Belfort (Franche-Comté, France)
Belfort is a crossroads city of about 50,000 population in 1953 (80,000 in 1999), lying between upper Alsace and inner France. Though always French in language, the territory belonged to Alsace until the Franco-Prussian War (1871). Formed probably about 1780 as a branch of the Montreux congregation ("Münstrollergemeinde"), the Amish Mennonite congregation in this area met first at the farm "La Maie" six miles (10 km) northeast of Belfort, and was known as the "Lamaenergemeinde." In 1793 this congregation was called Baron im Wald; the elder at this time was Daniel Steiner (Naamlijst 1793, 49).
Jacques Klopfenstein, presumably a member of the congregation, began in 1812 the publication of an agricultural almanac, L' Anabaptiste ou le Cultivateur par Experience. (The Anabaptist or the Experienced Farmer), which took advantage of the Mennonites' general reputation as good farmers, and which continued in publication for over sixty years (though with several changes of printers and publishers, and probably no longer under Mennonite editorship).
In the war of 1870-1871 the members suffered considerable losses, and were aided by contributions from other Mennonite churches in Germany.
In 1876 the congregation purchased as a meetinghouse the former Protestant church on Rue Kleber. The city, however, retained its rights to this building and later bought it back. Consequently a chapel, which was still in use in the 1950s, was built at "les Barres" on the edge of the city in 1900.
The following served as elders of the congregation from 1780-1953: Michel Klopfenstein (ordained 1793), Hans Klopfenstein (ordained ca. 1840), David Stoll (ordained ca. 1820), Christ Stoll (ordained ca. 1840), Jean Stoll (d. 1875 at the age of 90), Jean Rich (went to America in 1884), Pierre Stoll (d. 1887), Christ Graber (ordained 1911, d. 1946), Joseph Roth (ordained 1911, d. 1952), Andre Graber and Jean Kaufman (ordained 1952). From 1887 to 1911 the congregation was led largely by Pierre Gerig, a lay member, during the period when there was no elder.
In the 1950s the congregation met biweekly, with a Sunday school for the smaller children. It had a biweekly prayer meeting, and a chorus. Communion was celebrated twice yearly, the practice of feetwashing being long since abandoned. The congregation counted somewhat less than the 169 members reported in 1888, in addition to perhaps 30 children, and belonged to the French-language Conference.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 161.
Kaufmann, Andre. "Belfort" (congregational history). Christ Seul, Numero Special de Noel (December 1951): 50-53.
Sommer, Pierre. Christ Seul (July 1930): 8-10.
Address: Église Évangélique Mennonite, Chapelle, 2 bis rue Jean Dollfus, 90000 Belfort, France
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 269. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Yoder, John Howard. "Belfort (Franche-Comté, France)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 18 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B44460.html.
APA style: Yoder, John Howard. (1953). Belfort (Franche-Comté, France). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B44460.html.