Church of the Brethren - Dunkards

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Church of the Brethren

There were several Old Order Brethren congregations in Somerset County. Many people incorrectly refer to this sect of the Anabaptists as "DUNKARD". This term was applied to the members of the Church of the Brethren in the late 19th century and early 20th. The word "Dunker" was acutally a anglicized corruption of the German word, "Tunker," which means "dipper" or immerserer referring to the mode of baptism practiced by this group. The term is still used today by two minor conservative orders, Old Order Dunkards and the Dunkard Brethren. The mode of baptism practiced by this group was adopted during this groups founding in Pennsylvania in the 1770's.

In Brothers Valley Township

It is believed that the first religious group to arrive in Somerset County were the German Baptists or "Die Bruder's Leute". They are the one's who named "Brueder Thal" or Brothers Valley and were said to have been organized in the county as early as 1763.

In Stony Creek Township

The Stony Creek congregation called, Glade Church, first records its founding in 1763 under the supervision of George William MARTIN. In 1770, a list of 17 members is recorded by the Rev. Martin and his wife.

In Summit Township

The next, and most active, Brethren Congregation was formed in Meyersdale in 1783. The first Love Feast was recorded here at the home of John BURGER. John KEAGY was made minister and other early preachers were Peter KOBER, Michael MEYERS, Francis STUMP, John FORNEY and John LIVENGOOD.

The first meeting house was set-up in 1845 in Brothers Valley, the second at Summit Mills. Other churches were Meyersdale (1851), Berkley's (1850), Glade Pike, Milford, Jenners, and Middlecreek.

Many members of the Amish Mennonite Church became "Tunkers" primarily due to the similarity of their faith and customs. It is reported that at one time, Meyersdale, had more "Tunkers" per square mile than in any other area in the United States. In 1775, part of the Buechley land passed to Yost Yoder by Deed. Public records show deeds in this area belonging to the following families: John Miller, 1775; John Hershberger, 1775; Christian Gnagey, 1775; John Saylor, 1775; Yost Zook, 1773; John Hochstetler, 1779; Andrew Borntreger, 1783; John Borntreger, 1783; Christian Mast, 1783; Jacob Mast, 1783; Jacob Saylor, 1783; Peter Beachey, 1785; Jacob Miller, 1793; and Joseph Mast, 1795. All this land is between Meyersdale, PA and the southern border of PA into Garrett County, MD.

Formation of the Brethren Church

In 1881, the Brethren Church split from the old Church of the Brethren. The new congregation formed from the progressive movement veered away from the strict non-conformity with the world and moved towards a more centered belief in keeping with the changing times.

The Berlin Church and the "home church"in Stony Creek merged and became the Brethren Church. The first pastor was the Rev. Harvey HOLSINGER.

Note: For more detailed information on the Church of the Brethren, please read the Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. I, A-C, page 109, published 1956.

Or, visit the

  • Church of the Brethren - homepage with some marriage, birth and death records. Excellent source for history and other church information.

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Last Revised: March 31, 2008

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