Thomann Klymer (also Clymer, Klemmer, Clemmer) was born in 1554 in Montbéliard, France, 37 years after the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, and 29 years after the Anabaptist beginnings in 1525. At some point he became a Huguenot, the French version of Protestants, and along with as many as 300,000 others, fled France under severe persecution for their beliefs. He settled in Affoltern am Albis, Switzerland sometime before 1580, where his son Hans Jacob Klemmer’s birth was registered.
It is interesting to note that Anabaptists, many of them Amish, returned to Montéliard in the early 18th Century, fleeing persecution from the Swiss! What comes around goes around? There is a Mennonite congregation there to this day.
The Clemmer immigrant who arrived to the USA in 1717, was born in Affoltern am Albis, Switzerland in 1665. Many of his siblings joined the Protestant Reformed movement under Zwingli, but Valentine became an Anabaptist, the more radical wing of the Reformation. Like his forebearers from France, he fled his homeland for Germany under heavy persecution, and eventually came to the USA.
I have traced my Clemmer/Clymer heritage back 11 generations (465 years) and through four countries: France, Switzerland, Germany and the USA. I am grateful for the heritage of faith that they passed on to me. I represent the twelfth generation of radical faith, sometimes called the “third way,” an alternative between Catholicism and Protestantism. The longest period of time spent in any one country is 300 years in the USA. The second-most time was in Switzerland, 137 years.
I have been able to research the family lines of all four of my grandparents; the Clymers, as outlined above, the Wineys, the Horsts, and the Sensenigs. I have been able to find the towns in Germany and Switzerland where each of them came from, and in one case was able to see the farm where my Horst ancestor lived and labored as a tenant farmer. All of them came from the radical
Anabaptist/Mennonite wing of the Reformation and ended up in the USA searching for freedom from the persecution and harassment that they had experienced in Europe. All of them passed their radical faith on to their children. All of them were “witnesses” to their faith.
Hebrews 12:1 mentions a “great cloud of witnesses” in exhorting us to remain faithful to the radical message of Jesus (Matthew 5-7). In the previous chapter, the writer mentions over 20 Old Testament individuals who remained faithful to God, in spite of the fact that most of them never saw the outcome of the promises that God had given them (Heb. 11:39). Many of their contemporaries saw them as fools; but this didn’t deter their faith. They had the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). My ancestors in Europe were not only considered fools, but also heretics and traitors.
As my granddaughters grow up around me and my family, I hope that we are “witnesses” to our rich and faithful heritage as well as to the radical teachings of “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). May we “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb 12:1).