In an earlier post, we introduced you to Samuel D. Guengerich‘s parents – Daniel & Susanna (Miller) Guengerich – the very first pioneers to settle in Washington Township of Johnson County, Iowa (see maps below). So, before we tell you more about Samuel, let me catch you up just a bit with his parent’s story…
Daniel and Susanna (Miller) Guengerich arrived in Washington Township in the spring of 1846. Like so many others, they were part of a growing number of easterners who were making their way to Iowa – just as it was becoming the 29th state in the Union. The Guengerich’s first met in Susanna’s home – the Casselman River Valley of Pennsylvania/Maryland – marrying on November 28, 1835. And oh, by the way, know that Susanna Miller is my ggg grand aunt! So, now let’s talk about their son, Samuel…
Less than one year after his parents were married – on August 25, 1836 – Samuel D. Guengerich was born in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, and by 1838, Daniel & Susanna had re-located to twenty-two acres of farmland in Fairfield County in Ohio – near Columbus (see map above). It was here, three more children were born into the Guengerich family – Barbara (1840), Jacob D. (1843), and Christena (1845). And, as we shared on an earlier post, in the summer of 1845, Daniel, along with his half-brother, Joseph J. Swartzendruber, made his way to Johnson County to check out the positive reports he had heard about Iowa. Read more here.
In the Spring of 1846, Daniel & Susanna (Miller) Guengerich and family, William Wertz and family, and Joseph J. Swartzendruber came west – first, by boat down the Ohio River, north on the Mississippi River to Bloomington (Muscatine), and then by wagon over to Johnson County. It’s here, in this fledgling Amish-Mennonite community, where young Samuel and his brothers and sisters grew up. In the 1850’s three more children were added to the family – John P. (1850); an infant boy who died soon after birth (1854); and finally, Elisabeth (1857), the youngest of seven.
As a young man, Samuel D. Guengerich was highly committed to education, although his elementary schooling was somewhat irregular. Interested in literary and educational work, he decided to become a teacher, so when the Civil War broke out in 1861, Samuel’s conservative religious beliefs led him to remain a conscientious objector, paying the U.S. government a service fee of $300 for exemption from military duty. So, rather than fighting in the War, Samuel acquired his teaching certificate in 1864, at age 28, from Lancaster County Normal School in Millersville – the first state-sponsored normal school in Pennsylvania.
Since Samuel was in the neighborhood during his school years, it seems apparent that he must have regularly wandered back to his birthplace – the Casselman River Valley. For soon after his graduation – on March 19, 1865 – Guengerich married Barbara Beachy (born 1843), daughter of Joel and Elizabeth Beachy in Somerset County (see map above).
And it’s at this point in Samuel’s story that we will insert two rare postal covers that date back to this romantic season in his life…
These two rare postal covers (above & below) were postmarked in Amish, Iowa – the main post office for Washington Township in Johnson County from 1857 until the turn-of-the-century. Our guess is that these two letters to Samuel were from the Guengerich family and were written during his time in Pennsylvania while attending the Lancaster County Normal School in Millersville. Since both letters are addressed to Grantsville, Maryland in Allegany County (yes, in Maryland, the county is spelled without an h), we are guessing that Samuel was staying with close relatives in the Casselman River Valley while he is courting Barbara Beachy (1864-1865).
Another interesting aspect of these two covers are the colorful Civil War-themed cachets. During the war, these covers were one way Northerners could show their strong support for the Union troops fighting for the national cause. So, even though Samuel was a conscientious objector during the war – based on his strong faith – he and the Guengerich family were, obviously, still strong supporters of the soldiers who were fighting to end slavery and preserve the Union.
After their marriage in Pennsylvania (1865), Samuel & Barbara Guengerich came back to Iowa and established a home of their own on a farm located near the community of Amish – a place they lived over the next 60+ years. A teacher in the public schools during the winter months, Samuel did carpentry work during the summer months while also managing the farm on which the family lived. Their 63-year marriage was blessed with eight children: Elizabeth (1867-1960), Daniel (1870-1876), Joel (1872-1952), Anna (1875-1952), William (1877-1967), Menno (1879-1973), Susie (1881-1983), and Noah (1887-1952).
As a member of the Upper Deer Creek Amish Mennonite Church, when an interdenominational Sunday School was organized in Washington Township in 1870, Samuel Guengerich became one of its first teachers. The following year, he was appointed as the superintendent of the Amish-Mennonite Sunday School, remaining an active promoter of children’s religious education the rest of his life.
In 1878, Samuel launched – Der Christlicher Jugend-Freund – a monthly periodical for the home and Sunday school, which he edited and managed for three years before passing it on to the Amish-Mennonite Publishing Association, which he also helped establish in 1912. Over the years Guengerich wrote and published a number of leaflets and pamphlets – among which was the highly popular Deutsche Gemeinde Schulen, Ihren Zweck, Nutzen und Nothwendigkeit zum Glaubens-Unterricht, deutlich dargestellt (Amish, Iowa, 1897).
In 1890, Samuel helped organize the German School Association, which served the Amish-Mennonite churches of Iowa until 1916, promoting the interests of parochial education through his writings, speeches, and local leadership of the movement.
In 1892, with the help of his brother Jacob D. Guengerich (pictured above), he edited and published a German hymnal – Unparteiische Liedersammlung zum Gebrauch beim Oeffentlichen Gottesdienst und zur Haeuslichen Erbauung, which was eventually used widely in Amish Mennonite church services.
In 1912, when the newspaper – Herold der Wahrheit – was started, Guengerich was a chief supporter, serving as manager for several years before becoming the editor of the German section of the paper. In his later years, Samuel also had a little shop in his home where he continued to write, bind books, and even print and sell a small supply of books.
Guengerich always had a great interest in Amish-Mennonite history and, over the years, wrote a number of important manuscripts on Amish history, particularly on the Iowa settlements. His Brief History of the Amish Settlement in Johnson County, Iowa was published in the Mennonite Quarterly Review in October 1929, and other historical manuscripts from his pen are deposited in the Archives of the Mennonite Church at Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana.
Samuel D. Guengerich, at age 92, died on January 12, 1929 in his home in Amish, Iowa. His wife of 63 years, Barbara (Beachy) Guengerich passed, at age 94, on April 16, 1938. Both are buried in the Lower Deer Creek Cemetery near Kalona, Iowa.
One biographer, A. Lloyd Swartzendruber, said this about the life of Samuel D. Guengerich…
Although he was never ordained, perhaps no other member of the Amish Mennonite Church was as widely known during the period 1875-1925 as was S. D. Guengerich. He traveled widely and reported his journeys in the Sugarcreek, Ohio, Budget and other publications. But, he also championed many causes in his writings which appeared in this periodical and in the church papers. Through The Budget, his appeals for the orphanage work in Armenia and other missionary enterprises reached the eyes and hearts of many Amish Mennonites in all sections of the church. Through many years, he championed Sunday Schools, religious education, philanthropy, mission activity, improved congregational singing, church literature, and a deeper spiritual life among the Amish. Although his own congregation left the Old Order Amish and joined the Conservative Amish Mennonite Conference after 1912, his influence continued to reach both groups. As a Christian, Samuel was an ardent admirer of and faithful adherent to the principles of faith as taught in the Scriptures and lived and taught by our forefathers, and willingly served, to the best of his ability, in whatever work came before him in the cause. And, few are the men in whose hearts there is a greater desire for the welfare of the Church.
Here’s a big salute to Samuel D. Guengerich – Amish’s Finest Educator!
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.