Plank, a Mennonite family name found principally in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana, but also represented in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas, as well as other western states. In 1958 there were five Planks in the ministry of the Amish and Mennonite churches. Among the prominent representatives of the family was David Plank (1833-1912), an Amish Mennonite bishop of Logan County, Ohio, and a descendant of Melchior Plank. Samuel Plank (1809-79), David's father, who moved to Logan County from Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, in 1845, served as an Amish Mennonite deacon for thirty years. Solomon K. Plank (1837-1912) served as deacon for forty-two years, mostly in Wayne County, Ohio. D. J. Plank was ordained bishop by the Douglas County, Illinois, Old Order Amish in 1892. Peter Plank, who served as bishop in the Conestoga, Pennsylvania, Amish Mennonite (as merged into Mennonite Church [MC]) Church 1808-31, was a great-grandson of a French Huguenot doctor who settled in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Perhaps through the influence of his wife, he became a Mennonite. He was the successor of the first bishop of the Conestoga Amish Mennonite Church. Following him as bishop was John Blank (1831-35) (C. Z. Mast), who may possibly be an ancestor of the A.M. Blanks in eastern Pennsylvania, although other Blank families were among the early immigrants to Pennsylvania. C. Henry Smith listed Hans Blank and Christian Blank for 1751, and Jacob Blank, Nickolas Blank, and Frederick Plank for 1752.
There is confusion concerning the relationship of the Blanks and Planks. John Horsch listed Blank as a Mennonite Palatinate name of Swiss origin. Christian Blank was an active participant on the Amish side of the Ammann-Reist controversy in Switzerland in 1693. The name Blank was found among South German Mennonites as late as 1940. In America evidently some members of the family changed the name to Plank.
Most of the Mennonite Planks of the central states, however, are descendants of Melchior Plank, or more specifically Johann Melchior Blankenberg, who arrived in America from Holland and was sold as an indentured servant for a five-year term to Jason Cloud on 27 November 1767. In Berks County, Pennsylvania, on 16 January 1769, Jason Cloud assigned his servant to Howard Hughes for the remainder of his term and on 22 June 1772, Hughes dismissed Blankenberg upon his payment of five pounds, as shown by the photostatic copy of the indenture in the Goshen Archives of the Mennonite Church. According to family tradition Blankenberg was a Swiss Mennonite in Holland, who with his wife visited friends sailing for America on a ship docked in a Dutch port. While they were on board ship it left the harbor.
To the Melchior Planks were born six children, the oldest of whom was Jacob (1768-1851). To Jacob and his wife Mary Yoder Plank were born 12 children, 3 in eastern Pennsylvania and 9 in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania. In 1821 Jacob moved to Wayne County, Ohio. The Planks of Wayne County, Ohio, and Lagrange County, Indiana, are descendants of Jacob.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 185. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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