[Twenty-Two Issues, 1854 – 1873:] The Gospel-Visiter [sic] a Monthly Publication Devoted to the Exhibition and Defence of Gospel Principles & Gospel-Practice in their Primitive Purity and Simplicity in Order to Promote Christian Union, Brotherly Love & Universal Charity.
“Are colored persons (negroes) to be taught?”
Printed in English, The Gospel Visitor aka The Gospel-Visiter —and also identified here as The Monthly Gospel Visiter— was the first paper published for the German Baptist Brethren. One 1865 issue, published months after the conclusion of the American Civil War, offers two articles with unusual content concerning formerly enslaved African-Americans and their religious status and projections of their post-War behaviors and actions..
The Visitor was “founded by Henry Kurtz, a German immigrant to the United States. In 1828 Kurtz was baptized a Brethren and two years later was called to the ministry. By the early 1830’s he had secured a printing press and begun publishing German periodicals . . . Kurtz’s concern to unify the increasingly scattered Brethren led to his launching a paper to serve the church.” (The Brethren Encyclopedia)
Primarily containing religious text, some Brethren (who were also known as “Dunkards” or “Dunkers”) found Kurz’s magazine contained too much “worldliness.” This thought was perhaps based in articles seen here such as “Infant Education” (“If a child has anything in his hands, which he is delighted, let the parents take it from him”); original poetry (“Harvest-Thoughts”); an odd plea for a family of “emigrantears” [sic] seeking railroad fare to emigrate to Iowa; a feud with the editor of the Indiana “Class-Mate and Revivalist”; obituaries of Brethren throughout America; of political voting; a “New-Year’s Address”; advertisements for farms for sale, hymn books, hydrophobia cures and so forth.
One unusual article in the August 1865 issue —“On the Reception of Colored People”—asks the general readership five questions about Brethren membership for African Americans: are they to be taught?; shall we receive them?; shall we extend to them the same privileges as white Brethren?; what should be done about those Brethren that would oppose equality? These questions are answered by a lengthy response in two pages of double-column text. In part:
“But we must not expect too much, neither from the negro nor from those who have felt that they were his superiors. There has been a great mountain of prejudice between the two races. This has been formed by erroneous constructions of Scriptures, religious bigotry, and superstition, and by avarice, selfishness and pride. It has been forming for ages, and we could scarcely expect it to disappear at once. The government seems disposed to regard the rights of the negro, but it is much perplexed to know what will be best…”
This article is followed up by another article which discusses the post-Civil War South, the former enslavers, the plantations, and suppositions that: African Americas will all return to Africa; that they will not be given any employment by anyone and that they will then resort to theft and robbery “and then will be destroyed”; that their liberation must be accepted as an act of Providence; and that former plantations “will be cut up” as men from the North and the West emigrate to the South to take over “cheap lands”.
The Dunkards were pacifists. In “An Appeal” —an anonymous Brethren pleas for assistance. During the War everything was taken from him: land, house, furnishings tools. “They left me without a house to my name, and without an ax to cut a stick of wood to make a fire with last winter.” Elsewhere, one finds the piece “Why Not Let Your Beard Grow”, the five-page July 1865 “Visit to a Jewish Synagogue”, the oddly-written “Electricity and Magnetism” (August 1871), and articles on Millennialism.
Provenance: John Ziegler (1809–1898), Timberville, Rockingham County, Virginia. Like, Kurtz, Ziegler was also a “Dunkard (or) Dunker”. Because he was a pacifist, Ziegler’s barn was (unsuccessfully) fired by Union soldiers. Conceivably, he was the author of the above Appeal.
Description: [Twenty-Two Issues, 1854 – 1873:] The Gospel-Visiter [sic] a Monthly Publication Devoted to the Exhibition and Defence of Gospel Principles & Gospel-Practice in their Primitive Purity and Simplicity in Order to Promote Christian Union, Brotherly Love & Universal Charity.
“Printed, Poland, Ohio, Mahoning Co. O.[hio] by Gustavus Shale & Co.” [AND:] “Printed & Published in Columbiana, Columbiana Co. O.[hio], on Henry Kurtz’s ‘Visitor Press’ by James Quinter and Henry J. Kurtz.” [AND:] “Printed & Published in Colvington, Miami Co., O.[hio], on Henry Kurtz’s ‘Visitor Press’ by James Quinter and Henry J. Kurtz.” [AND:] Dayton, Ohio: H.J. Kurtz, Printer and Publisher. 1854–1873; pagination varies. Twenty-two issues. 8vos, printed and ornamental wraps, stitched, uncut and largely unopened. Printed in double column. Wraps soiled, dampstaining; handling; overall, Good to Very Good. BCJ 322508.
Kaylor, Out of the Wilderness, 1780-1980. The Brethren and Two Centuries of Life in Central Pennsylvania (1981).