Münsterberg (Montagne de Moutier), in the Emmental in the Bernese Jura, Switzerland, where a small congregation was formed by refugee Mennonites from the Emmental in the early years of the 18th century. Some may have come somewhat earlier. As early as 1595 the prince-bishop Jakob Christof demanded of the provost in Münster that the filth of the damned sect of the Anabaptists in the Holy Roman Empire be removed. Upon the insistence of several Jura communities the prince-bishop in 1731 ordered the expulsion of the Mennonites, but withdrew his mandate when the landowners appealed in behalf of the quiet, orderly mountain dwellers. Nevertheless the toleration was arbitrary, they were not permitted to buy land, and they must remain in the mountains. Thus the congregation of the Münsterberg was able to organize and develop unmolested. Peter Ramseier (b. 1706) was chosen as preacher in 1730, and elder in 1732. Ramseier must have been an important preacher in the brotherhood, for he was called to peace conferences in the Palatinate with other brethren four times—in 1762, 1766, 1770, and 1782, in an attempt to heal a schism among the Palatinate brethren.
Early in the 19th century the Münsterberg congregation reached a period of considerable prosperity. With members living on isolated farms in the adjacent communities of Perfitte, Eschert, Grandval, Roche, and Courrendlin the congregation numbered 258 souls. The elder and preacher at that time were respectively Peter Sprunger and Peter Habegger. Traces of blessing were also left by the Mennonite schoolteacher Johann Baumgartner, who implanted the Word of God into the hearts of the children. The deacon was Peter Lehmann, whose son Peter Lehman became preacher in 1848.
On account of difficult economic conditions many Mennonites on the Münsterberg decided to emigrate to America. In March 1852 a company of about one hundred left Münster and settled in the virgin forests of Indiana. From the dense oak forests the pioneers built log houses and valuable farms, and built the thriving town of Berne, Indiana, named after their homeland.
In 1874 when freedom from military services was no longer granted in Switzerland, another considerable group emigrated from the Münsterberg congregation to America; the Münsterberg congregation shrank in size. The above Peter S. Lehmann was one of the leaders in this emigration, and died in 1899 as the elder of the Berne Mennonite congregation.
In the 20th century, when the Münsterberg congregation faced dissolution through repeated emigrations, the few remaining families united with the Kleintal congregation.
In 1939 there were only three families left in the Münsterberg part of the Kleintal congregation. In the hospitable home of the blind aged Christian Habegger (Combe de Roche) monthly meetings were held every summer, at which one of the ministers of the Kleintal congregation preached.
Frankhauser, N. G. "Emmentalische Täuferansiedlung in Amerika."Alpenhornhalender (1934).
Geiser, Samuel. Die Taufgesinnten-Gemeinden : eine Kurzgefasste Darstellung der wichtigsten Ereignisse des Täufertums. Karlsruhe : H. Schneider, .
Gratz, Delbert L. Bernese Anabaptists and their American descendants. Goshen, IN: Mennonite Historical Society, 1953. Reprinted Elverson, PA : Old Springfield Shoppe, 1994.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon., 4 v. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. III, 184.
Lehmann, Peter S. Eine kurze Chronik der Familie Lehmann. Switzerland : P.S. Lehmann?, 1914?
Cite This Article
Geiser, Samuel. "Münsterberg (Kanton Bern, Switzerland)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 28 Mar 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=M%C3%BCnsterberg_(Kanton_Bern,_Switzerland)&oldid=90308.
Geiser, Samuel. (1957). Münsterberg (Kanton Bern, Switzerland). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 28 March 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=M%C3%BCnsterberg_(Kanton_Bern,_Switzerland)&oldid=90308.
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