Hail, fellow descendants of John and Margaret Bart Stauffer.  We are bound in a sacred unity by the ties of the blood, name, language, and a common moral heritage.  We have known but little of our interesting family history, and most of us have hitherto been strangers to each other.  I am deeply impressed with the importance of this, our first family gathering.  This will prove a historic day to those who will come after us.  For today we are to discharge a sacred obligation to the dead, and at the same time render a valuable service to the generations yet unborn.

 

The command “Honor thy father and thy mother” in spirit means, “Have a due feeling of reverence for all thy ancestors.”

 

A deep and abiding reverence for parents and ancestry was a part of the religion of the Hebrews, and accounts partly for the marvelous strength and endurance of that people and for the great service they have rendered the world.

 

For a strong grip on life is always indicated by a genuine feeling of interest in the past, aw well as by a sense of obligation to posterity.

 

To live in the highest sense is to know the past, to make the best use of the present hour, and to lay hold of the future by faith and hope.

 

All family names mean something.  In many cases their roots are deeply inbedded in the rich soil of the past, out of which they have grown.

 

The name Stauffer happens to be a very old one and has an exceedingly interesting history.  It is an official title whose use dates from the middle ages, and whose English equivalent is “cupbearer’, or “butler”.  It is derived from the Teutonic word “staupa”, to pour.  The same root in the noun form is “stauf”, which is the German word for cup.  The name is formed by doubling the f, so as to make it easier to pronounce, and adding “er”, which is the regular German masculine suffix of nouns which designate the doing of anything.  For example, Mueller is formed by adding “er” to Muehle, mill and doubling the I.  The miller is the man who handles the mill.  So the Stauffer was originally the man who handled the stauf, or wine cup; hence, the cupbearer.

 

This same root occurs in various languages, e.g., in “Hamlet”, Shakespeare makes the grave-digger command his helper to fetch him a “stoup of Liquor”.  This is the English form of the same old Suabian word from which is derived the name Stauffer.

 

The office of cupbearer came into existence in very ancient times.  From Genesis we learn that the chief cupbearer or butler of the king of Egypt was in prison with Joseph. 

 

From Nehemiah I:II we see that the author of that book was a professional cupbearer for the Persian king, Artaxerxes, in Babylon.

 

Xenophon describes the graceful manner in which the cupbearers of the Median monarchs performed the duties of their office.

 

The cup was first washed in the king’s presence.  Then a little wine was poured out oand drunk in order to give satisfactory proof what it had not been poisoned.  Afterwards the cup was filled to the brim and politely handed to the king.

 

Whether the office descended in unbroken succession from ancient to medieval times, I am unable to say.  But it certainly was in existence at a very remote age in Europe, for there is a record of a “Stauffer Von Thunan” who took part in a tournament in Magdeburg Germany as early as A.D. 938.

 

Stauffer was the name of the officer who handed the cup to the kings, dukes and nobles of old Suabia.  The position was therefore one of great responsibility and of considerable dignity and honor.  In addition to waiting on his superior, there was generally added the function of levying toll from all passing travelers and merchants, a part of which he kept for himself.  The office corresponded nearly to our modern collectorship of customs, and must have been as eagerly sought after/

 

The name Stauffer was applied to the office of cupbearer only throughout old Suabia, which does not appear in modern maps of Europe; but which comprised what is now the grand-duchy of Baben and a part of Wurtemberg, Germany and the canton of Bern, Switzerland.

 

This territory, which possesses special interest to every Stauffer, has as its western border the river Rhine, and includes the modern cities, Mannheim, Heidelberg and Bern.

 

It is probable that all the Stauffers in America or their ancestors are from old Suabia.

 

At present the name is very common in Switzerland.  Captain W.D. Stauffer, ex-mayor of Lancaster, PA;, writes me that the name is more common there than in any other country in Europe. 

 

David McNeeley Stauffer, editor of the “Engineering News”, of New York City, to whom I am under many obligations, writes; “when I was in Bern, Switzerland, several years ago, I found Stauffers almost as plentiful as Smiths in an American city.

 

Each Stauffer who served in a particular court, after the thirteenth century, when names began to descend from father to son, gave his name to his children, and thus became the founder of a Stauffer family.  It follows that there must be a great many persons bearing the name whose ancestors were not in the least related.

 

Although, viewed in the light of its history, Stauffer is not the most appropriate name for a total abstainer or prohibitionist; yet, on the whole, we have great reason to be thankful that we have fared no worse.  For Stauffer is a robust, euphonious name, and has withal the delicious flavor of antiquity.

 

Fortunately for us all it is neither too common for practical use, as are Smith and Jones; nor is there in it any suggestion of vulgarity; nor yet does it posses the serious disadvantage of being hard to spell and pronounce.

 

Having this traced the name back to old Suabia, it will be necessary next to consider the questions, when and why did our ancestors leave Europe and come to America?

 

They left their homes because they were persecuted on account of their religion, and because that section of Europe in which they lived was repeatedly laid waste by war; so that those who survived the sword found life scarcely worth living.

 

For centuries it was the great misfortune of Germany to lack unity.  In union there is a strength, and in lack of coherence there is weakness and failure.

 

So long as Germany consisted of a number of petty, mutually jealous provinces, palatinates and fiefs, its people were at the mercy of any foreign power that chose to invade their territory.

 

Bismark, the man of “blood and iron” fame, and Von Noltke, rescued them from their humiliating condition by welding them into a great and powerful nation.

 

While Germany was thus divided, Louis XIV of France saw an opportunity to strike his enemy.  Three times he made war on Germany and gained an easy victory each time.

 

In 1689 this infamous French king laid waste the entire Palatinate, which was at that time the name of the territory from which our ancestors emigrated.  His plan was to convert the western border of Germany into a desert, so that no German army could afterwards march across it into France, on account of a scarcity of food.

 

Speaking of this cruel war, Zimmerman says:  “four hundred thousand inhabitants of Baden and the palatinate were rendered entirely destitute, and the women were subjected the most brutal treatment.  When the men attempted to defend their wives, daughters or sweethearts, they were slain.”  More than twelve hundred cities and villages met this terrible fate.

 

In reply to the question why the inhabitants of these districts were treated in this inhuman manner, the French Catholic Duke de Crequi answered; “Heretics deserve extirpation by fire and sword as much as the Mohammedans do.”

 

But the sufferings of our forefathers because of the wars of Louis XIV were but a small part of their tribulation and sorrow.  There was the thirty year war and the seven year war, of which I have not time to speak.  Germany had the misfortune to be too weak to take all the international disputes which came up between the other nations, who made her territory the favorite battle ground on which these disputes were settled.

 

These long continued and cruel wars, the burdensome tax which they imposed, the constant demand for military service from the men, together with religious intolerance made life inexpressibly burdensome to the common people.

 

There would seem to be but little in such a country to call forth the spirit of patriotism.

 

The disposition to rove has never been a distinguishing trait of the German.  He loves his native heath, and forsakes it only under the stress of causes and influences that are well-nigh irresistible.  Such was the nature of the political conditions in the Fatherland during the latter part of the seventeenth and the first half of the eighteenth century.  Oppressed and persecuted, or forefathers sighed and prayed for deliverance.

 

Fortunately, yes providentially, America had been discovered, and was already opened as an asylum for all the oppressed of the old world.

 

William Penn, the son of an English admiral, was divinely inspired to render a noble service to the cause of civil and religious liberty at the particular period.

 

As a Quaker missionary he made three preaching tours to Holland and Germany.  Having been set free by the truth himself, he was filled with a noble enthusiasm to do something to help the oppressed in every land.

 

In Germany he was everywhere warmly received by the Mennonites, with whom the Quakers have much in common.  In 1681 he received a grant of a tract of land from the English government, as payment of a debt of $77,440., which was called a “Pennsylvania.”  His aim was to establish a Christian state on the Quaker basis, where the utmost liberty of conscience consistent with the common welfare might be enjoyed.  Here “Peaceful dwelt the many-creeded men.  Peace brooded over all.”

 

The first Germans who accepted the invitation of Penn to settle in Pennsylvania were a colony of thirteen Mennonite families, who crossed the ocean in the ship “concord” in the fall of 1683, and who settled at Germantown, Pennsylvania.

 

And be it said to their everlasting honor that this humble company of Christians was the first religious body in the world to protest against human slavery.  This they did as early as 1688.

 

The reason why the Mennonites were the first Germans that immigrated to America is not far to seek.

 

In Germany and Switzerland at this time, only the Roman Catholic, the Lutheran and the Reformed Churches were tolerated by law.  The adherents of the “sects’” as they were called were everywhere persecuted.

 

In Zurich in 1635 the magistrate undertook to compel all Mennonites to enter the Reformed Church.  Basel and Bern attempted the same thing.  In the latter city a number of Mennonites were actually sold as slaves.

 

Mennonites originated in Zurich in 1525, the name being derived from its founder, Menno Simons, a native of Holland.

 

There creed may be briefly be summed up as follows; regeneration necessary to church membership; non conformity to the world; nonresistance; refusal to participate in pities; opposition to a paid ministry, prejeditated sermons and infant baptism; and refusal to take the civil oath.

 

The hard political conditions prevailing at home, the civil and religious liberty offered by the New World, as well as the prospect of greatly improving their material condition, caused multitudes of the common people to emigrate to America.  From 1682 to 1776 almost all the emigrants from Germany and Switzerland settled in Pennsylvania.  The influx of foreigners from the Palatinate was so large, that the colonial government became alarmed, fearing that the vigorous English colony planted by Penn, would be completely Germanized.

 

In order to keep out any objectionable citizens, the colonial government compelled all incoming foreigners from 1727 to 1776 to take an oath of allegiance to the King of England and to the proprietor of Pennsylvania.  The obligation begins as follows:  “We, subscribers, natives and late inhabitants of the Palatinate on the Rhine and places adjacent, do solemnly promise, etc.”

 

Fortunately the lists containing 30,000 names of males who took this oath have been preserved for us.  By consulting them in the state library at Harrisburg, I was able to determine the name of the founder of our family in America.

 

I found that from 1727 to 1776, twenty one persons bearing our name arrived in Philadelphia.  Of these, the first was Ulric, who came over in 1727, and the last was Michael, who landed in 1772.

 

This latest arrival, namely Michael Stauffer, was the founder of our family; and is therefore, the one foreigner of all others whose decision to come to the new World as fraught with the greatest consequences to all of us who are his descendants.

 

Doubtless you are eager to know all about this historical character, who is of so great importance to us, and who has until now been entirely unknown to us.

 

I am sorry to say but little is know about him.  Evidently he did not think that those who would come after him would care to know how he looked, what he said and did.

 

All that was positively known is that he sailed from Rotterdam, Holland to Cowes, England, and from Cowes to Philadelphia, in the English ship “Crawford” of which Charles Smith was captain; that he landed October 16th 1772, and that he was able to write his name.  Tradition says he was a Mennonite from Switzerland, and that he brought with him a wife and one or two children.  All else must be supplied by the imagination.

 

The conditions under which the voyage to America was made at that time by the German immigrants were simple horrible beyond all description.  Surrounded as we are by everything needed to make life comfortable, it is impossible to appreciate the suffering which our ancestors were compelled to undergo in order to migrate to this country.

 

In order to reach the Dutch port from which most of these emigrants sailed, it was necessary for them to pass through thirty or forty custom houses on the Rhine, at each of which they were delayed several days, so that by the time they were ready to sail, their slender stock of provisions and money was often exhausted.

 

In order to give you some idea of the hardships suffered during the voyage, I quote from Fisher’s excellent work, “The Making of Pennsylvania.”  “The condition in which the immigrants reached Philadelphia was shocking.  The ships were floating hospitals and pest houses, filled with smallpox and all the other diseases of crowding and dirt, which gathered frightful intensity from the voyage of two or three months.  Vessels often lost on the passage one-third of their human freight, and one ship is said to have arrived after having lost 250.”

 

Another authority says, “Moreover, the drinking water is so black, thick, and full of worms that it makes one shudder to look at it.”  Saur says that in a single year 2000 German immigrants lost their lives in crossing the Atlantic.

 

From these statements it is evident that only those of the most rugged constitution could possibly survive the inexpressible horrors of the ocean voyage.  All others died on the way, or after arriving at Philadelphia.  It was the necessity of treating these wretched immigrants on their arrival at that port that very early made it a center of medical education, a distinction which it still retains.

 

If our unfortunate ancestors suffered such untold hardships, in order to escape persecution in Europe and seek homes for themselves and their children in this new land of boundless opportunity and of freedom, they deserve at least our everlasting remembrance and gratitude.  It is our plain duty to know as much as possible about these humble ancestral heroes and heroines who laid the foundations of our happiness and prosperity at such priceless sacrifice; it is our duty to keep a warm place in memory for their names and to teach our children to reverse them, so that they may never be forgotten.

 

This is where in this document I must stop.  This particular document was handed down to my grandfather C.L. Stauffer.  It was a very old typed manuscript, that was then handed down to my father Farnwell Stauffer, and which I found amongst other documents with the family bible.  Later on I found a copied version from what appears to be a book entitled “Historical Address” Delivered by Reverend Henry Stauffer at the First Stauffer Reunion held near Middlebranch, Stark County, Ohio September 3, 1893. 

 

There are many notations on this copy denoting a difference of opinion as to the person who was our descendant that first came to America.   Reverend Henry Stauffer believed that person to be Michael whom records show did came over on the Crawford in 1772, captained by Charles Smith.  According to the “Genealogy of John Wesley Stauffer 1846 – 1923 and Mary Jane Richardson Stauffer 1846 – 1912 and Their Family” by Charles Albert Stauffer, Christian Stauffer who came to America on the Vertuous Grace in 1737 is that descendent.  I am inclined at this point in time to agree, unless my future endeavors at researching the Stauffer name proves to be another.