Branchweilerhof was an old Mennonite settlement, surrounded by beautiful orchards, vineyards, meadows, and fields, near Neustadt a. d. Hardt, in the Palatinate, Germany, where there has been a Mennonite congregation since 1683. Here where two Roman roads crossed there was once an important citadel. Since the 16th century, when a hospital was built there on Roman foundations, it has also been called the Spitalhof. In 1705 the Jesuit monastery in Neustadt acquired possession of it. In the same year the Jesuits established a Latin school here, to the support of which also taxes on the income of the former hospital of Branchweiler had to be paid by the Mennonites living there.
The Palatine Elector Karl, in a document of 28 September 1682, assigned the Branchweiler hospital with all the cultivated and waste land belonging to it at an annual fee with all its traditional "liberties, rights, and justice" to the following Mennonites: Fritz Dester and his wife Elisabeth, Jakob Weber and his wife Barbara, and Daniel Stauffer and his wife Anna "and all their physical heirs and descendants" in hereditary tenure. In matters of faith, they were forbidden to invite Mennonites from other places or any other Palatines to attend their meetings; they were also to refrain from rebaptism, but were not to be burdened with any other obligations than those in the contract. They were to cultivate the land properly, and "completely eradicate thorns, thickets, and brush, and clean up the land and make it arable."
In the difficult period following the Thirty Years' War skilled farmers were especially highly valued on the idle land in the depopulated country. When the Mennonites on the Branchweilerhof were later on charged with "holding some scandalous, seditious, secret meetings," the Jesuits in Neustadt gave them the testimonial that they paid their required rentals and fees regularly, so that there was not the least cause for complaint; that they held no secret night meetings they (the Jesuits) would vouch for. It is signed on 27 February 1740, by "Christophory Butzfeld p.d. Superior."
According to the records preserved in the State Archives in Karlsruhe, the families of Abraham Egly, Johann Gut, Daniel Hege, Wilhelm Meyer, Johann Ellenberger, and Jakob Dester were living on the estate in 1716. In 1724 the Christian Lichti family is mentioned for the first time. The financial circumstances of the inhabitants of the Spitalhof were described as moderate or poor. In 1741 the name Johann Janson occurs and a mixed marriage is indicated in that Philipp Griesing is required to pay his Mennonite wife's protection fee.
Ernst Müller (Berner Täufer, 211) reports of 1732: "The congregation on the Spitalhof, half an hour from Neustadt a.d. H., and the subordinate villages like Essingen, Duttweiler, and Mussbach (not Mossbach), 25 families. Preacher, Hans Dester; deacon, Jakob Gut." It should be noted that there was a small Amish congregation in nearby Essingen. In the Karlsruhe Mennonite list of 1717 the family of Christian Wenger is listed as living in Mussbach. About 1738 three Mennonite families lived there, Johannes Joder (Jotter), a linen-weaver, Nikolaus Ellenberger, and Nikolaus Wittner who farmed "for half" of the produce. In Duttweiler the same list of 1717 names Johannes Janson, Friedrich Bergthold, and Abraham Egli as Mennonites. Egli was hereditary tenant of the estate of the monastery of St. Lambrecht. The other two failed financially. The property of Bergthold was sold at auction, 20 March 1723 to Ulrich Burkhardt for 750 florins. He did not stay long. In 1740 Johannes Lichti became tenant for the University of Heidelberg. In 1773 he appears on the Karlsruhe lists as the father of seven children; Isaak Bergthold is also listed. The Resolutions of Ibersheim of 1803 were signed for the Spitalhof congregation by Johann Bergthold.
On 13 July 1824 the first conference of the Mennonites of the Palatinate and Hesse met on the Spitalhof. It was attended by preachers and elders representing the congregations at Johanniskirchen (near Annweiler), Sembach, Weierhof, Altleiningen, Heppenheim an der Wiese, Friedelsheim, and Spitalhof. This conference was the result of the influence of the Baptist preacher Angas. The preachers at Spitalhof were at that time Johannes Hirschler and Abraham Hege, both chosen in 1824. Heinrich Becker was the elder. The main decision of the conference was to support the foreign mission work of the English Baptists and to regulate the matter of alms. The second conference occurred in 1825, again on the Spitalhof, as well as the conferences of 18 May 1876, and 15 May 1895.
In 1855 Branchweilerhof had a membership of 35; in 1916 there were about 45 souls, most of them resident in Spitalhof; in 1952 there were 54 baptized members. For a long time the Friedelsheim preacher, Jakob Ellenberger, administered baptism and communion until 1879. After 1880 the congregation belonged to the Badischer Verband. In the 1950s it had two preachers and a deacon. Services were held every Sunday in the old Gothic hospital chapel.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 254.
Müller, Ernst. Geschichte der Bernischen Täufer. Frauenfeld: Huber, 1895. Reprinted Nieuwkoop : B. de Graaf, 1972: 211.
Address: Heinrich-Strieffler-Strasse 7, 67433 Neustadt
Denominational Affiliation: Verband deutscher Mennonitengemeinden
Cite This Article
Ellenberger, H. "Branchweilerhof (Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 20 Oct 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Branchweilerhof_(Rheinland-Pfalz,_Germany)&oldid=102073.
Ellenberger, H. (1953). Branchweilerhof (Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 October 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Branchweilerhof_(Rheinland-Pfalz,_Germany)&oldid=102073.
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