Thursday, April 3, 2014

My German Baptist Roots

My father's line, the Bowser family, is of German Baptist heritage.  Yes, you might have heard them called "Dunkards" or "The Brethren".  

The Brethren were established in 1708 at Schwarzenau, Germany and first migrated to America in 1719. The name later officially became German Baptist Brethren.  Many congregations were organized in the area in which I now live.

By about 1881, the membership of the church was estimated to be over 50,000, however there was a great divide that came among them and resulted in three separate units or factions.  They were called "Old Order" (aka Old Order German Baptist), "Conservative" (aka German Baptist Brethren), and "Progressive" (aka The Brethren Church).  The Dunkard Brethren we sometimes hear about came from the German Baptist Brethren who changed their name to the Church of the Brethren in 1908[1].

Recently, a friend of mine informed me that several German Baptist books of history have been digitized and are available online at Internet Archives.  Though the list is impressive, my favorite source of information was in the digital book I found online at the German Baptist Ministers & Congregations Site which I have sourced at the bottom of this entry.

I was also fortunate enough to be given a book a long time ago that had a few of my German Baptist ancestors stories recorded in its pages.

Here are some stories and pictures I have collected of my German Baptist ancestors from the book entitled “Descendants of Jacob & Eve (Boone) Funderburg”, by Alvin K. Funderburg.

George Funderburg b. 1813 near Donnelsville, Ohio[2]

George and Margaret Leffel Funderburg ca. 1865

     “Being wise and dedicated, he was elected to the ministry of the German Baptist Church of Donnels Creek, which met in a large, simple, frame building which George had helped to build.  The church was less than a mile from his farm.  During his active years he performed many marriages, baptisms, and anointings.  Frequently he was called on to preach at a funeral.  Early in his ministry he would preach in German, and then repeat the thought in English.”[3]

After George’s first wife, Margaret Leffel Funderburg passed away; George married a much younger woman named Mary Denlinger.  Page 212 of the Funderburg book states:

    “Because George had married such a young woman, the church elders felt his services as a minister should be terminated.  Thereafter, George was denied the full fellowship of the church, and injustice surely verified by the fact that the two sons of this marriage gave over fifty years each of dedicated service to the church.  George frequently said, ‘The church left me, I did not leave the church’.
        “In 1881, when the division in the Brethren Church took place, George sided with the branch which eventually became the “Church of the Brethren.”  He felt that higher education was important for those in the church who wanted to go on.”

John Bowser b. 1841 married Mariah Elizabeth Funderburg, d/o George and Margaret Leffel Funderburg

John Bowser and wife, Mariah Funderburg Bowser with their children

Though John and Mariah, along with their daughter Marietta were active in the church, their 4 sons struggled to stay the course.  Their son, my great-grandfather George Henry Bowser (pictured above in the back middle of the photo) had a serious drinking problem and it seems there ended the affiliation my family line had with the Brethren.

Though my parents, myself, and my children are now of the Mormon faith, I have a special place in my heart for these great people of my past and of those who are part of my present.  (My father’s best friend and neighbor is an Elder in the Church of the Brethren and our dear neighbors are of the Church as well.  We love you Filbrun and Bowman families!!)

[1] Lowell H. Beachler, “The First Years – A Beginning,” Micon Brethren Archives ( :  accessed 3 Apr 2014), digital copy online, para. 2
[2] Alvin K. Funderburg, “Descendants of Jacob & Eve (Boone) Funderburg”: Taylor Publishing Company, 1978, page 211.
[3] ibid

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