Morris M. Engle

Many years ago, there lived in the mountain fastnesses of the Alps, in Switzerland, a sturdy peasant, with a loving wife and six happy children. We seem to see the father surrounded by his laughing children, returning from his labor in the fields, at the close of day. The mother has been busy preparing the frugal evening meal, lightly hum-ming a song of Faith, Hope and Love, the while. She has just seated herself by the open window, in her favorite chair, and is watching the sunset glories of the Alpine summer skies, awaiting the home coming of husband and children. A well worn volume is lying open on her lap, her finger still resting on the verse, "Ye must be born again."

Father and children having arrived, they are seated around the family board, to partake of the simple meal. The family group as we picture them are Ulrich Engel, and his devoted wife, Anna. The children are, Hans, Ulrich, Christina Maria, and Barbara. It is the month of August, 1752. Nature is pregnant with the fruits of the earth, and a bounteous harvest has been gathered in the commodious barn. Everything would seem to betoken peace, plenty, and prosperity with a rich promise of an abundance of golden Autumn fruits. Nor was Nature content with lavishing her gifts upon these happy people in this way, but God in His own way, had given them the evidence of the speedy ripening of the fruit of love. 

Some time before, the followers of Menno Simon, had made a pilgrimage through that region, preaching the gospel, as interpreted by that teacher. Their doctrines made a deep impression on the minds of Anna, and she in the sincerity of her soul, added works to her faith, and the fruits of her devotion to the truth as she espoused it, has been tasted by thousands of grateful souls during the years which were to come. 

It is to be sadly and deeply deplored, that the laws which govern character are so little understood, and when understood, are often basely ignored. Man in his fallen nature, seeks only the pleasures of the moment, but not so with Anna as we shall see. 

It was about this time that large numbers of Swiss people were immigrating to America. The Country was full of glowing tales of golden opportunities in that far off Asylum of the poor and oppressed of all lands. Neighbor discussed with neighbor the trials and hardships of the homeland, and the rigors of Church and State, on the one hand, and the unlimited liberty of the Western world on the other. Nor did the imagination fail to play its part in these discussions. One by one, neighbor after neighbor added conviction to reflection, and announced a decision to leave the Fatherland, and seek their for-tune in .the forests of the land of the Setting Sun. Whatever others may have had to sacrifice, in the way of leaving behind friends, kindred, house and home, Ulrich Engel had, and added to these things were some things from which some others were exempt. Anna, who had adopted the Mennonite faith, having renounced the faith of her childhood, was under strict surveillance of the authorities of the Church, at the behest of the government. This, and her delicate condition, were some of the things that Ulrich Engel had to confront, from which others were free. But God has a way of escape from the Oppressor, for all of His Children, and in due time He opened the way for Anna, and through her, for all of her family. 

Ulrich Engel, though oppressed, was not a poor man, as poor men were reckoned in his place and time. He had a comfortable home, and was esteemed well-to-do. We can not learn that he was noted for any unusual piety, such as his wife was noted for, but we do know that he encouraged her in her religious convictions in every way that he could. In his house he had fixed a trap-door which opened into a secret cellar, in which he concealed Anna, at such times when she was in peril of arrest. He succeeded in preventing her arrest in this way, for some time, but finally, in and unguarded moment the officers surprised them, and she was led away to a place, of confinement where she enjoyed the liberty of the place, but was guarded: in such a wag that she could not get away. The authorities recognized her condition, and had compassion on her. Instead of placing stern officers of the law over her, as was the usual custom, they employed the services of a nurse, and appointed her as guard. They knew that Anna’s term was about full, and concluded to postpone her trial until after her convalescence.

While these things were taking place in the family of Ulrich Engel all was bustle among his neighbors: getting ready for the long and perilous journey across the great Atlantic Ocean. Men busied themselves making great strong chests, shod with massive iron hinges and locks and packing them with favorite wares and tools. The women were occupied with looking after household and getting in readiness such things as would add to th their households in their unknown new home. In due time it was announced to Ulrich Engel that a son was born to him, and that mother and child were doing well. Anna‘s nurse was exceedingly kind, and tender to her patient and charge. Who can tell of the mental anxieties and sufferings, tears and prayers of that devoted wife and mother, during the period of her confinement? Isolated from the caresses of a kind and sympathetic husband with friends all around her preparing to take leave wondering what their fate and hers will be. Then the well-being of husband and children, at home – all these things were calculated to disturb the rest and quiet so much needed by poor Anna.

At this time, God opened the way from an unexpected source. One day while talking to her nurse a bout her troubles, the nurse told her that if she were in Anna’s place she would go with the party of immigrants just forming, to America.  

Anna asked, "How can I go? My baby is but two weeks old, and I'm kept under watch – how shall I go?"

"Tomorrow morning, when I am out sprinkling the linen," replied the nurse, "pick up your child, and flee to your husband, and then when the officers will ask for you, at the time they have set for you, I will tell them that you fled with the immigrant party for America.  You will have plenty of time to get ready to join the rest if you take my advice.’" It is needless to say that Anna thanked God with all her heart, for this plan of deliverance, and more than that, she acted on the suggestion, and left the place of her captivity, early in the morning.

The historian McCauley says, "They who take no pride in the deeds of a remote ancestry, will hardly be likely to accomplish anything worthy to be remembered by a remote posterity."

Reprinted from
History of the Engle Family in America: 1754-1927: pp.11-14
Compiled, Arranged, Indexed and Published
by Morris M. Engle, Historian
Hummelstown, PA
(no date)

© EngleFamily.Net, 2001