When I planned my trip to Switzerland, I was hoping to visit places important to Anabaptist history. In that, I have been quite successful — I’ve visited the Trachsalwald Castle, and the famous “Täuferversteck” (Anabaptist Hideout) in a barn above the town of Trub, known as the Fankhauser barn. I have also visited the first existing Mennonite church, which is in Langnau and therefore the oldest one in not just Switzerland, but also in the world. The Koch Family are members of this church. I will be writing about these experiences in other posts.
Never in a million years would I have dreamed that the farm I would be visiting would turn out to be an Anabaptist hideout. But that is exactly what I found out one day when I went with Hadassah to the basement of the main farmhouse to bring up some apples from the root cellar for a snack. Elizabeth, the woman of the house, showed Hadassah and me how to open the doors and turn on the lights to get the apples. As she did so, she told me this story that I clarified with the help of Miriam and Marco’s excellent translation skills:
Elizabeth and Martin hired a carpenter to come and put in a new stairway to their basement/root cellar, because they had a spiral staircase and they were feeling the cold from the basement. So they decided to put in a wall and build a cement stairs to the root cellar. The carpenter told them that he has observed from the houses in the Emmental Valley that the homes with direct access to their basements were Anabaptist-owned farms.
Later, they found out from Hanspeter Jecker, a renowned Anabaptist researcher here in the Canton Bern, that in the winter of 1733 and 1734, Peter Habegger, the owner of this farm, himself an Anabaptist, was hiding an elder of the Anabaptist church, whose name was Hans Martin. It is also believed that the house was used as an Anabaptist meeting place.
What I know about Hans Martin comes from Hanspeter Jecker’s research. Hans Martin was from a place called Pratteln in the area of Basel. He was taken captive for his Anabaptist beliefs by the authorities in Basel when he was thirty years old. But then the parish priest was convinced that it would be better to free him with the condition that he “better himself” (recant his religious beliefs) within two months.
Two months later, on July 19, 1719, when Hans Martin was unwilling to renounce his conviction, Hans Martin was expelled permanently. Thus began a period when he and his family were on the run from the authorities. They wandered from one town to another: Grenzach near Basel, Groningen in Friesland in 1720, where they met with other Anabaptists from the Canton Bern, back to Pratteln, the area of Biel, and then near Corgemont in a place called Sonnenberg.
Hans Martin’s wife died in 1730. At the end of the same year, it is known that he met with a Pietist leader in Neuenburg named Hieronymous Annoni.
In the winter of 1733 and 1734, Hans Martin appeared in a remote part of the Emmantal Valley, on the farm Hockboden. That is THIS farm where Miriam and Marco live, and where I am visiting. At the time, the root cellar was a hole in the ground. Apparently that is where he was hiding.
Hans Martin eventually emigrated to the United States in 1736, where he sought a home in Pennsylvania to settle down on.
Elizabeth showed us the building on this farm where they stored the grain, which was called a “Spycher” and what we would call a granary in English. At the time, it was common for people to make decorative doors on such buildings. Here is a photo of this building.
It says that this granary was built in 1727, for Hans Hapegger and Lucy Aarm, his wife. This building looks to me like something that belongs in the story of Heidi.
So here is another chapter about my visit to the Little House on the Farm called Hockboden in the Emmental Valley. I feel like I am living a dream, which makes me feel just so fortunate.