabach, 1950.
This booklet contains Ammann's letter of 22 November 1693, to the ministers of the Palatinate, which explains his dealings with his opponents and justifies his position and procedure; it also contains his "Warning Letter" of 22 November 1693, to the brotherhood not yet agreeing with him. All the German printed forms of these letters and other documents related to the Amish schism are listed in full in Milton Gascho. "The Amish Division of 1693-1697 in Switzerland and Alsace," Mennonite Quarterly Review 11 (October 1937): 235-66, which contains a full account of the activities of Ammann.
Roth, John D., translator and ed. Letters of the Amish Division : a Sourcebook, with the assistance of Joe Springer. Goshen, IN: Mennonite Historical Society, 1993.
This is a more scholarly translation and analysis, and includes new findings not available to earlier scholars. The best place to begin one's study.
Baecher, Robert. "Research note: The 'Patriarche' of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines." Mennonite Quarterly Review 74 (2000): 145-158.
Furner, Mark. "Research note: On the Trial of Jacob Ammann." Mennonite Quarterly Review 74 (2000): 326-328.
Gratz, Delbert L. "The Home of Jacob Amnann." Mennonite Quarterly Review 25 (April 1951): 137-39.
Hostetler, John A. Amish Society. 3rd ed. Baltimore, MD : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980: 41-47.
Hostettler, Paul. "Die Täufersippen Amman/Ammen im bernischen Voralpengebiet." Mennonitica Helvetica 26/27 (2003/2004): 223-262.
The Hostettler article should be read in the context of the Jecker review listed below.
Hüppi, John. "Research note: Identifying Jacob Ammann." Mennonite Quarterly Review 74 (2000): 329-339.
Jecker, Hanspeter. "Die Entstehung der Amischen -- Ein kurzer Abriss über den Stand der Forschung." Mennonitica Helvetica 26/27 (2003/2004): 215-222.
Mennonitisches Lexikon."Ammann, Jakob."
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 98-99 & v. 5, p. 22. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
MLA style: Bender, Harold S. and Sam Steiner. "Ammann, Jakob (17th/18th century) ." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2005. Web. 19 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A463ME.html.
APA style: Bender, Harold S. and Sam Steiner. (January 2005). Ammann, Jakob (17th/18th century) . Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A463ME.html.