words by: Elam Stoltzfus
— HANS MEYLI —
After a brief introduction last month to “A True Report of the Brothers in Switzerland” (Wahrafftiger Bericht von den Brüdern in Schweitzerland), we begin with a story about the Meyli (Meylin) family in Switzerland.
In 1633, Anabaptist minister Hans Meyli and his wife Elsbeth lived in the town of Stallikon. In 1613, Meyli testified that he had been an Anabaptist for about four years. Later, he was imprisoned at least four times, being accused of performing marriages and baptisms. According to the census list, his property was confiscated in 1640. In 1650, he was hiding in the Zurich highlands. Two years later, Hans Meyli died.
Hans’ son Martin Meyli collected stories for martyr theology covering thirty years. These stories were first published in 1658. Martin’s stories helped Thieleman Van Braght compile the Martyrs Mirror.
In Martin’s collection of stories, this contained many of his own family’s stories, along with the sufferings of Zurich Anabaptists in 1635 to 1645. In 1742, Meyli’s collection of stories became part of the first American edition of the Ausbund printed in Germantown by Christian Sauer. “A True Report of the Brothers in Switzerland” has appeared in every Ausbund edition since the first 1742 printing.
Here is the first story found on page 844 in the back section of the Ausbund:
What the congregation in the jurisdiction of Knonau encountered and what took place and occurred there is as follows, first:
How They Dealt with This Man and with His Wife and Children
In 1637, this elderly man was imprisoned and kept in bonds in the Council Hall [and] in the Oetenbach, in a deep prison cell for forty-three weeks. After this, he was freed without harm with others of his fellow brothers; nevertheless they have searched rigorously for him often since then, and he still has no secure place where he can stay. After this, the authorities sent out [officers], and began to persecute, to destroy, and to steal. Several times they have surrounded and searched through houses. Once they came with nearly thirty constables. They surrounded our houses, searched through them, and secured them with guards and with weapons for several days and nights. They searched through the houses with bared swords and weapons, hacked and butted through the doors, as soldiers and constables do, with frenzied ravings and malicious eating and drinking of our stores, yes, with gluttony, excessive drinking, wanton cursing, and blaspheming of God, with oaths, raving and storming, insolence and threats. They acted more wickedly and worse than the unreasoning animals, which are created to hunt and to kill.
To read the full story, purchase an October back issue here.
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Elam Stoltzfus currently serves as caretaker of the Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead in (Berks County) Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. In 2018, he traveled to Germany to document the history of the Stoltzfus family—this research is documented in German Lutherans to Pennsylvania Amish: The Stoltzfus Family Story. To order a copy of this book, you can mail a $30 check to Elam Stoltzfus, 1700 Tulpehocken Road, Wyomissing, PA 19610.
Ohio Amish Library, Songs of the Ausbund V.1 ed. Edward Kline. Sugarcreek OH: Carlisle Printing.
Ohio Amish Library, Documents of Brotherly Love – Dutch Mennonite Aid to Swiss Anabaptists Volume I.
Willow Street Mennonite historical account.
Anabaptist Families from Canton Zurich to Lancaster County, 1633 to 1729, by Jane Evans Best.
Ausbund das ist: etliche schöne Christliche Lieder, Verlag von den Amischen Gemeinden in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.